The kids of the 1950s and early 1960s were swept by a mania for dance crazes. Singles like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" were spread across the country by AM radio, and local hits quickly became national fads. Line dances were a big part of this movement. In a line dance, an entire group or line of dancers performs synchronized movements.
The Madison is a line dance that originated in Columbus, Ohio, and swept the nation in the late '50s and early '60s. Watch the John Waters film "Hairspray" (1988) for an example of kids dancing the Madison. The dancers stand in a line and do a basic back-and-forth shuffle step. The MC can "call out" more complicated steps, such as the "double cross," the "Cleveland Box," and the "Jackie Gleason." When the dance craze hit, record companies rushed to put out Madison singles. Al Brown and his Tunetoppers' version, released in 1960 on Amy records, hit number 23 on the national Billboard charts.
The Hully Gully
The Hully Gully came out of Miami, Florida. Unlike the structured steps of the Madison, the Hully Gully has no set footwork. Instead, the MC calls out simple steps, and the dancers are challenged to keep up with the fast pace. The dance eventually became nationally known and got a mention on the Ed Sullivan show. The Hully Gully didn't completely disappear when the line dance craze ended: a 1961 Hully Gully side by the Marathons called "Peanut Butter" was later used in a commercial for Peter Pan peanut butter.
The Stroll started in the 1950s, but its popularity lasted into the early '60s. The song, by a group called The Diamonds, was released in 1957 and became a big hit on "American Bandstand." The dancers form a line of men and a line of women, facing each other. Couples peel off the end of the line in turn and dance their way down the center to the end of the line, showing off their best moves.
The Bunny Hop
To dance the Bunny Hop, you lean forward, bend your knees, and hold onto the hips of the person in front of you. The dancer in the front of the line leads the whole train around the room, similar to a conga line. Everyone in the line follows the same pattern of steps: tap your right foot three times, then your left, hop forward, hop backward and then hop forward again three times. The Bunny Hop originated in San Francisco in the early 1950s and spread across the country.
- dance troupe image by Wayne Abraham from Fotolia.com