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Jenny and Toby

The Hustle

Swing and Nightclub

If one thing could be said to have almost killed ballroom dancing, it was '60's rock and roll. Why learn how to dance with a partner when you could shake on your own, or just meet hip to hip with a satisfying bump? Solo dancing really took off in 1961 with Chubby Checkers' hit, "Let's Twist Again". Female dancers twisted at the waist in skirts specially made to flare out wide. New York's Peppermint Lounge became one of the hottest places to dance, and one of the hardest places to get into. Critics, of course, called the dance obscene because of its gyrating hip movements. By the mid-1960s, more than 5000 discos had opened in the United States. The Twist set the stage for other gyrating dances like the Shake, the Hitchhike, the Monkey, the Pony, the Swim and the Funky Broadway.

These solo dances coincided with the beginnings of the women's movement, which called into question the idea of the man always leading. But couples dancing wasn't about to go underground for very long. It exploded back on the scene with the Hustle, which appealed to younger people because it was danced to rock and roll. The Hustle is said to have originated in 1970 in New York City's Black and Puerto Rican bars. Its popularity spread with Van McCoy's recording of "The Hustle," which stayed on the national charts for 18 weeks. In the movies, John Travolta created an unforgettable image as the white-suited dancer in "Saturday Night Fever" set to the popular Bee Gees soundtrack. The Hustle is often described as a six-count Lindy. It is one of the few dances that don't phrase evenly with the music: that is, each basic occupies three beats of music, though the music is in 4/4 time. The tempo is 28-30 bars per minute. Hustle is known for its athletic turns and for partner work that emphasizes a rhythmic separation and reuniting of the dancers.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.