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Guys Dancing in Heels to Beyoncé

posted: 7.9.14 by Barclay Barrios

I have to admit.  I am totally crushing on Arnaud Boursain.

Boursain is part of a trio of dancers led by choreographer Yanis Marshall.  They’ve gone viral several times with their videos, which feature the French trio dancing complex routines to pop hits.  After their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, their latest video has become so popular that you need only go to YouTube’s site and type “guys”–“Guys Dancing in Heels to Beyoncé,” their video, immediately pops up. At the time of this writing, the video has surpassed 10.5 million views.

It strikes me that the video is a wonderfully complex artifact for teaching, too.  Put simply,What does it mean when guys dance in heels to Beyoncé?

I think the answer is rather complex, or hopefully would be.  To help students see that complexity, I might frame the video with Arwa Aburawa’s “Veiled Threat: The Guerilla Graffiti of Princess Hajib” (page 27 in Emerging).   Like the art of Princess Hajib (a fellow French citizen), Yanis Marshall’s choreography and the trio’s performance could be seen as either extremely radical or extremely conservative.  Men dancing in heels might strikingly reveal the socialized, acculturated, performative aspects of gender; men dancing in heels might reinstate men as the central, default option since some might say these men are equal to (if not better than) some women (at least when it comes to dancing in stillettos).  Combining Aburawa with “Missing: 163 Million Women” (p. 249), Mara Hvistendahl’s examination of the devastating consequences of gender selection in birth, would underscore what’s at stake in these discussions—the real lives of women across the world.

Julia Alvarez’s selections from Once Upon a Quinceañera (p. 45) offer a different context for looking at the relationship between cultures and gender assumptions while Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs” (p. 265) brings complex issues of feminism directly to the foreground.

Of course, that the dancers are gay complicates all of these discussions.  Note, for example, the many homophobic comments on the YouTube page.  I might use Kenji Yoshino’s “Preface” and “The New Civil Rights” (p. 551) to offer students a set of tools to discuss these implications or David Savage and Urvashi Vaid’s contributions to the It Gets Better Project (p. 425) to directly consider the consequences of homophobia.

Then there’s the racial component as well.  Leslie Savan’s “What’s Black, Then White, and Said All Over?” (p. 434) examines the tendency of pop culture to co-opt black language.  What then do we make of three white guys dancing to Beyoncé?

One might also approach this from the media aspect, perhaps using Bill Wasik’s “My Crowd Experiment: The Mob Project” (p. 513) to look at how viral videos relate to flash mobs.

“Guys Dancing in Heels to Beyoncé” is a rich text that offers a lot of opportunities for teaching.  But, really, for me, it’s all about Arnaud Boursain.  He’s so cute!

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