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All About Hustle


Free dance lesson "movie" on Nightclub Two Step.


Hustle Line Dance
Besides the hustle partner dance discussed in this article, there is also the hustle line dance. I've created a short instructional video that preserves and teaches the steps of that dance. To learn more, click the following link:

Hustle Line Dance




Free sample music theory lesson -- an online Flash movie.





Introduction to Social Dancing





Phil also gives free music theory lessons online and is available for private instruction in piano, guitar, keyboard, recorder and...




You will be a better danceer when you understand music. Learn music from Phil acclaimed book What Makes Music Work.










Introduction to Social Dancing





Learn to Dance for a Wedding Party


Secrets of a Hustle Dance Instructor
(Steve Rebello)

By Philip Seyer

NOTE: For group or private dance lessons in San
Francisco, Emeryville, Roseville, Sacramento area, call Philip Seyer, 916-772-755

This is one in a series of articles on music and dance by Phil Seyer, you may want to see his "LoveMusicLoveDance" home page and

Note: this article has several hypertext links to make it easier to explore more information about a key word or phrase. If you want to return to where you left off after clicking a link, just click the back button on your browser.

See also: hustle booksAll About Hustle

NOTE: Steve Rebello, the teacher featured in this article has created several instructional hustle videos (beginning, Intermediate and advanced. If you are interested in finding out more about these instructional videos, please contact Phil Seyer.

The Return of Hustle

"Ballroom dancing is becoming popular again," that's what I often tell my friends who don't seem to know what they are missing. But others reply , "Oh? I didn't know that it ever went out of style." That may be true of traditional ballroom dancing, but hustle is a different matter. For me it seemed to die very quickly in the early 1980's. But recently it's been resurrected--at least in certain dancing communities in my area!

Hustle at The Avenue. For example, in 1995 I held weekly Sunday night dance parties at the Avenue Ballroom in San Francisco; I often featured short introductory hustle dance lessons. After 15 years, the Avenue Ballroom is now closed, but hustle lives on!

Hustle Club. A group called "The Hustle Dance Club" has formed a years ago and has proclaimed itself the first such club in the Bay Area. This club features weekly hustle dance parties as well as special hustle workshops with discount prices to members.

A popular ballroom in San Francisco even featured a "Hustle Night" once a month. The evening included a beginner as well as intermediate hustle dance lesson followed by a dance party that also includes cha-cha, nightclub twostep, and swing.

Elegance Ballroom. At the Elegance Ballroom in San Francisco, until recently, you could find a group of (mostly) Chinese people eagerly learning to bump hips, twist, and do multiple underarm turns in a hustle routine designed to work well with music from Madonna's Immaculate Collection. That ballroom is now closed, but you can find many of them at the Allegro Ballroom in Emeryville

Hustling in a Stadium?

One of the most interesting places I've found to do hustle in the Bay Area is at the Cubberly Pavilion in Palo Alto. When you walk in you're not impressed--it looks like five huge basketball courts in one big stadium--complete with lines painted on the hardwood floor. But when the lights are turned down, and the colored lights come on and the music starts playing, its great! More than two hundred people attend every weekend and there are two and sometimes three classes going on simultaneously at beginning , intermediate and advanced levels.

Steve Rebello and Stephanie Au

Steve Rebello assisted by Stephanie Au have often taught intermediate and advanced hustle at the Pavilion.

The photo, here, shows Steve leading Stephanie at the Pavilion in an advanced step in which he swings her "around the world" in lay-back position. I interviewed Steve for Dancing USA magazine. Here's text of that article.

Seyer: Steve, I really enjoy your hustle classes. Hustle is becoming more and more and more popular in our area. To some people it seems like a new a dance, yet I learned it in the 1907's. What can you say about the history of hustle?

Rebello: It became popular about 1978 when the movie Saturday Night Fever came out. Around 1976 a song by Van McCoy called "The Hustle" was popular and a line dance was invented to go with the song. I don't think the hustle we know started then, but this is the first time I heard the name hustle applied to a dance.

Different Kinds of Hustle

In the 70's there were many kinds of hustle. The first hustle I learned then was called "New York Hustle, Latin Style" -- it had 6 counts and a kind of a cha-cha in it. Later I learned a 4 count style called "Rope Hustle" that was much easier and seemed to make more sense since it fit the music in four-four time.

Rebello: Yes, in 1978 a variety of Hustles were popular. I was teaching New York Hustle, Latin Hustle, American Hustle, and Tango Hustle!

Seyer: Today, in the Bay Area most people are doing just one style--a three count hustle. We used to call that style "New York Street Hustle."

Rebello: Yes, I've heard the 3-count hustle referred to as the Street Hustle. I've also heard it referred to as Hustle, LA. Style.

The 3-count hustle dominates the Bay Area so much that if I ask a lady to dance, I often have a lot of explaining to do if I try a style other than "New York Street Hustle." Why do you think that 3-count style is so popular, now?

Rebello: I think the 3 count version of hustle has caught on because of the speed at which it moves.

Seyer: That's right. You have to put 4 foot movements into 3 beats of music.

Rebello: Four count hustle has all the same patterns as 3-count hustle--with all of the same ladies turns and arm movements. It's slower so it's easier to learn and it fits music well since the music has 4 beats per measure. But 3-count hustle is flashier and more exciting.

Seyer: At first it drove me crazy to count 1-2-3 when I kept hearing the music going 1-2-3-4.! But a while, I began to enjoy the contra-metrical effect produced by 3 counts against 4 beats of music. It's reminds me of music by Charles Ives where half the orchestra is playing 3/4 time and the other half is playing in 4/4. time.

Rebello:: It's not so hard to do 3-count hustle if you don't think about it too much. But it's probably harder for musicians to adjust to the 3-count pattern.

Seyer: There are three counts, but I notice that you start dancing on the AND: of beat 3.

Rebello: Yes, I prefer starting that way. But many of the instructors in the LA. area have recently changed they way they start. Instead of starting with "AND 1-2-3," they start with 1- 2- AND 3..

They start from a one-hand position and then move into close dance position.

Seyer: A very good teacher I know in San Francisco (Gene Russo) likes to start with count ONE. But then he counts: "ONE., TWO AND THREE," not "ONE, TWO, THREE, AND ONE." I'm very sensitive to these counts since I'm a music educator as well as a dance teacher.

Rebello: I'm not familiar with that style of counting, but apparently several variations of the three-count hustle have evolved.

Steve's Early Years

Seyer: Yes, I find that I'm evolving my own hustle style that differs quite a bit from what a lot of people are doing. I learned hustle in 1978, but I just I started teaching it formerly last year. When did you start teaching, Steve?

Rebello: I started teaching dance in 1977, 16 months after I started dancing. I was assisting an instructor a a junior college semester class. I started dancing hustle in '78 or '79 and it has been one of my favorites every since. I think the only reason hustle was popular in the late '70's was because of the movie. Shortly after, the excitement died down. I noticed the interest level increasing in about '87 or '88. The attendance in my hustle classes started picking up and has been full ever since.

Ballroom Hustle?

Your style has been called "ballroom hustle." How do you respond to that?

I don't know where the term "Ballroom Hustle" started. The way I teach and dance hustle is like most people. The only different I've noticed is that some don't use a slot like I do.

Seyer: Well, you teach people definite steps and foot patterns for both the leader and the follower. Those that learned hustle on their own in nightclubs without lessons (street dancers) tend to make up their own steps and do a lot of "touch, step, hold" footwork while they concentrate on a lot of fancy arm work.

Rebello: Yes, that right, but it's mainly the leaders who are improvising their steps. The followers are pretty much doing standard "AND ONE, TWO, THREE" footwork.

Hustle Instructional Videos

In some parts of the country, people are not so lucky to have so many good hustle instructors. You have quite an extensive series of video instructional tapes on hustle covering beginning, intermediate, and advanced patterns. I was amazed at how easy it was for me to learn some new steps just by watching your videos. I like the way you break everything down and explain the steps in such great detail. What was it like making the tapes?

It's a lot different than teaching students in a class situation where you get feedback from students.! The camera just "stands there" with no reactions at all. Having to talk constantly on camera is a bit straining, but I think my partner Stephanie had the more difficult part, starting sand stopping the middle of turns on the balls of her feet, with her arms in the air.

Seyer: And she did just a great job. Where did you meet her?

Steve: Stephanie and I met dancing about a year and a half ago. She became my assistant in August of ''94 and my business partner in October of the same year.

Choreography Versus Leading and Following

Seyer: The steps you do with Stephanie seem quite leadable. In contrast, I took a hustle workshop recently from some teachers from New York. It seemed that many of the steps were not leadable, but choreographed: both partner's just had to memorize a rather long series of patterns. For example, in one pattern the leader just extends both hands out to his sides. The follower must know to "slap the leader's chest" and then push away and spin. Do you teach any choreographed patterns?

Rebello: I don't teach any unleadable choreographed moves. I field test all of the patterns that I develop before teaching them in class or putting them on my instructional video tapes. Granted, many are more difficult to lead than others. That's what I call "advanced level." The purpose of my videos and classes is to teach patterns and styling so the dancer can go out and lead and follow and just have fun with anyone at a similar level.

Staying Out of Trouble on the Dance Floor

Seyer: I glad you brought up the issue of skill level. I think that some of us leaders (me included) get in trouble on the dance floor because we don't take this into account. Recently I was trying to lead a follower who I thought was pretty good in one of your advanced moves--one where you lead the follower into a free turn and then catch her free arm and lead her to do an additional turn. Since most followers were dropping their free arms, I started reaching for a shoulders instead of a free arm. In one case, the follower was rather tall and was turning quickly --instead of the shoulder, I grabbed something soft! It was quiet embarrassing.

Rebello: You learned the hard way!

Seyer: Yes, but at least now I can help my students avoid the same mistake. Can you give me any tips on how to handle situations like this?

Rebello: You have to be careful in trying more advanced patterns with a follower you have never danced with. What I do is "test" the follower with much simpler moves, first. When I take dance position, I check to see if the follower has tone. If there is no tone, I know I have to keep it very simple. If she has tone, I'll start out with some basic patterns, release and close, turning basics. Then I'll try a follower's left inside turn. That tests her left turn footwork. If that works out well, I'll introduce some more advanced patterns. I won't jump into a real advanced pattern, but I'll kind of work my way up the ladder with her. I NEVER get on the floor with someone I am not familiar with and start leading advanced patterns. I always "test" the follower first.

Seyer: Wow! what a great suggestion. I think you've just saved scores of leaders and followers a lot of frustration and embarrassment! I'm sure this approach will work in another dances as well as hustle.

Steve, speaking of advanced patterns, you've got a lot of interesting ones that I've not seen elsewhere. How do you do it? Where do these patterns come from?

Rebello: Many of the patterns I got initially from other instructors. This was back in the late 70's and early 80's. Since then, beginning about 1983 I've been developing my own patterns. Some are variations on one I learned from others, some are totally original with me.

How Steve Develops New Steps and Patterns

Seyer: When you're working out a new pattern, how do you go about it? What's the process?

Rebello: I'll get on the floor with Stephanie and start going through arm movements first, sometimes movements that remind me of something I've done in another dance. I'll take a two hand position, a one hand position, a right over left position, a left over right position--everything imaginable. I'll just start going through different movements, just walking around the floor, not using footwork. If it seems like it would be fun to do, then I'll try putting in the footwork. Ninety-nine percent of the time I can figure out the footwork and it comes out leadable and it looks pretty good.

Seyer: Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your secrets. I'll bet this will inspire a lot of creativity on the dance floor!

Phil Seyer is a composer, computer programmer, author and dance teacher. His books include Choosing Success (John Wiley and Sons, 1978) and What Makes Music Work, a step by step guide to music theory for the adults who decide later in life they want to learn about music. (John Wiley and Sons, Seyer Associates, 1985, 1996)

You can call Phil at 916-772-7555.

Steve Rebello teaches in the San Francisco and South Bay Area. He has developed an extensive series of instructional video tapes on Hustle, West Coast Swing, and Nightclub Two Step. For more information, please contact us about his Hustle, West Coast Swing and Hustle vidoes.

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Hustle Dancing!

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