Dance Like David Byrne! An Easy-to-Follow Instructional Video Shows You How

This dance is seri­ous. This dance is nec­es­sary. Do you feel that change? — David Byrne

Every­one can dance, though some of us need a push from an enthu­si­as­tic, encour­ag­ing instructor…like singer-song­writer David Byrne.

Move­ment has long been a hall­mark of the for­mer Talk­ing Heads frontman’s per­for­mances, when he was a pal­pa­bly ner­vous 23-year-old sol­dier­ing through one of the band’s first New York City gigs.

Byrne drove the danc­ing in Talk­ing Heads 1984 con­cert film, Stop Mak­ing Sense and has col­lab­o­rat­ed with sev­er­al notable chore­o­g­ra­phers over the course of his long and var­ied career.

In 1981, Twyla Tharp com­mis­sioned him to write the score for her phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing, exper­i­men­tal bal­let, The Cather­ine Wheel.

In 1999, he pro­vid­ed the sound­track for In Spite of Wish­ing and Want­i­ng, a 2‑hour work chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Wim Van­dekey­bus cre­at­ed for the men in his com­pa­ny, Ulti­ma Vez.

His most fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion has been with Big Dance The­ater’s Annie‑B Par­son, who chore­o­graphed Byrne’s 2012 Love this Giant world tour with St. Vin­cent, as well as Here Lies Love, his 2013  immer­sive rock musi­cal about for­mer First Lady of the Philip­pines Imel­da Mar­cos. Most recent­ly, the pair worked togeth­er to adapt Byrne’s Amer­i­can Utopia tour for Broad­way.

In an inter­view with Vul­ture, Par­son recalled ques­tion­ing why some­one with Byrne’s nat­u­ral­ly cool phys­i­cal instincts would seek an out­side par­ty to han­dle the danc­ing:

I was like, Huh, you’re my favorite chore­o­g­ra­ph­er, what are you doing!? Being able to make move­ment for your­self and being a chore­o­g­ra­ph­er are quite dif­fer­ent, and he’s not inter­est­ed in mak­ing move­ment for oth­er peo­ple. He is a dancer. Some of the stuff he does in the show he total­ly made up for him­self.

No ques­tion about it. The man has moves.

Here’s Parson’s favorite:

He does this thing where he slaps his hands while cross­ing the stage in Slip­pery Peo­ple that’s so amus­ing to watch. He goes down on the ground at one point in Once in a Life­time and I asked him what he was doing, and he was like, “Um, I’m going down to the water in the ground.” He’s imag­in­ing things and feel­ing the music. “Loose” wouldn’t be the word because nei­ther of us are loose at all. He’s incred­i­ble as an artist in the way he thinks and acts on things. I’ve always felt that I have a huge amount of free­dom.

Feel the Byrne next time you hit the dance floor by head­ing back up to the top of this post and fol­low­ing along with his instruc­tion­al video for the social­ly dis­tanced par­tic­i­pa­to­ry dance expe­ri­ence he co-host­ed for two weeks in New York City’s Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall.

If only every dance teacher showed up in such a buoy­ant mood (not to men­tion a util­i­ty kilt and Eng­lish sand shoes…)

Shake your hips!

Pup­pet legs!

Hold the traf­fic!

Vibrat­ing arms!

Those lucky enough to score one of the night­ly-assigned danc­ing spots that ensured SOCIAL!  would be, as adver­tised, a social­ly dis­tanced dance club, exe­cut­ed these, and oth­er dance moves, that Byrne’s pre-record­ed voice called for over the pow­er­ful P.A. sys­tem.

The New York­er gave a feel for the pro­ceed­ings:

Some parts were instruc­tions for line dances; oth­ers were more abstract (“Let me see you move like you’re in a new world”) or his­tor­i­cal (“This song is by the first inter­ra­cial band to play Carnegie Hall”); some were idio­syn­crat­ic Byr­nisms (“C’mon, baby, let’s think about your ten­dons”).

Reporters for Van­i­ty Fair and the New York Times (who felt reas­sured that Byrne is “him­self an invit­ing­ly imper­fect dancer”) list­ed some of the steps they’d attempt­ed at Byrne’s behest:

Hand-san­i­tiz­ing (“You’ve got too much! Flick it front, flick it behind!”)

Thread­ed through crowds on a New York City side­walk (“Don’t step on that piz­za!”)

Move like a zom­bie

Sub­way surf

Float a la Gaga



Reach for the rafters (“Maybe you’re rais­ing your hand in praise or to feel the light or to represent—or because you have a ques­tion. Is any­body answer­ing your ques­tion? So much uncer­tain­ty these days.”)

Pre­sum­ably, they, like Late Show host Stephen Col­bert, below, also learned to “pol­ish the plates.”

I Dance Like This by David Byrne

I’m work­ing on my danc­ing

This is the best I can do

I’m ten­ta­tive­ly shak­ing

You don’t have to look

Can’t say I’m sor­ry

I can’t say I’m ashamed

Can’t think of tomor­row

When it seems so far away

We dance like this

Because it feels so damn good

If we could dance bet­ter

Well you know that we would

For even more inspi­ra­tion, check out the Insta­gram account Dai­ly David Byrne Dances.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch David Byrne Prac­tice His Dance Moves for Stop Mak­ing Sense in New­ly Released Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Watch a Very Ner­vous, 23-Year-Old David Byrne and Talk­ing Heads Per­form­ing Live in NYC (1976)

David Byrne Launch­es Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful, an Online Mag­a­zine Fea­tur­ing Arti­cles by Byrne, Bri­an Eno & More

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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