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Popular Dances of the 70s & 80s

Disco dancing ruled the 1970s.
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The 1970s and 1980s were memorable times in the history of American dance. The '70s dance culture was dominated by a disco era in full swing, complete with packed discotecs that gave a home to the hustle of dancers shaking their "groove thing."

The '80s brought about the era of hip hop with boom-box carrying break dancers who practiced their art on the streets. The late '80s brought heavy metal bands who had the country headbanging along to endless extended guitar solos.

1970s Disco Dances

Couple dancing the hustle in the 70's
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The most popular disco dance of the '70s was the Hustle. It had a few variations, including the Latin Hustle, the American Hustle and the Street Hustle. The basic dance was accented with strutting across the dance floor in time with the beat, or adding step kicks, rock-steps or hand gestures to keep the beat between turns.

Line dances like the Hot Chocolate, which was a modified form of the Hully-gully from the '60s, the Bus Stop, the Night Fever, the Roller Coaster and the Disco Duck were also widely played in discotecs.

1980s Break Dancing

Break dancing competition
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With the release of the movie "Breakin'" in 1984, break dancing became a mainstream part of pop culture. Break dancing highlighted two distinct styles used for dancing groups to battle one another. The early Hip-Hop music of the time used a synthesized sound to which dancers would lock their arm, wrist and knee joints and then quickly pop them back in time with the beat. This and other slow, exaggerated movements would mimic a robot.

Break dancing was also a constant series of spins using the back, knees and even top of the head. Most break dancing was done on the street where the two groups battling would take turns exchanging moves, until one could not be outdone. The break dancers were referred to as B-Boys or B-Girls and famous crews such as the Dynamic Rockers and the B-Boys Rock Steady Crew were showcased in music videos, TV shows and movies.

1980s Slam Dancing

Heavy metal fans slam dance in mosh pit
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The heavy metal bands of the '80s often had long, teased or heavily hair sprayed styles causing the bands of this era to earn the nickname "hair bands." The core music included long overproduced ballads alternating with quick tempo songs laced with heavy hitting guitar. The base guitar caused many audience members to bob their heads in unison to keep the beat, and the era of headbanging began.

This was the time of giant arena rock shows where the audience would form a large group or mosh pit directly in front of the stage. As the music started, they would slam together in random ways in time to the music. This evolved from the pogo dancing of the '70s punk rock movement and created a trend called "slam dancing." Some dancers or even performers would stage dive into the pit and crowd surf through. This trend continued well into the grunge era of the '90s.

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