3.6 On Slotted Hustle

At the local Hustle dance, I was able to measure slot lengths in the range of about 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) depending on the height and energy of the dancers. A typical slot was about 1.3 meters (4 feet) in length. The music was averaging 120 bpm or even a little faster at times.

To slot or not to slot... that is the question; Depending on what part of the country you're from and how crowded the floor is, Hustle can be danced strictly slotted (a la WCS), in a rotating slot, or as a traveling dance. A lot of Hustle figures work out well when danced in a triangle, e.g. 120 degree turn at each end of the slot instead of 180 degrees. For traveling, I used alternating forward and back grapevines and free spins with an overturned basic exit.

Maria Torres, one of the founding members of Hustle USA, a national Hustle organization, says: Regarding circle vs. slotted: "It all depends on how the guy leads it (and how crowded the floor is)."

Some of the verbal history I've heard regarding the origins of Hustle describes it as a rotating or rotating slot dance. IMHO, what happened is that teachers re-codified it as a slot dance because it was easier to teach that way. A strict slot allows you to pack a bigger class onto the floor and helps keep beginners from underturning the patterns. Hustle HAS evolved a lot since the disco era; for one thing, it's now mostly done to slower music (e.g. "Vogue" vs. "Turn The Beat Around") which makes it easier to "close the slot".

All the beginning and intermediate Hustle patterns I've ever seen are taught to begin and end with the slot in the same orientation. Most newcomers, especially those who come to Hustle from ECS, let this fall apart a little bit, especially on faster music. That doesn't make it right. The way Michael Kiehm teaches it, the slot doesn't "rotate", in the sense that if we start out in a north-south slot, that's the way we stay. Folks who allow the slot to "rotate" are viewed as being sloppy. Perhaps Michael teaches a stationary slot because it's the most appropriate on today's crowded dance floors. Then again, perhaps it's because he's a precisionist (which I think he his) and he thinks that's the way the dance should be done.

I learned Hustle as a slot dance. But after watching several old-time Hustle dancers and several top level pros dance it as a rotating slot, I experimented with a rotating slot and found I preferred it to a strict slot for many patterns. A rotating slot (my definition: lady travels in a straight line from one end of a slot to another, but doesn't turn an exact 180 degrees for the next slot.) allows you to dance geometric figures like triangles and squares. It also allow you to travel by zig-zagging the slot across the floor. Richard Orosco (an old-time Hustle dancer and a former Latin Amateur champion of some sort) said that Hustle used to be circular, but that nowadays it's been modified into a slot dance. The woman moves in a slot. The guy, of necessity, make more of an ellipse.

Given the floor space, most Hustle uses as much real estate available, and the slot rotates. I paid particular attention to the dancers doing the Hustle last night at the Press Box. I watched as Lance Shermoen, Wayne Bott, Michellle French, and others used almost every square inch of floor, with slots varying all over the compass. What's really interesting to me is the way Michael Kiehm and his former partner, Lynn Vogen, used to do the same thing. Perhaps Michael teaches a stationary slot because it's the most appropriate on today's crowded dance floors. If they do it because they're deliberately trying to use up floor, or as part of patterns that are designed to rotate the slot, that's one thing. If they're doing it because, e.g., they just aren't bothering to get all the way around on a turning closed basic, that's sloppy, and I don't care *who* they are. Of course, if there is very little room on the floor, a strict slot is sometimes the safe thing to do.


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This file is part of the lead/follow FAQ list. These are articles compiled from the newsgroup rec.arts.dance by Mark Balzer. Html-isation by Victor Eijkhout, victor at eijkhout dot net. See also the Rec Arts Dance FAQ list Copyright 1996/7/8/9 lies with the compiler, the maintainer and the contributors of various parts.

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