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The Sixties Dance Craze

“Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. ”
― Dave Barry

The sixties was recognized as a decade of transition from the conservative fifties and also the birth of revolutionary ways to live, Sixties Dancesthink, and create. Known as the age of the youth, there were approximately 70 million children who were teenagers or young adults during this decade. Determined to not follow the footsteps of their elders, this generation made changes in the areas of education, laws, lifestyle, and entertainment. In the entertainment industry, many changes happened in the world of dance. The sixties was all about learning the newest dance craze and performing them on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Dancing, was a driving force that brought people together in peace and happiness, and continues to be influential across the world today.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

The sixties dance craze began with the 'TWIST' introduced by Chubby Checker with the release of his song 'The Twist'. 'The Twist' was Checkers 1960 cover for the B-side of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters' 1959 single 'Teardrops on Your Letter'. The Twist dance was largely inspired by rock and roll music.The Sixties Dancesoriginal inspiration came from the African American plantation dance "wringin' and twistin," which has been traced back to the 1890s. However, the dances main features, such as the use of pelvic movement and the shuffling foot movement, can be traced all the way back to West Africa. Throughout the 20th Century, the African dance evolved until emerging to a mass audience in the 1960s. The Twist became the first worldwide dance craze in the early 1960s, enjoying immense popularity among young people and drawing fire from critics who felt it was too provocative. The Twist was transformed into many versions, such as the Peppermint Twist, Spanish Twist, and the Florida Twist. Chubby Checker recorded the hit in Italian, French, and German, and created an entirely multilingual album, 'Twisting Round the World'. It also was the inspiration for future dances such as the Cool Jerk, Funky Chicken, and the Mashed Potato.

 Check out this video as Chubby Checker shows the world how to do the Twist while performing the Billboard Chart Topper hit 'The Twist'!!!

YouTube Video

  Courtesy of: http://youtube.com/watch?v=xbK0C9AYMd8

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”
― Martha Graham

The Twist inspired musicians and dancers across the globe, bringing fun and excitement to all. Another great dance and the second most popular craze surfaced in 1962...the Watusi; introduced by The Orlons with their hit song 'The Wah-Watusi'. The Watusi name was derived from the African Watusi tribe of Rwanda and Burundi. Again, other versions were created after the dance hit, but none replaced the popularity of the original. Of the many versions created, the most popular was performed by Ray Barretto in 1963, with the Latin hit 'El Watusi'. 'El Watusi' was featured on many soundtracks of movies over the years. A favorite to many was El Watusi in 1993's Carlito's Way.
The Cool Jerk was a popular dance in the 1960s, paired with the song 'Cool Jerk' by the Capitols. Known mainly as the Jerk, this dance was extremely similar to the Monkey. As Chubby Checker's hit made him the king to the dance crazes, Dee Sixties DancesDee Sharp was known as the queen. In 1962 Dee Dee Sharp introduced the world to the Mashed Potato dance, to go along with her song 'Mashed Potato Time'.

Check out this clip of Dee Dee Sharp singing 'Mashed Potato Time' and pay attention to the dancer closest to Dee Dee (she does the best Mashed Potato)  

YouTube Video

Courtesy of: http://youtube.com/watch?v=mQBKpV9emKc

Dance was truly the joining force between races, cultures, and countries across the globe. It didn't matter who made the music or taught the dance, the only thing that was important was that it was good music and fun to dance to. Appreciation for talent knows no boundaries of color, race, or religion. Listeners grew to love and cherish music performed by artists from different walks of life. This feeling continues on today.....dancing is still a major factor around the world. So ask yourself, when was the last time you danced? How did it make you feel? Is it true that dancing is good for the soul? I challenge you to try & see for yourself!!!

“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.”
― Oprah Winfrey

To learn how to do these & other great dances of the sixties visit:
Sixties City            and             The Official 60's Site

Class-wide Activities:

Ms. Lewis' American Bandstand

During this unit, students will be formed into groups of 4 and tasked with choosing a popular 1960's dance craze and performing it to the best of their ability. On the determined due date, our entire class will perform in 'Ms. Lewis' American Bandstand: the Sixties Revival'. Each group will not only perform the dance of their choice, but they will also give a 3-minute discussion on the origin of the dance, featuring the performing artist, year of debut, inspirations, and how it impacted the cultural divide during that decade (did it create a greater divide or minimize it?). They have a choice of doing a presentation board, power point presentation, or an informative brochure.

Tell Me Your Stories

Students will also have to conduct an interview with a family member or approved adult (by parents) about life and the impact of dance in the sixties. Questions will be provided to engage the interviewer and interviewee in a discussion about the dance styles during the sixties and how they valued it (back then). Many times events are commemorated as historical decades after they occur. By conducting an interview, students will gain an understanding on how growing up during that time was either considered revolutionary or just normal day-to-day life. Once completed, students will write a one-page reflection on their interview findings as well as compare how dance today transforms their lives.

MI GLCEs obtained:

ART.D.I.6.7 Introduce and explore the concept of memorizing and
reproducing a movement sequence.

6 – G4.4.1 Identify factors that contribute to conflict and cooperation between and among cultural groups
(control/use of natural resources, power, wealth, and cultural diversity).

6 – G4.1.1 Identify and explain examples of cultural diffusion within the Americas (e.g., baseball, soccer,
music, architecture, television, languages, health care, Internet, consumer brands, currency,
restaurants, international migration).

References & Images obtained from: