The Melbourne Shuffle (also known as Rocking or simply The Shuffle) is a rave and club dance that originated in the late 1980s in the underground rave music scene in Melbourne, Australia.
The basic movements in the dance are a fast heel-and-toe action with a style suitable for various types of electronic music. Most variants also incorporate arm movements. People who dance the shuffle have often been referred to as “rockers”, due in part to the popularity of shuffling to rock music in the early 1990s.
The origins of the name “Melbourne Shuffle” are unknown. The term was first brought to the public attention by Sonic Animation‘s Rupert Keiller during a TV interview in Sydney. The Age referred to it as looking like “a cross between the chicken dance and a foot stomping robot” to the untrained eye, and also used the term in their paper, but locals simply called it “stomping”. At closer scrutiny, one could presume that its origins came on the onset of MC Hammer’s dance videos and later dance moves such as “The Dougie”.
In the early ’90s, the Melbourne Shuffle began to emerge as a distinct dance, incorporating more hand movement than its predecessor, Stomping. The music genres originally danced to were Hardstyle, House music, and Acid house. As Trance music developed, so did the dance, with more accent laid on glide movements.
Where the Melbourne Shuffle was originally danced, the places were not considered to be named ‘raves’, but rather ‘dance parties’.
A number of videos about the dance from this era exist as it increased in popularity. Many variations of this dance developed, but the main heel-to-toe movement remained the key motion, giving it the name “the Melbourne Shuffle”. Notably arm-movements are much more prevalent than in later renditions of the dance.
In 2004 a documentary titled Melbourne Shuffler began filming in Melbourne clubs, raves, festivals and outdoor events, before being released on DVD in 2005. By 2005, the Melbourne Shuffle had helped to change the sound of hardstyle and hard trance music, with DJs and producers aiming at a constant 140-160bpm speed. By 2006, early hardstyle was largely replaced by nustyle and epic trance -influenced hard trance music at popular shuffling clubs and raves. Nustyle and the newer form of hard trance focused on swung euphoric orchestral-like trance melodies that would suddenly drop (such as by a house exciter) into a constant kick drum that was of preferable speed for shuffling to by the rockers. In 2006 with the rising popularity of YouTube, dancers internationally now contribute to the Shuffle online, posting their own variations and learning from others. As more people have practiced the dance, the dance itself has changed from the majority of hand movements over feet movements, to present day, where it is mostly based on keeping in time with bass beats.
In mid-2009 the popularity of the Melbourne Shuffle on YouTube began to calm, but not die, bringing on a new age of shufflers. The dance began to revert to what some people call “Oldschool”. This reversion of shuffling consisted mostly of wide variations of the “T-Step” and minimal running man, and is accented by glides and spins. Although this may be referred to as “Oldschool” this new age of style is still very different from the way rockers in the ’90s danced. Many of the new wave of rockers perform in cypher. Some of the younger people of this new wave are referred to as teeny boppers (or ‘TB(s)’ for short). TBs are also generally described as being young people that are not old enough to attend raves, so they dance at school, in a street or in a park instead. Individuals who participate in those aspects of the dance argue that enough of the current Shuffle scene is influenced by Hip Hop (such as the now widespread inclusion of the ‘Running Man’) that these activities are justified.
Near the end of 2012, separately from the (YouTube) movement that evolved from 2006 and onward, a style of shuffling relatable to the earlier styles surfaced in London. This style has been referred to as “Cutting shapes” or “Shape cutting”, “Konijnendans” in the Netherlands and also sometimes as “House shuffling”. Throughout the following years it has gained popularity in the United Kingdom, the United States and as the term mentioned earlier suggests, the Netherlands. The United States era of shuffling slowly came to an end.
Originally consisting of the “T-Step” combined with arm movements, during the 1990s the “Running Man” has been adopted into the dance, accentuating the new focus of keeping time with the beat. The “Running man” involves a 2-step motion in which the front foot is brought backwards with two hops while the back foot is brought forwards in a walking motion, creating a “running on the spot” motion, hence the name. The “T-Step” is a fast sideways heel-toe motion on one foot twisting at the ankle. The dance is embellished by spins, arm pumps, slides, and kicks. Modern implementations of the dance include motions from other dances such as Crip Walk, Toprock and Jumpstyle, which have brought the less-adaptive t-step to the background. Some dancers even omit the t-step completely.
Some dancers sprinkle talcum powder or apply liquid to the floor beneath their feet to help them glide more easily, some including 360 degree spins or jumps into their moves. Others apply smooth plastic tape or duct tape to the soles of their shoes.
Although Hardstyle and Hard Trance has been a dominant genre to dance on within the Melbourne Shuffle for many years, referring to the dance with “hardstyle” is incorrect. “Hardstyle” is an umbrella term for many different rave dances globally, as well as a genre of electronic music. Hardstyle is a rave dance, while most other styles were typically performed in clubs and dance parties.
With the spread of the Melbourne Shuffle through YouTube, dancing styles have evolved from each other to a point in which people refer to styles with an abbreviation coming from the area in which the style came from, such as “AUS”/”Melb” (Australia/Melbourne), “MAS”/”Malay” (Malaysia) or “Cali” (California). These distinctions cause a lot of confusion for newcomers and those who are unfamiliar with the dance.
The Melbourne Shuffle dance style has remained relatively underground since its birth in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The term “Melbourne Shuffle” was recorded in the media when Sonic Animation‘s Rupert Keiller was interviewed by Rage, an all-night Australian music TV show. The interviewer asked Rupert what his unique style of dance was and the reply was “the Melbourne Shuffle”. In December 2002 The Age, an Australian newspaper, made mention of the term in a front page article, attempting to illustrate what the popular Melbourne Shuffle was for the first time to the mainstream public.
Shufflers have taken their art form and self-expressive dance style overseas and are a regular sight to be seen at rave parties in the UK, Germany, Malaysia and also Thailand, where shufflers can be seen shuffling on the beaches of Koh Phangan during the Full Moon Beach Party. The internet has also been a factor in spreading knowledge and interest in the shuffle.
A documentary on the topic entitled Melbourne Shuffler was in production during 2004–2005 and was released in late 2005 on DVD. Another huge contributor to the fame and popularity of the Melbourne Shuffle is YouTube. Every shuffler and shuffle crew found themselves able to support the Melbourne Shuffle and show off their own style and moves; these videos captured everyone’s attention.
On 6 September 2008, Network 10 had started filming footage at the Hard Style Dance (HSD). Nightclub for an upcoming Documentary on the Melbourne Shuffle, although no other news has surfaced after the filming of the footage.
In November 2008, “So You Think You Can Shuffle”, an Australian YouTube-based video voting competition website was launched, where Shufflers from around the country can showcase their dance skills, comment, and vote on other videos. Starting in 2009 “So You Think You Can Shuffle” also started hosting official shuffle meet-ups and competitions around Australia and Germany.
In December 2008, The Daily Mercury, a Queensland publication, reported on a story about the Melbourne Shuffle’s presence in Mackay. It cited the city’s high YouTube exposure when compared to other major cities in Queensland. 
In August 2009, the German band Scooter featured the shuffle performed by We Dance Hard veterans Missaghi “Pae” Peyman & Sarah Miatt in the video for the single J’adore Hardcore, which was partly filmed in Melbourne.
The hip hop group LMFAO featured several electro house dancers, including members of Quest Crew, performing the shuffle in their “Party Rock Anthem” music video. LMFAO also organized an online shuffle contest for their video, the winner (Andrew Furr) appeared in their Party Rock Anthem video as The Shuffle Bot. LMFAO are seen doing the Shuffle in the music videos for their singles Champagne Showers, Sexy and I Know It, Sorry for Party Rocking.
- “Melbourne shuffle”. onlymelbourne.com.au. Ripefruit Media Co. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
- The Age, front page, 7 December 2002 – full article, “Dance Trance”
- Mel-ben shuffle 92-94, Every picture tells a story – 1992-94, Ra/Natural One – 1994, Hardware 5 – 1994, Melbourne Shuffle oldskool conversations
- Melbourne Shuffler, documentary
- YouTube Melbourne Shuffle channel
- “Shuffling: the War at the Heart of London’s New Dance Scene”. vice.com/en_uk. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- “Zelfs Amerika is de konijnendans niet ontgaan”. vice.com/nl. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- “Release Yourself: How “Cutting Shapes” Took Over The UK’s House Music Scene”. uk.complex.com/nl. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- About rage television show
- “Mr. Six Six Flags Ad”. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- Hard Style Dance Nightclub
- So You Think You Can Shuffle Competition, website
- http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=1657814 Viktor’s /dance
- http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Emote#Trivia Human /dance
- Shufflin.net Lesser known forum, previously hosted at the domain shufflin.net.
- Inthemix.com.au article A Brief History of the Melbourne Shuffle.
- Melbourne Shuffle Oldskool Weblog documenting the dance history.