The “Electric Slide,” a line dance widely known in the Black community, was popularized after Marcia Griffith’s 1989 remix to the song, “Electric Boogie,” and its corresponding video showcasing the well-known and easy-to-follow moves (Screenshot).

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

It’s a Black family gathering: the music is blasting, the beat drops and one auntie gets up and begins a grapevine movement, then another joins in and suddenly everyone is “on a party ride,” doing the “Electric Slide.”  

The Electric Slide is one of those dances that if you’re Black, “You gotta know it. It’s electric! Boogie Woogie Woogie.” However for African Americans, it’s more than just having to know the catchy line dance. It is, as the lyrics explain, a “mystic” experience that is truly unifying. 

The song alone is electric. When Neville “Bunny Wailer” Livingston wrote the “Electric Boogie,” for his longtime friend Marcia Griffiths to sing in 1976, the song proved to be the perfect tune to pair with choreography- so much so that a White choreographer, Richard Silver, created a 22-step dance to go along with it the same year. However the song went through a couple iterations before the tune had everyone on their feet.  

By 1983, the “Electric Boogie,” gained some traction, but it was the 1989 remix that truly had the masses dancing. In fact, this reporter’s parents were married in 1989, and one of the most enjoyable parts of their wedding reception video is watching everyone “groove, groove, groove,” doing the “Electric Slide.”

However the “Electric Slide,” that everyone knows is not what Silver intended. The widely accepted “Electric Slide,” has 18 steps versus Silver’s original 22. The last move was supposed to be repeated, but people forgot about it, much to Silver’s disdain. The 22 steps was a signature Silver added as an homage to his birthday, Jan. 22, and he actually threatened to sue for the widespread wrong choreography posted in videos, as he had copywritten the dance moves. As irony would have it though, Silver was actually sued for attempting to block the videographer’s free speech.

Despite Silver’s frustration the “Electric Slide,” was named the top dance in the world by Linedance Magazine for 10 years straight.

Now let’s be clear, Black people can “Electric Slide,” to more than the “Electric Boogie.” One of the agreed upon songs to bust out the “Electric Slide,” is “Before I Let Go,” by Frankie Beverly and Maze. Senior Writer for The Root, Michael Harriot recently tweeted,” Before I Let Go,” is a negro spiritual,” and one Twitter user replied, “Where or are gathered, the electric slide shall commence at the sound of this song.”

But let’s get real, Black people can “Electric Slide,” to anything with a bopping beat. 

In the 1999 Black film classic, The Best Man, the entire room begins doing the “Electric Slide,” to “Candy” by Cameo. In the film version of Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Madea gets the party started with an “Electric Slide,” to Brick’s disco hit, “Dazz” (2005).  

And the “Electric Slide,” is not reserved for family functions. This reporter has seen groups at events such as the Congressional Black Caucus and fancy galas, where the “mystic,” electricity brings a group of Black people who have never met to the dance floor.  It’s customary at the end of a long night at the club, when the lights come on, for people to begin the “Electric Slide,” for the let out songs- and it truly only takes one person to begin the choreography before the entire room joins in.

The beautiful thing about the “Electric Slide,” is its intergenerational appeal. It’s simple, it’s smooth, and it’s electric. Young children to great grandparents will bust out into an “Electric Slide,” canes and all.  

“Don’t eliminate the ‘Electric Slide’ from family events. There’s something good about seeing our elders get up and all dance together,” one social media user wrote.

Throughout the past three decades, there have been other line dances that have gained popularity in Black America, including “The Booty Call,” “Cha Cha Slide,” and “Cupid Shuffle.” Nonetheless, the “Electric Slide,” has remained a staple and continues to be the unifying factor to get Black folks on the dance floor.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor