Ask someone about dance in the 1970s and most people will mention northern soul, Saturday Night Fever, and possibly the Studio 54 nightclub. given what we know about the rich history of partner dancing so far, was there more to the dance floors of the 1970s than first meets the eye?
Be it on the dance floor or on the street, it’s the 1970s and the hustle is on. Given many names and seen in several permutations, the hustle was a staple on dance floors across the US. Just as east coast swing had been a codified, somewhat ‘watered down’ version of lindy hop in order to convert more people, so hustle had various versions with varying degrees of difficulty. There was the street hustle (aka Disco Merengue), the Latin (aka New York hustle), the continental (aka American hustle) and a tango hustle! It’s said that the tango hustle was created for – you guessed it – Saturday Night Fever!
Richard Powers, a Stanford University professor, and Hollywood choreographer writes about this era with fondness, having lived through it: “Both partnered and solo dancing were done throughout the disco era, but the proportions changed through the decade. During the first eight years, disco dancing was primarily partnered dancing, the living tradition of swing. That changed in 1978.”
He continues, “To quote Maria Torres, a disco dancer from NYC, “The thing which really killed partner dancing was Saturday Night Fever”. It is said that John Travolta himself pushed to include more solo dancing in the film, to ensure the prowess of his character’s dancing was not lost in a sea of talented dancers. It’s certainly the case that Travolta steals the entire show in several scenes!
One way to showcase one’s own dancing and include lots of dancers at once is a ‘soul train’. Still a current favourite at many dance nights that play blues, funk and soul music, this is a great ritual. More accurately a ‘strut your stuff’ train, it goes like this: two rows of people line up in a (dis)orderly fashion and pairs head down the middle of the line ‘doing their thang’ on a one-way catwalk. Great fun and a sure-fire confidence boost, even to wallflowers!
A partner dance that came to prominence during the late 60s and 70s, and which has remained consistently popular since, is west coast swing. As the name suggests, it was born on the west coast of the USA, in southern California, or SoCal as it’s referred to by locals. This dancing hotbed had already brought us balboa, swing dancing (a relative of lindy hop) and bal-swing (a fusion of the two), and now west coast swing was to prove just as popular.
Still termed ‘western swing’ in written materials on dancing at the time, west coast was growing in popularity due to its versatility. Though the footwork is syncopated (it borrows triple steps from lindy hop) it also fits well to most 4-to-the-floor rhythms. Generally, west coast is danced in a slot; originally this was done to aid filming of dancers in Hollywood, at the direction of Dean Collins, who we heard about earlier in this series. Today it makes for efficient and predictable use of space.
Northern soul requires a brief mention as we discuss dancing in the 1970s, as it was a staple in the clubs across the midlands and north in the UK during this time. Epitomised by packed clubs of people grooving out on their own to predominantly non-mainstream US Motown and soul artists, northern soul was uniquely ‘northern’. It was gritty, underground and all about the music. The more obscure the better.
This couldn’t have been in starker contrast to Studio 54. Glitzy, glamorous and full of super stars, the New York club gained infamy as many stars and their entourages partied hard under the spotlights. A centre for hedonistic nights out, the 1000-strong crowds got up to a lot more than dancing. And we shall leave that there!
The male clientele at dance nights would be seen in tight fitting suits across the torso down to the knees, often with bell bottom flares. Long, flowing yet manicured locks, off the shoulder dresses and striking fabrics were the order of the day for women.
There will always be those that are committed to partner dancing – investing in technically challenging dances such as Argentine tango and west coast swing – and there will also be those that are attracted to the proclamations of confidence and self-expression found in solo dancing.
Whether you danced disco swing, a 1950s-style swing step done with disco style and attitude, the Electric Slide line dance, the hustle or northern soul, one thing was certain – dance wasn’t going out of fashion any time soon!
Lana Del Rey Never Sounded Like This! Meet Remix Genius Kuckoo
Remix genius Kuckoo puts his own tweak on Lana Del Rey‘s Pop Ballad hit, “Summertime Sadness.” Just imagine how pleasant it can be to hear 80s-tinged synths replacing her dreamy acoustic music. Well, this version satisfies all your dreams as it’s fully loaded with retro components. Considering its upbeat twist, he has transformed “Summertime Sadness” into a Disco gem, plus, he gives it the right energy!
The independent producer from the UK takes the original melody to new heights while Del Rey’s vocals are left intact. On a side note, the pigeon (mascot) which is part of Kuckoo’s visual identity represents the symbol of peace. In fact, the artist firmly believes that music can affect the peaceful world positively.
I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about him in 2021. Stay tuned.
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“Crying At The Discotheque,” Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Newest Hit
The “Murder On The Dancefloor” singer is back with her newest hit, “Crying At The Discotheque”. On this occasion, Sophie Ellis-Bextor releases a music video that looks kinda depressing.
The “Murder On The Dancefloor” singer is back with her newest hit, “Crying At The Discotheque”. On this occasion, Sophie Ellis-Bextor releases a music video that looks kinda depressing. In the clip, she sings at empty London venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this cover is 100% dancey as fuck. The original version is sung by Alcazar, one of Sweden’s most successful groups. Obviously, the melody at the background is a sample of Sheila B’s timeless Disco song, “Spacer,” produced by the one and only, Nile Rodgers from Chic. The British diva brings her unique touch to this lovely tune that will make you move your ass and sing all night long. Honestly, I like it so much, that I have added this track to my recent Cycling Playlist 2020. Enjoy it.
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Sick And Tired Of Your Boring Cycling Playlist? Get Funky With This One
Sadly, the air quality swirls with toxic fumes that inflame your lungs. Stop pollution now and avoid contributing to the problem with this cycling playlist. The healthy activity of riding a bicycle is a proven weight-loss strategy. Naturally, it blasts away at your intra-abdominal adipose tissue. So, if you’re into funky music while exercising, you’ll simply love the way I have curated the greatest Nu-Disco hits of 2020 on Spotify. (Follow this playlist immediately)
Stream Cycling Playlist 2020 – Nu-Disco Hits
Cycling represents a lot of benefits, from enhancing your digestion to making you smarter. In fact, the boost to your cardio-respiratory fitness can result in a 15% spike in mental test scores. Commuters who pedal to work also have a far lower risk of heart disease and early death than even pedestrians. Forget about those urban myths that the cardio benefits of cycling are negated by the fumes you inhale. Recent studies confirm that peddlers are the commuters least exposed to pollution.
With the COVID-19 crisis far from over, now is the time to hit the road on two wheels. There’s no better way to do it by listening to groovy tunes from the likes of Purple Disco Machine, Kylie Minogue, Dimitri From Paris, Horse Meat Disco, and more. Contemporary Disco music will make your journey easier than ever.
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