Between the 1960s and 1970s, discos with sound systems and flashing lights quickly became the popular form of entertainment in the U.S. and Europe. Early ‘70s dancing in discos was predominantly a freestyle dance style (like the “rock” style exhibited by pop stars of the day like The Jackson 5) along with the popular dress code of the era, bellbottom pants and elevator shoes.
At a disco called The Grand Ballroom in 1973, a new type of “touch dance” without a name was being made popular by females. It was a simple 6-count step that had a very basic form, which included an inside and an outside single turn. This dance would give birth to what would later be called “Hustle.” The young men of the club quickly took notice, and became interested in trying this new dance.
As it began to become more popular and more dancers began to join along, the Hustle started to evolve. In the Latin discotheques of that day, disco music was used to entertain guests as a bridge between live band sets. Touch dancing had always been present in these clubs in the form of Mambo, Salsa, Cha Cha and Bolero. The Hustle was now performed mostly side-by-side and incorporated a lot of the intricate turn patterns of the Mambo even though it was considered a touch dance. The dance included hand changes with a rope-y feel to the arm movements and multiple turns; so the dance became known as the “Rope Hustle” or “Latin Hustle.”
Dance contests began to spring up across the U.S. and the dance spread. Many Hustle dancers were professional performing arts dancers and started contributing styles such as long balletic arms to the movement. Around this time, the Hustle began to move towards a rotational movement rather than a slotted pattern. As dance contests increased, innovation began to characterize the dance and acrobatic and adagio movements were introduced into the dance. In 1975, this new field of entertainment inspired nightclubs, hotels and television programs to hire young and innovative professionals to perform. With these new dance jobs opening up, the young dancers sought out new ways to excite the club audiences.
Throughout the late 1970s, the Hustle was taught in many different forms, the 4-count Hustle, the Latin or Rope Hustle. However, the most exciting form was done by NYC club dancers and competitors who performed the 3-count count Hustle (&-1-2-3.). The NYC Hustle dancers from the ‘70s paved the way for the rest of the Hustle community across the U.S. As the dance continued to develop, it began to borrow from other dance styles including smooth ballroom, from which it took pivots and traveling movements and other partner dance forms such as swing and the Latin rhythm dances.
Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music. It is a fast, smooth dance with the lady spinning almost constantly. Her partner draws her close then sends her away. Free rhythmic interpretation is characteristic of this dance.