My sign name is Emma, I love to dance
September 27, 2016 11:39 PM   Subscribe

Emma Watkins, best known as the current Yellow Wiggle, dances Justin Timberlake's Can't stop the Feeling for World Deaf Day (September 24.) (SLYT) (Emma is Australian and I believe she is using Auslan.)
posted by freethefeet (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The Wiggles
Hopewood House
posted by pracowity at 2:29 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Emma is Australian

That's interesting; I wonder if she has an Irish dance background. Her footwork is very step dance.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:33 AM on September 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Not as dance-y but just as so enjoyable, here's a ASL version of "Alexander Hamilton"
posted by ShawnString at 3:58 AM on September 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Her footwork is very step dance.

I noticed the same thing.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the "stop" sign involving a hard stop right in the middle of the chorus -- if that's the sign, you've got to do it, but there's some tension with the music. Actually, after writing that.. it's kinda bloody brilliant, in a modern dance sort of way.

On the bright side, that is a much more interesting mental association for that catchy song than a not-great movie trailer (my previous association).
posted by Alterscape at 5:38 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seeing this made me so happy - just seeing her joy in the movement and at the same time communicating with the audience to share what she's experiencing! I can't help but get caught up in the feeling.

I wish there was a way to bring dance into all jobs (the way we do with visual art and music).
posted by A hidden well at 6:04 AM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

On doing a bit more digging, on Emma's wikipedia entry, she learned Irish dancing among other styles as a child. She also was recently married to purple Wiggle Lachlan at Hopewood house. You can currently see her and Lachlan in the cover photo for the FB page that pracowity posted earlier- and also linked on their facebook page, an article with photos: that mentions another sign connection, they included ASL (American Sign Language) in their vows.

I'm outside of the Wiggles demographic now that my cousins have grown up, and it's nice to see that even though "it's all different!" they are still Wiggly good people.

(thanks for being gentle for my first FPP!)
posted by freethefeet at 6:28 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here is Emma doing more sign language dancing with Andy Koblar (who is also a Wiggly dancer, performing in several of their recent videos):

Happy by Pharrell Williams

Roll Up Your Sleeves by Meg Mac [also featuring current purple Wiggle, Lachlan Gillespie]

and here's the first episode of their sign language web series show "GoyBirl"
posted by aabbbiee at 6:42 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the "stop" sign involving a hard stop right in the middle of the chorus -- if that's the sign, you've got to do it, but there's some tension with the music.

It's worth noting that her primary audience is other Deaf people. What she's doing is creating visual pauses, which in effect dictate the rhythm for the poetry and juxtapose with the pace of the rest of her piece. Furthermore, she's using it to control the viewer's line of sight (note how she directs attention to her feet when she's doing elaborate footwork), as well as their perception of motion in conjunction with the camera, which also serves as a visual metaphor for the passage of the poem. Signed music videos shouldn't really be judged by hearing standards, especially since in most cases they aren't a direct translation but an adaptation taking inspiration from a song. This is also true in this case - for instance, I think the original song talks about how the singer "can't stop", but Watkins' adaptation talks about stopping and letting the feelings wash over her. In fact, this is how the device is effective here in progressing the lyrics - in each iteration, she slightly alters the message after the stop.
posted by Conspire at 6:47 AM on September 28, 2016 [24 favorites]

Oh, and also, the language of the music video seems to be a mix of ASL and Auslan, and it's particularly interesting how she chooses the signs based upon what's most appropriate for the dance - for instance, she uses the Auslan sign for bone rather than the ASL sign, and I think that's partially because the ASL sign is basically you crossing your forearms in an X shape in front of your body, which would be awkward in a piece that progresses forward like this, in addition to having less neutral symbolic connotations that doesn't work with the positivity of the piece. Either way, the piece should be understandable to any signer, since it relies more on conceptual and gestural signs except for a few key phrases.
posted by Conspire at 7:01 AM on September 28, 2016 [12 favorites]

My 2-year-old LOVES the Wiggles, so we watch them or listen to them every day in my house. If it was anything else, I think we'd go a little bonkers from the repetition, but there's so much Wiggles material out there (they just celebrated their 25th anniversary) that we haven't even gotten into the deep cuts yet and we're still doing ok with it, even my musician husband who gets annoyed by music easily.

If you're only familiar with old Wiggles lineup, I invite you to check out the new Wiggles (who have actually been the Wiggles since 2012, which is practically multiple generations in toddler world). The music has evolved so much with the new lineup; Simon (Red Wiggle) has a hell of a vocal range and Lachy (Purple Wiggle) is bringing out a new dimension in the songwriting that didn't exist before. Not to dump on their older music, which is still part of our rotation, but it's just different. My husband and I have joked that the new Wiggle Town album is practically a concept album. And I love that it is introducing different music styles to my kiddo (disco, traditional Irish, nursery rhyme, 60s pop, etc.)

Emma Watkins (Yellow Wiggle) is a joy to watch, not just her dancing but her connection with kids. She's warm and sweet and open. She gets an active role on the show, playing the drums and driving the Wiggles' Big Red Car while also wearing bows and skirts and being feminine. This is apparently not a character they created for her, but actually who she is as a person, and the inclusion of Auslan in a lot of their recent videos is due to her longtime connection with the language. They do use a lot of signing in the videos/on the show, and not in a "hey look at us doing this signing thing!!" kind of way, but it's just a natural inclusion that is nice.

My kid loves the Wiggles, and I love them too.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:16 AM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

My main take-away from this is that "The Woggles" from that one 30 Rock episode are actually real. I'm not much of a children's music person, so I had no idea they were referencing a specific band rather than just being a pastiche of children's performers in general.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:39 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Conspire, thank you for sharing that knowledge!
posted by Alterscape at 7:51 AM on September 28, 2016

Well, that was happy and fun.

And if I ever win the lotto that's the house and grounds I'll live on.
posted by Gwynarra at 8:14 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Being from the South, I must observe that Woggles are distinct from Wiggles.
posted by Public Corruption? at 10:49 AM on September 28, 2016

Emma's resemblance to Jen from the IT Crowd makes me expect to see Roy and Maurice suddenly appear at any moment.
posted by w0mbat at 11:29 AM on September 28, 2016

And those Woggles are distinct from these woggles. (The Woggles on 30 Rock are very definitely a reference to The Wiggles, though.)

The impressive thing about this video is that I watched without sound and have no familiarity with either Australian Sign Language or the original song, but it still was immediately recognisable as an obnoxious pop tune I'd be annoyed by if I heard it come over the speakers at a CVS.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:08 PM on September 28, 2016

Emma is my half-Aussie 22-month-old daughter's personal hero. "Emma dance!" she says excitedly. So thanks for more Emma material that I haven't already seen and heard 800 times!
posted by olinerd at 7:47 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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