2.14.2006

THE WATUSI

Watusi dance

INTRODUCTION

Next to the Twist, the Watusi was the most popular dance of the Sixties. It was arguably an offshoot off the Twist, except, in this case, the feet remain planted, with the hips and arms doing all the twisting.

The dance's name, oddly enough, comes from the Batutsi tribe of Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa, who were the primary victims of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. As is often the case with fad dances, the Watusi was probably named after a popular song, in this case, Ray Barreto's 1962 hit "El Watusi." Barreto was a Puerto Rican conga drummer who was inspired by Afro-Latin jazz, and, as a result, Watusi songs tend to reflect a similar Afro-Latin influence -- as did the music for a later dance craze, the Boogaloo, which also used "El Watusi" as its anthem.

Television's Batman would perform his own version of the Watusi, dubbed the Batusi, which consisted of rapid hip shakes accompanied by hand motions that use the first two fingers of each hand to mimic a mask (see it demonstrated here). These distinctive hand gestures would later show up in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as part of John Travolta's dance routine during a twist contest.

STEP ONE

Watusi -- Step one

Stand with your legs apart. Put you weight on your right leg with your hip thrust to the right. Hold your hands as though you were holding a golf club and swing them right.

STEP TWO

Watusi -- Step two

Return your weight to both legs and bring your hands down to waist level.

STEP THREE

Watusi -- Step three

Put your weight on your left leg while thrusting your hip to your left. At the saem time, swing your hands to your left. Repeat. The watusi is done with a relative fast one and two, one and two rhythm -- you should be swinging your arms and switching your legs on every other beat.

SUGGESTED SONGS

1. "El Watusi," Ray Barreto
2. "The Watusi," The Vibrators
3. "Watusi Bongos," Preston Epss
4. "Watusi Zombie," Jan Davis
5. "Wild Watusi," Duane Eddy

2.12.2006

THE TWIST

The Twist

INTRODUCTION

The song "The Twist" was introduced in 1959 as a B-Side by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters. It failed to chart, and received scant notice until Ernest Evans, better known as Chubby Checker, rerecorded the song in 1960. Checker's version was arguably inferior, but featured a driving brass section and came with instructions for how to perform the dance, giving birth to the defining fad dance of the Sixties.

The dance itself has been kicking around for a while and was reportedly popular among African-American teenagers, but with Checker's hit song the twist spread throughout the country. Checker toured the country, singing and demonstrating the dance and losing 30 pounds in the process. Other artists quickly moved to capitalize on the trend, hastily releasing their own twist 45s; as an example, Booby Darin released an excellent series of up-tempo rock and roll numbers that were all marketed as twist singles.

Bill Haley, now mostly famous for "Rock Around the Clock," released a single called "The Spanish Twist," and then wisely rerecorded the song in Spanish. It was a smash record across the border, introducing the twist to Mexico, where the dance also became a nationwide crazy. Haley later released an entire LP of Spanish twist songs.

A number of clubs devoted themselves to the twist, most notably New York's Peppermint Lounge, where movie stars and international jetsetters danced alongside local teenagers. At least two different songs were inspired by the club, both titled "The Peppermint Twist." In the meanwhile, the Catholic diocese in Buffalo, NY, banned the dance.

STEP ONE

the twist -- step one

Step forward as though stepping on a lit cigarette butt; twist your extended leg as though you were crushing out the cigarette.

STEP TWO

The twist -- step two

Hold your hands to tour sides and move them as though you were drying your lower back with a towel. Make this motion in time with the cigarette-crushing motion of your foot.

STEP THREE

the twist -- step 3

Lean forward and backward as you twist. Repeat.

SUGGESTED SONGS

1. "La Paloma Twist," Chubby Checker
2. "Tequila Twist," The Champs
3. "Spanish Twist," Bill Haley
4. "Peter Gunn Twist," The Jesters
5. "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," Bobby Darin