TikTok star Addison Rae performed eight TikTok dances, such as the ‘corvette corvette’ dance, March 26 on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The problem? The dances weren’t her own creations. She has since received backlash for appropriating dances she did not create.
Most dances she performed on the show were from Black creators, who have become invisible to her success.
The importance of dance in the Black community is being forgotten as white TikTok-ers steal moves from Black creators, such as Mya Johnson and Chris Cotter, who created the original “Up” TikTok challenge, a dance Addison performed on the Jimmy Fallon show.
Dance has always been an outlet for Black individuals. Dating back to before enslavement, dance was used by African people to recognize many special occasions, such as a birth, marriage or as a part of their daily activities. Dance affirmed life and the outlook of the future, according to the African American Registry. It is a foundational element of the Black community, and continues to be something that connects us with one another.
“Dance is paramount,” Baba Stafford C. Berry, Jr., director of the African American Dance Company at IU, said. “Dance is the glue that ties us to our lineage.”
For choreographers such as IU senior TyraRose Nibbs and IU sophomore Eden Fisher, dance continues to be a way of life. Dance allows these choreographers to tell a story with their body which represents past experiences that only Black people can relate to.
Fisher said dance is something that will always bring joy and connectivity to the Black community. It helps Black individuals escape the harsh reality of poverty and death within our surroundings and find a medium to keep us grounded.
According to Dance Magazine, pride and pain are intertwined for Black dancers and choreographers in America. Dance has been able to reflect the country’s indifferences to ongoing racial violence and discrimination through the movements curated on the dance floor.
When people such as Addison Rae come into the Black community and steal dances because they’re cool, our identity as a community is stripped away.
If you just copy and paste a dance you didn’t create into your own TikTok, you are missing a valuable opportunity to understand what the dance is about and where it comes from.
Berry said dance represents meaning, protocol, access, understanding and connectivity. He said when you pass the dance along, you are misinforming those you share it with, especially if neither of you have a relationship with the community where the dances come from.
There are codes and scripts that contribute to the meaning behind movements and songs used on the TikTok platform from Black creators, Berry said.
“If you go into a community and experience their dance and then take that dance and do with it as you will, sure you have that license and right as a person in the world,” Berry said. “You run the risk of perpetuating systemic strongholds and misinformation when you take something from a culture that’s not yours.”
There is one simple answer to this problem of TikTok dance thieves — give credit where it is due.
No matter how trendy a dance may be, there is usually meaning behind it. The amount of time Black TikTokers put into their work deserves attribution — tag your sources.
“I don’t really get surprised, to be completely honest, when I see our culture being appropriated,” Nibbs said. “That’s just the life of living as a Black person in America.”