Monday, July 14, 2008

Dancing In KL In The 1970s - Part 2

In my post of 30 June 2008, I had reminisced about the disco scene in Kuala Lumpur in the 1970s. Looking back, we really had a lot of good discos during those halcyon days. Many of these places had sophisticated sound & lighting systems and were great joints for meeting up with friends. Disco hopping and applying for disco club memberships was quite a favourite pastime for the well-heeled. What were the popular dances back then?

The Hustle was an extremely popular disco dance during that era and was made popular by Van McCoy in their hit song The Hustle. The Hustle was the generic name for several variations of disco dances which were popular back then. In this dance, the partners had to hold each other loosely and move to beautifully choreographed dance steps. Today it mostly refers to a unique partner dance in ballrooms and nightclubs in the USA.

Then there was The Bump which was another popular dance fad. In this dance the partners had to lightly bump their hips against each other's while dancing to the music. As the passion became hotter, the moves would become more intimate. The bumping would increase in intensity with the partners bumping hip to derriere, derriere to derriere, gyrating their hips, etc. The song Lady Bump by Penny McLean in the mid-'70s boosted the popularity of this dance. Our very own cartoonist Lat, even drew a rib tickling cartoon about this dance craze.

One of the craziest dance then or ever was the Funky Chicken where the dancers had to mimic the actions of a chicken. One of the moves was known as the chicken wings in which the dancers imitated the flapping of wings by moving their elbows up and down. In the chicken legs, the dancers had to kick their feet out and back. Another zany move was the crazy chicken where the dancers had to scratch the floor with their feet while making clucking noises.It was hilarious watching dancers do the Funky Chicken.

The release of the blockbuster movie Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta in 1977 gave a fillip to the disco dancing mania. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack featuring songs by The Bee Gees became the best selling soundtrack ever. This movie also started a vogue for the so-called "John Travolta shoes"; which were slim, high-heeled (up to 3 inches) shoes with pointed toes. These shoes were murder on the feet but were considered (together with tight fitting shirts and bell bottom trousers) de rigueur at the discos!

Crowds packed the discos and it was at about this time that the discos started to engage disc jockeys or deejays to spin records. Some of the deejays became entertainers in their own right with their wild antics and gift-of-the-gab. Live bands became less popular and the bands had to look for other joints to play, like in the lounges and pubs. Some eventually disbanded with the members going their own ways or playing solo gigs in pubs, coffee houses or other places.

The discos were to continue pulling in the crowds for a good many more years to come. In the '80s, a new form of entertainment was to take the world by storm - the karaoke. By the late '80s, interest in the discos had started to wane. Faced with dwindling crowds and growing competition from karaoke or KTV lounges, the discos started to close down or were converted into lounges or for other uses.

For many of us "old timers", the good old days of disco partying in the '70s will always be remembered with fondness and nostalgia. The '70s were great times. There was a sense of joie de vivre. The feel-good factor was there and it felt really good while it lasted. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Thanks for the memories, KL!

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