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How Do I Re-Create Dances from the 1970s?

By Lori Spencer
Updated May 23, 2024
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To re-create dances from the 1970s, it can help to familiarize yourself with the era and styles. Many of the most popular dances of this era originated in the United States and were popularized around the world through movies and TV shows. A good way to start learning about the dances of the 1970s is to watch films and television from the era; Saturday Night Fever, for example, is a film that put dancing at the epicenter of American popular culture. This 1977 movie sparked massive dance crazes such as the Hustle and the Night Fever, and dance students of today wishing to re-create dances from the 1970s can use the film as a visual textbook.

The most popular dances from the 1970s were nearly all disco-based. Disco was a musical form that blended elements of Latin rhythms, soulful vocals and funky back beats. Extended mixes of hit songs — comprising at times the entire side of a long-playing record — were spun by club disc jockeys to keep the dance floor packed. Dances of the period were more individual in nature, rather than tailored to couples. Much of the dancing was freestyle, simply moving to the beat of the music.

The disco era also revived the 1950s tradition of line dancing. This style of dance features a group of individuals facing each other, performing a set of four-wall pattern steps without partners. Disco line dances from the 1970s include the L.A. Hustle, also known as the Bus Stop, a simple sequence of forward and back steps with coordinated hand claps and side-to-side motions. The Hot Chocolate was an updated version of the Hully Gully, an early 1960s dance craze. Other popular line dances from the 1970s were the Rollercoaster, the Disco Duck and the New Yorker.

The Bump could be done in a line or with only one partner. As the name implies, dancers positioned themselves side by side and gently bumped their partner's hip to the beat. Latin dancing enjoyed mainstream appeal once again with partners utilizing elaborate choreography that incorporated elements of older styles of salsa and swing dancing. The Cha-Cha, the Mambo, the Rumba, and the Tango were back in style once more. One brief fad during the late '70s was Roller Disco, which was simply disco dancing on roller skates.

While disco certainly predominated the 1970s dance scene, other new forms of dance were also emerging in the underground. As punk rock and heavy metal bands took the world by storm, dancing became as aggressive as the music itself. Moshing, head-banging and body surfing had dancers haphazardly slamming into one another on the dance floor, while Pogo dancing involved jumping up and down to the beat like a pogo stick. New dances like Popping and Locking and the Robot, in which the dancer moved like an automaton, also gained popularity during the 1970s. The Backslide was later immortalized by Michael Jackson and became forever known as the Moonwalk.

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Discussion Comments
By Buster29 — On Jul 11, 2014

It seems like some of the dances from the later 1970s were available on instructional videotapes at the time. I'm thinking more along the lines of breakdance and other urban dances, but there were also some tapes on the Hustle and other line dances. I'd also suggest watching reruns of TV shows like Soul Train and American Bandstand, since those dancers were often showing off the latest moves at the time.

By RocketLanch8 — On Jul 10, 2014

I grew up during the 1970s, and we actually learned some of our line dances in gym class. I remember it was one of the few times that the gym teachers combined the girls' and boys' classes. The teachers played songs from Saturday Night Fever and other music from the 1970s, like Do the Hustle.

We learned how to do the Hustle, and another line dance called the Continental. If someone wanted to recreate dances like that from the 1970s, I'm sure parents around my age still remember those basic steps. I've been to some clubs that have modern line dancing, and I'd say a lot of those new dances are very similar to line dances from the 70s.

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