How do you make sense of the world? Is it through podcasts? History books? A think piece in the New York Times?
I do all the above, but I think pop-culture is the answer.
I’ve watch an eruption of global discourse on domestic violence, mental health, racism and politics whenever Kanye West opens his mouth.
I listen to ANY Kendrick Lamar album and I feel as though I’ve caught a fleeting glimpse into the lived experience of so many Black men in America.
But you know my favourite way of understanding the complexities of life?
I take a dance class; the physical embodiment of cultural practises, storytelling and historical movements – explored through pop-culture!
It’s in dance class that I learnt about the Charleston; born from the dances of the enslaved Africans when they first arrived on American shores. In that class, I learnt about its appropriation through the 1920s in the flapper movement. Then I learnt of its reclamation within the bourgeoning hip hop movement of the 80s
It’s in dance class that I learnt of the importance of dance floors, and how warehouse parties birthed both house music and house dance. I learnt of the social element of this genre’s birthplace informing the social, dance-floor-friendly groove that underpins all house dance movements; the jack.
It’s in dance class that I learnt about the history of the moonwalk, a name that was commercialised by Michael Jackson, divorced from its original name and movement; the back glide.
And it’s with knowledge like this that I’m able to see other patterns unfolding in the world.
Like, ever notice how the TikTok generation does a smaller version of all the same street dance moves we know and love from our yesteryears? It’s the Charleston, the backglide, the monastery, but executed at 20% of the energy and contained on the same spot.
This is so TikTok dancers can remain within the vertical parameters of their device screens. And this is how we will remember street dance of the 2020s when we go on to teach this era of movement at some point in the future.
You see, art imitates life. Life can be understood through art.
So whilst we all come to knowledge in different ways, I urge you to supplement your readings, your critical thinking, your dinner party discourse with an embodied, feel-good, soul-nourishing boogie.
Take a beginner adult dance class, and see what your body teaches you about the world.