Hustle is an American dance which originated in the 1970s. It is traditionally danced to club hits from the 1970s through contemporary times. The dance is designed to be highly dynamic, flashy, and powerful. Although its movement history is rooted in a 6 count basic, the final form of the dance is a 3 count basic with some extended patterns and syncopations.

Some history of Hustle

The birth of Hustle partner dancing seems to have simultaneously occurred in New York City and other metropolitan city nightclubs in the United States during the early 1970s. At the point of its origination, it was a 6 count dance which was counted 1, 2, 3&4, 5, 6. According to dancers such as Billy Fajardo, "as things got more competitive in the nightclubs, the guys wanted to add more tricks to their patterns. In order to do so, dancers abbreviated the 6 count pattern to just keep the &4, 5, 6 portion. This changed the basic form of the dance to be counted &1, 2, 3."

The popularity of Hustle dancing during the mid 1970s can not be overstated. It was the main theme at numerous nightclubs throughout the country. Music for the dance consisted of Funk and the new sounds of Disco, and always had strong beats which would later become the branches for House music, Pop music, Club remixes, slow Trance, and even Lounge music.

Songs like Van McCoy's 1975 hit, "The Hustle" and movies like the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever capitalized on the popularity of the Hustle dance craze. Unfortunately, some people thought (and still think) the song and movie defined the dance, a problem which plagues Hustle enthusiasts still to present day.

ipanema discothequeAccording to all dancers from the 1970s, the Hustle dance was intimately linked to the nightclubs/discotheques. Famous locations were Studio 54, Ipanema, Boomba, Roseland, Inferno, and Starship.

Today, dancers from the former era are still passing on their knowledge to younger dancers. The dance is relatively new as far as partner dances are concerned. This means that the Hustle of today has evolved since its first steps. Tempos today are a little slower than fast disco versions that burned out the dance in the early 1980s, and it has been refined in every way. Music still ranges from classics of the original era to contemporary radio remixes and club/house music.

Even though Hustle has been bastardized on shows like So You Think You Can Dance to be called Disco (such as by choreographer Doriana Sanchez, who butchers movements from the movie Saturday Night Fever), Hustle still remains a partner dance (not a line-dance) that is used both socially and competitively throughout the country. Hustle is still the best dance to impress your friends in 30 seconds or less.

What does Hustle look like

Living legend Billy Fajardo & Katie Marlow in 2009.
Billy was part of the scene when the dance originated in the early 1970s and continues to push the evolution of Hustle.

Erik Novoa & Anna Brady demonstrate Hustle on a local Connecticut news show with some of their students in 2010.

The basic idea of Hustle

1. The Leader and Follower generally switch positions during each pattern.

2. The Follower is generally moving linearly in a "slot" while the Leader uses "rails" (positions outside the slot) to guide the Follower.

3. The Leader either does a back-break, side-break, or front-break (ball-change / left foot to right foot) on the &1. The Follower usually only does a back-break (ball change / right foot to left foot) on the &1.

4. Movement is generally smooth.

5. Hustle can be slotted, as well as rotational (the slot can warp as well as move). The dance can either be done on-spot or use traveling patterns to change position on the dance floor.

Beginner Videos of Hustle

Check out our Hustle 101 videos to view the basics.

Music for Hustle

Music for Hustle is generally noted for its strong beats. Music associated with parties, nightclubs, and discotheques are perfect for Hustle dancing. The tempo generally ranges from 100bpm to 130bpm. Recently, some R&B music has been used to enjoy Hustle to a slower tempo.

Classic - Smarty Pants (First Choice), Romeo & Juliet (Alec Costandinos), Risky Changes (Bionic Boogie)

Club - Tonight I'm Lovin' You (Enrique Iglesias), Kill the Lights (Britney Spears), Take It Off (Ke$ha)

Remix - Give it to Me Right Paul Emmanuel Full Edit (Melanie Fiona), Billie Jean Remix 2009 (Michael Jackson), I Know You Want Me (Pitbull)

House - Toro Mata (Angel Clivilles), Gypsy Woman (Crystal Waters), Fui Cupable Casa de Cuba Mix (Puntillita)

Why people love Hustle

Hustle is a specific type of dance for a specific type of music. It was designed to be a fast, flashy dance for club and party music. It is the "sports car" of the dance family.

Most people from the 1970s and 1980s fell in love with Hustle dancing because it was associated with good times and good friends. It almost has a Pavlovian happy feeling just by playing music associated with the dance. People who learn it today are able to use it to dance to music on the radio and to have a great time at a local nightclub.

The footwork of the dance is quite simple and the pattern structure is attainable relatively quickly. This makes Hustle one of the top-learned dances at studios in the United States.

Why people might struggle with Hustle

Although Hustle has footwork that is rather easy to master, it is the most dynamic dance in existence, having a high pattern count per beat structure—3 beats. During most patterns, both partners are changing places and/or changing directions. To the observer, this makes the dance exciting; to the dancer, this makes the dance physically demanding.

Getting Started

If you would like to start Hustle, check our calendar for beginner classes in Norwalk, CT or contact me for more information.