By Roberto Klemente R. Timonera
When it first emerged in ancient societies, dance was already used for a number of purposes: it fired soldiers up for battle, helped in healing rituals, and was an essential means of courtship. Now, millennia later, it’s still one of the most prominent art forms in the world, an indispensable part of popular culture.
The most popular moves are usually the ones that accompany hit singles. A number of them are relatively easy to do—that is, nothing that demands superhuman flexibility. Still, some of the better-known ones remain pretty difficult but no less popular—anyone can try, at least.
Over the years, countless dance moves have grown to be loved by people of all ages, with some even rising to truly iconic status. Let’s take a look at some of these:
A dance step a sigbin would approve of (“kung mu-abante, pina-backward”). Early versions of the moonwalk popped up from the 1930s to the 1960s, by performers like Cab Calloway, James Brown, and even David Bowie. However, it was Michael Jackson who brought astronomical fame to this move when he moonwalked in Motown in 1983 while singing “Billie Jean.” One foot is raised on tiptoe while the other slides backward. The motion is then inverted and repeated. The technique sounds simple, but it’s quite difficult to pull off gracefully.
This takes glamor to whole new level. Inspired by Vogue magazine, it sports sensuous and seductive body movements reminiscent of high-class fashion models. It originated in the ballroom scene of Harlem, New York and has grown to be a popular dance in the LGBT scene. It was popularized by Madonna who used the dance in the black-and-white music video to her song “Vogue.” Performers of the dance often come decked out in high fashion—perfect for striking a pose.
Basically involves stomping and pretending to ride a horse. The hands alternate between holding the reins and wielding a lasso. This move was invented by Korean superstar Psy after 30 nights of intense research (and trying out a host of cheesy animal-inspired moves). It serves as the dance steps to the viral song of the same name, also written by Psy.
In the 1990s this was nothing short of sensational. It accompanied the single “Macarena” by the Spanish music duo Romero Monge and Rafael Ruiz, collectively known as Los del Rio. The dance was created by a Venezuelan flamenco teacher, Diana Patricia Cubillán Herrera, as a performance for guests in a private party Los del Rio were invited to. It is done by holding the arms out and, one by one, placing the hands on the shoulders, head, and hips.
This first turned up in Harlem, New York back in 1981. It traces its roots to the East African dance called Eskista and was first performed by Al B, a dancer and a resident of Harlem. But it shot to international popularity when G. Dep performed it in the music video to his song “Let’s Get It.” The name “Harlem Shake” got even more popular when an Internet meme called “Harlem Shake” went viral in February 2013. Funnily enough, the dance in this video has nothing to do with the real Harlem shake.
While not popular in the mainstream sense (owing largely to the danger involved), the headspin is certainly an iconic move. The dancer plants his head on the ground and rotates with the rest of his body above him. The move was taken from the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira and has since become one of the staples of breakdancing. The Guinness World Record for fastest headspin currently belongs to Bboy Aichi of Japan at 135 rotations per minute.
It’s no surprise that dance has stayed on in our culture for this long. Being one of the more instinctual of the arts, it allows for varied and nuanced expression, each culture bringing something of its own to this ageless tradition—which probably explains why every now and then a new move pops up and becomes all the rage. As long as there are people who itch for stylized, musically-timed movment, it is clear that dance will continue to spice up our lives.~