The Double H Club in El Segundo has a night dedicated to the iconic dance. But instead of being an ode to the 1970s disco era, the dance has been updated.
There’s no fog machine, no platform shoes and little polyester in sight. There’s not even a disco ball. And yet, every Wednesday night, the Double H Club at the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo, near LAX, morphs into a den of that iconic dance from the 1970s, the hustle.
Immortalized in the 1975 Van McCoy song “The Hustle,” the dance may conjure images of “Saturday Night Fever”-style line dancing set to disco tunes. But at the Double H Club, which has been hosting a dedicated hustle night on Wednesdays for more than 10 years, the hustle is more “Gaga” than “Bee Gee.”
Since the ’70s, the hustle has evolved into a refined partner dance that’s a close cousin to social dances like West Coast swing and salsa, and the music has changed with the times. Hustle’s steady pulse lends itself to everything from ’80s Madonna and Michael Jackson to ’90s house music to Lady Gaga’s latest release.
“I call it happy music,” says Double H Club regular Linda Schaefer, a flight attendant and self-described disco queen from Tarzana who has been dancing the hustle since its beginnings. “I can be in all different moods, but I start listening to the hustle music, and it just makes me happy.”
Debra Hampton, who has been teaching hustle lessons at the Double H for nearly a decade, agrees. “It’s the music that brings you in,” she says. She got her start in Manhattan disco clubs in the early ’70s and brings a New York-style flair to her classes — her students affectionately call her the “Hustle Diva.”
On nights when Hampton is away, lessons are taught by the reigning New York Latin hustle champions, Raul Santiago and Yesenia Serratos. Though many of the Double H’s loyal hustle patrons are mature dancers reliving their disco days, Santiago and Serratos hope to introduce the dance to a new generation.
Serratos believes the hustle is ripe for a resurgence among young people. “Once they start dancing it, that’s it,” she says. “They love it!”
The pair’s enthusiasm rubs off on dancers like Anthony Marino, 29, of San Pedro, who added the hustle to his repertoire after learning salsa. “If you think about” the hustle, he says, “it’s kind of cheesy, like the ’70s. But when you see people do it, it’s this really good fusion of salsa and ballroom dancing.”
The hustle, which has roots in Latin movement, now bleeds into Latin dance Friday nights at the Double H. Santiago teaches an intermediate hustle lesson sandwiched between lessons in salsa, cha-cha and bachata.
Friday nights attract women in their best dresses and high heels, but the dedicated Wednesday hustle nights are low-key. Gone are the gold lamé pantsuits and outrageous platforms from the disco era. Men and women turn up in jeans or black pants and sensible dance sneakers.
The attitude of the hustle, however, remains intact. Resident DJ Cesar Ricuarte describes it as “sensual, showy, sexy…. I’m-hot-and-you’re-not type of thing.”
But gentlemen, beware: It’s not cool to show up the ladies. As the Hustle Diva herself puts it, “It’s always the ladies shining.”