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Jeff Spencer Modernist Wire Sculpture 15

Peppermint Twist

The Twist's original inspiration came from the African American plantation dance called "wringin' and twistin," which has been traced back to the 1890s. However, its original aesthetic origins, such as the use of pelvic movement and the shuffling foot movement, can be traced all the way back to West Africa. Throughout the 20th Century, the dance evolved until emerging to a mass audience in the 1960s.

The use of the name "twist" for dancing goes back to the nineteenth century. According to Marshall and Jean Stearns in their book, Jazz Dance, a type of gyrating pelvic dance motion called "the twist" came to America from the Congo during the time of slavery. One of the hit songs of minstrelsy was banjo player Dan Emmett's "Grape Vine Twist". The Twist was popularized by Chubby Checker on the Dick Clark tv show American Bandstand, August 6, 1960.

In 1961, at the height of the craze, patrons at New York's Peppermint Lounge on West 45th Street, across the street from Jeff Spencer's "American Jazz Modern Dance Studio", were twisting to the music of the lounge's houseband, Joey Dee and the Starliters. Their song, "The Peppermint Twist" rode on the charts in the number one slot for several weeks. Spencer often went to the Peppermint Lounge to dance the twist with the Starliters after his studio dance and choreography classes. His radio show, Starlite Lounge, in the 1990s with fellow DJ radio broadcaster Jimmi Accardi was named after their musician friends of the 1960s.

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