Formation Dancing
September 10, 2022 7:45 PM   Subscribe

So, my YouTube suggestions generally suck, but not entirely. I was given three dance videos over the past while that I quite enjoyed: Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River [3m30s], choreographed by Andrew Winghart, James Arthur's Recovery [4m26s], choreographed by Tim Milgram, and Sam Smith's Him [3m10s], choreographed by Kyle Hanagami. Unexpected, but welcome. Maybe you'll like them, too!

And I should include one of the ultimate formation dance videos ever, Toderick's Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels [4m24s].
posted by hippybear (19 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, ah! I just got handed another: Benjamin Clementine's I Won't Complain, choreographed by Larkin Poynton.
posted by hippybear at 8:19 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]

Cry Me A River
posted by ovvl at 8:50 PM on September 10

I saw that piece performed by Chibi Unity a few years ago and it’s stayed with me. Every now and then, I search it out the video for the pleasure of watching it. I’m not really into dance or choreography - although I always enjoy it - I’ve never had a dance piece/arrangement grab me like that one…
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:59 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

This is the version I’ve been rewatching…
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:06 PM on September 10 [11 favorites]

So, I’m a northerner here who didn’t grow up with drill or step teams and mostly know them from Black culture/associate ‘formation’ + ‘dancing’ with Beyoncé. Which meant that the list of videos of predominantly white guys made me slightly dubious or worried that there was some cultural appropriation going on. But I really don’t know enough to know one way or the other, so I tried to google more about the history of formation dancing. Found some links that say it’s a ballroom dancing thing, which is not the same use as in the videos linked above (though possibly there’s some connection, maybe indirectly?), but does at least give a potential background in non-appropriative white culture. Looking at the videos themselves, there’s a mix of dance styles in the ensembles, with synchronization being really the only common feature across all of them. One made me think more of chorus choreography from musicals, and one was clearly ballet-influenced (both forms that have been using synchronized ensembles for quite a while, but under different names than ‘formation’) for example, while the other two were or had more elements of hip hop dance style. But that’s as far as I was able to get. Anyone else have links to (or more direct knowledge of) more details?
posted by eviemath at 10:06 PM on September 10

(The way that the troupe of dancers are coordinated without doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time in much of the Chibi Unity videos look like stuff I’ve seen in modern dance at various points over past decades, but I don’t think I’ve seen as much actual synchronization as they use in other modern dance choreography before. It would be interesting to know if that innovation comes from hip hop dance teams or from a different tradition.)
posted by eviemath at 10:12 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

That Sam Smith song is so sad I couldn't listen to the whole thing!

I love the "Cry Me a River" choreography especially.
posted by Well I never at 8:26 AM on September 11

Small correction: 'James Arthur - Recovery' was choreographed by Janelle Ginestra, the dancer in front at the start. Tim Milgram shot the video. He was or is a dancer and choreographer himself and that helps making him great at filming dance. By all means have a look at his channel, it is full of excellent stuff!

But he still wasn't the choreographer in this one.
posted by Ashenmote at 8:32 AM on September 11

I'm a 56-year-old queer pansexual cis woman who has always been attracted to fem gay men, which means a lot of sweet crushes over the years that turn into lovely friendships.

Anyway, I think it must be a pretty amazing thing to be a young gay/queer man in a hot crowded club when Todrick Hall's Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels comes on. Such joy and celebration. Such a wonderful addition to the history of queer Black performers and pioneers.
posted by Well I never at 8:58 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]

posted by Well I never at 9:13 AM on September 11

It actually is Todrick :)
posted by obfuscation at 9:27 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

That Chibi Unity video linked by Tandem Affinity is really something. I admire the grace and precise control all these dancers have over their bodies. Sometimes their sharp movements are so fast it feels like the video must have been sped up, but of course it hasn't been—they've just trained themselves to that level of speed and precision. I love it.
posted by Well I never at 10:45 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I would love to see the dancers do these in uber slow motion...Like a Robert Wilson choreographed production...
posted by Czjewel at 11:08 AM on September 11

Cry Me a River: good use of eyebrows. Tasteful; not overdone.
posted by amtho at 12:10 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

These were REALLY cool - I've never seen anything quite like them before ... and so varied!

I've been really interested in cool choreography lately but not managing to discover much myself, so I'm especially grateful that you pointed these out to us. I'm looking forward to re-watching them many times to see what else I notice.

Thanks so much for sharing these dances and dancers, and your enthusiasm, hippybear!
posted by kristi at 5:08 PM on September 11

Loved these — thank you for sharing!
posted by trillian at 5:31 PM on September 11

So much synchronized crotch grabbing in that Michael Jackson video.

One thing that stands out to me when I watch dance is the vision the choreographer must have, to imagine the dance before it's performed. I know that choreographers work with dancers when they're developing a work, having them try things out, making revisions, and so on, but still: before this can be executed, someone has to imagine it.

Perhaps it just astounds me (in a good way) because I have a very verbal imagination but not much of a visual or movement one, and this kind of thing gives me a glimpse into powerful minds that are very different from my own. I was taken aback by the AskMe someone posted today about what they saw as the lack of innovation in dance, calling it all "naive expressionism." I won't link because I don't want to pile on that person, and they're getting good answers, but their perspective as someone who "doesn't know much about dance" was so completely different from mine as another someone who "doesn't know much about dance."
posted by Well I never at 6:06 PM on September 11

Woah, that Recovery video is powerful.
posted by Quasirandom at 9:05 AM on September 12

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