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“Paloma” (Pigeon) at a Dance

Last week I featured the various styles and kinds of dances in the 1950’s to 1970’s, with the “bolero” or romantic Spanish ballads being the favorite. Even today there are international groups like Los Temerarios, Los Bukis and Los Yonics that continue to popularize these Spanish ballads.

Now today we feature one final dance practice that was common 25 five years ago. First you have to understand the scenario. The girls would all sit on long benches or chairs along the four walls of the dance hall. If a girl chose to hang around the perimeter of the hall, her mother or chaperon would probably take her home. The boys or lads came to the main entrance and glanced around the hall for the girl of his choice. He would then walk straight across the hall to the girl and ask her to dance. She had two choices- to say sorry (or shake her head negatively), or to stand up and dance. Now most boys who were going steady went straight to their girlfriends and the other boys respected this. Besides, she would probably deny a dance if anybody else came to ask. However, those boys with no steady girl would ask anyone else along the dance hall. If the girl liked dancing with you, she would gladly stand up and dance. However, there were guys who went from girl to girl all along the line and got a “no” for an answer from fifteen girls. If he was sober, he would walk out quite embarrassed. If he was drunk, he would “cuss” the hell of everyone and that only made his situation worse.

Now there were these “popular” and kindhearted girls who never turned down anyone, even if they were not too anxious to dance with a particular boy. The guys that were turned down would either wait for these girls to sit and go ask them to dance or they could put into practice something called “Paloma” (pigeon). You simply went to a couple dancing, touch the guy gently on the shoulder and say: “Paloma”. He would be expected to step aside and allow you to dance with the girl. However, he too could simply go to the guy next to him and ask for “Paloma” too.

Generally speaking one would not ask for “Paloma” from guys that were going steady. As a matter of fact, there was this guy, whose name I will not mention (but you can ask around) who never allowed you to ask for “Paloma”. If you ever did, instead of giving you the girl, he would give you a good punch on the face. This guy got involved into a fight at every dance. Fortunately there were only 4 to 5 dances every year, so it was not too bad for him. Most other guys enjoyed this “Paloma” business very much. In fact, if a girl did not like dancing with a certain guy, she would wink an eye at someone signaling that she wanted him to come and ask for “Paloma”.

Paloma was a fun thing. It was an opportunity to dance with a lot of guys although some guys were spiteful. It was exciting and at times annoying. Imagine dancing a bolero, cheek to cheek, with your favorite girl, your eyes just beginning to close and you hear the word: “Paloma”. Boy of boy, that was life 25 years ago. Wasn’t that cool? Let’s ask for “Paloma” for this New Year’s Eve dance.

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