In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, discotheques (or discos), with high quality sound systems and flashing lights became a popular form of entertainment in Europe and the U.S. Early ‘70s dancing in discos was mostly freestyle dancing (similar to the “rock” style exhibited by pop stars of the day like The Jackson 5) along with the prerequisite dress code of bellbottom pants and elevator shoes.
In 1973, at a disco called The Grand Ballroom, a new type of “touch dance” without a name was being exhibited by females. This simple 6-count step with a very basic form, including inside and outside single turns, would give birth to what would later be called “Hustle.” The young men of the club took notice, and became interested in this new dance.
As it began to gain popularity and more people began to participate, the Hustle started to evolve. In the Latin discotheques of that day, including The Corso, Barney Goo Goo’s, and The Ipanema, disco music was used as a bridge between live band sets. In these clubs, touch dancing had always been present in the form of mambo, salsa, cha cha and bolero. Although considered very much a touch dance, the Hustle was now performed mostly side-by-side and incorporated a lot of the intricate turn patterns of the mambo. The dance also included multiple turns and hand changes with a rope-y feel to the arm movements; hence, the dance was now referred to as the “Rope Hustle” or “Latin Hustle.”
As dance contests sprung up across the U.S. and the phenomenon spread, many Hustle dancers were also involved in the professional performing arts community and contributed long balletic arms and elasticity to the movement. Around this time, the dance also began to move from a slotted pattern into a rotational one. As dance contests increased, young competitors were seeking an edge and so acrobatic and adagio movements were introduced into the dance for performances and competitions. In 1975, this new field of entertainment inspired nightclubs, hotels and television programs to hire young and innovative professionals to perform. With these new opportunities opening up, the young dancers sought out innovative ways to excite the club audiences.
Throughout the late 1970s, even though Hustle was still taught in many different forms (4-count Hustle, the Latin or Rope Hustle) by dance studios, 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 it continued to evolve, Hustle began to borrow from other dance styles including smooth ballroom, from which it took traveling movements and pivots and other partner dance forms such as swing and the Latin rhythm dances.
Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music of the last 20 years. It is a fast, smooth dance, with the lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close and sends her away. Free rhythmic interpretation is characteristic of this dance.