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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear Dancers
Grizzly Bear dance history Archives Title

   The Grizzly bear Dance 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 a lot 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.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

San Francisco, CA. 1909 n/a Ragtime Dance
Order: "Dances thru Time" video

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

Van Harbor Casino 1800's - Banner of The Bear (???) Dance Of The Grizzly Bear, the
      1880's - Polar Bear Polka ??? Everybody's Doin' it Now
      1907 - The Teddy Bear Grizzly Bear [MP3] (Berlin)
      1909 - Grizzly Bear Grizzly Bear Rag MP3 | #2 | #3 |
      1910 - Dance of the Grizzly Bear I would Like To Try It (1910-Berlin)
      1912 - Kill That Bear That Society Bear [MP3]
      1912 - Stop that Bearcat Sadie The Preacher and the Bear (Clip)
      1912 - That Society Bear      
      1912 - Dance of The Grizzly Bear      
      1914 - La Danza Dell' (Orso I Balli d'Oggi, Rome)      
      Grizzly Bear Rag The Bear Cha-Cha-Cha [CD] (Jim Henson)
| See More Photo's |

Night Clubs



Fairmont Hotel (San Francisco) n/a San Francisco, CA
Ray Jones Cafe'       New York
Staten Island Ferry       Paris, France
Van Harbor Casino            

related Films


Ballets / Stage

1899 - Couchee Couchee Bear, The n/a n/a
1910 - Baby, the Boy, and the Teddy Bear ?        
1913 - Landlord's Troubles, A ?        
1915 - Bear Affair, A ?        
1919 - It's A Bear        
1927 - Hold That Bear        
1937 - The Dancing Bear      


1949 - Ragtime Bear       1/2/1910 - Oakland Tribune (Club women wage war on Tough Dances)
1952 - Rock-a-Bye Bear      
1964 - Bear Hug ?       4/3/1912 - Fort Wayne Daily News (degrading Dance)
Dances thru Time            

Other Related Dances of the time...

Aeroplane Waltz Cartel Waltz Hesitation Waltz LuLu Fado Shimmy
Angle Worm Wiggle Castle Walk Hippohop March Shiver Shake
Apache Dance Charleston Honey Bug Maurice Tango Skirt Dance
Argentine Ardor Chicken Flip Hooche Cooche Maxixe Slow Drag
Arizona Anguish Collegiate Horsetrot Mooch and Sugar Syncopated Canter
Bacchanalian waltz Collegiate Foxtrot Hug-Me-Tight Necktie Waltz Tango
Baltimore Buzz Collegiate Shag Innovation One Step Terripan Toddle
Bambuca Dewey Dip Jazzarimba Ostrich Stretch Texas Tommy
Black Bottom Dizzy Drag Kangaroo Canter Pavlova Gavotte Toddle
Boll Weevil Wiggle Fado Foxtrot Kangaroo Waltz Peabody Turkey Trot
Boston Dip Foxtrot Kitchen Sink Pickaninny Dandle Two-Step
Break away Fuzzy-Wuzzy Lambeth Walk Pollywog Wiggle Varsity Drag
Bunny Hug Gaby Glide Lame Duck Puppy Snuggle Walkin' The Dog
Buzzard Lope Gilda Glide Lemon Squeeze Quickstep Waltz
Cabbage Clutch Grizzly Bear Lindy Hop Salome dance Whirlwind Waltz
Camel Walk Grizzly Glide Love Dance Shadow Dance Wiggle-de-Wiggle
Cantor Waltz        

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Fannie Brice Louise Gruenning n/a
John Jarott    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Balli di ieri e balli d'oggi P. Gavina 1922  
$ Jazz Dance Stearns, Marshall 1963 Da Capo Press
Modern Dance, the: a historical and analytical ... M.F. Ham 1916 n/a

Musicians, etc



Poets / Writers

Irving Berlin Sophie Tucker Tom Mangelsen n/a
George Botsford     William H. Beard  
$ Keith Nichols & Ragtime Boys            

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Animal Dances Theodore Roosevelt (Teddy) Ute Bear Dance Suggestive Dance
Teddy Bear Unique Dance Hold Tough Dance Freak Dance
Tenderloin Dance Barbary Coast Wiggle Dance  


  • 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!)
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