More from Groovy History

Disco Dancing The Night Away

Culture | January 24, 2022

John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Source: (IMDb).

Disco music arose from various subcultures; it had origins in the dance parties thrown by the New York City underground gay community as well as in the R&B scene in Philadelphia from the end of the ‘60s to the early ‘70s. As it emerged, big-name R&B musicians like Stevie Wonder and Donna Summer started to incorporate disco into their music. Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer were on the top of the charts with disco music by the mid-seventies. On August 28, 1976, Billboard launched the Disco Action Top 30 chart, and the first number-one song on the chart was the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing.” With the mainstream acceptance of disco music, disco dance moves also became popular and well known with the TV show Soul Train; on Soul Train, dancers demonstrated their best disco moves between two rows of dancers. And then, in 1977, Saturday Night Fever was released.

Disco dancing is all about the music. There are a few choreographed dances, like the Hustle, the Bus Stop, the Funky Chicken, and YMCA (which has more to it than the arm movements for the chorus). Here are two of these choreographed dances:

Source: (Pinterest).

The Funky Chicken

This one is a bit silly. The dance craze came about because of the song “Do the Funky Chicken” written and recorded by Rufus Thomas in 1969. Basically, you turn your arms into wings by balling your hands and placing them on the sides of your chest. Bend your elbows and place them on your ribcage so that you can flap your arms like wings. Once in position, you bob your head back and forth for four to eight beats and then flap your “wings.” Just to make it a little more complicated, you can add foot movements to the dance, perhaps imitating a chicken scratching the ground. 

Dancing on Soul Train. Source: (Pinterest).

The Hustle

To do the hustle, you start by taking three steps back starting with the right foot. Touchback on the fourth and clap. Then you take three forward starting with the left foot, touch front, and clap. From here, you walk to the side, turning as you do so while doing the same step sequence. First, you head to the right and then to the left. After this, you do eight counts of the Travolta, followed by four counts of arm rolling, two on each side. Then you turn for four counts to the left clap on the last count. Then, once you are facing the left, you start the dance to the side you are now facing. Ultimately, you will repeat the steps for each of the four directions.

Source: (YouTube).

Individual Dance Moves

However, disco dancing can also allow dancers to move freely on the dance floor using some characteristic moves and each dancer can pick and choose movements on the dance floor. The music itself punctuates the dancing and sets up the rhythm of the movements. Much of the dancing is meant to be flirtatious, and so many of the moves incorporate pelvic action, such as popping the hips forward or to the side. Other moves are just plain fun, arising from the world around us, like the Sprinkler, the Robot, and the Lawnmower. In between moves, or to give the dancer a little break, dancers can use the side step which allows them to maintain their rhythm. There are many possible disco dance moves, but here are some of the better-known ones:

John Travolta. Source: (Den of Geek).

The Point And The Snap

The Point (also known as The Travolta)

This may be one of the most iconic disco dance moves, and it is sometimes called The Travolta because it is associated with John Travolta’s moves on the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever. To do this move, start with your feet shoulder-width apart, pointing your right index finger up and pushing your left hip out. As you bring your finger across your body to point down to the left, switch hips, and then switch arms and hips.

The Snap (also called the hip check)

The snap focuses on the hips and it is meant to be done very quickly. To do this move, stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Swing your hips to the right and snap with your right fingers. Bend your knees, straighten your legs, and then swing your hips to the left and snap with your left fingers. Then bend your knees, swing your hips to the right, snap with the right. Straighten your legs, swing your hips to the left, and snap left. Then repeat the whole sequence again. If you want to change it up, or if this isn’t complicated enough for you, with each hip swing, move around in a circle. 

Source: (IMDb).

Two More Moves

The Double Arm Swing

This one is a little bit easier, but it is still fun. Stand facing a quarter turn to the left, with your left foot slightly ahead of the right. Swing the right arm forward and the left down and back. Bend the left knee to drop the hip down while swinging the right arm down and back and the left forward and up. Then just repeat the movements and switch sides.

The Bump

This one really is about as easy as it gets unless you are out of synch with the person you are dancing with. With a partner standing by your side, you move in time to the music, and, on every other beat, you bump your partner’s hip.

Tags: disco music | Funky Chicken | John Travolta | The Hustle

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Linda Speckhals


When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.