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1970s Dances: A Groovy Guide to Retro Moves

The 1970s were an iconic era for dance, marked by the explosion of disco, a genre that redefined nightlife and brought with it new styles of movement.

Imagine the dance floors lit with colorful lights, the sounds of funk, rock, and soul creating a rhythmic pulse, urging you to get up and move.

During this time, dances were more than just a form of expression; they were a cultural revolution that encapsulated the decade’s spirit.

When you think of 1970s dances, you’re likely picturing the energetic spins of disco that dominated the scene. You’ve probably seen or even tried some of these moves—the fluid hustle, the coordinated flicks, and kicks of the bus stop, or the arm-flailing fun of the YMCA. Each dance move was a statement of the times, filled with vibrancy and the essence of fun that the 70s prized.

As you enter the world of 1970s dances, you can almost hear the classic tracks that set the backdrop for the boogie nights that defined the discotheques.

From the smooth glides across the floor to the beat of a funk track to the more liberated rock-inspired moves, every dance reflected the music and the diverse tapestry of 70s culture.

Whether you’re a seasoned dancer or just curious about the moves that got our parents and grandparents grooving, the 1970s offers a treasure trove of rhythms and styles to explore.

The Rise of Disco

Disco became the soundtrack of the 1970s, with its infectious beats and danceable rhythms. It brought a new era of music and cultural revolution that you could hear on the radio and see in the clubs.

Iconic Disco Songs and Artists

Disco music gave rise to a roster of legendary artists and songs that still get you grooving today. The Bee Gees became synonymous with the disco era, especially with hits like “Night Fever”, and no disco playlist is complete without Donna Summer, dubbed the Queen of Disco. Tracks like “Last Dance” defined a generation. The Village People brought a playful energy to disco with anthems like “YMCA”, which created a cultural sensation beyond the music itself.

Famous Disco Dances

From television to dance floors worldwide, disco dances like the Hustle, a catchy partner dance, to solo moves such as the Bump and the Bus Stop, you had many ways to express yourself.

The YMCA dance, where you use your arms to spell out the letters, remains an international party favorite, illustrating disco’s lasting appeal in dance culture.

Disco Fashion and Culture

Your disco experience was never complete without the era’s distinctive fashion — polyester was king, and vibrant colors dominated.

Platforms and bell-bottoms were a common sight, and this flamboyant style was immortalized by films such as “Saturday Night Fever”. “American Bandstand” and other music shows of the time were showcases for disco’s unique style and the culture it nurtured.

Disco’s Influence on Music and Nightlife

Disco reshaped nightlife, giving rise to the modern club scene in New York City and beyond. Chic’s “Le Freak” encapsulates disco’s effect on music, creating a template for future club hits. Notably, the dance show “Disco Step-by-Step” brought the discotheque experience right into your living room.

Decline of Disco and the ‘Disco Sucks’ Movement

No discussion of disco is complete without touching on its decline. The “Disco Sucks” movement symbolized a backlash against disco’s ubiquity, culminating in events like the infamous 1979 Disco Demolition Night.

This movement, covered extensively by outlets like Rolling Stone, reflected rock fans’ frustration with disco’s dominance over the airwaves and its perceived commercialization.

Funk, Soul, and Their Dance Movements

Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of the 70s, where funk and soul music not only defined a generation but also shaped an iconic era of dance movements. These genres resonated through every pop, lock, and slide on the dance floor.

Funk Dance Characteristics

Funk—it’s the kind of music that makes your body instinctively move.

Famed for its rhythmic beats and groovy basslines, funk spawned its dance moves. You might have heard of the Funky Chicken, a dance that involves flapping your arms and shaking your body, just like Rufus Thomas’s hit song that goes, “Do the Funky Chicken.” It encouraged dancers to showcase their individuality through improvisation, a core aspect of Funk’s freestyle approach.

This meant less structured moves and more spontaneous expression.

Soul and Its Impact on Dance

Soul music, intertwined deeply with the Motown sound, offered a smoother and more vibrant counterpart to the raw energy of funk.

The dances that emerged from soul were characterized by their elegance and fluidity, mirroring the heartfelt vocals and rich melodies.

Soul dancing often borrowed elements from traditional African moves and Latin steps, which can be seen in the genre’s rhythmic swaying and hip movements.

How Funk and Soul Influenced Other Genres

The reach of funk and soul extended far beyond their circles, bleeding into the creation of other musical and dance genres.

Take rock and jazz, for example; both genres adopted the emphatic beats and vibrant swagger of funk and soul, creating crossover styles like funky rock and soul jazz.

The improvisational nature of funk dance encouraged the development of freestyle dancing, which later became a staple in hip-hop and electronic dance music.

Popular 70s Line Dances

In the 1970s, line dances became synonymous with social gatherings and dance floors across America, making intricate patterns and unified movements an unforgettable era hallmark. Two of this period’s most iconic line dances are The Electric Slide and The Bus Stop.

Line Dance Variations

The Electric Slide emerged as a sixteen-step dance you could enjoy at various venues. It evolved with variations, becoming a versatile favorite adaptable to many songs.

On the other hand, The Bus Stop added flair to the line dancing scene with its funky steps, proving that even a structured dance could offer a chance for individuality.

Line Dancing at Social Events

Line dancing wasn’t just for nightclubs; it was pivotal in personal celebrations and large public gatherings.

You’ve likely experienced or at least seen the YMCA dance at weddings or sporting events, where participants form the letters YMCA with their arms. This sort of communal dance experience strengthened the unity and excitement among attendees, making events like these an interactive spectacle.

Rock and Roll’s Evolution in the 70s

In the 1970s, rock and roll music continued to shape the dance scene with its evolution into diverse subgenres. From classic bands like The Rolling Stones pushing the boundaries of rock, dance moves also evolved, reflecting the changing tempo and style of the music.

Major Rock Bands and Dance Hits

  • The Rolling Stones: With hits like “Brown Sugar,” these rock icons maintained their status as a driving force on the dance floor.
  • Led Zeppelin: They infused rock with a heavier sound, influencing the intensity of dance sessions with tracks like “Rock and Roll.”

The 70s saw rock bands adopting a mixture of sounds from swing, which kept the genre fresh and allowed new dance hits to emerge. Regardless of the shift towards disco in the latter part of the decade, classic rock bands released tracks that moved your feet.

Rock Dance Styles and Moves

  • The Bump: A playful dance where two partners lightly bump hips on every second beat of a song with a solid rock groove.
  • Air Guitar: A form of dance and mime where you imitate the gestures of a rock guitarist, often to the powerful riffs of your favorite Rolling Stone tracks.

As rock evolved, so did the dance movements, integrating the rebellious essence of rock with the more structured swing moves. While not traditional dance, the impromptu moves of air guitar allowed rock enthusiasts to physically engage with the rolling rhythms of the era’s definitive anthems.

70s Dance Crazes and Novelty Dances

As you explore the vibrant world of 70s dance crazes and novelty dances, you’ll discover moves that define a generation. From the energy of “Saturday Night Fever” to the rhythms that found their beat on “American Bandstand,” this era was a kaleidoscope of expression.

List of Notable Dance Crazes

  • The Hustle: Birthed from the disco fever, this partner dance was popularized by Van McCoy’s hit song. Its smooth and sophisticated moves made it a staple in dance halls.
  • The Bump: A simple dance that involves bumping hips with your partner, humorous and light-hearted.
  • Y.M.C.A: Immortalized by The Village People, this arm-flailing routine was a song and dance hit where dancers formed letters with their limbs.
  • The Funky Chicken: A comical solo dance with you flapping your arms and shaking your body like a chicken.
  • Time Warp: Courtesy of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” this dance catapulted into fame with its quirky steps and catchy chorus.

Influence of Television and Film

“Saturday Night Fever”: This iconic film not only rocketed John Travolta to fame but also cemented disco dances like The Hustle into cultural history.
“American Bandstand”: A TV show that showcased new music and popularized numerous dance moves for the American youth.

Dances Influenced by International Cultures

  • Salsa: With Latin roots, Salsa emerged as a popular partner dance, characterized by vibrant, fluid movements.
  • Kung Fu Fighting: A novelty dance inspired by Carl Douglas’ song, it capitalized on the martial arts mania stemming from Hong Kong cinema.

Remember, these dances brought together people from all walks of life, and you might even recognize some moves that still get people grooving today.

Impact of Dance on Fashion and Lifestyle

When you think of the 1970s, images of vibrant dance clubs and iconic fashion choices influenced by the dance scene probably come to mind. The exuberant disco and funk movements not only dominated the music charts but also left a lasting impression on the lifestyle and wardrobe choices of that era.

Fashion Trends Stemming from Dance Cultures

Disco and funk cultures had a significant role in shaping fashion trends of the 1970s.

The disco finger move was not just a signature dance gesture; it symbolized the carefree spirit of the times, which spilled over into fashion in the form of flashy polyester outfits. You’d see bell-bottoms shimmying across dance floors, and shiny, sequined tops catching the strobe lights.

Garments were designed for movement, so dancers could freely strut and twirl to funky rhythms.

  • Polyester: This was the fabric of choice because it was stretchy, flashy, and perfect for the free-flowing dance moves popular in nightclubs.
  • Platform Shoes: Essential for any disco-goer, these shoes added flair and inches, making any dance move more dramatic.
  • Halterneck Tops & Dresses: Often paired with bell-bottom pants or flowing skirts, these were pivotal in women’s disco fashion.

Dance-Inspired Lifestyle Movements

Your lifestyle in the ’70s could have been influenced by the inclusive nature of disco and funk, especially if you were part of the LGBT community in New York City.

These movements provided a safe haven and a form of expression during times of social upheaval. Latin rhythms infused into disco tracks brought wider cultural influences to the nightclubs, leading to diverse social gatherings and the popularization of salsa and other Latin dances.

  • Nightlife and Socializing: Disco clubs became more than just places to dance; they were where you expressed your identity and found community.
  • Inclusivity: The disco era is remembered for its embrace of the LGBT community, fostering an atmosphere of acceptance and celebration of diversity.

By throwing on your polyester suit and stepping into a dance club, you were part of a dynamic movement that shaped an entire cultural landscape, from the way you dressed to how you accepted others.

The 1970s will forever be remembered as a time when dance not only defined a decade’s fashion but also made an impact on how people lived and related to one another.

International and Underground Dance Scenes

In the 1970s, you could witness the birth of vibrant dance phenomena across the globe, with Latin America influencing the mainstream and marginalized communities cultivating their own expressive dance forms in the shadows of society.

Advent of Salsa and Latin Influences

The era brought you the electrifying salsa, emerging prominently from Puerto Rican and Cuban communities. Its precise origins can be nebulous, with roots intertwined within a rich tapestry of Latin sounds.

Salsa became not just a dance but also a social movement, drawing you into nightclubs where the quick steps and spins were performed. Cities like New York City became melting pots of culture, with venues like the Cheetah Club bringing salsa from the barrio to the broader audience.

Underground Dance Movements and Their Legacy

Meanwhile, you might explore the underground scenes that provided safe havens for marginalized groups, like the LGBT community. Clubs in Los Angeles and New York City served as sanctuaries where dance styles such as waacking and the hustle could flourish away from societal judgement.

Waacking, a form of dance that involved fast arm movements and poses to the beats of funk music, became a dynamic form of self-expression in clubs frequented by the LGBTQIA+ community.

On the opposite coast, in the discotheques of New York City, you might find yourself doing the hustle, a dance that captivated club-goers with its patterned steps and turns.

Freestyle dancing, too, found its stride in these underground realms, embodying the creative spirit and the fight for acceptance of those who danced it.

The Legacy of 70s Dances

The dance crazes of the 1970s, like the iconic moves from disco and funk, have left a lasting impression on culture and continue to invigorate celebrations from weddings to film.

Revival and Nostalgia in Contemporary Culture

You’ve probably noticed the resurgence of 1970s dances in various media and social events.

Hit musicals and films like Mamma Mia! skillfully weave ABBA’s timeless tracks, driving a renewed appreciation for the energy and optimism of that era. Additionally, themed parties often feature The Village People’s “YMCA,” coaxing you and your friends to spell out the letters on the dance floor, celebrating the vibrant spirit of the 70s.

Enduring Popularity of 70s Dance Music

The classic sound of 70s dance music remains a staple at your events, whether it’s a wedding reception or a casual evening at the local discotheque.

Bands such as the Bee Gees continue to make you groove with their enduring hits, underscoring the timeless appeal of funk and disco beats. Your collection of party anthems likely includes these everlasting tunes, ensuring the dance floor is never empty.