Twist (dance)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"The Twist" was a popular dance in the 1960s, inspired by the rock and roll music genre of the decade. Because the Twist was so simple, it became a worldwide craze. The dance involved putting out an imaginary cigarette with your feet, twisting it back and forth, while placing an imaginary towel behind your back and pulling it side to side in order wipe your bottom. Because the dance did not involve touching a partner, people were free to dance alone; ultimately, it was the first major international rock and roll dance of its kind. It later inspired dances such as the ‘Mashed Potato,’ the ‘Monkey,’ and the ‘Funky Chicken,’ though none were as popular as the Twist..

The dance was inspired by “The Twist,” the obscure b-side song of Hank Ballard’s single, “Teardrops on Your Letter,” released in 1959. In this year, popular American DJ and host of American Bandstand, Dick Clark provided an outlet for the popularization of the song as well as the dance craze that accompanied it. In an effort to promote the new trend into mainstream America, Clark urged local Philadelphia record label, Cameo/Parkway to release their own version of “The Twist.” Chubby Checker, who until 1960 had only one hit to his name, (“The Class”;1959) was tapped to cut the song. Released in the summer of 1960, Checker’s rendition of “The Twist” became number one on the singles chart. This record breaking song was the only single to reach number one on two different charts—it reached number one in 1960 and then resurfaced, reaching number one again in 1962.

In 1961, at the height of the Twist craze, patrons at New York's hot Peppermint Lounge on West 45th Street were twisting to the music of the house band, a local group from Jersey, Joey Dee and the Starliters. Their house song, "Peppermint Twist (Part 1)," became the number one song in the United States for three weeks in January 1962. Sailors and hookers, hipsters and weekending Yalies danced alongside New York's social elite, including the Duke of Windsor, at the legendary Peppermint Lounge.

In Latin America, the Twist craze was sparked in the 1960-62 period not by recordings by Checker or Ballard, but by Bill Haley & His Comets. Their recordings of "The Spanish Twist" and "Florida Twist" were major successes, particularly in Mexico, and the band were given the credit for starting the dance craze. Haley, in interviews at the time, was always quick to give credit to Checker and Ballard. Coincidentally, Checker appeared in two musicals that took their titles from the two films Haley made in the 1950s (the Checker films had the same producer): Twist Around the Clock (after Rock Around the Clock) and Don't Knock the Twist (after Don't Knock the Rock).

The dance resurfaced for a time in 1988, as a result of a rap version of the song recorded by The Fat Boys with Checker's participation.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Twist (dance)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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