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What are the Common Dances from the 1960s?

The 1960s erupted with iconic dances that captured the era's spirit of freedom and experimentation. From the Twist's hip-swiveling moves to the Watusi's rhythmic elegance, these dances defined a generation. The Mashed Potato and the Loco-Motion also left their mark, inviting everyone to the dance floor. Discover how these dances still influence today's moves—what's your favorite 60s dance legacy?
Cathy Rogers
Cathy Rogers

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.

One of the most popular dances of the 1960's was the Twist.
One of the most popular dances of the 1960's was the Twist.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What were some of the most popular dances of the 1960s?

The 1960s dance scene was vibrant, with the Twist being one of the most iconic dances, popularized by Chubby Checker. Other dances like the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Shake, and the Monkey also captured the spirit of the decade, often associated with specific songs that drove their popularity.

How did television influence the spread of dance crazes in the 1960s?

Television played a crucial role in the dissemination of dance crazes during the 1960s. Shows like "American Bandstand" and "The Ed Sullivan Show" showcased new dances, while teen dance shows across the country provided a platform for teens to demonstrate the latest moves, thus rapidly spreading their popularity.

Were there any dances from the 1960s that originated from specific cultural or ethnic groups?

Yes, the 1960s saw several dances with cultural roots gain mainstream popularity. For example, the Watusi took inspiration from African dances, while the Hully Gully had origins in the African American community. These dances reflected the decade's growing interest in diverse cultural expressions.

Did the music of the 1960s influence the types of dances that were created?

Music was a significant driver of dance trends in the 1960s. The emergence of rock 'n' roll, Motown, and rhythm and blues provided a rhythmic foundation for many dances. Bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones also influenced dance styles with their unique sounds and energetic performances.

Can you still learn and dance the popular dances from the 1960s today?

Absolutely! Many dance studios, community centers, and online tutorials offer lessons in 1960s dance styles. Events like retro-themed parties and dance clubs often feature music from the era, providing the perfect opportunity to twist, shake, and groove like it's the 1960s all over again.

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Discussion Comments


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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

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    • One of the most popular dances of the 1960's was the Twist.
      By: ed lawrence
      One of the most popular dances of the 1960's was the Twist.