“The famous challenges (challenges) have always existed in the world of dance, but now social networks like TikTok They have made them much more fashionable “, explain the dancers Saioa Urkijo Delgado and Iraia Gómez Arza. Songs like Crank That, de Soulja Boy, o Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae), by Silentación, are famous because their lyrics tell how to dance them, and they became known challenges within the community. “But now they are becoming more general,” say Urkijo and Gómez. This has led them to organize Motion Urban Dance, a virtual dance championship that will be broadcast on Twitch on February 21 and that “has been received with much acceptance and naturalness.”
Many of these dance challenges take place on TikTok — a platform for short videos between three seconds to one minute in length (up to three minutes for some users) —which has led some dancers to acquire the status of influencers, What Sebastian Linares, who shares different challenges accessible to all audiences. Another consequence is that many dancers share tutorials and that some dance academies teach courses on the most demanded dances on the social network: shuffle, hip hop, funky, bachata, twerk…
TikTok was born in 2018, after the merger of the apps Chinese Douyin and Musical.ly, and in 2020 it was the most downloaded app around the world, which has allowed him to count on about 800 million users. Idoia Ferrer, professor at the School of Dance and Dance Le Bal, in Pamplona, recalls how in 2018 he was already struck by a very simple choreography with a very catchy theme on TikTok that spread at an incredible speed: “Then I thought it would end up becoming a motive for family and friends entertainment, and that would be a bombshell. ” He was not wrong. Today teaches dance classes for TikTok to boys and girls from 7 to 12 years old who want to learn the choreographies of Shakira, Jason Derulo or BTS. Like Amaya, 10 years old, who signed up because she likes videos of Charli D’Amelio. Or Sophie, 11, who records all the dances she learns in class at home.
Idoia Ferrer explains that TikTok’s lessons are quite different from other styles. For example, in the more conventional lessons, “the body has to prepare with warm-ups and stretching, then a specific technique has to be worked a lot and the learning is more long-term, since the choreographic work is more arduous and complete.” Instead, TikTok classes start from a library of popular music and choreography on the social network, generally created from the number one in music sales of genres such as commercial dance, reggaeton or cumbia. Afterwards, Ferrer teaches his own choreographic version, so that the students also learn to create their own choreography. They are the extra resources that they add to classes that, if they taught only the TikTok choreographies, would be limited to “commercial and simple steps to obtain a short-term result.”
The titles of Kwon, dance teacher K-pop —Another of the most popular genres on the social network— in Dance Center, in Valencia, points out that TikTok dances usually consist of “four or five simple steps, usually hands, since it is more difficult for foot movements to go viral.” In addition, he alludes to the fact that the main attractions of this network are the video editing functionalities: “Putting effects, making transitions … these tools to make a video attract attention are very easy to use. And until Instagram took out Reels were only available on TikTok. “
Although their relative simplicity is one of the reasons why some of these dances go viral so quickly, it is not the only one. Benje Ramos, a teacher and professional dancer, began using TikTok in his quarantine as a hobby, and points to the particularity of its algorithms compared to other social networks: “It hooks because you never know which video can go viral.” Ramos does not doubt that TikTok has encouraged users to dance, some more seriously and others for entertainment. Although he cautions that not all classes specifically on TikTok are useful for learning the basics of dance: “Sometimes teachers just teach the steps created by people who have no training, and do not teach any discipline.”
Between 11 and 17 years
In that sense, María Graciela González, the director of the Venezuelan academy Always dance criticizes that some people believe that they can easily become influencers without first going through a learning process: “We want to attract young people to our classes, but without losing the essence of our academy,” he says. This academy is an example of how many are struggling to adapt to the new times. In recent times, fewer and fewer people attended their jazz dance classes, so they decided to reorient them with a course online called TikTok Dance.
Graciela is sure that the market for dance classes for TikTok will continue to grow: “Social networks are an important window, since they allow us to put a face on choreographers and allow us to put a face on the artists themselves recording themselves in the backstage.” The reasons that lead future dancers to sign up for their courses are varied. For example, Grecia Carrera, 24, signed up for being a dance enthusiast during childhood and wanting to recover that illusion.
But most of its students, according to Graciela herself, are girls between 11 and 17 years old. This youth makes her feel concerned about the hateful comments that some of these minors receive: “When they write to us to find out about the course, they tell us that they are trying to dance better so that their classmates at school do not make fun of them.”
But this social network can also become a stage for freedom and expression, as he says Claudia Ballesteros, 25, who downloaded the app when home confinement began in March 2020. “Like many people, I did it out of boredom,” he explains. And now she highlights that, for her, TikTok has become “a social network where it does not matter how old you are, where you are from, your tastes and orientations, because there is a place for you, and no one is less or more. I don’t know try to look as much as, for example, on Instagram. “
Together with Cristina Sanz, upload to your account videos of any style and he signs up to all the dance challenges he comes across: “I watch my videos since I started until now and it shows how I am evolving and losing the fear of what they will say. I am considering joining dance classes to to get better”.
They would welcome him at Le Bal Academy. “The appeal of TikTok is that it covers a very wide audience spectrum and brings everyone together, regardless of whether you are famous or not: groups of friends, families, older people … It puts everyone on the same level and makes you lose the sense of the ridiculous “, concludes Ferrer. Whether in our homes or in outdoor spaces, it is becoming less and less strange to find young and old dancing in front of a smartphone.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.