TORONTO – From Carlton Banks to Marvin Gaye and someone who’s stubbed his toe, Toronto rapper Drake is sparking scores of comparisons, parodies and memes with his shimmy-shuffle slow grooves in his new video for the earworm “Hotline Bling.”
But what do the dance experts think?
“Young man can dance and he’s got some groove in his system,” says renowned choreographer Tre Armstrong, who was a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance Canada.”
“It’s all about vibe and groove for him. It’s not about choreography, so people need to stop trippin’.”
Melissa Nascimento-So, youth program director at City Dance Corps in Toronto, applauds Drake for putting himself out there.
“He looks like he’s having a great time,” she says, “and really, that’s what dance is all about.”
The video, which debuted on Apple Music on Monday night, begins with a shot of curvaceous women working in a call centre.
It then cuts to a dancing Drake (whose real name is Aubrey Graham) in an illuminated box on a minimalistic set, clad in a blood orange puffer jacket, light blue jeans and camel-coloured Timberland Boots.
“You used to call me on my cellphone,” he sings as he slowly rotates his torso into hunched-over and upright positions, doing what appears to be a two-step/salsa/shimmy fusion with animated tai-chi-esque arm movements.
More body rolls, deep-knee bends and arm gestures follow as we see the 28-year-old in various outfits, often putting his hand in the shape of a phone and swirling it at the side of his head as he sings the chorus.
“I really applaud Drake for just having fun with it and just vibing out and doing his thing,” said Aaron Libfeld, a partner at The Underground Dance Centre in Toronto.
“I think he was just channeling however the song made him feel and I think he was just expressing how he felt in his movements. It’s really nice to see a rapper go out there and actually do that.
“I think it was really bold of him.”
The video has caused a frenzy online, with countless Vine parodies, articles and several Twitter accounts dedicated to it. There have also been comparisons to The Carlton, the dorky dance by Alfonso Ribeiro’s character on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“What the actual hell were you doing there?” said “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah on Tuesday’s show. “What are those dance moves?”
“You’re holding every single mixed-race person back. Do you know how hard we’ve worked to be called ‘black’ and then you do this to us, Drake? You’re going to get our black status revoked.”
Nascimento-So felt Drake was channelling a few different styles.
“Marvin Gaye, Bollywood, a Latin flair. He still has this kind of urban look to him and bounce as well,” she said.
“The greatest dance moves come out of fusion, so maybe that’s what he was going for.”
Armstrong loved a couple of particular moves.
“There was the hand jook. He has this thing where he puts his hands down on an ankle. I thought that was fresh. And then he has the pelvic pop, the pelvic thrust.”
Nascimento-So said she was surprised by the video, noting “we’ve never seen him move this much.”
But she added, “Drake does come from an acting background and we know that he’s already funny and a bit of comedian, so I wasn’t surprised in that sense.”
“Hopefully he stretched before all of that.”
Despite the mockery, the experts think his interpretive moves are inspirational.
“It’s about just having fun, loving life, enjoying the music that you’re listening to and moving freely to it, so good on him for doing that,” said Nascimento-So.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see people mimicking this movement at parties, at clubs, in dance studios.”
Libfeld said it may “encourage people to be playful, have a good time and just move however they’re feeling and how the music makes them feel.”
“I think what we’ll take the most from this is to show people, ‘Listen, just do yourself, do you. Have fun, be playful and vibe out.’”