Tag Archives: Locking

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.


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) 

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.

Beggin’ Re-edits: Pilooski vs. Madcon

So, here’s the deal; one amazing Frankie Valli song, “Beggin'”: two quite excellent re-mixes/re-envisionings (read about the various re-incarnations of the song here) which each have quite excellent videos. So, which is better?

I was introduced to the Pilooski re-edit first (the top video), and fell in love with it. The song is precisely a re-edit; there is nothing new, but elements are re-arranged, repeated, and adjusted. The video, which has since dissappeared from YouTube in its official (and good quality!) version, is brilliant. Through setting, costume, and choreography, it traces the intervening years and influences between the Four Season’s version and the world that gave birth to Pilooski and DJing. Watch for subtle changes in costume as well as lighting and choreography- look for the twist, disco, locking, b-boying, and good ol’ rockin’ out.  Don’t forget to check out the DJs in the back- they change too!

Because I was so attached to the Pilooski version, my initial reaction to the Madcon version was adverse. But on its own it is really quite good too. It has a strong aesthetic playing off of the films of the era of Blaxploitation, complete with bell bottoms and afros, and features strong rap verses, using the original song as the hook and building off of it. One ‘plot’ element I don’t really understand is that of the video games. I interpret this as a similar tactic to the contemporary elements in the Pilooski video; because the original song is ‘vintage’ the new version must distinguish itself from that label (although clearly each video has an affinity for some nostalgic past, both of which are more than a little anachronistic, especially the Madcon vid). However, the video game thing just doesn’t work for me.

In the end, I think I still like the Pilooski vid/song better. I think this may also have to do with the fact that Pilooski’s video appeared first, and has since been removed (I suppose for copyright purposes?) while Madcon’s video is hosted by VEVO. But they both are very good. Unfortunately, and characteristically, I cannot find information about the directors or choreographers of either video, so they both lose points for that!

What do YOU think? Let me know in the comments below.

I Whip My Hair