Saturday, March 21, 2009

I don't know much about the Jerk Dance other than that its bowlegged swagger looks fun and feasible. The rest of these dances, as you'll see, are stylized to the point of being not only impossible, but just plain weird.



The Melbourne Shuffle--popularized in Australia in the early '90s with the advent of hardstlye trance--is effective in that it's deceptive; the dancers' heel-toe magic and aggressive moonwalking create an illusion:


Turfin', a style that originated in Oakland alongside Hyphy (the style of the video's song) is similar to the Shuffle in its sleight of hand--or foot?! The dancer's footwork at :37 is particularly interesting if you aren't looking at his feet. This discrepancy--peripherally viewing footwork gives the illusion of sliding, while directly viewing it doesn't-- led me to the next video, but first some Durkle Turf':



Ok, so a possible explanation has to do with the hollow face below in which a concave face appears to be convex when viewed from a certain distance. The fact that we override certain depth cues and shading patterns in the concave face in exchange for a convex illusion supports the argument that what we are seeing has more to do with knowledge--meaning our practical knowledge of faces in general--than perception. This makes sense; we're surrounded by convex faces and have evolved to track, read, and respond to them with our survival depending on our speed and efficiency in doing so. Our minds are biased to see convex faces and only if the concave cues are pronounced--by getting close to the mask or darkening the concave shading--can the perception (reality) override the bias.



So, why do many of these popular dances capitalize on the mind's tendency to construct a useful version of the world and why did they come about? To me, the most striking dance moves are those that cause a misapplication of knowledge on the part of the viewer--the moonwalk or the Brookfield do this. Watching the moonwalk can be thrilling because, if done well, an illusion is created in which the dancer appears to be walking forward, but is actually moving backward. This particular misapplication of knowledge seems to be the result of a bias associated with tracking the movements of people, specifically those walking about.

A dance emerges from the distillation of similar illusions linked in a balanced or provocative way. This guy, demonstrating a version of the Liquid Dance popular in rave culture, shows how various illusions, when concentrated and linked, create a distinct, recognizable whole:

3 comments:

Kyna said...

Great stuff. Any thoughts about how the style of dress enhances the illusion the dancers are creating?

mochiv said...

My favorite is the durkle turfin' and the Australian rave kids.

thewesternnomad said...

So you're saying that great dance boils down to tricking the viewer? It seems to me that speed of dance plays a part. The faster you can pump out the moves, if performed without distinctly noticeable flaws, the more impressive to the viewer. Perhaps because the illusion becomes less discernible.