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Doing the Nutbush: One country’s strange love affair with Tina Turner

One of Tina Turner’s early songs has found a place in Australian culture.

Many in the United States remember learning Nutbush City Limits as a child, the song that she sang with her husband and collaborator Ike, in 1973.

The song describes life in a small US town called Tennessee. Although it is a long way from Australia, this dance has become an essential part of weddings and other parties.

This is strange for a variety of reasons.


Turner never performed the Australian-favorite dance when he sang the song. The song was not even all that popular, reaching number 14 in the 1970s before falling to 16 in 1991 when it was rereleased.

It is believed that the dance grew out of a program that combined creative arts with physical education at primary schools in New South Wales and Queensland.

Some say that it never formed part of Australia’s curriculum and was spread by teachers who copied what they saw in other schools.

Ents & Arts: More to Come

Kay Armstrong, an interdisciplinary artist from England who moved to Western Australia in the late 1970s, first encountered the Nutbush when she was a student at a Western Australian primary school.

Read More:

Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey and others pay tribute to Tina Turner

The triumph and trauma of a music icon

Tina Turner: Simply the best in pictures

In 2018, she told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We learned the Nutbush at primary school and high school. I’ve done it probably at every wedding since.”

Nutbush enthusiasts from across the country have broken world records by performing the dance in large numbers.

The previous record of 4,084 dancers was broken at the Birdsville Big Red Bash, Queensland.

Another 3,700 people attended the Mundi Mundi bash in Broken Hill (New South Wales) a month later, but they failed to break the record.


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