What’s hustle?

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The hustle is a dance that originated during the disco era, with two forms: a line dance and a partner dance. The partner dance is a smooth blend of mambo and swing, with intricate footwork and tricks. It can be learned in ballroom dance classes and is often seen on shows like So You Think You Can Dance. The line dance version is easy to learn and can still be seen at disco revival parties.

The hustle refers to different types of dance forms that emerged during the disco era. Most are familiar with the song Hustle recorded in 1975 by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony. This song greatly augmented the line dance form of the hustle and was performed in dance clubs across the United States and Europe. It was based on a group dance popular among young Latinos on the East Coast of the United States. You can still be expected to dance it at disco revival parties. It’s not very difficult to learn and can usually be mastered in an evening.

The other hustle refers to a partner dance, which you are now more likely to see performed by American ballroom dancers, or you can learn it in ballroom dance classes in most parts of the United States. You’ll also see this partner dance performed on shows like Fox Network’s So You Think You Can Dance. Doriana Sanchez, who has a background in Latin ballroom dancing and has choreographed for several well-known artists such as Cher, does most of the choreography for the Fox show.

As a partner dance, the hustle is a smooth blend of mambo and swing, danced in what is called a slot. This means that instead of covering a lot of territory like fast walking, you tend to only move in a small part of the dance floor, unless the dance has been deliberately choreographed with tricks that create more movement. The “slot” type of dance suited the crowded floors of nightclubs very well.

The simplest moves in the dance are similar to mambo in terms of count. The foot moves first on the beat between beats one and two, or on beat two. The basic beats are then danced to bars 2,3 and 4 of a 4/4 measure, rather than being danced to 1,2,3,4. This can be a little confusing for beginning dancers and may take some time to master.

Partner dance includes flips, flips, lifts, side outs, where the male partner brings his partner to his side, usually through a spin. There are complicated arm movements, where the couples’ arms are interlocked or over their heads. While disco is likely to be considered a less serious dance, the complication of advanced forms of hustle proves otherwise.

It can be a beautiful partner dance, with dazzling tricks and intricate hand and footwork. The mambo inspires the movement of the feet and hips, which are well engaged throughout the dance. The tricks are mostly based on swing dance moves. If you’re familiar with the swing, the hustle is an easy transition.
If you’re a beginning dancer, you might not get all the tricks and spins of the hustle, but you’ll probably get the basic steps after a few lessons. For inspiration, check out the movie Saturday Night Fever. You’ll see both the partner and line dance versions in the film, but it has a well-deserved R rating. Parents may just want to show the dance scenes to younger children and teenagers.

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