LOS ANGELES, Sept 24 — It’s a trend that’s spreading like wildfire. Each new musical release is generating dance challenges — almost immediately — on TikTok, the leading application for teenagers. While most viral dance routines were previously started by ordinary, albeit talented, web users, an increasing number of artists are getting in on the phenomenon and giving fans examples of dance steps that they can replicate on social networks. We take a closer look at some of the latest and biggest examples.

When it comes to dance moves and routines, every era has its legends. The 1980s were marked by Michael Jackson’s famous “moonwalk,” while the following decade was swept up by the more relaxed movements of the “Macarena. When we look back on the year 2021, it will surely be remembered by the demonstrative choreography performed by Lil Nas X. 

Most of us first got a glimpse of the Atlanta rapper-singer’s dancing skills in the video accompanying his country rap hit, Old Town Road, where he tries his hand at line dancing. They are also on display in the videos of his latest singles, Montero (Call Me By Your Name) and Industry Baby. He performs a rather lascivious dance on the devil’s thighs in the first one, and twerks shirtless in the middle of a group of prisoners in the second one. It’s enough to shake things up in the rap and hip-hop community, where many fans are more used to videos advocating a more patriarchal sexuality. 

Lil Nas X reportedly trained for several weeks with choreographers Kelly Yvonne and Sean Bankhead to perfectly learn the dance routines of his latest hits down to the tiniest details. And it appears that this hard work has paid off: “Industry Baby” has more than 129 million views on YouTube, while the video of Montero (Call Me By Your Name) won the performer three statuettes at the last MTV Music Video Awards. 

‘Internet killed the video star’

The Atlanta-based musician isn’t the only one who has turned to big-name dancers to spice up the videos accompanying their tracks. In fact, it was commonplace until the mid-2010s, when record companies began to drastically cut back on music video budgets in the face of the rise of YouTube. No more spending millions of dollars like Gwen Stefani did to film the visuals for Make Me Like You or Madonna for Give Me All Your Luvin; it was time to save money. A trend that the duo The Limousines bitterly recount in their 2010 hit, “Internet Killed the Video Star.”

But a decade later, things have changed again. A new generation of stars like Dua Lipa and Chloe Bailey are once again hitting the dance studios to follow in the footsteps of their 2000s predecessors. “Seeing this generation of artists push themselves is amazing. It makes everybody want to level up,” choreographer Charm La’Donna told The Face. “Everybody’s ready to perform and practice, so the performances [over the last few months] have upped the ante. I’m here for it.”

Normani is a perfect example. The former Fifth Harmony singer “broke the internet” on multiple occasions with her videos that feature choreography as catchy as it is sophisticated. The one for her latest track, Wild Side, was particularly taxing for the 25-year-old. “I really wanted to push myself with different styles of choreography throughout the whole video. When I tell y’all my kneeeeees was going through it...,” she wrote in a tweet a few hours after the video was released. 

As usual, Normani called on choreographer Sean Bankhead to set his latest single in motion. This collaboration proved to be particularly fruitful as their dance routine gave birth to its own challenge on TikTok. The #WildSideChallenge has since amassed over 40.2 million views on the social network, and has been covered by Brazilian funk queen Anitta. A rather surreal situation for Sean Bankhead. “We knew when we were creating Wild Side that it wouldn’t be a TikTok dance. We didn’t want it to be either. We wanted to do a challenging piece of choreography that’s not watered down to kind of fit the challenge era of what dance and music is right now. So, to see people doing it, getting up, and learning this hard choreography, really hit me,” he told Paper Magazine.

Dancing to the K-pop rhythms

If more and more music lovers are getting into dancing thanks to TikTok, K-pop fans have been doing it for decades. And for good reason: choreography is an integral part of this musical genre born in South Korea. Dance moves were even the trademark of Seo Taiji and Boys, the predecessors of successful South Korean boy bands like BTS and EXO. Over the years, the dance routines of K-pop groups have become so complex that they have given rise to their own training videos. They are almost as successful as the official videos. The proof is the dance performance video for How You Like That by Blackpink. The dance tutorial has more than 853 million views, versus 968 million for the video accompanying the song.

This craze for dance tutorials comes as no surprise to Michelle Cho, assistant professor of popular culture at the University of Toronto. “Learning K-pop choreography strengthens the fans’ embodied sense of connection with their K-pop idols, as well as with the fan community,” she told The Korea Times. Proof that even though times are changing, dancing is still as unifying as ever. — ETX Studio