The Twist


The twist is a classic social dance that people still have fun with today at weddings, proms, and special occasions with dancing involved.  The song “The Twist” was written by Hank Ballard in 1955, but first played in 1959 after he saw teens dancing the twisting movements.  This dance move was already discovered by teens before the move became famous.    This social dance move became popular in the 1960’s because of the famous television show American Band Stand hosted by Dick Clark.  One of the main characters in American Band Stand, Chubby Checker was hired to demonstrate the social dance “the Twist” to the song “The Twist.”  After Chubby Checker performed the Twist on American Bandstand the social dance became an American favorite.

Maybe you’re wondering why this dance move created a phenomenon while other dancing styles did not.  This social dance move traveled all over the world, but had a great impact on Americans because the Twist originated in the United States.  The twist dance broke the gap between multiple generations of people dancing together.  During the 1950’s dancing was seen as rebellious.  Parents of children did not like or understand their “rock and roll” music, dancing, and change of hair and clothing.  Once the twist was demonstrated older generations saw the effortlessness and innocence of the dance move. Everyone watched and learned how to dance the twist on American Band Stand so the dance move became trendy.  The history before the Twist had a major impact on the popularity of the dance, but the simplicity of the dance move was also a factor. 


Everyone can enjoy dancing the Twist because the twist involves simple movements of rotating your hips and arms.  The twist was ultimately derived from the dance the Lindy Hop.    An easy way to remember how to dance the twist is to “just pretend to drop a cigarette stub on the ground, place the ball of your foot over this imaginary cigarette and twist it to and fro as if putting it out [a] t the same time place an imaginary bath towel behind your back and pull it from side to side as though drying your 'butt'” ("How to Jive").  This dance style is considered a social dance because a group of people can enjoy dancing together with or without a partner.  The twist is usually danced with another person beside you, but their is no pressure of having a partner because the Twist does not involve touching another person.  A plus of this dance movement is that people can dance to any song they would like.  The twist dance movements are not limited to just the one song “The Twist.”  Since the Twist has been proven to be so popular song artists have created other songs to dance this style to such as “Twist and Shout” written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell and performed by the Beatles.  Dance moves that were created during this time period, but have proved to not be as popular as the Twist includes the mashed potato, the monkey, the swim, and the funky chicken.


I chose to write about this dance style because I believe the twist gives people an idea about how dance socially has developed overtime.  People of all ages show interest in social dancing because during the past and present new dance moves are created such as the prim and proper dance form of the waltz to now the ever popular Soldier Boy dance.  The twist is another example of how dancing in the American culture is important to us. 

For me the Twist is something that I look forward to doing when I am at a dance party.  This dance is still popular today because just like in history the Twist is simple and everyone can enjoy dancing together.  The first thing I can think of when I hear “the twist” is laughing and smiling because this dance brings joy to everyone who participates.  I think the most important reason why the twist became so popular is because my grandparents, parents, younger cousins, and friends of all ages know immediately what to do when the song “the Twist” plays on our CD players.  The social dance allows bonding in a fun and childish manner.

While participating at many dance parties I have come to see how the Twist became an ever popular dance.  The unknown teens that created this dance move were out to have a good time while listening to their favorite music.  The teens could socialize with each other as a group as they danced to the Twist.  Chubby Checker formed a dance craze after débuting the Twist on one of American’s favorite television shows, American Bandstand.  When the producers of the show allowed the Twist to be on the show they knew that this social dance move would create a phenomena in the dance world.  The Twist captures many elements in a fun dance for generations of people that make the dance accepted such as simplicity, entertaining, and innocence.