National / Media | Japan Pulse

Viral dance crazes highlight a generational shift

by Alyssa I. Smith

Staff Writer

Japan is certainly no stranger to viral dance videos and one doesn’t have to think too far back to recall the popularity of the koi (falling in love) dance routine that took the internet by storm last year.

Popularized by TV drama “Nigeru wa Hajidaga Yaku ni Tatsu” (roughly translated as “Running Away is Shameful but Useful”), the quirky routine even prompted employees at U.S. government agencies in Japan to air their own winter holiday version featuring then-U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

While such viral dance routines are nothing new, internet users have recently shown a fondness for videos that tap into cross-generational influences.

Leading the charge is a dance troupe from Tomioka High School in Sakai, Osaka. The Tomioka Dance Club first caught the public’s attention when they won second place at Dance Stadium, a national high school dance competition, in August.

The troupe’s hilarious routine was a throwback to Japan’s bubble era of the ’80s, featuring teenagers sporting brightly colored shoulder-padded suit jackets and wildly teased hair held aloft with copious amounts of hair spray, all dancing to Yoko Oginome’s 1985 hit “Dancing Hero (Eat You Up).”

YouTube audiences were quick to spot the in-jokes that were incorporated in the exuberant dance moves, with one viewer named Mosa saying, “I was laughing and thinking ‘Wow’ at the same time.”

Celebrities who were referenced in the routine were also quick to respond.

Comedian Nora Hirano, whose catchphrases such as “ottamage” (“I’m shocked”) and “shimo shimo” (a wordplay on the telephone greeting “moshi moshi“) appear in the soundtrack, tweeted her approval and ended her message by saying, “You are sickeningly fantastic.”

Pop star Oginome, who provided the backing track to the routine, also sent the troupe a message, praising their energetic moves and thanking them for using her song.

The troupe’s coach and choreographer later uploaded a YouTube video of the same routine titled the “Bubbly Dance” on Sept. 16 that was viewed more than 2.5 million times in the first two days, with another 6.5 million viewers watching it since.

The slick new version features a high-energy mash-up of “Dancing Hero (Eat You Up),” Dead or Alive’s 1985 hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1997 chart-buster “Fantasy” and other pop favorites from decades before any of the troupe members were born.

The polished video hits all the right notes: The moves are sharp, the expressions on the dancers’ faces are faultless and the routine harks back to a period of outrageous prosperity in Japan.

It’s worth just noting that interest in the dance isn’t limited to Japan, and the video has also started to attract some attention on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

The young troupe from Osaka isn’t the only group who has recently won over online audiences by referencing older influences in a new setting, with viewers flocking to a YouTube video that features dancers at the other end of the age spectrum.

In a video that was originally posted in November 2016, three kimono-clad “grandmothers” effortlessly pop and lock to Bruno Mars’ 2016 hit “24K Magic.” The clip has since attracted more than 1.5 million views.

The three women, who are all older than 50, are well-known in dancing circles, but many viewers were surprised by their talent.

Several suggested these elderly women were able to bust out dance moves that could rival any young dancer.

Mars himself tweeted the trio’s video with a post that read: “This made my day!! Thank You Ladies!”

Meanwhile, YouTube viewer M Saez describes the video as being “the greatest thing I have ever seen in my life.”

The popularity of the two videos suggests that dancers of all ages can succeed by referencing the pop culture of another generation. Throw in a bit of astute humor for good measure and internet audiences won’t be able to resist being involved in the fun.