OPPORTUNITY ONLY DANCES WITH THOSE WHO ACTUALLY TAKE TO THE DANCE FLOOR
Dance is art; dance is culture. American dance styles of the late 20th Century reflected the times in which we were living. There was a mixing of cultures on the dance floor, in the clubs, and even in the aisles of movie theaters. Today, we are taking a look at just a few of the dances that most of us at least attempted to perform . . . once upon a time.
SOLO DANCES (Partners are optional; showmanship is rewarded)
THE LIMBO (1956) - From Trinidad; you bend backwards and walk underneath a bar without touching it. Yes, it is considered a dance. (Inspiration: The film “Where the Boys Are.”)
BREAK DANCING (1980) - Created in NYC, break dancing is a collection of rhythmic moves that are largely improvisational. It was in response to early rap music.
THE RUNNING MAN (1982) - Basically running in place. The dancer slide steps with the feet rapidly moving back and forth while swinging the arms. (Inspiration: M C Hammer)
THE ROBOT (1983) - A dance that imitates the movement of a robot; it isolates different parts of the body that freeze or lock, then reactivate.
PARTNER DANCES (The customary dances; but some may take courage)
THE MASHED POTATO (1962) - Similar to the Twist; dancers move their feet in and out, and back and forth. (Inspiration: Dee Dee Sharpe’s “Mashed Potato Time” and James Brown’s “Do the Mashed Potato”).
THE FRUG, pronounced “Froog” (1964) - Dancers make lateral movements rather than moving their hips. Basically the Twist with more arm movement, and while standing still. This style was a precursor to the Monkey and the Swim.
THE BUMP (1972) - Just what it sounds like; bumping hips to the beat of the music.
THE LAMBADA (1989) - a.k.a. The Forbidden Dance, it’s a fast and sensual Brazilian dance. (Inspiration: the film “The Lambada”)
GROUP DANCES AND LINE DANCES (Great after a few drinks)
BUNNY HOP (1952) - Created in San Francisco; you stand in a line holding the hips of the person in front of you and hop forward and backward.
THE HULLY GULLY (1964) - A line dance where an MC calls out various dance moves while the music speeds up. (Inspiration: The Groups the Olympics and The Marathons)
THE HUSTLE (1971) - Either a line dance or a partner dance; it’s based on the mambo and originated in the Hispanic NYC. It involves walking side to side and back and forth (mass exposure through the film “Saturday Night Fever”)
THRILLER DANCE (1984) - Pop culture’s biggest group dance number still being performed today. It was also one of the first grand music videos. (Inspiration: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video)
ANIMAL DANCES (Duplicating animal motions; named appropriately)
THE PONY (1961) - Dancers hop from side to side in a galloping motion. (Inspiration: Chubby Checkers’ “Pony Time”)
THE CHICKEN / THE FUNKY CHICKEN (about 1960) - A variation of the Twist; dancers put their hands on their hips and swing their arms back and forth like, well, chickens.
THE MONKEY (1963) - Dancers move their arms up and down in front of their bodies rapidly while twisting their hips. (Inspiration: Major Lance’s “Monkey Time” and the Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey”)
FREE-FORM DANCES (Dances with few steps; they allow a lot of creativity)
THE TWIST (1960) - Within a year of the song’s recording, all generations were doing it. Dancers twist from side to side; feet may or may not move their feet. (Inspiration: Chubby Checkers, who got his name from Dick Clark).
THE SWIM (1961) - With limited movement of the legs, dancers’ arms imitate swimming strokes. (Inspiration: Bobby Freeman’s “C’mon and Swim”)
THE WATUSI (1967) - Ultimately you can do whatever twisting and turning you want to do. (Inspiration: The Orlons’ “The Wah-Watusi”)
DISCO (1970’s) - Disco includes both music and dance. Dancers move to a thumping beat and dance closer to each other than styles of the 1960’s. Synthesized music is common. The “hustle” and “bump” are off shoots of disco.
VOGUE (1993) - This is a throwback to the 1930’s. “Voguing” is a dance style incorporating model-like poses and using rigid body movements. (Inspiration: Madonna’s “Vogue” video)
FAD DANCES (numerous, short-lived, but ever present)
THE FREDDIE (1964) - Standing in place, lift your left leg and left arm together, then alternate to the right side. (Inspiration: Freddie and the Dreamers’ “I’m Telling You Now”)
THE TIME WARP (1975) - A parody of earlier styles, it became an accepted dance on its own. Frequent audience participation. (Inspiration: the film “Rocky Horror Picture Show”)
WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN (1986) - A fad dance where dancers pose similar to the poses on ancient Egyptian reliefs. (Inspiration: The song by the Bangles and Steve Martin comedy routines)
DANCES FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN’T DANCE
(Dances for the rest of us)
Y.M.C.A. (1979) - It’s a dance where you put your hands in the air and form the letters y, m, c, and a along with the chorus of the song “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People. No need to use your feet. Strong on audience participation.
THE MACARENA (1996) - This is a “dance” where all the action is done with the arms. An old flamenco melody. (Inspiration: the 1995 Bayside Boys’ song “Macarena”)
How many of these dances do you remember? Can you tell us about some others? How many did you do?