Image credit: Screencapped from Netflix
In “The Hobo Code” Episode 8, Season 1 of Mad Men, we see for the first time most of the men and women of Sterling Cooper interacting outside of the office, in a bar. As they finish off their slow dance to the mellow song “Choo Choo Cha Cha” by the Rinky Dinks, someone inserts a coin into the jukebox and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” blares onto the speakers. The women squeal and jump gleefully at the catchy tune and start to shuffle around the dance floor with the men as they twist their bodies and sway their angled arms along with their feet. The Twist was the dance craze of the 1950s and 60s which was created to go along with Chubby Checker’s popular song. Adolescent Americans took a liking to this dance immediately and soon The Twist became a song/dance that symbolized the bursting energy of young adults and culture of the 1960s.
Interestingly enough, The Twist’s roots have actually come from forms of African Dance during the slavery era and has relations to jazz as well. At a time immediately following the end of segregation, it is fascinating to see that African dances had such a big influence on America’s dance culture. Not only that, The Twist seems to have been a sort of impetus for a different kind of social culture, one in which men and women could dance along carelessly together to a beat without it being considered too promiscuous. Since the creation of The Twist, many dances that have come afterward have been inspired by the upbeat, feel-good dance move. Dance moves such as The Chicken, The Carlton (from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and most recently, The Dougie to name a few, have elements of The Twist. It is amazing to see that a dance move from the 1960s has influenced dance culture all the way up to this point and is a dance still recognized by most people today. In fact, as of October 11, 2012, the people of Deland, Florida hold the Guinness World Record for most people (around 4,000) twisting in the streets at once.
It’s difficult to say what dance move symbolizes 2012, or even 2000 for that matter because our generation has increasingly become consumed with viral YouTube videos of ridiculous dance moves that constantly changes the “fad.” Lately, music videos such as PSY’s “Gangnam Style” from South Korea has captured the attention of viewers around the world, and along with it, have people doing the oddly hilarious dance. These dances not only allow for a good time, but for cultural infusion as well. Similar to the Gangnam Style dance, The Twist was not just a song that people could dance along to. Yes, it was (and still is) a party favorite, but it was so much more than that. The moves of The Twist were a blend of two different backgrounds that have added to America’s cultural melting pot and changed elements of male and female interaction in the 60‘s. Along with its origins dating back to the slaves who came to the United States and widespread popularity, the Twist is truly more than just the swiveling of hips and shuffling of feet - it is a characterization of an era of budding cultural and social change in America.