Over the years disco dance steps have gone from being simple, improvised moves on a club dance floor to highly competitive, judged performances for world dance titles. At its roots though, the dance is a very basic and social dance. The basic moves are very easy to teach and perform, enabling anyone to be a part of the dance experience.
The Retro Hustle
The Hustle became extremely popular when a song of the same name by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony hit number one on the charts in 1975. The Hustle is now often referred to as the Retro Hustle to distinguish it from other variations.
Click the image below to download an Adobe PDF of printable instructions and illustrations on how to do the retro hustle.
The Hustle is performed in an eight-beat count, which means it will fit into almost any disco song.
- Stand with feet in second position parallel (in ballet terms) about a foot and a half (or shoulder-width) apart.
- Shift your weight on your right foot, and cross the left over, touching your toe to the floor with a gentle tap. Let your right arm swing naturally across the body - not too high - in opposition to your left foot.
- Bring your left foot back to parallel and let your right arm swing back down.
- Shift your weight onto your left foot and repeat the move with your right foot. Remember not to think about the arms too much - just let them move naturally.
- Bring your right foot back to parallel, letting it take some weight.
- Repeat step 2 with your left foot and right arm.
- Same as step 3, left foot coming back to parallel position.
- Return to bringing your right foot across, starting again with step 1.
Tip: While doing the Retro Hustle, be sure to let your arms swing naturally at first, with the occasional dip of the shoulder to emphasize the motion in accordance with the music. Remember that the point of disco is not to show off but to have fun, whether you have moves like John Travolta or are an enthusiastic newbie taking your first steps on the floor.
The Bus Stop
The Bus Stop is a fun but simple disco dance for beginners. It is often performed to Are You Ready? (Do the Bus Stop) by the Fatback Band, yet it can be performed with a variety of other disco moves or on its own to any fast-paced disco song.
- Stand with both feet together and knees a bit loose.
- Step back with your right foot, then step further back with your left foot.
- Step back once again with your right foot.
- Step forward with your left foot, then step forward with your right foot.
- Step forward once more with your left foot.
- Bring your right foot against your left foot and tap it to a stop. Simultaneously clap your hands.
- Step your left foot to the left. Step your right foot behind your left foot. Repeat this entire step three times.
- Tap the right foot to your left foot and clap your hands.
- Step your right foot to the right. Step your left foot behind your right foot. Repeat this entire step three times.
- Tap the left foot to your right foot and clap your hands.
- Take a quarter turn to your left or your right, then start again.
When The Village People released the disco song Y.M.C.A. in 1978, it quickly climbed the charts and started a new dance craze. The Y.M.C.A. is a fun dance move that was very much of its time, yet it remains popular at school dances, sporting events, and dance classes around the country.
- Step in place with your legs shoulder-length apart, then march them in so that your legs are straight. Step in and out a few times in succession. Be sure that you are stepping in time with the music as you wait for the "Y.M.C.A." part of the song to start.
- On cue with the start of the "Y" in the song, create a Y by extending your arms over your head. They need to stay outstretched and raised upwards with your hands around three feet.
- As the song transitions to the "M," create an M by bending your elbows and bringing your hands together in front of your chest. Your fingertips should meet as you form the shape of an "M" with your arms. Bend your wrists to make the letter clear.
- Next, in time with the song, form the letter C by extending your left arm out and bending it just a little. Keep your palm open, facing the sky. Reach your right arm over your head. Lean towards your left until you are able to fully form the C with your arms.
- Now create an A. Reach your arms over your head and grasp your hands together to form a triangle.
- Repeat as needed throughout the song every time the Y.M.C.A. is mentioned.
Tip: While it's not a required step, you are strongly encouraged to sing your heart out throughout the dance performance of this song.
While The Village people don't perform this exact dance in their official music video for Y.M.C.A., you may find inspiration in the way they move and the fun attitude of the song that inspired the popular dance.
The Point Move
The Point Move isn't a whole dance in and of itself, but it is an easily recognizable dance move when it comes to disco. If you perform this move anywhere, most people automatically will associate it with disco music. The Point Move is also commonly referred to as The Travolta because it is John Travolta who made it famous with his moves on the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.
- Step with your feet shoulder-length apart.
- Roll your hips to the left as you point your right hand, pointing your index finger out.
- Lift your right arm straight up to your right.
- Pull the right arm diagonally across the body and point down and to the left as your hips move to the right.
- Roll your hips to the right as you point your left hand, pointing your index finger out.
- Lift your left arm straight up to your left.
- Pull the left arm diagonally across the body and point down and to the right as your hips move to the left.
The Funky Chicken
This move will bring back memories of roller rinks and line dancing. The funky chicken, also known as the chicken dance is a silly, yet fun move to perform at a party or on the dance floor.
- Begin with your hands in fists, resting at the side of your chest, elbows drawn down by the side of your ribcage.
- Bob your head forward and back for four to eight counts.
- Lift your elbows up and out to the sides, keeping your hands by your chest.
- Draw them down once again to the side of your ribcage.
- Repeat steps three and four as quickly as you can, giving you the appearance of flapping your wings.
- Every time you lift your elbows up, bend one knee and swing your foot out to the side, internally rotating your hip.
- Every time your elbows come down, replace your foot.
- Make sure to alternate sides.
Double Arm Swing
A simple yet fun move you can show off with is the double arm swing.
- Begin standing a quarter turn to the left, left foot slightly in front of your right.
- Lift your chest high as you swing your right arm forward and your left arm down and back.
- Bend your left knee and drop your hips as you swing your right arm down and back and your left arm forward and up.
- Repeat steps two and three as quickly as you can.
After completing the swing on one side, try it on the other.
"The Snap," also known as the hip check, is sure to get your hips shaking and moving.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart.
- Swing your hips to the right and snap the fingers of your right hand.
- Swing your hips to the left.
- Bend your knees and swing your hips to the right.
- Straighten your legs and swing your hips to the left.
- Repeat steps two through five as quickly as you can.
This move is very fast. If you want to master it, try performing it at half-tempo or using a slower beat before picking up the pace. Mix it up by moving around in a circle as you swing your hips.
This next move can be tough because it requires a bit of coordination from your upper and lower body.
- Begin with your feet apart and your arms reaching over to the right, hands in fists.
- Swing your hips to the right as you step your left foot in toward the right and draw your left elbow up and back so that your forearm is in line with your shoulder.
- Swing your hips to the left as you step your right foot to the right and punch your left hand across your body.
- Swing your hips to the right as you step your left foot in toward the right. This time draw your left elbow down and back so that your forearm is at waist level.
- Repeat steps two through four raising your arm up and down and moving as fast as you can.
Practice with just the arms first. Once you feel comfortable at tempo add the feet.
Other Disco Moves
Several other dance moves are associated with disco dancing. Many of these are more isolated moves that you pick and choose from as you hit the dance floor. Try a couple of these moves.
- The Back Catch - It's important to stretch and warm up a little before you attempt this move, as it requires some flexibility. Stand on your right leg. Kick your left leg up and back. Simultaneously reach your arms over your head as though you are trying to grasp your foot behind you. Yes, this disco move definitely has a ballet vibe!
- The Butterfly - Grab your partner's left hand with your left hand as well as the his or her right hand with your right hand. Stay in the two-hand hold as you walk around one another in time to the music. It's up to you whether you opt to move clockwise or counterclockwise.
- The Bump - Get your groove on. Move in time with the music as this is a pretty loose dance. Bump your dance partner's hips to every other beat of the music. The Bump is usually done hip to hip with the dancing couple standing side by side.
There are many types of multi-person dance moves in disco, and often they are simple repetitive motions that allow the crowds to move while a solo performer shows off in the center of the crowd. Line dances like the Electric Boogie, also known as the Electric Slide, are popular as well.
Practice Makes Perfect
While some of these disco dance moves are very simple, others are more complex. Give yourself time to learn them before trying to perform at a fast pace. When you take the time to learn the right moves, you'll look fantastic on the dance floor the next time you hear a disco tune beckoning you to get your groove on.