Twist (dance)

Twist (dance)

"The Twist"" was a dance in the 1960s, inspired by rock and roll music. It became a worldwide craze, enjoying immense popularity among young people and drawing fire from critics who felt it was too provocative. It was the first international rock and roll dance of its kind. It inspired dances such as the Mashed Potato, the Monkey and the Funky Chicken, although none were as popular. The dance was inspired by “The Twist,” B-side of Hank Ballard’s single, “Teardrops on Your Letter,” in 1959.


The Twist is performed by standing with the feet approximately shoulder width apart. The torso may be squared to the knees and hips, or turned at an angle so one foot farther forward than the other. The arms are held out from the body, bent at the elbow. The hips, torso, and legs rotate on the balls of the feet as a single unit, with the arms staying more or less stationary. The feet grind back and forth on the floor, and the dance can be varied in speed, intensity, and vertical height as necessary. Occasionally one leg is lifted off the floor for styling, but generally the dance posture is low and with the feet in contact with the floor with very little vertical motion.


The Twist's original inspiration came from the African American plantation dance called "wringin' and twistin," which has been traced back to the 1890s. However, its original aesthetic origins, such as the use of pelvic movement and the shuffling footmovement, can be traced all the way back to West Africa. Throughout the 20th Century, the dance evolved until emerging to a mass audience in the 60s.

In 1959 American DJ and host of American Bandstand Dick Clark featured the dance. Clark urged Philadelphia record label Cameo/Parkway to release their own version of “The Twist.” Chubby Checker, who until 1960 had only one hit (“The Class” in 1959), cut the song. Released in summer 1960, Checker’s rendition of “The Twist” became number one on the singles chart in the USA in 1960 and then again in 1962.

In 1961, at the height of the craze, patrons at New York's Peppermint Lounge on West 45th Street were twisting to the house band, a local group from Jersey, Joey Dee and the Starliters. Their song, "The Peppermint Twist (Part 1)" became number one in the United States for three weeks in January 1962. [] In 1962, Bo Diddley released his album "Bo Diddley's A Twister." He recorded several Twist tracks, including "The Twister," "Bo's Twist" and "Mama Don't Allow No Twistin," which referenced the objections many parents had to the pelvic motions of the dance.

In Latin America, the Twist was sparked in 1960-62 by Bill Haley & His Comets. Their recordings of "The Spanish Twist" and "Florida Twist" were successes, particularly in Mexico. Haley, in interviews, credited Checker and Ballard. Coincidentally, Checker appeared in two musicals that took their titles from films Haley made in the 1950s: "Twist Around the Clock" (after "Rock Around the Clock") and "Don't Knock the Twist" (after "Don't Knock the Rock").

In popular culture

In 1962, Dell Comics produced a comic called "The Twist" that fictionalized the Peppermint Lounge dance craze. An episode of "The Alvin Show" showed a parody of the Twist called "The Alvin Twist". John Hughes's 1986 film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" features Matthew Broderick taking over a parade float in downtown Chicago and lip synching the Beatles version of "Twist and Shout" inciting a dance party by the crowd and participants. The dance was mentioned again in song in 1988 in a rap version by The Fat Boys with Checker.

In 1993, a film by Ron Mann called "Twist" was a documentary about the craze. In the MMORPG "World of Warcraft" game, druids perform The Twist in Tree of Life when given the "/dance" command. Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film "Pulp Fiction" featured John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing the Twist to Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" as part of the Jack Rabbit Slim's Twist Contest. In Spider-Man 3 (2007), Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson dance to "The Twist." In a Season One episode of Mad Men ("The Hobo Code"), Peggy Olsson and several other employees of Sterling Cooper dance to Chubby Checker's "The Twist." Season One takes place in 1960, when Checker's version first became a hit.


*Hoffman, Dr. Frank. "Dance Crazes." Survey of American Popular Music. Comp.
* [ Sam Houston State University: Dance Crazes]
* [ Keeble, Christine. "The Twist and 60's Fad Dances." How to Jive. 31 Jan. 2008]

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