The Hitch-Hiker is line dance from the mid-1960s in which the dancers pantomime the plight of a hitch-hiker. It includes the classic hitch-hike dance movement with the thumb repeatedly pointing back over the shoulder (often considered a dance in its own right), but the version described here is a specific sequence in the form of a four-wall line dance.
This version was described in Marie Cartmell's Dances for Mods and Rockers in 1964.
Cartmell notes that that "there are various routines that can be used in the Hitch-Hiker, so you make up your own little picture story and dance it accordingly."
Her suggested story goes as follows:
Extend right arm straight out in front, palm down (2 beats).
Extend left arm straight out in front, palm down (2 beats).
You're Asking for Help
Turn right palm up (2 beats).
Turn left palm up (2 beats).
You're Cold and Tired
Place right hand on left shoulder (2 beats).
Place left hand on right shoulder, left arm crossing over right arm (2 beats).
You're Experiencing Sudden Hunger Pains
Place right hand on front (or outside) of left thigh (2 beats).
Place left hand on front (or outside) of right thigh, left arm crossing over right arm (2 beats).
Your Back is Aching
Place right hand on back of right hip (2 beats).
Place left hand on back of left hip (2 beats).
You Need a Ride
Make a thumbs-up sign with right hand and point it back over your right shoulder twice (4 beats).
Make a thumbs-up sign with left hand and point it back over your left shoulder twice (4 beats).
Point right hand thumbs-up sign back over your right shoulder twice again (4 beats).
No Luck There, So Try Asking Someone Else
Point left hand thumbs-up sign back over your left shoulder twice again, then on the last beat, jump to turn 1/4 to the right and clap (4 beats).
Repeat from the beginning, or groove in place for a few counts before starting again.
The feet and knees are kept close together throughout, swiveling the hips and knees from side to side in time with the music.
Alternatively, Cartmell notes that the hand actions can be used "during a sit down session as in the old hand jive." In that case, there's no jump and turn at the end.
If this dance seems familiar, it's because it is almost identical to the 1990s Macarena: simply take out the hitch-hiking at the end, touch the back of your head after you touch your shoulders, add some Latin hips, and there you have it.
Coincidentally, Los del Rio, the group who sings the original version of the Macarena and claims to have invented the dance one night at a concert, started performing in 1962, the same year as the Hitch Hike song came out, so it's possible (some might even go so far as to say likely) that they were exposed to some version of the Hitch-Hiker as a line dance in the 60s and revived it three decades later, either consciously or unconsciously, to fit their hit song.
The 1960s version of the dance is set to "Hitch Hike" (1962) by Marvin Gaye.
© 2020 Nick Enge
For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.
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