Watch this video; it’s an excellent 6-minute blackbox dance and spoken word piece. You’ve probably seen this style of performance done badly before; this is what it looks like done well.
The central performer is Daniel J Watts, who you maybe know from Hamilton or from the protest flashmob Love Terrorists Unite.
These movements look so cool, and SO DIFFICULT. As one of the dancers breezily says to describe the hiplet style, “If you got rhythm and you can groove en pointe, you got it.”
I cannot grove en pointe. I do not got it. I don’t think many people do. But the ones who can – wow.
Here is a delightful dance clip of Earl Tucker, “the human boa constrictor.” Don’t be fooled by the colorization – this was shot in 1930 (as part of a Benny Rubin short called “Crazy House”). Tucker would have been 24 or 25, so watching him is a great way to spend day 24 of black history month.
That move he does, where he keeps his feet still but swivels his hips by moving his knees back and forth alternately, is called “snake hips,” and Tucker made it a super popular Harlem craze; although the move itself dates back to plantation days, it was during Tucker’s popularity that white people noticed, probably partly because Tucker made it look great. (African-American choreographer Buddy Bradley was for instance asked in 1932 to teach snake hips to English ballerina Alicia Markova. He said it was tough trying to get her to bend her knees.)