The Taxi dancer or what were often times referred to as "Dime a Dance Girls" was a popular trade in the twenties and thirties. Taxi dancing has been found as far back as early as 1913 within San Francisco's Barbary Coast neighborhoods. At that time in San Francisco, the ticket-a-dance system was used in what were called closed dance halls, because female customers were not allowed: the only women permitted in these halls were the dancing female employees. Later, these ladies were basically dance hostesses at dance saloons and dance halls open to the public. Some would be dance instructresses as well at some of the better dance establishments who offered them for dance lessons. Taxi dancing was sometimes offered in the Medicine Shows and Gilly's (gillies) that would pop up in small towns.
In some of the dance only halls, (no lessons) they would supply the women for lonely men to dance with. Many of these "Dime a Dance Girls " would become prostitutes but most of them were just hard working dancers. Prostitution (see poster ) was very popular with many of these ladies, however over half of the ladies working for the better establishments were of good morals while making a pretty good living and were not prostitutes. Taxi dancers are hired to dance with their customers on a dance-by-dance basis. The term "taxi dancer" comes from the fact that, just as a taxi-cab driver, the dancer's pay is proportional to the time he or she spends dancing with the customer around the floor, usually one song. The new competition of these increasingly popular taxi-dance halls would cause many ballrooms to either adopt the ticket-a-dance system or eventually go out of business. There were also establishments which offered male professional dancers to women such as Maxim's in New York, where many a male movie star got their starts, such as actors as George Raft, Clifton Webb and Rudolph Valentino.
Closed Dance Halls (from Wikipedia)
In 1913, San Francisco enacted new laws that would forbid dancing in any cafe or saloon where alcohol was served. The closure of the Barbary Coast dance halls quickly fostered a new kind of pay-to-dance scheme called the closed dance hall. The name was derived from the fact that female patrons were not allowed—the only women permitted in these halls were the dancing female employees. A report from Public Dance Hall Committee of San Francisco Civic League of Voters states:
"In September, 1913, the Police Commissioner prohibited dancing in any cafe, restaurant, or saloon where liquor was sold. This resolution wiped out dancing on the "Coast"[Barbary Coast] and resulted in the appearance of the so-called 'closed' hall in the districts adjoining. There the girls were employed to dance with men patrons on a commission basis and salary. These halls had continuous dancing with practically no rest periods, and made large profits. Patrons paid ten cents for each dance, lasting less than two minutes. About six hundred girls were employed in these closed dance halls."
Inside a closed dance hall, a dancer would earn her income by the number of tickets she could collect in exchange for dances. The management would typically pay the girls half the price of a dance ticket. With the closed dance hall, the centerpiece of the taxi dance hall—the ticket-a-dance system—was introduced. Community groups began to oppose the closed dance halls, and in response to this growing political threat, these early taxi dance halls began to disguise themselves as dance schools. In 1921 the police commission ruled against employment of women as taxi dancers, and San Francisco's taxi dance halls were permanently shut down. (end wiki).
During the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese Dance Halls featured Taxi Dancers, Servicemen could dance with these girls just for the purchase of a drink. Taxi Dance halls resurfaced for a bit in the 1960s.