In class we love to have kids disco dance. We start by taking a “disco nap,” which is the kind of nap one takes at 10pm to become well-rested before a night of dancing. Then we then dance dance dance the night away…
Whatever the complex relationship of the anti-disco movement to disco’s multi-racial community of fans, disco’s detractors all voiced the same criticism about the music itself–“this music means nothing! Its goal is to make you dance.” Chic and its D.H.M. aside, disco’s proponents voiced the same praise, “This music means nothing! Its goal is to make you dance.”
Disco was nothing without dance, and disco dancing was fantastic. The music’s multiple layers of horns, keyboards, cascading background vocals and futuristic sound effects conspired with the ever-flashing lights on the nightclub floor to make dancers soar. The best disco dancing was acrobatic and inventive; the best dancers improvised and impressed, weaving in moves from almost every genre from breakdancing to salsa to swing. This all-encompassing choreography fed disco’s international appeal. Just look at this video from a disco dancing competition in 1981 in Northern Ireland…even in Belfast, every dancer shines. (Or is that just their pants?)
(Yes, that Irish announcer sounds like he’s selling floor wax in a late night infomercial. Yes, that’s Downtown Julie Brown.)
Of course not every disco dancer was a solo star. In fact, group dancing became one of the most energizing features of the disco scene. Dancers would line up in rows and follow well-known routines that featured much jumping, twisting, swaying of hips and whole a lot of pointing to the ceiling. One of the most popular group line dances was THE HUSTLE, which took its name from a song by Van McCoy. Another was THE BUS STOP which was based on the merengue but added dynamic hip rotations. And, of course, who could forget THE ELECTRIC SLIDE?