Tag Archives: Twist

The Twist and Other New Dances

Chubby Checker doing the Twist
Chubby Checker doing the Twist

The Twist was a musical phenomenon that spread across the country in lightning speed due to exposure on television. The original recording by Hank Ballard in 1959 was hardly noticed, but Chubby Checker’s 1960 cover of it shot up to #1 on the charts, and then reached the #1 spot for an unprecedented second time in 1962.

The Twist has another unusual distinction; it was the first major dance where the couples didn’t have to touch each other. A member of Chubby Checker’s crew explained how to twist:
“It’s like putting out a cigarette with both feet, and wiping your bottom with a towel, to the beat of the music.”

At the height of the Twist craze in 1961, a club in New York called the Peppermint Lounge, feature a house song called The Peppermint Twist, performed by Joey Dee and the Starliners. The song went on to the #1 spot and re ignited the Twist craze.

Bill Haley & His Comets contributed toward the Twist craze with international hits “The Spanish Twist” and “Florida Twist”, spreading the dance craze throughout Latin America. And…one more time…The Twist was so strong that in the 80s, Chubby Checker brought it back to the charts with his band The Fat Boys!

Other 60s dances include:

The Watusi, another solo dance that was popular in the 60s. In 1962, Ray Baretto released the album “Charanga Moderna”. The track “El Watusi” reached the top 20 chart and went gold. In a 1964 TV Guide, Fred Astaire and Barry Chase do the Watusi.

The Mashed Potato was a hit for Dee Dee Sharp in 1962 and was similar to the Twist. Begin by stepping backward with one foot with that heel tilted inward. The foot is positioned slightly behind the other (stationary) foot. With the weight on the ball of the starting foot, the heel is then swiveled outward. The same process is repeated with the other foot: step back and behind with heel inward, pivot heel out, and so on. The pattern is continued for as many repetitions as desired.

The Monkey is a novelty dance, most popular in 1963. The dance was popularized by two R&B records: Major Lance’s “The Monkey Time”, and The Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey”, both released during the summer of 1963.

The Loco-Motion was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and recorded by Little Eva in 1962.
The song is a popular and enduring example of the dance-song genre: much of the lyrics are devoted to a description of the dance itself, usually done as a type of line dance. The song has inspired dozens of cover versions over the years, notably by The Chiffons, John Coltrane, Grand Funk, and Kylie Minogue.

The Frug evolved from another dance of the era, The Chicken. The Chicken, which featured lateral body movements, was used primarily as a change of pace step while doing The Twist. As dancers grew more tired they would do less work, moving only their hips while standing in place. They then started making up arm movements for the dance, which prompted the birth of The Swim, The Monkey, The Dog, The Watusi, and The Jerk. The Frug is sometimes referred to as The Surf, Big Bea and The Thunderbird.