“Taekwondo Shuffle”

There’s a wonderful video circulating Facebook and some mainstream media blogs (FOX and CBS) which shows an outdoor performance by a group of young Koreans showcasing their mastery of Taekwondo as well as their choreographic skills. No one seems to have information on who they are or what the purpose of the display was, so if anyone knows, comment here and fill us in!

It’s being referred to as the “Taekwondo Shuffle” because the footage begins with the music and basic step (a “shuffle”) from the music video of this summer’s big hit “Party Rock Anthem” by the group LMFAO. While doing the shuffle step (which to my eyes is a miniaturized running man), the performers go through some of the arm motions used in Taekwondo training sequences.

If by some chance you haven’t seen it, here’s the LMFAO video, featuring Quest Crew, winners of the third season of America’s Best Dance Crew. Check out their website and YouTube channel.

But actually the majority of the video displays a choreographed sequence of different members of the group breaking boards with different kicks, aerial moves, and spins. This is a demonstration of ‘speed breaking,’ where the ability demonstrated is that of speed and precision, in contrast to ‘power breaking,’ where the goal is breaking as thick an obstacle as possible. Read more about Taekwondo history and techniques here or at the World Taekwondo Federation website.

What I love about this performance is the variety of movement sources and performance, as well as the well coordinated use of space, levels, and all members of the group. Having no expertise on Taekwondo I can’t pass any judgment on their completion of the moves attempted, but it is visually arresting and wonderful (and interesting, and not without problems) to see the combination of social, participatory dance forms with martial arts techniques performed in a presentational manner.

It’s also interesting to think about this choreographic display of martial techniques and movement lexicon in relation to Tricking, the dance/acrobatic form that runs just tangential to B-boying, gymnastics, and martial arts, and borrows and lends to all of them. Below is the YakFilms footage of the Tricking/Trix battle at this year’s Onde 2 Choc in Paris. You’ll see influences from and variations on classic gymnastic’s tumbling routines, B-boying’s power moves, Capoeira‘s flips, spins, and kicks, and similar moves performed more in line with the aesthetics of Asian martial arts.

As you can see, the performances captured in the two videos have a lot in common. Of course the Battle setting is very different from a public group performance, but the movement vocabulary is nonetheless very similar. It’s interesting to think, what’s the difference in the finished product between the two integrations of martial arts vocabulary into dance syntax?