From Natalie Hopkinson, “Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City”

From Natalie Hopkinson, “Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City” June 28, 2016

At that, the crowd of about two hundred youngsters detonated. They began to pair off, and fights appeared to erupt everywhere, according to an account written for Tmottgogo magazine by Richard O’Connor under a pen name.

“One minute I’m watching this guy and girl (probably no older than fifteen) just grooving with each other. The next minute he’s taking swings at her, she’s hitting him in the gut, he pulls out a whip and lashes her, she pulls out a knife and starts shankin’ him, all the while neither one has missed a single beat of the music. She gets up, smacks him across the face two times. It didn’t look like much of a hit but it must have been because his head turned right and then left. He recovers, gathers himself then leaps in the air while pulling his t-shirt up, then slam-dunks her head under his t-shirt. After this they both re-gather themselves for the next mutual assault. Then I look around, and this scene is being repeated all over the place. I feel like I have walked into a bad science fiction movie where the whole world has gone mad. Imaginative scenes like this were played throughout the club by different groups of youngins, and man can they get creative. The best dancers can literally tell a story, or a joke through their moves.”

When I described the Beat Your Feet dance to Katrina Hazzard-Donald, a Rutgers sociologist and the author of Jookin’: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture, she recognized the tropes immediately. “Oh, that’s a dance play,” she told me. It is “the highest popular aesthetic form in African American dance. When you get into a challenge, the only way that you can win is to engage in a dance play.  …I’m drawing my gun and gunning you down. Walking the dog, that is a very old one.”

(I’ve added quotation marks to the long quote from Tmottgogo to make this easier to read.)

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