My Music
Fatboy Slim's 'Praise You' Video
A Terribly Brilliant Dance Routine

The Torrance Community Dance Group performance
for the song Praise You by Fatboy Slim

Praise You, which made number one in UK charts in 1999, is built around a vocal sample from an early blues recording called ‘Take Yo’ praise’ by Camille Yarbrough. It also features four other samples (Fatboy Slim should get an award for all that recycling!)

Out of all these disparate elements Fatboy (not his real name!) has created a mini pop masterpiece which is catchy, hypnotic and funky. However, as good as it is, I’m not here to talk about the music - it’s the video which really inspires me. Step forward the American director, producer and actor Spike Jonze (who recently directed the film ‘Where the Wild Things Are’). It was he who came up with the concept, choreographed and led the dancing in the video. It was made guerrilla-style (i.e. without permission to film from the property owners) in front of puzzled onlookers outside a movie theatre in Westwood, California. The video reportedly cost only $800 to produce, with most of that money going towards a replacement boombox and food for the cast and crew. It won three major awards at the 1999 MTV Video Awards.

Whenever I watch this video (and I have done many times!) I find a smile creeping across my face which tends to linger long after it finishes. I have been pondering why this is; what is it about this naff little dance routine which engenders such joy?

It is partly its uninhibited childlikeness – there is  a glorious sense of abandon in the dancing which is amplified by the fact that there is a whole group of people (of all ages) ‘letting go’ together. In the sheer silliness of the moves (spot the backward swimming fish!) it is unashamedly nerdy; in fact it is going out of its way to push the boundaries of nerdiness, almost belligerently refusing to be cool.* Ironically, It has achieved this so successfully that its uncoolness has turned full circle and becomes cool (you can find other groups copying the same routine on YouTube).

Perhaps this is the revenge of the nerds on a world where the inability to do ‘proper’ dancing has always left them standing on the edge of the dancefloor. This performance almost seems to be openly mocking ‘proper’ dance forms which take themselves so seriously. Watch carefully and you’ll notice elements of ballet (when Jonze awkwardly lifts up the girls in a pretend jette), line dancing, (when they all line up and do a simple little kick with arm swing) and finally beat boxing (when Jonze steps outside of the choreography for his freak out section and nearly bumps into a bemused queueing filmgoer). As he leaps about like a windmill having a fit you feel like he is going to fall over at any moment, and he very nearly does. This seems to be a metaphor for the whole performance: It could have so easily have fallen flat on its face but somehow it not only manages to keep on its feet but also takes off in flights of creative brilliance.

Thank you Mr Slim, Mr Jonze and all the other dancers for bringing such joy with your terribly brilliant dance routine.