The swivel that had the world in a wriggle | Daily News

The swivel that had the world in a wriggle

In 1960, a collision of factors catapulted a song and a dance to the top of the charts and turned ‘The Twist’ into a national sensation. It was radical, it was lively, and it was easy to perform and pretty soon every teenager in the country was twirling and twisting away and the voice of Chubby Checker rang out across the land

The Twist, a dance performed by swiveling the hips, became a worldwide dance craze in the early 1960s. The Twist dance was easy to perform, which helped fuel the rage. It was usually done with a partner, although no touching was involved. Basically, it’s a simple twisting of the hips. The movements are similar to those you would do if you were stamping out a fallen cigarette or drying your back with a towel.

The Twist is so simple you could simply start by learning to do it in under two minutes. So here’s the breakdown so you can hit the dance floor twisting like a champ. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Face your partner, if you have one. (A partner is optional.) Find your balance, bend your elbows, and relax your knees.

Shift your weight to the balls of your feet and start to ‘rub out’ an imaginary lit cigarette with your shoes. You twist your feet from side to side. As your feet move, so does your pelvis. Twist your hips from side to side, similarly to your feet. Your hands and arms will naturally follow. Don’t turn your entire body as one unit. Twist at the waist. This leaves your upper torso facing more-or-less forward as your legs and hips swivel.

Once you’ve got the basics mastered you can try out some fancy innovative moves of your own. Take your weight on to one foot, lean into that side, and raise the bent knee of your other leg into the air. Keep twisting both legs, feet, hips, and arms. Lower one leg while still twisting.

Start moving around. Twist yourself all the way around in a circle, ending up facing your partner (or your original direction) again. Twisting happens in place, there’s no necessity to travel across the floor.

Start getting a bit adventurous and lower yourself while still gyrating. If your quads are powerful, this move would be a cake-walk for you. If not, mind your balance. As you twist away, keep your back vertical and start to sink into a squat. Just twist yourself into the ground, side-to-side or like a corkscrew. Don’t get over-ambitious initially. Go only as far as you can manage without losing your balance. Epic twisters can lower themselves rhythmically almost to the floor.

Once you’ve got it locked you don’t need to focus on keeping everything moving in the same direction at all times. Experiment, if you are confident enough and put your own spin on it. Twirl one hand at the wrist. Shake one raised foot. Really jerk those hips back and forth or work a pelvic isolation into the twisting moves without breaking rhythm.

Kids gyrated to the original version in a very novel way that was considered raunchy for teenagers. As the popularity of the Twist dance increased, its craze was felt among all age groups and all strata of society although teenagers were on the brighter side. It’s due to the simplicity of the dance form that it became so popular. The twist culture later gained a unique momentum with The Beatles and Swinging Blue Jeans performing ‘Hippy Hippy Shake,’ and‘Twist and Shout’.

On August 6, 1960, Chubby Checker sang and danced his version of ‘The Twist’ on ‘The Dick Clark Show.’ The song quickly hit number one on the charts and the dance swept around the world. Few would have realized then that the fad would become the soundtrack of a generation worldwide. The trend even set some of the era’s most glamorous and influential hips gyrating. And when adult celebrities such as Noman Mailer Truman Capote, Noel Coward, Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys took up the craze, the New York Times fumed that “instead of youth growing up, adults are sliding down.”

The year 1960 marked the election of America’s youngest president, John F. Kennedy, at age 43. It was also the year when The Twist,’ first exploded on the scene. And as it happened, “Mrs. JFK” – first lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy – would become curious about The Twist. She would learn how to do the new dance and its variations, would teach other family members the dance steps, and would incorporate The Twist into the White House party scene. In her role as First Lady, as national hostess and cultural leader, Jackie Kennedy was quite on top of the arts and music scene of her day, and The Twist, it seems, would not be left out.

Sri Lanka began TV broadcasting only some four decades after the Twist revolution in America had taken off. Despite not having access to TV and the latest dance routines at the time the Twist became a dance craze here some three years after it became a sensation in America. After a comparatively short period Chubby Checker’s hit topped the local sales charts here as well.

Its popularity first took off at carnivals and funfairs here with sideshow demonstrations and twist competitions. At one such competition staged at a school carnival about a dozen couples participated. A curious audience took in the scene as the competitors twisted and shuffled their way across the dance floor in time to what was then known as the loud and awesome ‘Boogie-Woogie’ music.

Eventually the couple adjudged winners was requested to perform an exhibition dance. The dancers swiveled their way like seasoned pros with an incredible grace that could only have been achieved from hours of dedicated practice to thunderous applause of an appreciative audience.

The excitement intensified as the accomplished pair began swinging and twirling faster in their special routine. The real fun began when both dancers became a bit over-enthusiastic with their moves. Soon after they had executed a couple of flawless up and downward spirals they began whirling around with the abandonment of dervishes. Then everything seemed to happen all at once.There was an audible gasp from the spectators as the dancers in total concentration of their routine were totally unaware that their corkscrew-like moves had caused the male partner’s trousers to come slip sliding off his hips. The poor guy seemed completely bewildered at the gales of mirth around him until he found his trousers in a true twist of fate at his ankles hindering his fancy footwork.

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