In the early 1970s, I was a new ballroom dance instructor in NYC. Even though I was totally in love with ballroom dancing, not everyone shared my passion. Because the country was just coming out of the 1960s hippie era, ballroom dancing seemed kind of old fashioned. That is until people started doing the Hustle – and partner dancing was back!
Things were getting really busy at the studio.
Seemed like everyone wanted to have fun and learn the Hustle. For this reason, we devised a syllabus, started group classes, and even held Disco parties at the studio. Eventually, the Hustle was added to popular ballroom dance competitions. Lots of professionals developed great theatrical routines for pro competitions.
1970s Club Scene
1970s discotheques played music from the Bee Gee’s and Donna Summer as we danced under light shows and mirrored balls. Also popular were funk bands with real instruments and always a big horn section.
Fatback Band’s song “(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop” and “Do the Hustle” by Van McCoy were popular songs for the line dances called – wait for it – the Bus Stop and the Hustle.
Dancers loved to dress up in the festive 1970s club fashion such as sparkly mini’s, jumpsuits, and fancy pants for the ladies. For the men, think John Travolta with suits, open shirts, and platform shoes.
If you’re interested in learning more about the origin of the Hustle, I recommend that you visit the website SwingShoes.net. There you’ll get the history of Hustle dancing and even some online lessons.
In addition, if you’re a dance history buff, you’ll enjoy this Dance Safari post, “Peabody: A Simple Introduction to a Jazzy Dance“.
Hustle Dancing Today
The granddaddy of disco partner dancing is the Latin Hustle. Indeed, the dance uses lots of turns and spins similar to those of the other rhythm dances like Mambo, Salsa, and Swing. In the beginning, it used a 6 count basic, but as dancers became more creative it evolved into a 3 count step. This couple from New York shows you how it’s done today.
The basic step itself isn’t difficult at all. However, because it uses a syncopation or split beat, it must be danced very quickly. This can be challenging to beginning Hustle dancers. So, at many ballroom studios, we backed it up a bit by removing the syncopation. This leaves us with a slower, less energetic 4 count Hustle basic that anyone can do.
As you can see, the Hustle isn’t just a period dance from 50 years ago. When you do the Hustle you’re a part of a community of friends who want to celebrate the best of today’s and yesterday’s tunes. It’s a way to, as Sly and the Family Stone sang, “Dance to the Music“.
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