The Grizzly bear started in San Francisco, along with the Bunny Hug, Texas Tommy and Grizzly Bear. The Bear dance as it was often called was also done on the Staten Island ferry boats in the 1900's. It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Turkey Trot at Ray Jones Cafe' in Chicago, IL. around 1909. The Grizzly Bear was first introduced to New York's Broadway audiences in the Show "Over the River in 1910 thru the song "Everybody's Doin' it Now, the song contains the repeated phrase "It's a Bear". Later the Ziegfeld Follies of 1911 would feature the Bear dance by Miss Fanny Brice
The dance was rough and clumsy, the picture above is character of the actual Grizzly Bear, as you can see, the hold is where it gets its name. During the dance, the dancers would yell out: "It's a Bear!." The genuine Grizzly Bear step was in correct imitation of the movements of a dancing bear, moving
or dancing to the side. A very heavy step to the side with a decided bending of the upper part of the body from one side to the other, a decidedly ungraceful and undignified movement when performed as a dance.
Most writers (teachers) of the time wanted to do away with the Grizzly Bear at society dances as it was not a very pretty or sophisticated dance. The clip on the right shows one aspect of the dance, however they missed the arms wrapping / Hugging around each other in the Grizzly bear hold (like the green photo above) which was common among most of the dances.
The clips hold i've only seen done or dexcribed in this clip.
Vernon and Irene Castle had allot to do with the demise of the Grizzly Bear, as well as the Bunny Hug, the Turkey Trot and Texas Tommy. The Bear was finally shot when the Fox Trot appeared on the scene in 1914.
M.F. Ham in his book "The Modern Dance" states that the grizzly bear came from the low Chinese dives of San Francisco.
Most couples dances of the time had some kind of animal name attached to it (thought to make it successful) such as the Bunny Hug, Horse Trot, Buzzard Lope and Turkey Trot to name a few.
* In 1910, Sophie Tucker (Last of the Red Hot Mama's), was arrested for singing the Grizzly Bear and the "Angle Worm Wiggle."
* On July 22, 1913, written in a dance card from the Exposition Park dancing pavilion in Conneaut Lake, PA. it was written that the Bear Dance and Turkey Trot would not be tolerated. Most dances of the day would refer to some type of animal in
the name, whether it had anything to do with one or not.
Basic Steps: Lady dance position looked like she was "Swooning".
The Embrace (dance hold) was very ardent. (see picture at top of page).
Basically a One Step, swaying shoulders back and forth on each step.
The genuine Grizzly Bear step was in correct imitation of the movements
of a dancing bear, moving or dancing to the side. A very heavy step to
the side with a decided bending of the upper part of the body from one
side to the other, a decidedly ungraceful and undignified movement when
performed as a dance. (However, it looked fun to do)
-------------- Sheet Music #1 :---------------
"I would Like to try it,
But Mother said I shouldn't dare,
To try and do the grizzly bear".
"Hug up close top your baby,
Sway me everywhere,
Show your darlin' beau,
just how to go to buffalo,
Doin' the grizzly bear".
* (there's more but copyrights ya-know...go buy it! )
-------------- Sheet Music #2 --------------
Out In San Francisco where the, Weather's fair,
They have a dance out there, they call the,
Grizzly Bear, all your other lovin' dances,
Can't compare, Not so coony,
But a little more than spoon-y. Talk a bout yo' bears that Ted-dy,
Roosevelt shot, they couldn't class with what..... Old San Francisco's got ....
Listen Hone-y, and I will show to the dance of the Grizzly Bear.
* ( there's more but copyrights ya-know...go buy it!)