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What are the Common Dances from the 1960s?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 23, 2024
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Common dances from the 1960s featured the ability to dance without a partner. The dances also shared vivid names. These unique dances included the Mashed Potato, the Fly, the Penguin, the Monkey, the Swim and the Funky Chicken. Some sources claim that as many as 500 dances were introduced in the 1960s.

Just one of the dances from the 1960s that created the largest craze was The Twist, debuting, as the decade began, on the Dick Clark Show. The Twist originated with the song of the same name, originally released by Hank Ballard. Chubby Checker, who had only one minor prior hit song, released a new version of the song. Checker’s success continued with over a dozen hits that decade, many of which contributed to the most popular dances.

The simplicity of The Twist dance made it popular with all ages. The movement was simple: place one foot forward and twist it back and forth while rotating your hips from side to side. Other twist songs followed by artists including Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, The Beatles, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Sam Cooke and others.

The common dances from the 1960s veered away from the touch partner dancing that had been popular in prior decades. As a dance, The Mashed Potato originated with songs by Steve Alaimo, James Brown and Dee Dee Sharp. Variations exist, but some descriptions of this dance involve both arms placed out in front of the body. While grinding each foot alternately, the performer flutters the arms one at a time. The concept was that the performer appeared to be mashing potatoes with his or her feet.

Just as you would imagine, the dance named the Monkey, another popular dance from this decade, imitated the antics of the animal it was named for. Dancers faced their partners while waving their arms, bobbing their heads, scratching and hopping. Major Lance introduced the dance in 1963 with the hit "The Monkey Time."

Other popular dances from the 1960s included the Locomotion, the Duck, the Hanky Panky, the Camel Walk and Do the Freddie. Many of the dances caused controversy. In one instance, Brigham Young University (BYU) banned all “fad dances” in 1966 and Buffalo banned the Twist in 1962.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1000485 — On Oct 03, 2018

I also learned the "SOC" in Michigan around 1964-1966. I was the only boy to know how and even girls who wouldn't normally talk to me, ask me to dance. Wish I could remember how it went.

By anon308612 — On Dec 11, 2012

I finally have read about someone else dancing the "soc". It was called the Detroit Social when I was doing it in South Bend, Indiana. Thank you anon 263000.

By anon263000 — On Apr 22, 2012

My hubby and I have danced the "soc" for 48 years, mostly in Michigan but in Florida for nine years. It's no place on the internet.

By anon170946 — On Apr 28, 2011

My mom used to do the camel walk to an instrumental song from the 60's. Any idea who did the song? Kind of a catchy tune.

By anon154406 — On Feb 20, 2011

Does anyone know how to do "the skate"? I can't find any website that tells you how it goes.

By anon95172 — On Jul 11, 2010

One of the most popular dances of the 60s was the jerk. And The Skate was also very popular.

By ivanka — On Aug 11, 2009

The twist was a fun dance. Everybody would come alive.

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