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                                                                                                Article by Max Perry 2/1/96

Recent articles have been written about “The Hustle”, with much speculation on the types of hustles and the general evolution of this dance craze, which is seeing a comeback in the country dance community. As a dance educator with 20 years teaching experience, I lived through the disco era, and was teaching in dance studios from its’ inception, through its’ demise. So I feel a little more than qualified to talk about the history of the dance. As with any dance, there is always room for debate, especially when talking about a dance form that saw so many regional variations (like Swing or Country dancing in general). There are always some differences of opinion. Here is mine.

During the summer of 1975, I had just graduated from high school, and was in Chicago to have some fun before going off to college. I can remember going to a nightclub to dance and sample Chicago’s nightlife. There was no such thing as “disco” music in this part of the country anyway we had heard Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”, but that was about it. If you went to a “disco” club to dance, you heard old Motown songs, or things like “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille, or anything that had a strong beat. I was sitting near the dance floor, when 2 couples got up to dance. The song was “Swearin’ to God” by Frankie Vallee, and the sight of the 2 couples doing the hustle stopped the entire nightclub!   People from other parts of the club moved to be closer to the dance floor to see this unbelievable sight of people “touch dancing” We had seen our parents dance, and knew about the “Big Band” era, but these were people our own age doing a partner dance! Needless to say, the audience made the DJ play that song 3 more times before letting the couples off the dance floor, and this was my first experience with the “Hustle”.  That very first Hustle later became known as the “Double Hustle” in dance curriculums, and was the first hustle to be danced to the song by Van Mc Coy called “Do the Hustle”. The basic pattern is very easy compared to our standards today. The couple started in closed (standard) position, facing each other with the man touching his left foot to the side, then stepping together, touching his right toe side, then stepping together, then marching in place L,in place R, for a count of 1,2,3,4,5,6. The lady did the exact natural opposite, with most of her turns being executed on the “march,march”. The dance was also lead with a double hand hold, with various arm styling used as the dance continued. A couple of years ago, I based my dance “The Teardrop Hustle” on this basic (refer to Step By Step dance index). The next year, 1976, I was teaching in Florida, and was exposed to Line Dancing for the first time. There was a dance called “The Bus Stop”, and various other dances I never learned names of, but they all seemed to be danced to K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s music. There was a dance to “Shake Your Booty” and “Get Down Tonight” and several other songs. This was still pre-Saturday Night Fever days, and disco was already being requested at the dance studios. We generally taught a basic hustle, mixed with some Eastern Swing and West Coast Swing, along with some Cha-Cha and Samba to create many of the “Disco” moves.  By 1978 - 1980 saw disco explode onto the dance scene, with the movie Saturday Night Fever, and lots of new music and clubs popping up overnight. Along with this, came the explosion of dances. There was the line dance from Saturday Night Fever, but in general, most all of the dances were touch dances. Several Hustles were almost identical except for slight variations in styles, for example there was the “New York Hustle” which was simply the “Sugar Push” from West Coast Swing being danced as a touch side,together,coaster step back,together,forward,step together,in place counted 1,2,3,&,4,5,6, again, with the lady’s turns being executed on counts 5,6 or 4,5,6. The “Latin Hustle” was the exact same dance except that a quick rock step behind, in place (5th) was substituted for the touch side, step together and was counted 1,&,2,3,&,4,5,6. The “Rope Hustle”, was the same as the “Latin Hustle” except that the couple used a “Hand-Shake” hold of right hand to right hand, and the lady would add swivels and dance across and in front of the man. Later, bar towels, and actual ropes were also used, as well as scarves. Each person held an end of the rope, and did all the dance moves including drops, holding ends of the rope. There was even a product out called “The Disco Rope” just for this hustle. There was a “Swing Hustle” that looked just like the Eastern Swing, and there were at least two versions of the “Tango Hustle”. If you get a chance to see the movie “Saturday Night Fever”, the dance sequence to “More Than A Woman” is the Tango hustle. The beginning of the 1980’s also saw a revival of roller ska ting, and because of the skating scene in Venice California, a new Hustle was born. Originally called the “Swing Hustle”, not to be confused with the earlier version, eventually was just called the “Hustle”. Originally meant for roller skaters, the dancers in shoes decided to try it, and it reigned supreme(ever wondered why the basic revolves so much?). The true test of time for a new dance to be added to any dance studio curriculum (major chain studios) is about 10 years. Until the Hustle, the newest dance to be added was the Cha-Cha. Various “Fad” dances are always taught, but never printed as part of the main dance programs until the dance has withstood the test of time, finally added this last great Hustle is part of a regular program. It is now required for all new teachers to learn and test out for their certification tests(ballroom).

With all of this in mind, I wonder which Country dances will be around in another 10 years? I guess we’ll see you in 2006!

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