Dance Month: Our Top 5 Dance Crazes

February 13, 2012


Throughout Dance Month, we'll be celebrating Dance in all its glorious forms; we'll also be celebrating a few of its less glorious forms too. While some forms of dance remain popular centuries after their conception; others remain consigned to a specific time and place. So to be sure that we give every dusty little corner of the world of Dance our fullest attention, we're shifting the focus to the fads, the crazes and the novelty dances that have swept dance floors the world over only to be cast aside when some new form of body-shaking arrives on the scene.

Which is a shame because they often have rather interesting little stories. Take Beyonce's infamous Single Ladies Dance which borrows heavily from a 1970s TV performance of Bob Fosse's Mexican Breakfast which featured Fosse's wife flanked by two similarly dressed women. Now try and watch Single Ladies again.

Anyway, here are our Top 5 Dance Crazes. Enjoy!

The Charleston

Though Dance fads have been sprouting up for as long as there's been music - few are as evocative of an era as the Charleston. Popularised as a provocative way to mock supporters of the Prohibition laws of 1920s America (or "Drys"), The Charleston is inextricably linked the speakeasies of the era. Though it's often associated with white 'Flapper Dancers', the Dance has Afro-American origins with roots in the "Challenge Dances" featured in the Broadway show Runnin Wild. The dance eventually captured the hearts and minds of the mainstream, even spawning a song of the same name by Elisabeth Welch.

The Jitterbug

Another dance with a background in booze consumption; 'Jitterbug' was initially a term for those suffering 'the shakes' due to alcoholism (amazing how many dance crazes come from insults) and morphed to describe the frantic swing dancing of people with no knowledge of dance. The dance spread from America to Europe during World War II thanks to the thousands of American GIs stationed in the UK and was (rather predictably) decried as "Rude American Dancing" by older generations. Jitterbugging maintained its popularity throughout the Rock n' Roll era with many artists including the word in lyrics and titles of their songs.

The Twist

The twist lives on in popular culture thanks to John Travolta and Uma Thurman's iconic scene in Quentin Tarrantino's Pulp Fiction but the history of the dance goes back even further than even Jack Rabbit Slim's 50s themed diner would suggest. In fact, the Twist is yet another dance with its origins in Black culture - the term is rumored to have been used to describe the dance moves of slaves from the Congo in the 19th Century. By the time the dance was widely popularised in the 50s and 60s, the Twist had the twin virtues of being easy to do (pretend you're grinding a cigarette butt on the floor) and also being relatively tame for the time, thanks to the dance involving no touching.

The Hustle

John Travolta looms large in the world of Dance fads, largely because of his appearance in 1977's Saturday Night Fever in which the Hustle is featured prominently. Unlike the other dances to feature so far on the list, the Hustle is believed to have Cuban origins that spread through to the US via Florida. Originally a line-dance, the couples form of the Hustle was popularized thanks to Travolta's jaunt through the New York Disco scene but faded from the public consciousness soon after as Disco died a cheesy, unfashionable death.


Bringing us right up to the modern day; Krumping is the hyperactive, confrontational branch of freestyle hip-hop dancing that no one seems to be able to define with any real confidence. That's probably because Krumping is a completely improvised form of dance rather than a choreographed one. Described as the Hip-Hop community's take on the Heavy Metal tradition of moshing, Krumping features four main maneuvers; jabs, arm swings, chest pops, and stomps performed to fast-paced, aggressive tunes.

Have any favourite fad dances from the last 100 years? (You don't have to have been there to suggest one) Let us know in the comments.