In the late 1960s, during the discotheque dancing craze, Milton Bradley created the Bump Ball, described as a "skill and action game for all ages." On the box, it noted that you could also dance with the Bump Ball, suggesting that you "try dancing to the Bump Ball record."
The explanation on the sleeve of "The Official Bump Ball Record" is so amusing that it's worth quoting at length:
Once upon a time in the way out kingdom of contemporary America a ball was invented. No ordinary ball this one. A big, soft, spongy ball with crazy bumps all over it. The cats at Milton Bradley threw the Bump Ball® into the teen scene — and a whole new bag was born. Kids had all enjoyed the games and stunts, at parties, school hops, indoors and outdoors. They had all performed the no hands tricks, without letting the Bump Ball fall to the floor. A whole new breed of kids latched onto this crazy new dance fad, creating a twisting, laughing, falling group that quickly became the "BUMP BALL BOPPERS" as the mass media dubbed them. They deserted in droves from the flower children to join this new transcendental experience. It was the answer to America's searching youth. It was Anti-Establishment — and a gas at the same time. It keeps you and your partner close. Groovy. Into this magic land there stepped a sorcerer with dancing feet.
The devilish don of the discotheques was legendary — "Killer" Joe Piro — who too fell under the spell of the Bump Ball®. Into the Battle of the Bump Ball® he whirled, and soon he was touring the New World with his very own way with a ball. In the big, sprawling cities, and the rustic hamlets of America the craze was on. The Bump Ball® was seen all over this great land, perched on shoulders, balancing on chests, rolling on hips. Television plugged into the new craze, and many millions saw their first Bump Ball® starring with big name luminaries on the late night shows coast to coast.
. . . It's time the boys got closer to the girls, and this newest dance craze makes it more fun than any historical fox-trot. Join the fun people. Get on the Bump Ball®.
For all the hype, there's not actually much to the dance, except dancing with your partner while trying to keep the Bump Ball between their body and your own—without using your hands. For further guidance, the images on the cover of "The Official Bump Ball Record" are suggestive—in more ways than one!
While authentic Bump Balls are hard to find in good condition today—they're all 50 years old now—any foam ball can easily be substituted to bring back the spirit of the sixties.
© 2018 Nick Enge
For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.
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