Fad dances are dances which are characterized by a short burst of popularity. They also called "dance crazes". During the 1960s and 1970s new dances appeared almost every week, often choreographed to popular songs ("Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp, "Freddy (Freddie)", the "Twist"). Their steps were often printed in dance magazines. Dance crazes have continued into the 1980s with "YMCA", and the 1990s with "Macarena". Contemporary sources for dance crazes include music videos and movies. There are fad dances which are meant to be danced individually (solo), others are partner dances, and yet others are danced in groups. Some of them were of freestyle type, i.e., there were no particular step patterns and they were distinguished by the style of the dance movement (Twist, Shake, Swim, Pony, Hitchhike). Only some of them survived until now, sometimes only as the name of a step (Suzie Q, Shimmy) or of a style (Mashed Potato) in a recognized dance. Fad dances are in fashion at the time of their popularity. They are associated with a specific time period, and evoke a nostalgia when danced nowadays.

Novelty dances are characterized by humour, as well as a sense of newness or uniqueness missing in other dances. They might include quirky and unusual steps, or have an unusual name. Novelty dances may also have been fad dances which have remained popular over a longer period. It is not necessary that they ever were fashionably popular. These are also referred to as "party" or "dance party" dances. Novelty dances that have remained popular no longer are associated with a specific time period-- they are timeless. Novelty dances are meant to be funny, and to evoke general mirth verging on silliness in participants.

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