Hustle history: Everybody over a certain age remembers the poster of John Travolta in his white three-piece suit caught in a pose while dancing The Hustle. In the 1970s, high school students across the country enrolled in dance classes just to learn how to do The Hustle. Currently, a resurgence of 70s dancing is taking place, and the discotheques, where it all happened in the movie Saturday Night Fever, have never really gone out of style. People still go out “disco dancing” on Friday and Saturday nights, but now the places they go to dance are called night clubs or bars. No one calls it disco dancing any more, and people do not normally ballroom dance around a crowded dance floor. Instead, they squeeze onto the floor and move freestyle in whatever way the music inspires them to move in whatever dance step they have imitated from watching someone else do it. What they do not realize is that their freestyle dancing really is The Hustle, and when they “slow dance” with a partner, they are often dancing a variation of The New York Hustle.
Actually, “The Hustle” refers to a number of dance moves put together to form several dances which were extremely popular in the 1970s. Today, the term most frequently refers to a partner dance done in ballrooms and nightclubs. This partner dance is known as “The New York Hustle” or “Latin Hustle.” The dance called “The Hustle” became a dance craze in 1975 after a song called “The Hustle” by Van McCoy hit the Top 40 chart and everybody was “doing the Hustle.” The craze was for a line dance which was patterned on The Continental Walk. “In the Continental Walk dancers dance backwards, then forward, then to the right and then to the left. They jump forward and backward, and click their heels. They do some quick tap steps and then turn to the left to face a new wall” (Palma). The Bus Stop or LA Bus Stop Hustle came next. It was the best known and most frequently performed line dance in the discos of 1976 and 1977. Later versions include steps from the Merengue and the current version The Electric Slide has been danced since 1980.