Category Archives: OMG! FYI:

PURPOSE: The Movement | Video Review

Hello! Welcome to this video-cast review of Justin Bieber’s visual album PURPOSE: The Movement which came out over the course of November 14.

The thirteen videos, one for each song on the album, were each directed by Parris Goebel, a young choreographer, teacher, and studio owner from New Zealand. Filmed and edited by Jose Omar Hernandez, a dancer/choreographer-turned videographer, these videos both challenge and index existing screendance (filmed dance) and popular dance conventions. Join me and fellow popular dance scholar Elena Benthaus (in from Melbourne on Skype) as we discuss how this album fits in to the history of dance on the popular screen, music video, and what’s happening on YouTube right now.

You can view the music video, and then play our response! I’ve included notes about what larger themes emerged so you can focus on what you’re interested in, and a link to a separate post with links to intertexts and references that came up in conversation. Let us know in the comments below what you think about the album, this review, or anything else. Thanks for tuning in to this experiment!

Getting Things Started

We talk about: who we are and how we’re approaching the review. Plus–what is a visual album? What do we think of this one? How does it compare with others?

Links to works we mentioned

“Mark My Words”

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: The dessert in music video, doing biographical readings, framing the project, the glorious Parris Goebel.

Links to works we mentioned

“I’ll Show You”

Dancers: Denzel Chisholm, Gusto Clarke, Ryan Davis, Noel Frias, Kendrick Martinez, Jose Ramos, CJ Salvador, Lance Savali, Tony Tzar, and Hollywood

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: space and place in YouTube dance video, interaction of choreography and lyrics, and why these videos might be so short.

Links to things we mentioned

“What Do You Mean”

Choreographer: Parris Goebel
Dancers: Bianca Ikinofo, Kaelani Edwards, Madison Golightly, Shyvon Campbell, Leilani De Marco, Kyra Aoake, Althea Strydom, Kaea Pearce, Maddison Barnett, Jess Toatoa, Ruth Pearce, Samyah Powell, Kirsten Dodgen, Corbyn Taulealea-Huch, Ling Zhang, Weijun Sun, Keanu Feleti, Todd Williamson, Joseph Metuakore, Elvis Lopeti, Justyce Petelo-Neho, Michael Metuakore, Fetu Taku, Esra Pula, and Andrew Cesan

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: The amazing dancers of Request Crew and the Royal Family, the history of Waacking, the resurgence of House music and dance in mainstream culture, and how “What Do You Mean” connects to “Sorry.”

Links to things we mentioned

“Sorry”

Choreographer: Parris Goebel

Dancers: The Ladies of ReQuest & The Royal Family Dance Crews from The Palace Dance Studio, NZ

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: What makes Goebel’s ‘PolySwag’ style so swag, the album’s homosocial spaces, the male gaze (or not), affective response to contagious performativity, and “Sorry” as a hybrid ‘music video’ and ‘YouTube dance video.’

Links to things we mentioned

“Love Yourself”

Choreographers and Dancers: Keone and Mari Madrid

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: Keone and Mariel Madrid’s work, site-specific choreography, narrative in music video, and the absence/displacement of Bieber’s body in the visual album.

Links to Things We Mentioned

“Company”

Choreographers: Parris Goebel and Lyle Beniga
Dancers: Lyle Beniga, Parris Goebel, Kaili Bright, Melany Centeno, Lilly Leithner, Diana Matos, Cat Rendic, Taja Riley, Tia Rivera, Tee Tee, Marquita Washington, Laure Courteller, Natalie, Paris Jackson, Miesha Moore, Tiara, Kelly, Selasi Dogbaeje, Conny Azua, and Rebbi Rosie

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: YAKfilms and freestyle street videos, is this the most ‘traditional’ music video in the album?, this album’s “YouTube-ness,” and young people thriving creatively on YouTube.

Links to Things We Mentioned

“No Pressure”

Choreographers: Parris Goebel and Ian Eastwood
Dancers: Ian Eastwood, Megan Batoon, and Melany Centeno, Big Sean

No Sense”

Dancers: Parris Goebel, Bianca Ikinofo, Shyvon Campbell, Leilani De Marco, Kyra Aoake, Althea Strydom, Kaea Pearce, Jess Toatoa, Kirsten Dodgen, Corbyn Taulealea-Huch, Althea Strydom, and Oriana Whaiapu

The Feeling”

Choreographers: Parris Goebel, Pierce Cady, Janelle Ginestra, Valentine Norton, James “BDash” Derrick, Keywane Pandy, Marquis Robinson, and Brandon “Beno” Anastascio
Appearance By: Halsey
Dancers: Pierce Cady, Janelle Ginestra, Valentine Norton, James “BDash” Derrick, Keywane Pandy, Marquis Robinson, and Brandon “Beno” Anastascio

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: The ubiquity of denim on denim, the aesthetic of camera mobility, krumping in film, connection between dance genre and narrative content.

Links to Things We Mentioned

Life is Worth Living”

Choreographers and Dancers: Emma Portner and Patrick Cook

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: What contemporary dance looks like right now, Emma Portner’s choreographic work, and the therapeutic and healing power of dance.

Links to Things We Mentioned

“Where Are Ü Now”

Choreographers: Parris Goebel, Nick Demoura and Lady Cultura
Appearances By: Diplo & Skrillex
Dancers: The Ruggeds -Tawfiq Amrani, Jessy Kemper, Roy Overdyle, Sjoerd Poldermans, Lady Cultura, Johnny Erasme, Johnathan Rabon, Yusuke Nakai, Mykell Wilson, Devan Smith, Mona Berntsen, Christina Chandler, and Elysandra Quinones

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: ‘Amateur’ video aesthetics and the highly mobile Internet camera, B-boying.

Links to Things We Mentioned

“Children”

Choreographers: Parris Goebel and Kyra Aoake
Dancers: Giverny Hing, Maddison Barnett, Ruth Pearce, Samyah Powell, Sarah Whyte, Houston Murray, Ellise Samuels, Ally Mayerhofler, Siyanna Yarr, Drew Sackfield, Cullen Neale, Isla Potini, Alexandra Page, Frannie Aquino, Azaria Ieriko, Biranna Dixon, Aria Henry, Teesha Siale, Courtney McKay, Isabella Thomas-Edwards, Taimania Pupuke,Sophie De Renzy, Anaya Wakelin, Faolan Okan, MJ Neethling, Jovi Ngo, Henk Tomkins, Irava Upu, Ben Rawnsley, Remy Sutton, Matthew Pule’anga, William Tuarae, Donnell Collins, Brookyln Collins, Ayla Ngaluafe, Quincy Ngaluafe, and Dasha Collins

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: Possible Hunger Games tie-in, young dancers on YouTube, and Bieber’s YouTube beginnings as motivation for this project’s cast and crew.

Links to Things We Mentioned

Purpose”

Choreographer: Parris Goebel

Our Thoughts:

We also talk about: “Commercial Lyrical Contemporary dance,” how this epilogue frames the visual album, the affect of hope, and the album’s take on sociality.

Links to Things We Mentioned

Wrapping Things Up

We talk about: Parris Goebel as a director, what it means to “make it” in the current entertainment landscape, and concluding thoughts on celebrity and affect in the age of social media.

Links to Things We Mentioned


Quick Thoughts Puma’s “Dance Dictionary”

I just heard about it today, but you may have seen this new Puma project, “Dance Dictionary” passing around on social media, the platform it’s specifically developed for since late April, when it debuted. At it’s most basic, the “Dance Dictionary” converts customizable phrases into short dances you can share broadly. (Its purpose is to promote their new perfumes, but they’re nowhere in sight).

You can play with the Dictionary here (click “Get Started”>”all sentences” then pick a sentence frame you like and you can change the two underlined words, mad-lib style, by clicking them). Here’s the “Trailer” for the project:

I really love and appreciate this PUMA project–It can and does serve as an archive, oral history, ethnography, a movement analysis tool, and a well-filmed showcase of some of the most talented and direction-changing dancers of the current moment, who are being allowed to operate within their individual styles. Mashable has a nice article here about its positive components.

…and I simultaneously HATE IT. (That’s not a nuanced scholarly assessment, but it’s how I feel.) I hate it for its insistence on one-to-one word and dance correspondence (on mimicry and playacting  rather than the mimesis or suggestion native to the showcased forms), for its glossing of existing moves/combinations of moves with these new silly ‘dictionary entries,’ and, as always, for not crediting the fucking dancers. Some of the dancers’ names and the choreographer are available in press if you poke around, but there are 25 dancers and no identification of them on the project site itself. (Not to mention no other production credits.)

Few random thoughts/things I’d like to consider further myself (and a possible future paper?!)

  • The specific syntax (how things fit together) of the “language” they’re creating here, and how that differs from the syntaxes of each of the respective styles (B-boying moves go together differently than Popping, is different than how a Dancehall freestyle would be formed)–and how this relates to the algorithm being used (which has its own syntax).
  • Would love to hear more about how dancers were thinking about the non-verb and noun lexical items; there are several prepositions and conjunctions in the mix here.
  • The moves of Dancehall dancer, Dionne Rennée (in the green pants) is used for many of the sex-related ‘words’ like Milkshake and others.

More thoughts to come. In the meantime, what do you think?


Sammy Davis Jr. Says ‘Boogaloo’

Sorry for the spoiler of a post title–I’ve been watching the second season of I Dream of Jeannie on Hulu the last few days, and I just watched the episode “The Greatest Entertainer In The World” which originally aired February 2, 1967, which features the one and only Sammy Davis Jr.  You can watch it here if you’re interested.

He mostly sings in this episode, (which is interesting because I think of him first and foremost as a tap dancer, and forget about the ‘entertainer’ bit). What stood out is that halfway through the episode, he comments that he’d like to go someplace where the girls are doing the monkey and the boogaloo!

The Boogaloo! In 1967! I didn’t realize that term was already in use at that time. In the 1980s it was used, somewhat mistakenly, as a catch all for what we now mostly call the Funk Styles (i.e. Popping and Locking). Boogaloo is neither one nor the other, and definitely not useful as an umbrella term. Rather, Boogaloo, like so many other individual dances that got integrated into specific styles, has a long independent history. One that, apparently, goes back to at least 1967.

How ’bout that.


VMA 2012 Winners!

For a full rundown of winners across categories, check the MTV site, here. To read my thoughts on the nominees for Best Choreography, go here. I’m not going to get into comments about the actual presentation…suffice it to say it was odd. But anyway,

Best Choreography

went to Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music” with choreography by Anwar ‘Flii’ Burton. That was my second place choice, so I’m ok with it. The video also won Best Male Video, and I mean, it’s a fine video, but I don’t find it particularly fascinating or innovative…

Other notables (to me):

Best Editing: Alexander Hammer & Jeremiah Shuff for “Countdown”

Assessment: I have to say I’m a little surprised. On the one hand, the editing is definitely pervasive, at a high difficulty level, and pretty smoothly done. If we’re talking literally who cut things together skillfully, I’m ok. If we’re talking: has a defined coherent cohesive aesthetic…I’m not so sure.

Hilarious Tidbit: In an interview with GQ, “Countdown” director Adria Perry responded to questions about the use of de Keersmaeker’s choreography in part by saying, “Of course, ultimately I’m disappointed that she wasn’t credited on the video because I know it was everyone’s intention from the get-go. But I’m assuming that’s because they were still finishing it the day that it launched and stuff, it was basically an oversight, you know?” [italics added]…note to self, I can finish something at the last minute and still win an award…

It’s weird as all get out, but the editing prowess by Eric Greenburg on “Mercy” by Kanye West, f/ Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz is extremely impressive. The editing is so seamless and mind-boggling it makes me a little nauseous, but in a good way (?). For me either “Mercy” or “Somebody That I Used to Know” (see below) would have been good. I think Kanye is still a little bit persona non grata at the VMAs however. Like last year, he got a lot of nods but no wins. Check it out below if you haven’t seen it:

Best Cinematographer/Best Direction: M.I.A. “Bad Girls” cinematography by André Chemetoff, directed by Romain Gavras

Assessment: My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the dashboard/My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the radio. –I freaking love this video, in a visceral, the beat is hard, the dessert is hot, she’s filing her nails on the edge of a drifting car type way. It too (like “Where Have You Been”) trades in an Orientalist mish-mosh made possible by M.I.A.’s relative position of power…but I kind of love it. It’s certainly visually stunning and aesthetically cohesive and convincing. I’ve got a post about it sitting in drafts…hopefully I’ll get it out someday.

To be honest, there were a lot of videos nominated across the different categories that I wasn’t familiar with…I guess reading for grad school will do that to you. So, over the next few days I’m going to familiarize myself with the nominees and try to stay more on top of things. I have to say I’m a little dissapointed that the video for Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” didn’t win anything. It was nominated for Most Share-Worthy, Best Editing, and Video of the Year. Not only do I think it’s a gorgeous and innovative concept, but the sheer time-consuming detailed collaborative work that clearly went into it is amazing. Also I am hugely appreciative and admiring of the fact that the whole production team is credited by name in the description box under the YouTube video. Go here to see it!

Thanks for reading, stay tuned! What did you think about the results?


VMA’s 2012–Best Choreography

[Update: Want to know who won? See my post-show assessment here]

Hey! Important event in popular dance tonight—the VMA’s, MTV’s annual music video award show. There’s about 16 categories, so I’m not going to go through all of them, but I thought I’d run you through the 5 videos (well, actually their choreographers) that were nominated for “Best Choreography in a Music Video.” You can see the rundown here.

I’m on my way to a friend’s house to watch the show, so this is just a quick run-through. A little history: the VMA’s started in 1984, and the Choreography category has been awarded every year since (other categories have come and gone.) Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Choreography by Michael Peters) won the first year, and a range of choreographic styles have won since then. See all the winners here.

“Levels”

Performer: Avicii Choreography: Richy Greenfield & Petros Papahadjopoulos Summary: Bored 80s office worker is overcome by energy wavin’ poppin’ and lockin’ through his body + dorky toprock, and guess what, it’s contagious. Surprise: Non-dance surreal lyric interlude. References: Napolean Dynamite, Michael Jackson Big Q: Is freestyling choreography?

“Countdown”

Performer: Beyoncé Choreography: Danielle Polanco, Frank Gatson Jr., Beyoncé & Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (<–DOES ANYONE SEE THAT?!?! Check here and here to see why I’m shocked but it’s a pragmatic move) Thoughts: I have a hard time thinking about this video; on one hand it’s totally incoherent as its own aesthetic production, on the other hand the original de Keersmaeker choreography is on beyond gorgeous…I think one of my friends put this perfectly; “Countdown” belongs in the ‘adapted screenplay’ category, not ‘original’ (although I’m not sure they adapted it all that effectively…)

“Turn Up the Music

Performer: Chris Brown Choreography: Anwar ‘Flii’ Burton Summary: Chris Brown takes a futuristic cab to a dance party in the street…and other ambiguous music video spaces. Styles: Unison House/New Jack Swing plus that Afro-Carribean elasticity swag that all the cool kids are doing. References: MJ meets Usher meets Men In Black meets Gene Kelly. Verdict:  Impressively high energy, very of-the-moment, virtuosic performance. 

“Dance Again”

Performer: Jennifer Lopez f/ Pitbull Choreography: JR Taylor Summary: Orgiastic art deco meets the title scene of GoldfingerVerdict: Wait, there was choreography? Oh, you mean the awkward Dancesport moment in the middle? Big Q: How do you evaluate choreography if the dancing is terrible? But seriously, the mass squirming is way more gorgeous than any of the ‘dancing’…and I like JLo. Sidenote:  the ads that play before this video are always in Spanish!

 

“Where Have You Been”

Performer: Rihanna Choreography: Hi-Hat (amazing and prolific) Summary: Rihanna as Mami Wata/Orientalist wet dream. Styles: Hip/House, the afro-funk styles like Kwaito, Azonto, Kuduro, with hints of Belly Dance and traditional West African movement; it gets into the hip flexors in the lushest most fantastic range of motion. References: Anaconda, Indiana Jones, Indian and Aboriginal iconography. Big Q: I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time and there’s a lot to say, but briefly put, can essentialist and exotic symbolism and iconography be reclaimed reproductively by/for postcolonial bodies?

Drumroll…

Despite some political hesitations, I pick “Where have You Been”–most innovative, varied, rich choreography, and the most well performed (although I know that’s technically not the category.) 

What do you think!? We’ll find out soon. Happy Watching!

[Update: Want to know who won? See my post-show assessment here]


OMG! FYI/WTF?!: Hands Up in the Air

A friend of mine just posted the video for “Hands Up in the Air” by Timbaland, ft. Ne-yo on Facebook, and I thought I’d check it out. Parts of the song as well as some of the footage were familiar to me, and maybe are to you, from previews for Step Up: Revolution. (There are various versions but this is one of the most in-depth.)

Now watch the video:

Putting aside the movie for a moment and looking at the music video, can I just say…WHAT!? If I were the director I would be embarrassed. The video is completely incoherent, possibly due to its attempt to be simultaneously autonomous and an advertisement for the movie. I am reserving judgment on the actual song until I hear it again, but it seems to have a somewhat similar incoherence…though I’m not a music buff.

This is certainly not the first time that specific songs have been tightly connected to dance movies–or even the first time that clips from the movie have appeared in the music video for the song (although I can’t think of any specific instances and I’m trying to write this quickly so I don’t abandon it like the other posts in my drafts folder). But here’s one of my favorite songs that was highly connected with Step Up 2–“Church” by T-Pain.

I actually haven’t seen the second Step Up, but you can see that this video has a sort of Step Up/Dance film kind of aesthetic, without referencing the actually scene the song was used in, and it’s all in a coherent setting.

As far as “Hands Up in the Air” goes…it’s not that it’s unusual to cut between different settings, scenarios, or even moods within a single video. Nor do I ascribe to some kind of strictly narrative genre of music video. But I do hope for a general theme or aesthetic that serves to hold disjointed editing and footage together. What we have here instead is complete disjunction; neither the same people, movement, costumes, settings, nor even type of footage recur or offer a throughline.

What do I mean by type of footage? Well, hopefully you can see it yourself in that video, but as an example, think about how different it is to watch a sit com than to see a movie in the theater, or even between SD and HD digital footage, let alone a 35mm or 16mm film camera.

In switching between the footage from the film and the new video footage, they’re mixing different types/quality of footage, and it just looks silly, if you ask me. In the end it’s functional neither as an advertisement for the movie nor as one for the song and artists it promotes. It does show how interconnected our media is, though I am curious about the lack of overt labeling of the song’s connection to the movie.

Womp womp.

Thoughts on the movie to follow, hopefully soon!


OMG! FYI: ASA

In an attempt to circulate good things in the world, publish more frequently here, and in turn get more traffic which in turn helps the above, I’m starting a category I’m going to call “OMG! FYI:” which will be brief posts featuring informal musings on things I like, and am not necessarily thinking critically about (although we should always be thinking critically).

For today, that’s this excellent feel-good vid, Nigerian-born singer Asa’s “Why Can’t We.” I’m so behind the times, it came out in May, but a friend just turned me on to it as a pick-me-up, and boy was it effective. …and affective. [Read about affect basically meaning emotionally impactful, here]. I didn’t know about Asa at all before today but you can read about her, as I did, on her Facebook page or her website. Can’t wait to find out more about her and her team!

Asa: “Why Can’t We”

Things That Are Awesome about This Video: (aka, why I picked the tags I did)

  • The color!!! What a gorgeous palette. On close inspection you can see the majority of the frame is filled with greys and neutrals, but it’s the pinks and yellows that really stay with you! (one could say they pop! haha, get it? Also, actually, just noticing this now, very similar to this blog…)
  • The song. It’s happy sounding. I’m trying to learn more about music so I know why it’s happy sounding, other than the lyrics. I think it has something to do with what I associate that instrumentation with, as well as the overall mood/sonority/timbre? [Those are words that one uses for music…right? Help in the comments SVP!]
  • The dancing! First, that there is dancing. Second, I just finished teaching about American Bandstand and Soul Train in the lecture course I teach. And this is a lovely abstraction of the sets and space of those shows. But it also uses the movement from those shows, particularly Soul Train, showing them in both their historical and current forms. Look out for Locking, Popping, some New Jack Swing era dances (Running Man and others), and a lot of new, current dance flavor.
  • I love Asa’s style! I would wear every outfit she wears in this video; the silhouettes are a perfect balance of contemporary and retro, completely flattering, and just crazy enough to be gorgeous. Plus, LOVE her hair, her glasses, and…well everything.
  • err…any interpretations or sentiments on the TV character at the beginning? (and could someone identify the language, I’m having trouble.) My guess is that he’s referencing another song of hers, and/or that he and the TV index her global circulation. But…it makes me slightly uncomfortable.

I think, as I sort of alluded to above, I also like this video because I associate it with other videos/media/experiences. The two below are the most resonant:

Soul Train Line 1973

This is an amazing find from 1973 which I actually just stumbled upon, and seems to have been uploaded earlier this month following Don Cornelius’s tragic suicide; amazing first and foremost because Cornelius came down the line himself! Which he had never done before and I don’t think ever did after. But also wonderful for its range of styles presented–it’s crazy to look at the footage from ST and see the kernels of many of the genres we have today–I even saw some bonebreaking/flexing!

And, this:

Prom Scene, Footloose (1984) [no video available currently]

Which, of course, is strongly influenced by Soul Train, as well as the introduction of b-boying into the movement vocabulary and consciousness of middle America through various breaking films that came out in those years, including Wild Style (1983), Flashdance (1983), Beat Street (1984), Breakin,’ and Breakin’ 2 (1984).

Signing Off!

Well. That was much more involved than I anticipated. I’ve got four posts sitting in the draft pile, better just get them out so you can read them! Thanks for reading, this has been an installment of “OMG! FYI:” stay tuned.