Disco Dancing: Do your own thing (It’s not Lawrence Welk)
By Kitty Hanson – The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan) April 2, 1979
In disco dancing, almost anything goes. The dance is characterized by a casual, yet controlled, rhythmic movement of the whole body, underscored by a pulsing vertical motion through the knees. As partners dance in the “apart” position without hand-to-hand or body contact, and therefore need not lead or follow, the beat of the music may also be expressed with individual interpretations.
Steps and-or movements may be taken on each beat of the music, on each half-beat, or on each second beat of the music. The catchy throbbing beat of disco music and the do-your-own-thing nature of the dance itself give both the novice and the experienced dancer more opportunity to interpret music and rhythm personally than does any other dance: each partner may express his individual feeling of the music by styling or rhythmic variations.
The choice of styling and intensity of body movements are up to your own personal interpretation. The following instructions should provide you with a basic framework of dance steps from which to build.
Unless you are otherwise advised, all dance experts say your knees should always be a bit flexed — something like the position you take in golf or tennis. Bending your knees just a bit loosens your hips and leaves your body free for movement.
At this point, remember you’re not concerned with “learning steps.” What you are after is to be able to stand there and move a little bit so that can enjoy the rhythm and the scene without feeling rooted to the ground. What you are doing in this first Fred Astaire instruction is getting the basic disco rhythms.
A note on dance instruction terminology: We have tried to translate some of the professional language into “people language,”‘ but you should also know the correct terminology.
The word “close,” is a verb, as in “close the door,” and it describes the action of bringing one foot to the other. The terms ‘point’: or “touch” (Which we have called ‘move’) indicate that the foot is lifted, moved, pointed, and touched lightly to the floor, but that you do not put your weight on it, and not taking a step. A “step” means that you move the foot and put your weight on it
Start out by standing easily and casually, your feet just a bit apart. Since the man always starts with his left foot, most of his weight should be on his right foot. The woman, who always starts dancing with her right foot, should feel most of her weight resting on her left foot.
How to dance with the basic disco rhythm
1 — Close your left foot to the right foot and, at the same time, flex or bend your knees slightly: Count One.
2 — Now, move your right foot to the side without putting your weight on it. At the same time, straighten your knees: Count Two.
3 — Bring your right foot back to the left foot and bend your knees slightly again: Count Three.
4 — Now move your left foot to the side, but don’t put your weight on it. Straighten the knees: Count Four.
The woman dances the direct opposite of the man’s steps, beginning with her right foot.
Now put on the music as you practice this basic disco rhythm, Relax and enjoy the music. You will soon feel a pulsing response to the beat. Allow your arms to swing naturally (try opening and closing — or back and forth — in coordination with the steps) and don’t be afraid to turn your body a little this way and that.
Now that you’ve got the feet going and the arms going, try a little bit of extra styling. Lift your hip upward and to the left as you move the left foot; then lift the hip upward and to the right as you move the right foot.
Once you have practiced the basic disco rhythm until your body is responding to the music with an easy and comfortable motion, you can begin to do variations. Try moving your foot forward — several times on the beat, and then back- ward. When you dance the basic disco rhythm moving backward, use a slight forward tilt of the body as you move the foot. When you dance the basic disco rhythm moving forward, try using a slight turn of the shoulders for added effect.
As you can see, we’re talking about movements here rather than steps. And even though you are being taught certain movements, once you get the hang of the movements and the beat, it becomes free-styling, because it is entirely up to you which yay you move and what you do with your arms and hips while you are doing it.
Men’s and Woman’s Steps:
With the basic disco rhythm, you have been dancing one movement on each beat of the music. By doubling up the tempo, you will dance the same movement on each half-beat of the measure. Instead of one, two, three, four, you count and one, and two, and three, and four. In this instance, you flex the knees
Slightly on each “and” count and straighten them on the counts of one, two, three, four. Practice the tempo of your movements to fit the count of and one, and two, and three, and four.
Side Cross Step
1 — Left foot steps to the side: Count One.
2 — Right foot crosses in front of the right: Count Two.
3 — Left foot steps to the side again: Count Three.
4 — Right foot points to the side with- out putting your weight on it: Count Four.
5-8 — Repeat the above steps, but this time beginning with the right foot to the side, and alternating the movements to the other side: Count One, Two, Three, Four.
The woman dances directly opposite the man’s steps, beginning with her right foot.
How to dance The Bump
You will have fun dancing the bump, especially with a responsive partner. The basic movement of the bump is easy to learn. As you dance the steps described below, simple exaggerate the outward lifting of the hip where indicated. Make this a sharp motion, as if bumping an object out of your way. Pretend you’re trying to open a kitchen door with both arms filled with grocery bags.
In the basic disco rhythms, you were dancing “step-move.”‘ Now that action will become “step-bump.” Relax movement and weight. You probably will find it more fun to do several bump actions in succession.
Man’s and Woman’s Steps:
1 — Put your left foot forward, turning it a quarter (14) to the left: Count One.
2– Right foot moves to the side, without weight; at the same time, bump the right hip to the side: Count Two.
3-4 — Bump the right hip to the side two additional times: Count Three, Four.
9 — Right foot steps backward. turning a quarter to the right: Count One.
6 — Left foot moves to the side, without weight, and at the same time, bump the left hip to the side: Count Two.
7-8 — Bump the left hip to the side two additional times: Count Three, Four.
The American Hustle dance
Because there are so many versions of even a basic American Hustle, we, as amateur dancers — well, actually, non-dancers — have presented the basic and turning steps we found easiest to do. They lack the high style of the Fred Astaire Studio steps, but they will get you started.
Basic Step, Man:
Stand with feet together, just slightly apart from your partner.
1 — Move left foot slightly to the side, just touching the ball of your foot to the floor, but don’t put any weight on it. (Some teachers call this “point,” some say “touch,” but in any case, that’s how you do it.): Count One.
2 — Close your left foot to the right foot, transferring your weight to the left: Count Two.
3 — Touch or point or move your right foot slightly to the side, but don’t put your weight on it: Count Three.
4 — Close your right foot to the left foot, transferring your weight to the right foot: Count Four.
§ — Step in place on the left foot: Count Five.
6 — Step in place on the right foot: Count Six.
Basic Step, Woman:
Stand with feet together, your weight over the left foot.
1 — Move the ball of the right foot slightly to the side, but do not put your weight on it: Count One.
2 — Close the right foot to the left foot, transferring weight to the right foot: Count Two.
3 — Move the left foot slightly to the side, just touching the ball of the foot to the floor, but don’t put any weight on it: Count Three.
4 — Close the left foot to the right foot. transferring the weight to the left foot: Count Four.
9 — Step in place on the right foot: Count Five.
6 — Step in place on the left foot: Count Six.
This is easiest to learn as a partner dance if you just hold hands, in what is called a four-hand-clasp. Later you can do it in the classic dance position.
In doing the basic American Hustle, which is very informal, it isn’t necessary to plant your foot in any exact spot. What is important is that you get the rhythm: ‘Move, step, move, step.” Once you’ve got the rhythm, you can add Hustle styling simply by lifting your hip up and out as you move.
How to dance the California Hustle
The California Hustle is a line dance, and a favorite among the many line dances enjoying popularity throughout the country.
Also known as the Bus Stop, it is danced, not as a couple, but by individuals in a group who follow a prescribed sequence of steps, in rhythm, and using the same foot. It’s performed in an infinite variety of combinations in different parts of the country and even varies from town to town.
No distinctions is made this time between the man’s steps and the woman’s, since they are identical. Although the dance is described as three separate patterns, the movements are actually danced one after the other to make a complete sequence. You then repeat the sequence as often as the music requires — or as long as your legs hold out.
Back and Forward Steps:
1-3 — Beginning with the right foot, take three steps backward, right, left. right: Count One, Two, Three.
4 — Slap the left foot against the right foot without weight, and clap your hands: Count Four.
7 — Beginning with the left foot, take three steps forward, left, right, left: Count One. Two, Three.
8 — Slap the right foot against the left foot without weight and clap your hands: Count Four.
9-12 — Repeat Steps One through Four, beginning with the right foot: Count One, Two, Three, Four.
1 — Left foot steps to the side: Count One.
2 — Right foot crosses behind the left foot: Count Two.
3 — Left foot steps to the side again: Count Three.
4 — Slap the right foot against the left foot without weight and clap your hands: Count Four.
5-8 — Dance Steps One through Four to the opposite side, beginning with the right foot: Count One, Two, Three. Four.
9-10 — Left foot steps to the side; slap the right foot against the left foot without weight: Count One, Two.
11-12 — Right foot steps to the side: slap the left foot again the right foot without weight: Count Three, Four.
The swivel and toe-tap step is the most complicated of the three patterns that make up the California Hustle. Do it slowly and carefully at first until you have become thoroughly familiar with all the movements.
This is the final sequence of the California Hustle Step. After you’ve done it, repeat all three sequences over again — and over again — starting with the back and forward Steps, continuing to the side-to-side, then to the swivels and toe-taps.
Notice that your count changes emphasis on this step.
1 — Swivel quickly on the balls of both feet with what might be described as a Charleston step — the heels apart and then heels together, two times. (Your feet should form a V-shape.): Count ‘and’ One, ‘and’ Two.
2 — Tap the right toe forward without weight. two times: Count Three, Four.
3 — Tap the right toe backward without weight two times: Count One. Two.
4– Tap the right toe forward without weight once: Count Three.
5– Tap the right toe backward without weight once: Count Four.
6-7 — Repeat Steps Four and Five once: Count One, Two.
& — Tap the right toe to the side without weight, at the same time turning one quarter to the left: Count Three.
9 — Kick the right foot forward: Count Four.
Once you have learned the California Hustle (or Bus Stop), teach it to your friends. It’s fun to dance at parties.
How to do the hustle (video)
1. American Hustle
2. Latin Hustle
3. Rope Hustle
4. Hustle Cha
5. Tango Hustle
6. The Bump
7. Foxy Trot
8. The Walk
Disco dance moves from the ’70s: Don’t let the Hustle grind you down
by Peter McCabe – American Home (April, 1976)
If you haven’t yet caught Hustle fever, you will. It is as infectious as Asian flu. It was born about 18 months ago, though nobody seems to know where. The black dance clubs and the gay haunts are both claiming credit. Discotheques now give free lessons in it, which suggests that the country’s dance instructors may have had something to do with its origins.
Disco music, or music to Hustle by, has had a big impact on the record industry. Many new records now become well-known first through disco exposure rather than radio. And the dance is not confined to any age group or class. It is everywhere, and it seems to be taking over.
A few months ago, I opened the magazine section of a Sunday newspaper and read an official heraldry of what was termed a phenomenon. The article declared that “this new dance, The Hustle, marks the end of the free-expression dancing era where your partner was often five or six feet away. Now there is no ad-libbing and no faking it. Either you hustle or you sit.”
Now although I consider the Hustle to be an enjoyable dance, which can be executed simply or with amazing complexity, I’m the kind of person who objects to being told what to do on a dance floor. So I decided to check out discotheques at both ends of the country — and in a few cities in between. In some spots I witnessed what I would call a well-balanced mixture of dancing, some Hustling, some not.
But in New York and California, I noticed that the Hustlers adopted a different strategy. On the dance floor, they all seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time, and by a process of what seemed like osmosis, they all suddenly formed a line.
This line eventually broke down into several smaller linear formations, but it nonetheless had its desired effect — which was to drive all the non-Hustlers off the floor and into the safety and comfort of the bars, where they sat nursing their drinks and glowering at the rhythmic, coordinated and victorious opposition. Needless to say, it is not much fun sitting in a bar when you can be dancing to Labelle’s “Voulez-Vous Couchez Avec Moi.”
Now since Hollywood and New York have been known on previous occasions to foist their examples on others, this trend puzzled and depressed me. I have always believed that the way most of us danced in the late ’60s was a most exciting, pleasurable and even liberating experience. After several years of Twists and Bristol Stomps and Mashed Potatoes, it was a welcome epoch of laissez-faire. And it was especially welcomed by men (at least white males), who by and large began to take a new pride in the sensual movement of their bodies.
So I paid a visit to a friend, a disco Dee Jay, and told him of my feelings on the subject. He said that he, too, had noticed this tendency for Hustlers to browbeat the non-Hustlers, and for non-Hustlers to be overcome with remorse on encountering a room full of heel-toe, heel-toeites.
He said the Hustle was never intended to be dictatorial, pointing out that one of the earliest and most popular Hustle records was a song called “Do It Any Way You Want.” He thought that message spoke for itself.
I said that I thought most of the people who danced the Hustle ritualistically in the discos had rather bored, vapid and expressionless faces when they danced. He agreed, adding that he’d been especially amused one night to see a middle-aged man unconcernedly do the Freddie for a solid hour, although surrounded by Hustlers. The man cleared enough space for a truck.
“Should non-Hustlers resist doing the Hustle?” I asked him.
“You cannot fight it,” he said with a shrug, “but perhaps the best policy is to know how, and then do exactly what you want.”
That sounded like good advice, rather like knowing karate. It’s there when you need it, even if you never have to use it. So here is the basic Hustle step, which is all one really needs to know, and has been seen being executed by both Jackie Onassis and David Bowie, though not together.
Your music list
For practice I would recommend the following albums:
1) Dance Your Troubles Away by Archie Bell and the Drells (TSOP)
2) Happy ‘Bout The Whole Thing by D.D. Sharp (TSOP)
3) Disco Reggae by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires (Mercury)
4) Heat of the City by Barrabas (Atlantic)
5) Save Me by the Silver Convention (RCA)
If you’d rather just buy singles, you could choose from:
1) “It Only Takes a Minute” by Tavares (Capitol)
2) “What a Difference a Day Makes” by Esther Phillips (Motown)
3) “Fly, Robin, Fly” by the Silver Convention (RCA)
4) “Let’s Do the Latin Hustle” by Eddie Drennin (Friends & Co.)
Within half an hour, you won’t even be looking at your feet.