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Understanding Rhythm Through Renaissance

Nearly two months after its release, the introductory act of Beyonce’s highly-anticipated album trilogy, “Renaissance,” continues to stir conversation. Dancers and TikTokers have taken to social media to share their choreography to compliment the disco/house/hip-hop/r&b songs, including CUFF IT, HEATED and PURE/HONEY. The influx of 8-count TikTok sequences, professional choreography and line dances has since caused fans of the album to weigh in on the importance of musicality and the ultimate definition of “rhythm” in the context of dance.

“It doesn’t work because he is dancing to the instrumental/beat and not the lyrics. The cadence of her words at that part of the song is faster than the beat. So, his dancing to the instrumental/beat makes it look like he isn’t hitting all of the beats. It also isn’t a good dance,” replied Twitter user @jaliyah_TSNMI to a viral video of celebrity choreographer Brian Friedman’s rendition of HEATED.

To many other fans, however, Friedman’s choreography aligned with Beyonce’s ad libs as she closes out the song, rather than the beat, making the dance off putting.

While the Oxford Dictionary defines the term as “musical talent or sensitivity,” musicality in dance is a more abstract concept focusing on how a dancer’s relationship with the music is communicated through choreography. The disagreement on the technical definition of rhythm is made clear by the rift in fans’ rationales behind “good” and “bad” choreography, however there tends to be a consensus when discussing the musicality of choreography, or lack thereof.

Outside of the world of professional choreography, the “Renaissance” hype has also made waves on TikTok, as some struggle to partake in the CUFF IT dance created by Macy Steele. The fluidity of the rolling movements comes naturally to some, while others tend to stiffen, indicating a lack of rhythm that has frustrated the more rhythmically inclined users.

One TikTok user in particular, @smoothjasmine, took to the platform to create a series called “Sit on the Beat,” stitching struggling dancers and giving tips on adding rhythm to the sequence.

“All I can say is, I don’t know where you’re marching to, but if you don’t know by now that you have to sit on the beat, I probably can’t help you,” said the dancer in response to another user’s attempt at the dance.

As anticipation grows for the remaining acts and album visuals, fans will likely continue to find new ways to express their relationships with the song through dance. While we can only hope that “Renaissance” will teach rhythm to those who seek it, the dance trends prove that the prevailing theme surrounding the album is unapologetic fun, regardless of how it manifests itself.

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Nylah Lee

Howard '23

Nylah Lee is a journalist studying media, journalism, film, and communications at Howard University. Her passion resides in essentially every aspect of the arts as they pertain to culture, including music, fashion, and printed composition. She is a strong advocate for speaking out against social, political, and economic inequality in my community.
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