The Dancefloor

May 12, 2005
Thanks Inger for that clarification. You're right that ragtime began even earlier than the 1910s. And I also did not know you lived in Singapore. I gather this was in your childhood and Singapore was a diplomatic appointment of your father's?

I have consulted a CD I've got of Scott Joplin's songs and I see the dates for some of these are as early as 1902 and 1905.

The evolution of this art form is interesting. We see a pioneer like Joplin at his craft in the late 19th century, ragtime gains popularity in the first decade of the 20th, becomes the rage in the years just prior to WWI and finally becomes universal in the 1920s, a long but steady trend.

If you log onto Laura's Midi Heaven you can hear a number of selections of Joplin's ragtime tunes, including his famous "Maple Leaf Rag." I note that some of them were composed as early as 1896. Here's the link:

Also I was reminded by a friend that there is a picture, published in several liner books, showing couples dancing on the promenade deck of the Aquitania in 1920.

Inger Sheil

Dec 3, 2000
Jelly Roll Morton's (Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe's) claim to have "invented" Jazz in New Orleans in 1897 is a bit dodgy (particularly given how old he was), and - although his influence can't be doubted - it doesn't surprise me that there are even earlier dates proposed.

Yup - I lived in Singapore during my teens when my father was in the diplomatic service. I like the name Raffles because it has a pleasant sound and, out of the great figures of 19th Century Imperialism, Sir Stamford was one of the most benign, but I can well understand why Singaporeans would prefer to focus on post-independence figures. There are, as Jeremy suggested earlier, already plenty of landmarks named for the colonial past.

Jeremy Lee

Jun 12, 2003
Lucky you studied in an International school, because its real torture (really pressurized studying) in a Government school here. I study in an Independent school which is an in-between but that's all I can go to because Singapore does not allow its citizens to study in an International school!

The campus is at Woodlands right? Can't really remember.....

Inger Sheil

Dec 3, 2000
The old Ulu Pandan site and then later at Woodlands, Jeremy. I recall that Singaporean students were not permitted to study in the International Schools, which seemed rather a shame and helped to lead to a rather insulated world among the ex-pats. We had at least one US student in my classes at the United Nations International School in NY.

Best get back on topic, though - it's a long haul from dancefloors aboard the Titanic to international schools.

Jeremy Lee

Jun 12, 2003
>>Best get back on topic, though - it's a long haul from dancefloors aboard the Titanic to international schools.<<

Sure, but I don't know what to say about dancefloors now.....
Sep 28, 2004
Hey Guys
sounds like quite a debate raging there. Titanic on her maiden voyage did not have a dance floor of any shape or form in the First Class Dining Saloon, a grand piano was featured in her First Class Restaurant Reception Room, but to the best of my knowledge their was no band or group who played in the Dining Room itself. One thing to bear in mind is that during this period of sea travel, the rich first class where taken to eating large meals to put it politely!! The chances of anyone wanting to dance after such a feast are unlikely. The musicians if anything would have been there to provide a certain ambience for the diners and at the least to aid digestion(please don't take the latter part of that comment seriously!) when they came out of the Dining Room. As for Olympic, she had a dance floor fitted specifically during her 1919-1920 refit if I remember rightly, although it could have been during the 1927 refit??
Hope this gives you a little more assistance??!!

Brian R Peterson

Hi All,

This is a very interesting debate I must say.

However Stuart is correct in stating that the Titanic in no way shape or form featured a dance floor in any of her classes for the maiden voyage, the idea of shipboard dancing would not become popular until the post war years.

Olympic went back to Belfast for her third refit in December of 1928. Unlike the two before, this one would be quick and concerned less with mechanical or structural modifications.

The major focus of attention during this refit was to modernize the ship. Sixteen First Class suites were extended to the edge of the B Deck promenade, likewise the number of private bathrooms were also increased, the acceptable standard of Edwardian First Class had been somewhat casual in this area prior to this point.

It was a common failing point all through First Class, a paradoxical combination of luxurious staterooms and suites lacking the most primitive sanitary conveniences.

For example, when Olympic entered service in 1911 she featured 32 cabins on A Deck, and not one featured a private bathroom.

Improving this area of the Olympic became the preoccupation of White Star well into the 1930's, however the creation of these facilities was gradually reducing passenger capacity dramatically.

Upon her return to transatlantic passenger service in 1919 First Class passenger capacity was 750, after the 1928 refit it was reduced to 670.

There were two ways additional bathroom facilities could be added to the ship without much modification, save extensive replumbing. In the 1928 refit those same cabins on A Deck, now called Upper Promenade Deck, the result of a mystifying name change originating in 1914, were remodeled in that every inside cabin became the private bathroom for the outer cabin adjoining.

Where corridors divided inside and outside cabins a new approach was taken. Down on C Deck, now B Deck due to the Upper Promenade nonsense, there was a row of these cabins forward of the Maids and Valets Dining Saloon.

These cabins, originally C115, C117 and C119, thus became B115 and B119 - B117 was no more as it had been converted / cannibalized into a pair of private bathrooms for the adjoining cabins.

The reduction in First Class passenger capacity thus allowed for a unique change to the First Class Dining Saloon.

The central section, formerly the location of the Captain's great oval table, was removed and covered with parquet to become a dance floor - complete with an orchestra stand.

It would be one of the rare times when the ship's orchestra played for dancing as well as sheer enjoyment of dining on the Atlantic.

The aft portion of the Cafe Parisian was stripped of its wicker tables and chairs and was similarly transformed into a dance floor, while the forward portion was left as to serve as the Cafe.

Best Regards,


Kyrila Scully

Apr 15, 2001
South Florida
Dancing did occur on Titanic, in spite of the lack of dance floor. Apparently, the young people made their own dance floor after dinner, as Mrs. Margaret ("Molly") Brown noted in her writings. She herself enjoyed dancing after dinner on the Titanic. Dancing has never been unpopular throughout history, except during the Dark Ages. But all cultures and eras have their dance history, from the earliest records and cave drawings.


Lee Gilliland

Feb 14, 2003
Kyrila, as that obviously wasn't in the Dining Room, have you any idea where the dancing took place? My impression was she was speaking of the reception area just outside, where they held the after-dinner concerts, but I can't seem to pin that down.
Dec 7, 2000

For those who have seen Olympic's promotional film, which is an extra feature on the 1943 German Titanic DVD. You can see people dancing in the starboard section of Olympic's Reception Room. This is 1920 or 1921, no dance floors have been installed yet, and if you look carefully, you can see the carpet. The chairs and tables were simply cleared to make room for the dancers.

I haven't read any definitive accounts of dancing on the Titanic, but if dancing did occur, I don't see why a section of the reception room could not be cleared, or at least some chairs and tables moved a bit to make more room for dancing.

The dance floors were largely installed on the Olympic during her 1928 refit. I'm not sure whether they were all installed in 1928, I think some were installed during the 1932 refit, but by the end of her career, Olympic had a parquet floor in:

* 1st class Lounge
* 1st class Reception Room
* 1st class Dining Room
* 1st class, Cafe Parisien
* 2nd class Lounge

I think the floors in both Lounges were a 1932 addition. There could very well be others in the 2nd class and Tourist, ‘3rd Cabin’ areas, but these are ones that I'm 100% sure about.