How unhinged dances took over our screens

From M3GAN’s pre-kill performance to Wednesday’s Spooky Girl’s Frug, there’s only one way to dance right now: utterly deranged.

Dance like nobody’s watching,” they say. Well, maybe that was possible a few decades ago, but things have changed. Your regrettable, tequila-fuelled dab might reach thousands on Instagram Live and that ill-fated worm could become immortalised on TikTok. Dancefloor liberation can no longer be achieved by pretending everyone in the room is looking at something else. Now, you have to imagine that nobody’s filming.

Or you could embrace it. Wednesday Addams didn’t give a shit when she flopped like a rag doll and did a freaky Fosse at her school dance. Wide-eyed and loose-limbed, Jenna Ortegas self-choreographed routine was one of the highlights of Netflix’s Addams Family spin-off, a sort of rhythmic exorcism to the tune of The Cramps’ Goo Goo Muck. In fact, those 65 seconds of spooky shimmies and broken doll arms were such a stand out that it sparked a viral TikTok trend, as creators learned the dance at home and performed it to Bloody Mary by Lady Gaga. Since then, Spotify streams of the song have increased by 1,800 per cent.

What made the choreography so special? Ortega has credited the likes of the original Wednesday Addams, Lisa Loring, and Bob Fosse himself as inspiration for the routine, but it was her shoutout to goths dancing in clubs in the 80’s [sic]” that really caught our attention. Bodies convulsing, arms flailing – when you look back at footage of these aforementioned goths, there’s no embarrassment, no insecurity, no timid attempts to find the beat. Just like Wednesday’s eccentric gyrating, it’s a display of total self-assured freedom. And to an audience more accustomed to performative social media posts and homogenised TikTok dances, it’s almost completely unfamiliar. So unaffected it’s practically unhinged.

Wednesday’s not alone on her deranged dancefloor, either. Another brilliantly bizarre boogie comes courtesy of M3GAN, the killer AI doll who brings new meaning to slay, queen!” Dreamed up by Akela Cooper and James Wan (who, by the way, is also half-responsible for bringing M3GAN’s fellow creepy doll Jigsaw to the big screen), she’s the one who’s been cartwheeling all over your feed since the first M3GAN trailer dropped two months ago. The sci-fi horror film is supposed to be a campy allegory about the potential dangers of sentient AI, but no one really cares about that. All fans want to see is those five seconds in the trailer when the doll inexplicably executes perfect body rolls and knee wiggles, before literally executing a human with a machete.

Semi-spoiler alert: M3GAN doesn’t actually feature much dancing. But you’d be forgiven for assuming otherwise if you’ve been following the its marketing campaign. After the doll’s dance moves instantly went viral, they became the film’s USP, milked and amplified at every opportunity. Subsequent versions of the trailer ramped up the routine, while an army of eerie M3GAN dancers have performed everywhere from the film’s US premiere to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s not necessarily M3GAN’s moves themselves that are bonkers here, more the context. Why did M3GAN need to serve so hard before committing a vicious crime? Who came up with the idea to add a dance break to a horror film? How did they give those IRL dancers’ creepy cyborg skin? And what, please, are they doing on the top of a New York landmark?!

We may never know the answers to these urgent questions. One thing’s for sure, though: unhinged dancing is the key to getting in touch with your deepest emotions and impulses, whether that’s impressing a boy with a Spooky Girl’s Frug, or murdering anyone who threatens your bestie.

Take prequel Pearl, in which Mia Goth’s titular aspiring chorus girl dances and then masturbates with a scarecrow after meeting a new crush. Or Billie Piper in I Hate Suzie Too, who dresses up as a sad clown for an unsettling performance on a fictional reality competition, Dance Crazee. Playing the slut-shamed (and therefore disgraced) actress Suzie Pickles, the character’s appearance on the show is an attempt to rehabilitate and desexualise her public image. But as she screams and flashes manic grins while dancing to Gypsy Woman, it almost feels like we’re peering into Suzie’s psyche. As Piper told RadioTimes, the routine reveals what “[she] thinks about herself. […] Which is, I’m sort of like a monster in these moments.’ It’s her shadow self.”

Don’t worry, you don’t have to get that existential to get in on the action. All you need to do is stop thinking and let that pent up anxiety out with a couple of erratic dance moves. Even if it does get caught on camera, the dickhead who uploads it to the internet ends up looking worse than you – they’re the ones being bitchy on the sideline. No rhythm? Doesn’t matter. Crap coordination? Who cares?! Just do it like Wednesday and let your dance demon out.

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