The Evolution of Dance from 1950 to 2019: A 7-Decade Joy Ride in 6 Minutes

I see Michael Jackson as a dance style, okay? — Ricardo Walker 

Ricardo Walker and his Crew’s The Evolution of Dance, 1950 to 2019 will make you regret every minute spent hugging the wall in middle school.

The breakneck, 6-minute romp led by dancer, choreographer, and Michael Jackson impersonator Ricardo Walker, not only showcases the all-male Brazilian crew’s talent, it makes a strong case for throwing yourself into some serious dance floor silliness.




The Crew, formed by a mutual passion for the King of Pop’s moves, is plenty cool, but their willingness to ham their way through “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” the “Macarena,” and Dirty Dancing’s “Time of My Life” suggest that the joys of dance are available to ordinary mortals such as ourselves.

They cavort in sagging early 90s-style Hammer Pants for “U Can’t Touch This” and don Western wear for Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” the most recent number on this musical tour.

Troupe members Gabriel Zaidan and Alexandre “Lelê” Mayrink seem unhampered by vanity, tossing their enviable locks into the 35 costume changes’ goofiest styles.

The Crew took 16 hours to get the video in the can on a day when one of their number felt under the weather, and they had to be out of the studio by 7pm. (Our compliments to the editor!)

While such hits as Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again,” Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Madonna’s “Vogue,” Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” and — who could forget? — “Gangnam Style” instantly summon a period, the 90s placement of Tom Jones’ signature tune, “It’s Not Unusual,” is throwing viewers for a loop.

How did that old chestnut wind up between Madonna and Backstreet Boys?

By virtue of its first studio version, released in 1995 as part of the compilation album The Legendary Tom Jones — 30th Anniversary Album, that’s how.

Prior to their virtuoso turn in the Evolution of Dance, 1950 to 2019, the group guided viewers through the Evolution of Michael Jackson’s Dance. (Jackson’s influence is also evident throughout the former, earning him 4 nods.)

For those whose feet have begun to itch, choreographer Walker teaches a Master Class in Michael Jackson’s dance moves for $100.

Songs used in The Evolution of Dance — 1950 to 2019 — by Ricardo Walker’s Crew

00:03​ – 00:13​ – Singin’in the Rain – Gene Kelly

00:13​ – 00:23​ – Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

00:23​ – 00:30​ – Tutti Frutti – Little Richard

00:30​ – 00:35​ – Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker switch to color

00:35​ – 00:45​ – I feel good – James Brown

00:45​ – 00:57​ – I Want You Back – The Jackson Five

00:57​ – 01:09​ – Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees

01:09​ – 01:16​ – Dancing Machine – The Jacksons

01:16​ – 01:20​ – Shake your Body – The Jacksons

01:20​ – 01:24​ – You’re the one that I want – John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John

01:24​ – 01:31​ – Time of My Life – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes

01:31​ – 01:46​ – Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

01:46​ – 01:55​ – Rhythm Nation – Janet Jackson

01:55​ – 02:03​ – FootLoose –  Kenny Loggins

02:03​ – 02:13​ – Thriller – Michael Jackson

02:13​ – 02:18​ – What a feeling – Irene Cara

02:18​ – 02:22​ – U can’t touch this – MC Hammer

02:22​ – 02:31​ – Black or White – Michael Jackson

02:31​ – 02:42​ – Vogue – Madonna

02:42​ – 02:51​ – It’s not unusual – Tom Jones

02:51​ – 03:02​ – Everybody – Backstreet Boys

03:02​ – 03:13​ – Macarena – Los Del Río

03:13​ – 03:26​ – Crank That – Soulja Boy

03:26​ – 03:33​ – Single Ladies – Beyonce

03:33​ – 03:46​ – Bye Bye Bye – NSYNC

03:46​ – 03:54​ – Ragatanga – Rouge

03:54​ – 04:04​ – Gangnam Style – PSY

04:04​ – 04:15​ – Despacito – Luis Fonsi

04:15​ – 04:25​ – Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson , Bruno Mars

04:25​ – 04:34​ – Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO

04:34​ – 04:43​ – Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake

04:43​ – 04:51​ – Watch Me – Silentó

04:51​ – 05:03​ – Swish Swish – Katy Perry

05:03​ – 05:17​ – In My Feeling – Drake

05:17​ – 05:35​ – Old Town Road – Lil Nas X

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Iconic Dance Scene from Hellzapoppin’ Presented in Living Color with Artificial Intelligence (1941)

After Charles Lindbergh “hopped” the Atlantic in 1927, his history-making solo flight set off a craze for all things “Lindy.” Of the countless songs, foods, products, and trends created or named in honor of the famous onetime U.S. Air Mail pilot, only one remains recognizable these more than 90 years later: the Lindy Hop. Developed on the streets and in the clubs of Harlem, the dance proved explosively popular, though it took Hollywood a few years to capitalize on it. In the late 1930s, the musical Hellzapoppin’ brought the Lindy Hop to Broadway, and in 1941, Universal Pictures turned that stage show into a major motion picture directed by H.C. Potter (now best known for Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House).

An often surreal, fourth-wall-breaking affair, Hellzapoppin’ is remembered mainly for the five-minute Lindy Hop musical number that comes about halfway through the film. It features a dance troupe called the Harlem Congaroos, played by the real-life Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, a group of professional swing dancers founded at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, the origin point of the Lindy Hop as we know it today.




Its appearing members include Frankie Manning, whose name had become synonymous with the Lindy Hop in the 1930s, and Norma Miller, who as a twelve-year-old girl famously did the dance outside the Savoy for tips. Hellzapoppin’ preserves their athleticism and vitality for all time — with a hot jazz soundtrack to boot.

Like most Hollywood musicals of the early 1940s, Hellzapoppin’ was shot in black-and-white, and cinephiles will maintain that it’s best seen that way. But just as the technology powering long-haul flights has developed greatly since the days of Charles Lindbergh, so has the technology of film colorization. Take DeOldify, the “open-source, Deep Learning based project to colorize and restore old images and film footage” that “uses AI neural networks trained with thousands of reference pictures” – and that was used to produce the version of Hellzapoppin‘s Lindy Hop number seen at the top of the post. It all looks much more convincing than when Ted Turner attempted to colorize Citizen Kane, but in lovers of dance, whatever sense of realism DeOldify contributes will mainly inspire a deeper longing to experience the culture of Harlem as it really was in the 1920s.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Radiohead Ballets: Watch Ballets Choreographed Creatively to the Music of Radiohead

Since Radiohead’s last release, A Moon-Shaped Pool, members of the band have been absorbed in other projects. They’ve turned their band’s website into an archive for their discography and a library for rarities and ephemera — sending not-so-subtle signals their time together has reached a natural end, even if drummer Phil Selway said in 2020 “there are always conversations going on…. We’ll see. We’re talking.”

Two of the band’s most prominent members, guitarist Jonny Greenwood and frontman Thom Yorke, devoted their talents to film scores, a medium Greenwood has explored for many years: in the theatrical violence of There Will Be Blood, for example, the horrific aftermath of We Need to Talk about Kevin, and the almost balletic bloodiness of You Were Never Here. Yorke, meanwhile, scored Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, a film in which ballet dancers’ bodies are broken and bloodied by black magic.




Greenwood, Yorke and company excel at conjuring atmospheres of dread, despair, and disorientation, traits that suit them well for arthouse film. They might not have seemed a natural fit, however, for ballet. And yet, Jason Kottke reports, the two are “together at last” — or at least as of 2016, when choreographer Robert Bondara toured Take Me With You, a piece scored to several Radiohead songs, including In Rainbows’ “Reckoner,” which you can see interpreted above by two dancers from the Polish National Ballet.

The performance is an athletic response to a kinetic track, in choreography not unlike pairs figure skating at times. It is not, however, the first time the band has inspired a ballet. In 2005, Romanian dancer and choreographer Edward Clug created a modern interpretation of Shakespeare set to songs from OK Computer and Kid A. Radio and Juliet debuted in Slovenia, toured the world, celebrated its hundredth performance in 2012, and was scheduled to open in Moscow in 2020.

Clug drew on a prior connection: OK Computer’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” was written for, but not used in, the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. After Radio and Juliet, Clug once again drew inspiration from his favorite band (“They are the soundtrack to my other side; listening to them feels like I’m finding a self that I haven’t met yet.”) Clug’s piece “Proof” (preview above), set to “Feral” from The King of Limbsdebuted in 2017, his first for the Nederlands Dans Theater. If we are to have no more Radiohead, here’s hoping at least we’ll see more Radiohead ballets.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Power of Pulp Fiction’s Dance Scene, Explained by Choreographers and Even John Travolta Himself

All the great movies have a few memorable scenes; Pulp Fiction is made of nothing but. More than a quarter-century ago, that film’s release turned a young video-store clerk-turned-auteur called Quentin Tarantino into a household name. Cinephiles today still argue about which is the most memorable among its scenes, and only the most contrarian could fail to consider the dance. It comes early in the film, when the hitman Vincent Vega takes his boss’ wife out to dinner, the absent kingpin having ordered him to do so. The two eat at an elaborately 1950s-themed diner and on a whim enter its twist contest. They walk off the dance floor with a trophy — as well as a couple decades’ influence on popular culture.

“The twist was made famous in the 60s,” explains choreographer Lauren Yalango-Grant in the Vanity Fair video just above. “There were a lot of variations that came out of the twist that we do see in this scene,” such as “the monkey,” “the swim,” and “the Batman,” better known as “the Batusi.”




As busted by John Tavolta and Uma Thurman, all these moves come out in an improvisational fashion, each in response to the last: “If John starts to do the Batman, then Uma’s going to ‘yes-and’ it with not only a Batman but an open palm, her own version of this move,” adds choreographer Christopher Grant. Their movements give the scene a great deal of its impact, but so does those movements’ incongruity with their expressions, which Yalango-Grant calls “the juxtaposition of their seriousness and the lack of play on their faces versus the play in their bodies.”

Though now cinematically iconic in its own right, Pulp Fiction‘s dance scene pays homage to a host of older films. The most obvious is Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande à part, with what Yalango-Grant calls its “amazing dance sequence in a cafe. It’s totally out of context, of nowhere.” Never shy to admit his acts of artistic “theft,” Tarantino once complained that too few picked up this one: “Everybody thinks that I wrote this scene just to have John Travolta dancing. But the scene existed before John Travolta was cast.” The director’s intention, rather, was to pay tribute to his favorite musical sequences, which “have always been in Godard, because they just come out of nowhere. It’s so infectious, so friendly. And the fact that it’s not a musical, but he’s stopping the movie to have a musical sequence, makes it all the more sweet.”

The casting of Travolta (Tarantino’s “strong, strong, strong second choice” for Vincent Vega) proved fortuitous. The very image of the man dancing made for yet another chapter of pop culture from which the film could draw, but without his real-life dancing skills and instincts, the scene wouldn’t have been as memorable as it is. “Quentin was dead-set on both of us doing the twist, which is a very fun dance, but it’s limited in how long one wants to watch someone do the twist,” Travolta remembers on a recent appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden. So he told the director, “When I was growing up, there were novelty dances. There were dances like the swim and the Batman and the hitchhiker and the tighten up. Maybe we should widen the spectrum on this.” Tarantino’s unwillingness to compromise his ambitions and obsessions has made him perhaps the most acclaimed filmmaker of his generation, but so has knowing when to defer to the star of Saturday Night Fever.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

One of the Greatest Dances Sequences Ever Captured on Film Gets Restored in Color by AI: Watch the Classic Scene from Stormy Weather

It really is a wonder, knowing what we know about the history of racism and discrimination in Hollywood and America in general, that the musical Stormy Weather even got made in 1943. Along with one other similar film Cabin in the Sky, it’s one of the few American musicals of the 20th century with an all-Black cast, top billing and all. And what a cast, just some of the most talented artists of their time: Bojangles Robinson, Lena Horne, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and the Nicholas Brothers star. Katherine Dunham, the “queen mother of Black dance” performs and choreographs. Coleman Hawkins, though uncredited, is there too, playing sax.

The film also gave you its money’s worth, with nearly two dozen musical numbers in less than 80 minutes. And the top performance is the one that closes the film, seen here remastered from a high quality source (make sure your YouTube is set to 1080p) and colorized with DeOldify, the machine-learning colorization tool. (Your mileage may vary with the colorization, but hey, it’s a start. Check back in a year or so and we might have another version that looks like it was truly shot in color.)




If you’ve never seen the “Jumpin’ Jive” number, or never heard of the Nicholas Brothers, you will soon find out why Fred Astaire called it the greatest dancing he’d ever seen on film. Their journey down the risers, one leapfrogging over the other and landing in the splits, has never been matched. There’s moments where they just seem to float on air. The band leader, Cab Calloway, who knew how to slink and slide around a stage, wisely gives them the floor. And at the end, while applause bursts out, the entire club is invited to flood the dancefloor. It’s pure joy on film.

Older brother Fayard Nicholas was 29 in the film, his younger brother Harold was 22. Eleven years before that they had moved to New York from Philadelphia and wowed the audiences at the Cotton Club with their mix of tap, ballet, and acrobatics. It was when producer Samuel Goldwyn saw them at the Club that their career took off. But their sequences were always separate in white musicals, so that racist cinemas in the South could easily edit them out. Not so in Stormy Weather, where they end the film.

It is often written that this sequence was shot in “one take” and improvised, but that is plainly not the case. There’s eleven cuts in the dance sequence where the camera repositions itself. That’s not to take away from the Nicholas Brothers’ mastery, and hey, maybe they zipped through the sequence, as dancing was like breathing to them. Let’s just celebrate this for what it actually is: the Nicholas Brothers at the height of their powers, bringing the house down.

via Messy Nessy

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Watch Digital Dancers Electrify the Streets of Istanbul

Are you open to the idea of otherworldly beings moving amongst us, benign but unseen?

Director Gökalp Gönen seems to be in the above video for jazz innovator Ilhan Ersahin’s “Hurri-Mitanni” (Good News).

Things kick off in a decidedly low key manner—a young woman sets off for a nighttime stroll through the streets of Istanbul, her face deliberately obscured by a snugly tied black and white cloth.

Turning a corner, she passes an anonymous figure, wrapped head to toe in similar stripes.




Does this unexpected sight elicit any discernible reaction?

Our guess is no, but we can’t say for sure, as the camera loses interest in the young woman, opting to linger with the svelte and exuberant mummy, who’s dancing like no one is watching.

Elsewhere, other increasingly colorful beings perform variations on the mummy’s box step, alone or in groups.

As their outfits become more fanciful, Gönen employs CGI and 3D animation to unhitch them from the laws of physics and familiar boundaries of human anatomy.

They pixellate, sprout extra legs, project rays reminiscent of string art, appear more vegetable than animal….

Some grow to Godzilla-like proportions, shedding little humanoid forms and bounding across the Bosporus.

A small spiky version ignores the paws of a curious kitten.

These fantastical, faceless beings are invisible to passerby. Only one, performing on an outdoor stage, seems eager for interaction. None of them seen to mean any harm.

They just wanna boogie…

…or do they?

The director’s statement is not easily parsed in translation:

A group of anonymous wandering the streets. Everywhere is very crowded but identities are very few. Trying to be someone is as difficult as writing your name on the waves left by this fast-moving giant ship. Everyone is everyone and everyone is nobody anymore. This silence could only exist through glowing screens, even if it found itself nooks. On those loud screens, they reminded who actually had the power by entering the places that were said to be inaccessible. But they didn’t even care about this power. The areas where we had passionate conversations about it for days were a “now like this” place for us, but they looked like this to say “no, it was actually like that” but they did not speak much. They had the charm of a cat. When they said, “Look, it was like this,” they became part of everything that made it “like this” and became unnoticeable like paving stones. They just wanted to have a little fun, to be able to live a few years without worry. In five minutes, fifteen seconds at most, they existed and left.

A few creatures who got left on the cutting room floor can be seen dancing on Gönen’s Instagram profile.

via Colossal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Former Ballerina with Dementia Gracefully Comes Alive to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake

According to dance/movement therapist Erica Hornthal, “dance/movement therapy operates on the premise that our life experiences are held in the body, and that through the use of movement, memories and emotions can be recalled and re-experienced despite cognitive, psychological, or physical impairment.” The video above of former dancer Marta C. González shows in effect how music might activate those muscle memories, as a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake sends Ms. González, a former ballet dancer, into an elegant reverie when she had been barely responsive moments before.

The video was reportedly taken in Valencia, Spain in 2019 and “recently shared by the Asociación Música para Despertar, a Spanish organization that promotes music therapy for those afflicted by memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” writes Anastasia Tsioulcas at NPR. It has since been shared by celebrities and noncelebrities around the world, an “undoubtedly moving and uplifting” scene that “speaks to the power of music and dance for those suffering from memory loss.”




Many such videos have made headlines, illustrating the findings of neuroscience with moving stories of recovered memory, if only for a brief, shining instant, in the presence of music. The González video doesn’t just warm hearts, however; it also serves as a cautionary tale about sharing viral videos without doing diligence. As Tsioulcas reports, “Alastair Maccaulay, a prominent dance critic formerly with The New York Times, has been chasing González’s history and posting his findings on Instagram.” His most recent post possibly identifies Ms. González as a dancer from Cuba, but the details are murky.

The video’s text identifies her as the prima ballerina of the “New York Ballet” in the 1960s, yet “there is no such known company and the New York City Ballet does not list anyone by that name as one of its alumni.” To complicate the mystery of her identity even further, Macauley says the clips that appear to show a young Marta González, who passed away in 2019, are actually “a former prima ballerina from Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet, Uliana Lopatkina.” So who was Marta C. González? Surely someone will identify her, if she was a prominent ballet dancer. But no matter her personal history, Tchaikovsky “clearly evoked a strong, truly visceral response,” as well as a gracefully muscular one.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness

The Dance Theatre of Harlem Dances Through the Streets of NYC: A Sight to Behold

It’s nearly impossible to find an unblemished square of pavement in New York City.

Unless the concrete was poured within the last day or two, count on each square to boast at least one dark polka dot, an echo of casually discarded gum.

Confirm for yourself with a quick peek beneath the exuberant feet of the Dance Theatre of Harlem company members performing on the plaza of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building during the 46th annual Harlem Week festival.




For obvious reasons, this year’s festival took place entirely online, but the Dance Theatre’s offering is a far cry from the gloomy Zoom-y affair that’s become 2020’s sad norm.

Eight company members, including co-producers Derek Brockington and Alexandra Hutchinson, hit the streets, to be filmed dancing throughout Harlem.

Those who gripe about the discomfort of wearing a mask while exerting themselves should shut their traps until they’ve performed ballet on the platform of the 145th and St. Nicholas Subway Station, where the dancers’ pristine white shoes bring further buoyancy to the proceedings.

The City College of New York—in-state tuition $7,340—provides the Neo-Gothic stage for four ballerinas to perform en pointe.

The Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge serve as backdrop as four young men soar along the promenade in Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park. Their casual outfits are a reminder of how company founder Arthur Mitchell, the New York City Ballet’s first black principal dancer, deliberately relaxed the dress code to accommodate young men who would have resisted tights.

The piece is an excerpt of New Bach, part of the company’s repertoire by resident choreographer and former principal dancer, Robert Garland, described in an earlier New York Times review as “an authoritative and highly imaginative blend of classical vocabulary and funk, laid out in handsome formal patterns in a well-plotted ballet.”

The music is by J.S. Bach.

And in these fractious times, it’s worth noting that only one of the dancers is New York City born and bred. The others hail from Kansas, Texas, Chicago, Louisiana, Delaware, Orange County, and upstate.

The group seizes the opportunity to amplify a much needed public health message—wear a mask!—but it’s also a beautiful tribute to the power of the arts and the vibrant neighborhood where a world-class company was founded in a converted garage at the height of the civil rights movement.

Contribute to Dance Theater of Harlem’s COVID-19 Relief Fund here.

via @BalletArchive/@TedGioia

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.   Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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