If you ain't moving the hips, then it just ain't happening!
Kitten With a Whip | The Hellmouth | 10/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I never get tired of watching this great documentary on "The Twist" dance craze in the early 60's. The film covers the years leading up to it, the height of the craze, and the years afterwards, finishing up with how the twist evolved into go-go "freestyle" dancing. The movie is broken up into eight different "Lessons", and contains documentary and newsreel footage in between interviews with singers such as (among others) Dee Dee Sharp, Cholly Atkins, Hank Ballard, and of course, Chubby Checker. They also interview some dancers from American Bandstand, and one of the go-go dancing waitresses at the Peppermint Lounge, who says they had the fringe on their skirts "clocked at 130 mph" when someone timed it once (how exactly they measured this, I don't know, but in the footage you see, it doesn't look too far off the mark).I just can't put into words how much fun this movie is. If you love to dance, you'll understand and maybe get a little emotional like I did in parts. You can hear the passion in most of the dancer's voices when they talk about how dancing made them feel and/or how it changed their lives. Even without the narration, some of the footage speaks for itself- watch the faces of some of the couples doing the jitterbug and swing-dancing early in the film. I don't think I've ever seen bigger smiles on anyone in my life- they look like they're having so much fun they would have to look down to see cloud 9.This movie is not only a great documentary, but educational. I learned the names of some of my favorite go-go dances (I had the The Frug confused with The Watutsi...well, those are harder ones to figure out than say, The Monkey, so sue me), and the week after I first bought this movie for my home collection and watched it a couple times, I won a dance contest using-or maybe "stealing" is a better word, to be honest- some of the moves from "Twist!". If you want to learn just a couple of basic dance moves (and don't mind them being what some people might think of as 'dated' ones), this is a great movie to watch. Pretty much anyone can do the Twist, as they show you- if you're really having trouble, just imagine you're smashing out a cigarette stub into the floor with your foot.Whatever you do, don't turn this movie off after the credits start! When we saw it at a film festival, we left early and missed a group they show during the credits that called themselves "The World's Greatest Twisters", 3 men and 2 women that they interviewed earlier in the film. They named themselves that because they would go to every twist contest they could find and win every time- the women look they could have been Ikettes. When I first saw it, I thought the men were the same, but that they'd replaced the females with younger women from the way they were moving. Then I looked closer and realized that it was the same two women- they were probably at least in their early 50's, but watch them go- they can dance better and move faster than most women in their 20's! (partly because they've had much more time to work on it, I guess). Plus, they look like they can still wear their original dance outfits. Prepare to see them out-dance almost everyone in the movie put together. If you loved "Hairspray", (and not just because you're a John Waters fan), loved dancing at any point in your life, or the music of the time period (especially if you're a fan of any of the artists interviewed), this movie is worth hunting down and owning. Just warm up first if you attempt to copy any of the dance moves in the last 15 minutes of the movie!"
Do the Elephant!!!
Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 02/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like Ron Mann's other films ("Grass", "Comic Book Confidential", etc), "Twist" is full of much more fun, colour, movement and wit than the average documentary, and provides an equally entertaining and educational look at 20th century pop history. And, as in his other documentaries, he looks at the broader background and sociological implications behind the main subject matter.One of the more interesting historical aspects explored in this film is the politics and social engineering behind the '50's dance crazes. The twist itself grew out of the more blatantly sexual, bump and grind dances popular in black music halls. Knowing that it was impossible to wipe out their children's interests in black culture (let's face it, African Americans not only invented rock and roll, but put out far superior music to the watered-down white artists who were more radio-friendly), white adults decided to instead try to replace the dances their children were imitating with something "safer" and more "wholesome" by doing for dance what Pat Boone and company did for rock. Funny clips are shown of whites demonstrating the "proper" technique for twisting with absolutely no hip movement! But they only partially succeeded.The Twist is not the only dance examined. Mann shows how it evolved from other dances, and how others later tried to cash in on its success by releasing songs with built-in new dances. Witness such Macarenas of the past as the hilarious The Elephant where kids use their arms to imitate an elephant's trunk! (Unfortunately, Mann does not include footage of the Neil Sadaka non-craze, The Jellyfish!!)All the people most instrumental in creating the dance craze who were alive at the time of filming are interviewed, many of them demonstrating their own twist (pun intended) on the dance. And the music and dancing is absolutely exhilarating.Sadly, Lulu's (former home of the world's largest stage) in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada where the interviews and new dance sequences were filmed has long since closed down, so this film is also a good nostalgia trip for those who miss the legendary club."
Carolyn | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Twist" is a documentary about the dance craze of the sixties which also includes the dances that led up to the "twist" and those that followed. It really brought me back to the days of doing the "swim", "monkey", "mashed potato", "watusi", in addition to the main attraction - the "twist". The interviews and film clips were very entertaining and down right FUN!"