Dance the Hully Gully

Before the dance known as The Ska, there was The Hully Gully. It was a time of dances, Land of 1000 Dances, dances like the Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Pony, the Frug, the Jerk, and others. It was in this era that The Ska was created by Ronnie Nasralla, of which I have extensively written on this blog. But the Hully Gully got plenty of attention in Jamaica newspapers, including this article from the Star Newspaper, April 6, 1962.


The article reads: “Not since the gay Twenties of the Charleston have there been so many new dance steps. The twist is still raining supreme in popularity, but now somebody has come up with the new dance craze the Holly Gully, also known as the continental. Reason for the name nobody knows, but the dance is just zany. Like the twist, partners don’t touch each other, unlike the twist the Holly Gully requires group dancing and its followers say much much more coordination than the twist. A group of Hully Gullists as they are called form a line facing in the same direction and to the shouts of a caller goes through the movements – strange movements with equally strange names. They dance to such shouts as “Spank the Baby,” “Marilyn Monroe,” “Fidel Castro,” “Slop,” etc. etc. etc.
In the Marilyn Monroe the dancers really get into an imitation of the famed body shaker, complete with throwing the head back and twisting the hips. For the Fidel Castro dancers do an imitation of carrying a gun and plucking a chicken at the same time; don’t ask me why.
It makes for a lot of gyration, and those who like it say a lot of fun too.
Historians of the Hully Gully say it all started at a New York nightspot called Small’s Paradise; and the dance has been getting the place some priceless publicity. It has been the subject of a feature spread in the noted London publication, the Sunday Telegraph, and the television crew of the British Broadcasting Corporation filmed the dance for showing to audiences in Britain. Followers of the Hully Gully say that like the Twist the dance is not only catching on all over these United States but has gone abroad to the Caribbean and Europe. One good thing about the Hully Gully, they say, is that you can learn it in no time. It is danced to the usual rock ‘n roll music; and all you have to do is follow the leader. Hully Gullists predict that because the dance requires more discipline and skill than the Twist it will eventually appeal to the more sophisticated and that they predict will certainly get it on the road to surpassing the Twist. Twist fans on the other hand are saying the “Twist is here to stay.” But we’ll see! The dance originators seem to be thinking up new steps and new dances every day – or rather every night.”

The Star newspaper on November 9, 1961 ran a full-page spread on the Hully Gully in Jamaica, with Alphanso Castro, better known as Boysie, photographed doing the dance. He still dances today, of course, and can really cut a rug! Text from the article’s captions are below.


The Hully Gully, latest dance craze in Jamaica, is danced in a line – somewhat like the Madison. Jazz trumpeter Sonny Bradshaw, who runs JBC’s Teenage Dance Party, says that the Hully Gully originated in the U.S.A. but that Jamaicans have given their own names to the various steps of the dance as performed here. A caller is used for the dance steps of which are named Frank Sinatra, Madison, Yankee Doodle, Billy the Kid, Marilyn Monroe, Baseball, Skittles, and Freeze (end of dance.) Bradshaw says music for the Hully Gully is two-beat and that it is danced to slower blues numbers. Most of the steps are a sort of drag-shuffle. Illustrating positions of the dance on this page are five members of JBC’s Teenage Dance Party.


The Frank Sinatra: weight on right foot which is turned out; left foot forward, heel slightly touching the ground. Lennie puts his clenched right fist in front of the body and the left fist slightly to the left and forward above his head.


Castro, another member of teenage dance party, shows the position called the Marilyn Monroe: legs apart and toes turned out, left hand on hip and raised right arm parallel with the body and bent 45° at the elbow.


The dance ends with the Freeze, performed here by Pat and Trevor. Trevor’s position is almost the same as Castro’s in the Monroe movement.


Sandy, Pat and Lennie from left demonstrate the Yankee Doodle in which all the weight is thrown on the left foot as the hands are clapped under the upraised right leg.

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