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<< Learning Center Intro

Free hustle lessons & introduction!
Also known as Three Count Hustle

Hustle is the perfect dance for dance-beat, nightclub music. It's easy to learn and can be danced everywhere: ballrooms, nightclubs, Latin clubs, parties, wedding receptions. Be sure to check out our Hustle videos and dance music for products that will help you with the dance.

Free Video Instruction
An Introduction to
Three Count Hustle

Windows Media
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Hustle Learning Area


The Basic Step of the Hustle

The step timing is a series of alternating sets of two quick steps followed by two slow steps. The quick steps take ½ beat of music and the slow steps take a full beat of music. In this way, four steps are taken to three beats of music. The step timing may be counted 1,2,&3 or it may be counted &1,2,3. These two counting systems are equivalent and serious students of hustle should become comfortable with using both of these counting systems. The dance is the same, regardless of which counting system is used. The basic foot pattern is simple. It consists of alternating sets of two forward steps and then two backward steps. The dance is usually started on the second backward step. The steps are often called out:

  • ball-change
  • walk
  • walk
  • ball-change

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The Character of Hustle

The Hustle is characterized by fast moving patterns with many turns. Fancy arm styling and big presentation lines are also characteristic of the dance. Like west coast swing, the hustle tends to spotlight the lady. In general the lady’s turning actions and movements are greater than those of the leader. Also, like west coast swing, the hustle is a smooth dance, without lilt. A mistake is to hop or bounce on the syncopated step. Instead, the dance should be smooth through all steps.

In the major competitions, arm styling, leg styling, big presentation lines, and showy figures are important keys to success. Successful competitors usually choose the figures that move about the floor.
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Hustle Music

While Hustle may primarily be associated with the retro disco classics, it can also be danced to modern music, including rap and hip hop. From the Bee Gees and Donna Summer to Madonna and Will Smith, there is a lot of music out there appropriate for the hustle. For beginners, the best tempo range is 100 to 125 beats per minute.

Click on the link below for many helpful examples of both Hustle songs and CD's which feature Hustle music.

Hustle Music Examples >>
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History of the Hustle

The origin and evolution of the hustle are somewhat shrouded in mystery. A line dance called the hustle is thought to predate the partner form of the dance. In the early days of the hustle, many styles developed, but most were more alike than different. The following terms were used to describe the various types: rope hustle, sling hustle, Latin hustle, Spanish hustle, tango hustle, and New York hustle.

Several shows and movies propelled the popularity of the dance. The most popular movie featuring the hustle was Saturday Night Fever, released in 1977 and starring John Travolta. The following year the movie, Thank God It’s Friday starring diva Donna Summer was released to capitalize on SNF's popularity. The television show American Bandstand featured hustle exhibition dances and the 1979 show, Dance Fever, was devoted to disco dance competitions. Popular artists of the era included the Bee Gees and K.C. and the Sunshine Band and even established artists like Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye had some of the biggest hits of their careers with disco tracks recorded during this time.

The New York style of hustle, also called the syncopated hustle or the three-count hustle, is essentially the only survivor among the various styles that were introduced in the 1970’s. Today, the New York style of hustle overwhelmingly dominates all major competitions and all teaching programs. Almost all instructional videos are devoted to the three-count hustle, also called the New York hustle.

Some folks claim that two styles of hustle still exist today: the New York Style and the West Coast Style. This is not really the case. Many hustle figures are linear or slotted in nature while other figures travel around the floor. Dancers who prefer the West Coast Swing slot style simply select the slotted or linear figures and avoid the figures that travel about. As essentially only one style now exists, most teaching studios refer to the dance as just, "the hustle."
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Tips & Info

Almost all beginners do four things wrong...

  1. They hop or bounce on the syncopated step, that is, on the quick, quick (if we think of the timing as quick, quick, slow, slow).
    Lilt, hopping, and bouncing are not good things in this dance. Hustle is a smooth dance, like west coast swing. Watching a beginner dance hustle is a little like watching a beginner at jumping rope - they put way too much energy into what they are doing.
  2. They dance with a push-pull fashion where the arms go slack, followed by a pull.
    Beginner hustle dancers often extend their arms until their arms are about to pop out of their shoulder sockets. This is not a good thing. Arms need to act like springs with gentle, controlled, and limited extension. Strength in leading is from precise timing and direction, not from force.
  3. Beginners dance with random foot placement and without thinking about who is going where.
    Hustle can (and should) travel and many patterns are linear or slotted. In these patterns, the guy needs to lead the lady in the slot (or along the line of dance) while he gets to one side or the other. The dance should generally be danced in a slotted fashion (like west coast swing) or along a specific line or pattern as opposed to just "falling out" in an undetermined way.
  4. Beginners often struggle with timing, usually getting ahead of the beat.
    We believe that everyone should count and count always, just not out loud (except when practicing).

Counting the hustle
Many old timers count the hustle 1, 2, & 3. However, most studios now use the counting system, &1, 2, 3. The dance is the same regardless of which of these systems is used. In fact, if the dance is started on the first syncopated step, that is, on the "&" count, then the difference between the two systems effectively disappears. We believe serious students of hustle should become comfortable with using both of these systems. Again, switching back and forth is really easy if you always start the dance on the "&" count. In our Volume 1 video, we count out the first 14 "universal" patterns using both of these counting systems. This will enable you to understand the "sameness" of these systems and it will allow you to become comfortable with teachers and with partners who may count differently.

More detail: In hustle, four steps are taken to three beats of music. Two of the four steps use a full beat of music. The other two steps each use ½ beat of music. The steps that use a full beat of music can be called "slow" steps. The steps that use one-half beat of music can be called "quick" steps. Dancing the hustle consists of dancing alternating sets of two quick steps, two slow steps, two quick steps, two slow steps, etc. In fact the dance can be counted solely in terms of the quicks and the slows as quick, quick, slow, slow, or slow, slow, quick, quick, depending on whether you start by taking the slow steps first or whether you take the quick steps first. At present, two popular counting systems are used. It's important to note that the dance is danced the same in both cases. In other words, there is just one dance, but two main ways of counting it. Irrespective of the counting system used, the slows and the quicks occur in the same places with the same feet. For example, the Gentleman's left backward step is always taken on the first quick and his left forward step is always taken on the first slow. Likewise, his right backward step is always taken on the second quick and his right forward step is always taken on the second slow. In this way, all hustle dancers can dance with each other, their different counting systems being transparent, internal things.

  • The &,1,2,3 Counting System
    This system is mostly used when the dance and its patterns are considered to start on the first quick. The first quick is counted as "&." The second quick is counted as "1." The first slow is counted as "2." The second slow is counted as "3."
  • The 1,2,&,3 Counting System
    In this system, the first slow is taken on the "1," the second slow is taken on the "2," the first quick is taken on the "&," and the second quick is taken on the "3."

Which system is better? Neither is...especially if you start the dance on the
"&" count. At present, about equal numbers of the top competitors are using
each of the two systems. After you get the hang of this dance, you should be
able to work with either system. It helps to remember that the dance is,
fundamentally, only one dance, and this becomes evident if you count in
terms of quicks, and slows.
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