Teach Me How to Boogie #4: “Teach Me How to Dougie,” by California Swag District

by Chris Randle

In the first installment of TEACH ME HOW TO BOOGIE, I talked to my friend Amelia Ehrhardt about bounce music and the moves that go with it. She’s still studying dance at York University. Today’s very special edition of the series is about a single song, the nation-sweeping jerkin’ anthem “Teach Me How to Dougie,” and its titular dance craze (see above). Or at least that was the plan. My long Gchat conversation with Amelia wandered off on various tangents again – all about the same subject, this time. I condensed three hours of instant messages into this discussion. Welcome to Dougie 101.

Amelia: I just watched this:

Chris: I was going to ask if you wanted to know more about that track, or The Jerkin’ Movement in general, but it seems like you’ve already done the research!

Amelia: Background research

Amelia: It’s funny background research, via wikipedia youtube and urbandictionary

Chris: Did you have to look up “redbone”?

Amelia: What is that? I haven’t heard it yet

Chris: That may only be in the dirty version of the track (so not that first music video) – one of the guys says he’s going to find a “thick redbone” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Red%20Bone

Amelia: hahahaha

Amelia: “The fundamental thing, first of all, is jerking. Jerking is the main thing you gotta know, to jerk.”

Chris: It’s almost Zen

Chris: Here’s another favourite jerkin’ track from 2010:

Chris: “my iPod got the Bangz like it’s wearing a wig”

Amelia: Holy shit this is awesome

Amelia: Have you seen any of fzcentral’s videos?

Chris: No, are they dougie-related?

Amelia: Seem to be

Chris: You’ve probably figured this out by now, but the main membership/audience of jerkin’ is teenager skaters from L.A.

Amelia:

Amelia: I think fzcentral is more focused on jerkin…Can I say that?

Amelia: So let me get this trajectory – dougie is like a subcategory of jerkin’

Chris: Or a subset – or just a jerkin’ track married to a dance craze

Amelia: OK

Chris: The beat of a jerkin’ song is typically minimalist, and I think the one on “Teach Me How to Dougie” may actually be “live percussion” presets from some audio program.

Amelia: Cowbell apparently

Chris: Yeah

Amelia: I’m watching a bunch of tutorials about how to boogie

Amelia: I mean, dougie

Amelia: Hahaha!

Chris: Although the California Swag District have been mildly controversial, because I guess they’re the equivalent of a boy band?

Chris: They all have names like C-Smoove

Amelia: How long has the dougie been like an officially recognized dance?

Chris: Since 2009, at least

Amelia: Jesus this happens so fast

Chris: There’s a song by Wes Nyle called “Dougie”

Chris: Personally I don’t really care if the group was created by an A&R guy in Burbank, because c’mon: “This beat was bubblegum/So I had to chew it.”

Chris: (Not sure if there are any A&R guys in Burbank)

Amelia: I’m sort of doing 3 Gchats at the same time right now, and I showed a couple of these videos to Jon and some of what we are now talking about is really relevant to this – just about how quickly this stuff develops

Amelia: Second time this has hit me – I was thinking about it last time I was talking to you about this.

Amelia: Things are codified so quickly; ballet took 100 years to develop 5 foot positions, now whole subcategories pop up in what – a year?

Amelia: Like, the system of academic dance I studied when I was young, if the syllabus needed to be changed it took a DECADE

Amelia: Not to be like wow it’s 2010 the future is now and boy it’s fast

Amelia: but shit

Chris: I think teenpop like “Teach Me How to Boogie” moves especially fast

Chris: Back when Soulja Boy first blew up someone presented an EMP paper suggesting that “microcareers” like his would become normal – though Souljerrrr is still hanging in there, possibly through sheer weirdness.

Chris: One of his mixtapes this year was named after an anime series

Amelia: Well they were right weren’t they? Microcareers are kind of normal now

Amelia: It’s funny – this video

at 2:37 there’s a section of arm stuff and Jon was like “is that contemporary dance” (joking) but what’s interesting is that yes, it is

Amelia: Most contemporary dance classes I’ve been to have wiggly arm stuff

Amelia: I think maybe that’s the technical term? Anyway it’s all hip hop, jerkin, tipping, etc.

Amelia: also how much of it gets appropriated by drag

Amelia: That’s the other thing – how quickly it develops means that it gets subverted really quickly too. It’s hard to tell where it starts/finishes

Chris: Is it? I’ve never seen a drag show

Amelia: God it’s amazing, I saw this weird piece a couple months ago, trying to find the choreographer’s names now

Amelia: ILL NANNA / DiverseCity Dance Company

Amelia: All men, and half of it was pretty straight hip hop…hoods, jeans

Amelia: You know – they broke free! took off their hoods!

Amelia: Then they were all in heels and lingerie, doing all the feminized versions of the same dances.

Amelia: What’s the one form – is it rockin? – I can’t remember

Amelia: Anyway it has a whole other version that is the “women’s” style, which is so interesting, in all the development of western dance and trying to gender-neutralize everything, contact improvisation, women doing the lifts, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Amelia: and ultimately, people making dances still seem to want men and women to have different styles of dancing

Chris: Jerk kids can get pretty flamboyant themselves! Neon swag.

Chris: What you’re talking about kinda reminds me of something Maura Johnston wrote this week, about the gendered nature of proposal rituals: http://www.theawl.com/2010/11/why-the-ads-for-christmas-engagement-rings-make-me-uncomfortable

Amelia: man thank god someone wrote this

Amelia: “But all these ads are doing for me, a red-blooded American female, is solidifying my belief that that I never want someone in a relationship with me to feel like they have to ‘propose.'”

Chris: Maura writes really well about issues like that

Amelia: This is the second time I’ve started thinking a lot about gender while talking to you about these videos

Amelia: Maybe I just think about gender a lot, but I think it’s also pretty inescapable to have to think about gender in a form made on bodies

Amelia: Someone once said to me that you can’t make a dance on a man and a woman and not have it be about sex, a non-dancer/dance scholar – I was so irate

Amelia: Like, who are you to say what dance can and can’t be about? I still don’t agree, but I sort of see the logic behind it

Amelia: Because to an extent yes, if you are looking at work for representation, chances are you are going to try and have it represent something familiar to you…And I wouldn’t say that contemporary western theatrical dance is entirely trying to escape the fact or deny the fact that dance can be, tends to be, has a strong predisposition to be sexualized

Amelia: However I do think the form tries to work against that as much as possible – I mean, I don’t necessarily see sex when I see a man/woman pairing. But maybe I’ve been around bodies in that sense enough that I’m desensitized to it.

Amelia: Not in the same way that “all western people are now desensitized towards overt sexual imagery,” because I don’t think that changes our relationship to sex, but I do think that having to look at bodies abstractly – like, okay, what if my leg is an extended line and not the the part of my body that is attached to my crotch – leads to a certain disambiguation between bodies <-> sex.

Chris: I was going to say, why would a dance necessarily be about sex at a certain level of abstraction?

Amelia: I don’t think it would be, but I think there is a certain amount that people will take from it.

[Chris’ router stops working yet again]

Chris: If my internet connection was always about sex it would be bad, unsatisfying sex

Amelia: I would have left by now

Chris: no scrubz

Chris: Hah, that reminds me – have I told you about Pink Dollaz? http://passionweiss.com/2010/07/28/the-return-of-pink-dollaz/

Chris: all-girl jerk crew

Amelia: Is jerk something else that has a male-female version? Research I should have done

Chris: Pertinent quote: “Gets none from me so get your magic lotion / Drop you like a lost little puppy in the open”

Amelia: hahahahaha

Chris: Also, they have a song about making boys eat you out.

Chris: (at first I heard it as “lost little puppy in the ocean”)

Amelia: I mean, as great as it is to have a counter to songs basically glorifying rape, I still find this to be a bit of a Sex and the City version of feminism

Chris: Which rape-glorifying songs are you referring to?

Amelia: I can’t think of one off the top of my head – but a friend just posted lyrics the other day. I am exaggerating slightly, but I have definitely heard songs at LEAST about blow jobs

Chris: What I really like about Pink Dollaz is…how organic they are? They’re these high school friends who began recording songs about sex and Beyonce-style financial independence

Chris: And while a fair number of jerkin’ tracks are basically good-natured songs about fucking, theirs are the most aggressive I’ve heard.

Amelia: “good natured songs about fucking”

Amelia: I kind of love that

Amelia: don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with it

Chris: I actually wasn’t sure how to respond to your misgivings because I’ve never seen Sex and the City

Amelia: oh haha

Amelia: Well, I have a problem with Sex and the City-brand feminism

Amelia: I like this group – this one you just showed me – but it does seem close

Chris: There are huge racial/class differences between the two, though

Amelia: Well, of course

Amelia: But what do you mean by that? Does it make it any better to have “female rap” be about expensive bags and blow jobs if it’s a “racial/class difference”?

Amelia: What I mean is – that’s not the only thing that is “a female experience”

Amelia: and I have a problem with media/literature/etc that suggests this

Chris: I do think that saying “I pay my own bills” is more meaningful in one context, but that’s a good question

Chris: Yesterday I read this depressing New York Times trend piece about affluent, successful, ambitious women whose lower-earning male partners felt subtly emasculated or some shit

Amelia: exactly (which is bullshit)

Chris: or who couldn’t find a date at all because their male peers are interested in secretaries and nurses

Chris: though given our respective careers I doubt either of us will run into that dilemma! ha ha ha

Amelia: Have you heard of He’s Just Not That Into You?

Chris: yeah, I’ve heard of it

Amelia: It breaks women down into several categories of Women Who Don’t Get Second Dates Because Of The Following Female Problems

Amelia: one of them is a woman who is too into her career and too successful

Amelia: it suggests you tame it down if you want to get a guy to like you

Chris: “whenever a woman offers to pay for drinks my mind flashes to a primal castration scene”

Amelia: What’s that from?

Chris: a chris randle original joke, 2010

Amelia: ha ha ha

Chris: Detouring back to matters dougie-related – when you study dance in university, do they talk about how dance crazes like that can suddenly emerge from jerkin’ or another scene?

Amelia: No – “social” dance isn’t really studied in the university on that level, at least not in Toronto/Canada to my knowledge. I mean, I guess there’s some variety; this semester I had to take a course called The Canadian Dance Mosaic

Amelia: Lemme pull up the description

Amelia: “Examines dance as a human phenomenon that both reflects and shapes culture. Through readings, films, lectures, discussions and guest artists, students are introduced to a variety of dance forms from different traditions represented in Canadian society. The course examines the place of dance in its own cultural setting as well as approaching issues facing dance in Canada as a multi-ethnic society. ”

Amelia: It did that fairly successfully

Chris: That seems like a big oversight! But the emergence of new youth memes probably isn’t studied enough in general.

Amelia: It isn’t

Amelia: But what this course kind of tried to do was “level the playing field” and look at all dance forms as equal not ballet > everything else “world dance” etc.

Amelia: It makes the argument that calling other forms “folk” or “social” (vs like, formal/art dance) degrades them.

Amelia: Anyway the course kind of sucked, but I do think that kind of dialogue needs to happen, ideally before third-year university. Especially if we want to make dance relevant

Amelia: HELLO! Here it is, dance is relevant and happening in people’s lives

Amelia: Why aren’t we talking about it? Here is dance! The people are dancing, it is happening in front of you and we won’t put it in a university

Amelia: Hip hop and other arguably ACTUAL contemporary dance forms don’t go to university

Amelia: There’s a variety of reasons behind all of this, but why not start studying, at least on a theoretical level, the fact that people seem to be dancing and dancing with each other again?

Amelia: You can learn how to do this on Youtube for chrissakes, I don’t know if dance has ever BEEN more accessible.

Chris: I love that the California Swag District music video shows this diverse multitude of all races, assembled to learn the Way of the Dougie

Chris: I even love the NAME “California Swag District” – it sounds like a faction in some post-apocalyptic dystopia, or a separatist enclave. That’s a good look.

Amelia: fashion blog

Amelia: So where the hell does the name dougie come from

Amelia: and also until I watched the video I kind of assumed for some reason it was pronounced “doogie” maybe because of “teach me how to BOOgie”

Chris: I have no idea where the name originally came from

Chris: Would it be too much to dream that the Dougie is also a person?

Chris: a Swag Elemental

Amelia: Father of Swag

Chris: This appeared in Google Reader the other day:

Two memes in one!

Amelia: hahahaha!

Amelia: Okay I have to write a stupid paper for a stupid class I don’t care about

Chris: Okay

Chris: There’s one last clip I should show you

Chris: It’s…arresting, if nothing else

Amelia: ha

Chris: http://gawker.com/5689212/wolf-blitzer-taught-how-to-dougie

Chris: Maybe that’s the best way to measure when a teen dance craze has reached mass awareness: middle-aged TV anchors awkwardly doing the moves.

Amelia: Ha, hilariously I’m being made to sit through a 15-second Diane von Furstenberg sunglasses ad using knockoff SATC background music featuring a real Carrie Bradshaw type getting into a Manhattan cab

Amelia: It’s like the twist

Amelia: THIS IS THE BEST

Amelia: I think York Dance wants me to say something about the equalizing qualities of dance, universal language etc., but whatever that’s kind of not worth talking about, I mean, I can’t describe it any better than that video shows it

Amelia: Dance, it’s like so beautiful or something

Chris: I’ve never liked Wolf Blitzer more than I did watching that clip

Chris: Or liked him at all, really

Amelia: See? Beautiful.

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