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The Hustle is a catchall name for several disco dances which were extremely popular in the 1970s. Today it mostly refers to the unique partner dance done in ballrooms and nightclubs to disco music. It has some features in common with swing dance. Its basic steps are somewhat similar to the Discofox, which emerged at about the same time and is more familiar in various European countries. In the 1970s there was also a line dance called the Hustle—which is regaining popularity as people throw 1970s theme parties or schools have 1970s dance performances. Modern partner hustle is sometimes referred to as New York Hustle.
Early Hustle, known as "Manhattan Hustle" carried evenly over 6 beats of music. Latin Hustle with a timing of 1,2,3&4,5,6 developed with with the influence of young Latins.
A line dance which was called Hustle became an international dance craze in 1975 following Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony's song "The Hustle". Tipped off by DJ David Todd, McCoy sent his partner Charlie Kipps to the Adam's Apple discotheque of New York City's East Side. The forthcoming album was renamed Disco Baby and McCoy was named "Top Instrumental Artist" of 1975. When released, the song reached the top of the Billboard Pop Singles chart the week ending July 26, 1975.
Most Hustle lines seem to dance to the song "My Eyes Don't Cry (No More)" by Stevie Wonder. At many occasions whether it may be a family reunion or a high school dance or prom, this song is bound to be heard and people start to do the line dance to the hit song recorded in 1987.
There was also a popular line dance known as The Continental Walk, which was danced to the eponymous record by Archie Bell. 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. The Continental Walk was the first followed by the Bus Stop which had monthly variations. The Bus Stop was the best known and most frequently performed line dance in the discos of 1976 and 1977. This dance was also referred to as the "LA Bus Stop Hustle." A detailed description of the steps along with an instructional video of this hustle line dance is available here. (See also external links below.)
This line dance was a version of Merengue with steps to rotate the dance direction orientation to another wall. The most popular current version (1980–2008) is called "The Electric Slide".
The original NY mainstream Bus Stop and Hustle trend ended and freestyle took over when recording artists Chic released the song "Le Freak" in 1978. Everyone else in the country started in 1978 after Saturday Night Fever was released.
The 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever showed both the line and partner forms of hustle, as well as something referred to as the "tango hustle" (invented just for that film by the cast, according to the DVD commentary). Afterwards, different line dance and couple dance forms of the Hustle emerged. Although the huge popularity faded quickly as the hype that was created by the movie died down, the hustle has continued and is now a "ballroom dance"; it has taken a place besides swing, cha-cha-cha, tango, rumba, bolero, nightclub two step and other partner dances in America.
The couple dance form of hustle is usually called New York Hustle or Latin Hustle. It has some resemblance to, and steps in common with, swing and salsa dancing. As in the Latin dances, couples tend to move within a "spot" on the dance floor, as opposed to following a line of dance as in foxtrot, or as opposed to tracking within a slot as in West Coast Swing or LA Hustle.
One similarity between hustle and swing is that the lead takes the rock step on his left foot; however, if the dance is taught by counting, the rock step happens at the beginning of the count – "and-one, two, three" rather than at the end of the count as in swing – "left, right, rock-step". This can confuse beginner leads who are used to triple-step swing, because the lead rock-steps on the right side of his "track" in the swing basic but on the left side in the hustle basic.