Danc­ing on their own

Sam Wolf­son on wacky pop cul­ture danc­ing

The Guardian - The Guide - - Contents -

Cel­e­brat­ing the most awks dancers out there, from Drake to Lorde.

Wuther­ing Heights Kate Bush

Like Ni­co­las Cage’s act­ing or Tracy Emin’s bed­sheets, there re­mains no con­sen­sus as to whether this rou­tine, first per­formed 40 years ago, is ge­nius or hammy. If you know it was the ground­break­ing start­ing gun to Bush’s ca­reer you’ll say it’s a spec­tac­u­lar meet­ing of dance, lit­er­a­ture and pop never seen be­fore or since. But show it to a clue­less Gen-Zer and they’ll tell you it’s Noel Field­ing do­ing a “trapped in a box” bit.

Danc­ing baby Ally McBeal

This 3D an­i­ma­tion of a baby in a nappy, wav­ing its arms and shak­ing its hips like it was last on the dance­floor in a re­gional branch of Tiger Tiger, was one of the first ever in­ter­net memes. It had such longevity be­cause the guy who cre­ated it al­lowed it to be re­pro­duced roy­alty-free, mean­ing it quickly showed up in ad­verts, news out­lets and, even­tu­ally, on TV, as a hal­lu­ci­na­tion re­mind­ing Ally McBeal of her bi­o­log­i­cal clock.

Tele­phone Lady Gaga ft Bey­oncé

There is a very nar­row line be­tween “this is a mess” and “this a cel­e­bra­tion of, crit­i­cal com­ment on, and fur­ther­ing of the girl­band chore­og­ra­phy of the 90s”. Gaga, the queen of bad-but-amazing dance rou­tines, pulls this one off, trans­pos­ing X Fac­tor moves in a Tarantino mur­der spree. She even makes Bey­oncé do some­thing silly, a feat not man­aged since.

Hot­line Bling Drake

Up un­til this point, Drake was try­ing des­per­ately to make peo­ple for­get he was ever a child star by ap­pear­ing in ever more phoney hip-hop cliche videos, from club scenes to gang­ster shootouts, yet peo­ple still mocked him for be­ing “soft”, the punch­line of a thou­sand memes (“Drake the type of guy to die in a pil­low fight” was one). But as soon as he em­braced his per­for­ma­tive side – danc­ing like a drunk un­cle at a bar­mitz­vah in this 2015 video – ev­ery­one thought he was cool. In fact, they found the one shot in the video where he gri­maces and used that to make memes about how he doesn’t take any crap.

The school cafe­te­ria scene The OA

Ev­ery sci-fi brand has a “get out of jail free” card for when the writ­ers can’t think of an­other end­ing. Doc­tor Who has the sonic screw­driver, Star Trek had the Tri­corder. But in this era of cin­e­matic tele­vi­sion, a little gad­get with a flash­ing LED isn’t go­ing to cut it any more. So when the guys in The OA get in a spot of bother with a school shooter they have to per­form a piece of in­ter­pre­ta­tive dance that wouldn’t be out of place at an am dram pro­duc­tion of Cats in Billing­shurst to save the day.

Strip That Down Liam Payne

What hap­pens when you learn about hip-hop cul­ture and

street dance mostly via Ch­eryl Tweedy’s very tem­pered ITV ver­sion of it? Nan-friendly hand ges­tures all the way.

New Rules Dua Lipa

One: have a mid­dling ca­reer where things are go­ing OK but you strug­gle to break through. Two: record an el­e­gant mu­sic video in which you and a harem of girls in pas­tel dress­ing gowns cre­ate rit­ual out of not call­ing an ex. Three: sud­denly be­come re­ally fa­mous and put on gigs at the Hol­ly­wood Pal­la­dium and Alexan­dra Palace. (Four: slightly re­gret that your live show now in­volves a stren­u­ous dance rou­tine.)

The 2017 VMAs Lorde

The first time I saw Lorde do this per­for­mance, I thought it was an incisive com­ment on the facile pom­pos­ity of award shows: re­fus­ing to sing like a glammed-up pup­pet, she in­stead danced around the stage like a fan lis­ten­ing to Lorde’s mu­sic, punc­tur­ing the il­lu­sion of celebrity. It turned out she’d ac­tu­ally lost her voice the day of the show. If other pop stars are wor­ried about their awards per­for­mances be­ing too apo­lit­i­cal, they should try smok­ing 50 Marl­boros af­ter Tay­lor Swift has spiked their drink and see what they come up with.

Won’t For­get You Pixie Lott ft Stylo G

In which a group of danc­ing slaves in silk slips rear­range chairs, mats and a ho­tel lug­gage cart so that Pixie Lott’s bare feet barely touch the ground. Not quite sure what she was aim­ing at here, but if you imag­ine the floor was a de­cent cho­rus and she’s do­ing ev­ery­thing in her way to avoid touch­ing it, it starts to make sense

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