How The 'Nutbush' Became A Uniquely Australian Cultural Phenomenon

23 May 2024 | 3:18 pm | Mary Varvaris

"Whoever designed the Nutbush succeeded beyond any success they could have hoped for."

Tina Turner

Tina Turner (Source: Supplied)

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Isn’t it strange that the Ike & Tina Turner hit, Nutbush City Limits, resonates in Australia like nowhere else in the world?

Tina Turner never showed off the iconic dance and never made a recorded comment about it. Unique to Australian culture, the Nutbush dance is one we’re taught in school, show off at parties and weddings, and set a new world record for the number of people dancing to it at the same time.

Professor Jon Stratton at the University of South Australia and Professor Panizza Allmark at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia have been investigating the origins of the dance and how it became the country’s most fascinating (and fun) cultural phenomenon.

According to the researchers, the dance to Nutbush City Limits likely originated in the halls of a New South Wales school in 1975.

Stratton, a cultural studies scholar, said in a statement, “We believe the Nutbush was developed and distributed to teacher training institutions to be used as a teaching aid in creative arts classes and physical education.”

Stratton added that the type of dance associated with Nutbush City Limits—line dancing—is popular in classrooms because the teacher can lead the students. The Nutbush dance “must have been to provide students with an enjoyable way of exercising and learning coordination,” Stratton said.

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The Professor added, “Whoever designed the Nutbush succeeded beyond any success they could have hoped for. What makes it special is that it’s moved out of schools to become the dance of choice at many Australian social events.”

Nearly two years after Nutbush City Limits was released, Australians took to the anthem, transporting the song to #27 on the Singles Chart in March 1975, and remained in the Top 100 for 15 weeks.

“The last time Nutbush City Limits appeared in the Australian charts was when Tina Turner died at the age of 83 on 24 May 2023,” Stratton said. “The Nutbush is likely to remain an experience that Australians resonate with for some time.”

The Birdsville Big Red Bash doesn’t go ahead without a remarkable tribute to Tina Turner.

Last year, punters at the Big Red Bash delivered a (Simply) The Best tribute for the Queen of Rock and Roll, with 5,838 dancers showing off their best moves.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the 1973 soul classic, the spectacular dance-off took place below the Simpson Desert’s legendary 40-metre-high Big Red dune – the largest of its kind in the world.

The 2022 festival raised over $60,000 for its charity partner, The Royal Flying Doctor Service, but like the increased number of boot scooters, the 2023 Big Red Bash raised a whopping $87,570.