No matter who you are or where you are, the chances are high that 2020 was a year unlike any other. And while we are starting to bring the world back to normal, all aspects of our culture are still affected, including the world of dance. So how did dancers react to a year of quarantine and what styles have emerged as the most popular–so far–for 2021?
The long time standard-bearer for the world of dance, ballet has never really gone away. However, at various times in its history it has appeared stale or tired, lacking innovation and relying too heavily on audience favorites. This is not one of those times. Dynamic new companies like Atlanta’s Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre are pushing fresh hybrid styles while establishment figures like the New York Ballet and San Francisco Ballet are hiring young and exciting choreographers like Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Earlier this year CLI Studios teamed up with choreographer William Forsythe to produce The Barre Project, a series of five pieces set to the music of electronic composer James Blake. Featuring the titular barre, an instantly recognizable staple in every ballet space and dance studio, this thrilling production was influenced by the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic and featured star ballerina Tiler Peck, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.
Dance styles are constantly evolving, and a year indoors had more people turning to streaming platforms like YouTube to find ways to keep moving. With more and more access to different styles and music, dancers have begun creating new eye-catching hybrid pieces. Many dance videos exist online for current pop hits, from step-by-step remakes–like K-Pop Choreographer Ara Cho’s reimagining of Dua Lipa’s 2020 hit Levitating–to fun new routines like PopSmoke’s Woo Dance that reminded people even if the clubs go away, the moves keep coming.
Building on the popularity of Youtube, TikTok is a platform which is interactive by design. The app has highlighted the fun of dance from professionals with complex choreography to simple and uplifting pieces for any dance lover to try. Users are encouraged to add their own content to a viral video by dueting, a process which allows endless new contributions and mutations. One of the most popular dueting phenomena on the site is the dance challenge, where certain songs are picked for users to workout their moves on. Some of the more popular challenges include the punching and driving theatrics of Ski Mask and a spirited and partnered reimagining of the classic New Orleans track Iko Iko. How popular is dance and dance challenges on TikTok? Teenage influencer Charli d’Amelio has gathered an astonishing 100 million-plus followers by showcasing her dance moves on the site.
With the gyms closed, many people turned to dance to meet their fitness needs. Popular routines sprung up all over the internet, with stylized motions borrowed and adapted from across the world of dance to power living room workouts and homespun fitness routines around the globe.
The world of Korean pop music has finally escaped the Asian market to become a worldwide trend, and with it comes a vast array of dance moves. The most popular act today is BTS, whose songs and videos all have extremely catchy and intensely choreographed routines. Borrowing mostly from the style of hip hop dance, these K-Pop dances reimagine the club moves of past decades into arena-sized, multi-person mega-spectacles. Young South Korean, Japanese, and Filipino choreographers draw from their childhood experiences of watching American Hip Hop music videos from the 2000s and mix it all up with the world-spanning visuals and emotional power balladry of the new pop format. No longer just a niche youth market, this is the new hot thing.