As women who grew up in the 1960s, dance has been a part of our lives since the very beginning. But, if I’m right, most of us haven’t had a chance to see our favorite 1960s dances performed – let alone put on our dancing shoes and try them ourselves – for many years.
So, I thought it would be fun to collect vintage videos of the most iconic 1960s dances and share them here. I’ll say a few words about my own experience with music and dance first. But, you can always skip to the videos, below, if you are itching to try Twist, Watusi, Mashed Potato and Pony yourself!
For as Long as I Can Remember, I Have Loved to Dance
In elementary school, they used to pipe music into the playground, where we gathered in little circles to dance. I wonder if they still do that… somehow, I doubt it!
Then, as my friends and I got a little older, dancing continued to be one of our favorite social activities.
Do You Remember Dick Clark American Bandstand?
We gathered in little groups and tried out the latest and greatest moves. Line dances were big and my group of girls was always experimenting.
I would rush home from school and watch American Bandstand, where Dick Clark would introduce one fun and funky band after another. Then, like so many little girls of my generation, I would dance in front of my television.
The Twist, Watusi, Mashed Potato and Pony Are Born
Then, I turned 13 and my family moved to Detroit. There, my passion for dance was intensified by the fabulous Motown music in the city air.
Fabulous rhythmic music was everywhere and the dances that we know now by fun descriptive names became a part of my life. The Twist, Watusi, Mashed Potato and Pony – I loved them all!
The Twist was, of course, the most famous. But, if I am honest, my favorite was the Mashed Potato!
With My Long, Dark Cher Hair, I Would Get Lost in the Movement
Our favorite 1960s dances encouraged camaraderie and connection. Dancing was definitely a social statement! I remember going to the Grande Ballroom in Detroit and dancing until my curfew. They were such amazing times!
At times, the dance energy was intense. No wonder I was so skinny!
Looking at the videos below, I see how high energy, fun and carefree these dances were. They reflected a different attitude to music and social engagement! They were designed to make you feel good!
We knew how to have fun!
Here are 10 famous 1960s dances that you probably remember.
The Twist Was an Iconic 1960s Dance
Most people don’t remember that the original song, The Twist, was released in 1959, one year before the hit cover by Chubby Checker. It was Checker’s version of the song that made the dance of the same name iconic.
Take a look at this video of The Twist.
Unlike The Twist, the Mashed Potato was not linked to a single song. Instead, it became the basis for the dance moves that went along with several hits. Among the most famous songs to become associated with the Mashed Potato was Dee Dee Sharp’s Mashed Potato Time.
Take a look at this video of the Mashed Potato.
The Monster Mash
Another famous 1960s dance that was related to the Mashed Potato was The Monster Mash. The song, made popular by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, has since gone on to become synonymous with Halloween for millions of kids around the world. In fact, it is one of the few 1960s songs that most of our grandkids have probably heard.
Here’s a video of The Monster Mash.
The Madison was a line-dance hit that was popular in the 1960s and well into the 1970s. In this instructional video, dance instructors Jennifer Comar and Paolo Pasta Lanna share the basic moves for The Madison.
The Hully Gully
Another line-dance favorite from the 1960s was The Hully Gully. Here’s a clip of the Olympics performing the song that ultimately inspired the dance.
In 1961, Puerto Rico jazz musician, Ray Barretto, released his hit song “El Watusi.” Future artists picked up the beat and The Watusi developed into a dance that thrived for years to come.
In the following clip, The Lennon Sisters, Norma Zimmer, Larry Hooper and Russ Klein perform Wah Watusi on The Lawrence Welk Show.
Chubby Checker is perhaps best known for his association with the hit song, The Twist. However, this was one of several dances that he inspired. For example, his hit song Pony Time inspired the iconic dance The Pony.
Here’s a video of Chubby Checker performing Pony Time.
The Hitch Hike
Iconic dance hit, The Hitch Hike, was inspired by Marvin Gaye’s hit with the same name. In the following short video, Marvin Gaye performs Hitch Hike.
In retrospect, the moves from The Swim were rather obvious. You pretty much just need to pretend that you are swimming! Well, simple or not, it was a lot of fun!
Here’s a video of Bobby Freeman performing the hit.
Little Eva was fantastic and this dance was so easy and fun to do! Yes, the words were silly, but, the music was great! I just love the backup dancers in this video! Move over Beyonce!
Did you enjoy this stroll down memory lane? If so, please share this article with your friends. Let’s see if we can lead a revival of some of the best dances ever created!
Which 1960s dances do you remember? Did you dance The Twist, Mashed Potato, Monster Mash, Madison or any of the other songs in this article? Let us know in comments below.