The History of the Electric Slide Dance

By Robert Russell ; Updated September 15, 2017
The Electric Slide began life as as disco dance.

Even if you don't know "The Electric Slide" dance steps by name you would probably recognize its moves. You may have even danced "The Electric Slide" a time or two at weddings, social events or dance clubs without realizing it. The dance became a major craze during the disco era; its popularity waned for a number of years, but it has reemerged in recent years. Many contemporary pop singers have included a few of its dance steps in their routines.

Origins of the Electric Slide

The origins of "The Electric Slide" start with the song "Electric Boogie." The "Electric Boogie" -- also dubbed "The Electric Slide" -- was a hit cover for singer Marcia Griffiths in 1989. Griffiths, a signer since 1964, sang backup for Bob Marley and the Wailers. Bunny Wailer wrote and first sang "The Electric Boogie" in 1976, reaching number 51 on the Billboard Top 100. It remains the biggest selling record for a female reggae singer. Choreographer Ric Silver was hired to create a new dance for the reopening of a New York City disco club called Vamp’s Disco. He created a simple but funky dance based on the song's catchy melody and mid-tempo groove. "The Electric Boogie" became one of the biggest dance crazes of the disco era even though it was never really a disco song.

The Waning Years

Since "The Electric Slide" was associated with disco, it disappeared when disco declined from the music scene. As the '70s emerged, the public taste for disco began to fade. While “Saturday Night Fever” helped to make disco cool, by the end of the '70s, it was frequently dismissed and ridiculed. On July 12, 1979, two Chicago rock disc jockeys -- Steve Dahl and Garry Meier -- organized an anti-disco demonstration at Comiskey Park during a White Sox doubleheader. The highlight of the event was blowing up disco records on the baseball diamond, referred to as the day that disco died. Although "The Electric Slide" took a serious nosedive at the end of the '70s, it never completely disappeared. New York City dancer Ric Silver and the dance continued to show up in a number of movies and television shows in the 1980s.

The Dance Re-Emerges

New life was breathed into "The Electric Slide" in the 1990s, re-emerging in a slightly reworked fashion. It became a favored dance in country dance halls in the '90s because of its line-dancing appeal. You can find it in play at wedding receptions, graduation parties or any setting with a group of people interested in getting their groove on. Part of the appeal is the simplicity of the dance, and its easy steps that most anyone can learn in a few minutes. In dancing terminology, its moves go: grapevine right, grapevine left, three steps back with a rock back and forth and a toe touch. A grapevine is a dance move where one foot steps to one side and the other foot slides in behind it. Online video sites helped to re-invent the “Electric Slide” as a favorite dance, but this eventually resulted in a legal controversy.

Choreography vs. Interpretation

New York City dancer Ric Silver registered the dance with the Library of Congress in 2003 and submitted a copyright request in 2006. This set the stage for a number of lawsuits that Silver filed against online video users in 2007 for posting video versions of "The Electric Slide." Silver complained that the online videos were not authentic versions of "The Electric Slide" because they contain 18 rather than 22 dance steps. The court reached a split decision. According to Silver’s lawyer on an NPR interview, "The critical legal concept is you can protect choreographic works. Social dance steps are not copyrightable." People who post versions of "The Electric Slide" online have the right to post variations of the dance, while Silver has the right to demand credit for his choreography.

About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.