Anna Chwialkowska in collaboration with Lena Jansen Artistic Profile Research
“Don’t worry, I don’t get the hype either”


We see a teenager in a bedroom from head to about thigh-height in an oversized hoodie, her hair
pulled back, effortlessly dancing a short choreography to a fast-paced rap song. Her precise hand
gestures are adorned by long, pointed, lilac acrylic fingernails. The video lasts a minute - and it's
already over. And then we watch it again. And again. And again.
Since Charli D'Amelio joined TikTok in 2019, she has reached over 100 million followers in one year
and is now one of the social platform's most famous personalities with her short dance routines. Yet
she is not the only one dancing: TikTok is awash with teenagers, creating and performing short
choreographies that are apt for the medium. The short performances are often similar in form,
content, aesthetics and movement vocabulary. They aim to be repeatable and the number of
repetitions/ reenactments by other TikTok users allow a video to become viral. These videos open up
to us a new world of dance and dance practices that present itself as both extremely intimate and
individual as well as excessively public and mass conform. However, the offline performance scene
and dance research academia seems to ignore or belittle this burst of viral dance trends that affects
and unites young people across the globe.
Why aren’t they part of the discourse in contemporary dance research?
In this research, we attempt to dig deeper into the trends, personalities and dynamics that circulate
throughout this peculiar social media app. As these short videos (15 seconds - 3 minutes) seem to
take the ephemeral nature of dance performances to an extreme, while at the same time sealing
their immortality through immediate archiving, we would like to discuss TikTok in the framework of
archiving practices in dance.
As point of departure, we take up a couple of observations that seem curious to us:
In May 2022, a short TikTok choreography by Jaeden Rae Gomez performed to the song “About
Damn Time” by Lizzo became so viral that Lizzo herself danced it at the BET-Award Show in June. The
resonance and impact that these dances can have are striking to us, especially in regards to how
“simple” individuals can proliferate a dance so that it becomes globally acknowledged all of a
sudden. What is it that makes a dance viral?
Being that a lot of the aesthetics and moves are recognizable, we will try to find the commonalities
that underlie the production processes of some of these clips.
TikTok has been the first platform that puts a special focus on music so that a song search was
implemented. As a result, the search engine shows all the clips that were created with the sound, the
most popular ones first. The circulation and specific usage of music in TikTok had also had an impact
on the current music industry. For example Olivia Rodrigo, a pop-singer, who gained massive
popularity through the app, revealed in a New York Times interview that she wrote and produced her
hit “Drivers License” already having in mind how the song could be used as a TikTok sound. What are
the relationships between musicians nowadays and the platform? How does the music relate to the
dances and gestures performed?
What has also become an interesting aspect due to the endless reenacting of the same dances is the
authorship. Suddenly, dance credits are at stake. Since the case of Beyoncé’s music video that has
used Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s choreographies “Rosas danst Rosas” and “Achterland”, the
discussion on dance credits became increasingly relevant. However, it never really seemed to have
found a sustainable, legal solution that can be generally adapted.
In TikTok, users have found a way on how to credit dance moves. How are dance credits being
negotiated on TikTok? What could or could the contemporary dance scene not learn from that
discussion?
On the other hand, TikTok has come under thorough scrutiny lately.
The platform stream is extremely whitewashed and features majorly able-bodied people. The Forbes
list of the top-earning TikTokers in 2022 released in January this year is almost completely devoid of
BIPOC artists.
Last year in June, black creators have initiated a one-month-strike as to raise awareness on how
many viral dances have their origins in the black community, without being appropriately credited.
Under the hashtag #BlackTikTokStrike they spoke about this issue on several social platforms.
The mechanisms that facilitate this underrepresentation of black, queer and disabled or non-
normative bodies are rooted in the extremely effective algorithms. According to Sebastian Matthias
(2022), the “political agenda” of these algorithms is closely related to the practice of censorship
imposed by the Chinese government. For the users it is not clear how or why their content is not
visible anymore, a phenomenon that is also known as “shadow banning”. The practice of repeating
the same short choreographies by millions of users, however, helps machine learning even more to
recognize non-desirable bodies that are silently removed from public visibility.
In the backdrop of these events, some of the topics and questions our research tries to tackle are the
following:
- Recent trends: “My money don’t jiggle” (April), “About Damn Time” (May), and others that
might appear in the following months. What made them so viral?
- Analyze aesthetics: wardrobe, appearance, setting in space and media format
- Movement vocabulary: repetitive gestures, gestures in relation to lyrics, range and volume of
movements in relation to the medium
- Practices of interaction: repeating, reenacting, but also doubling. How are creative additions
received?
- How does the public discourse handle whitewashing and shadow banning? Are there any
significant reactions from the TikTok user community towards this critique?

1 A statement that could be read in Charli D’Amelio’s profile bio

Bibliography:
Matthias, Sebastian (2022): “Choreographien der Angleichung. Digitale Kulturtechniken auf TikTok”,
pp. 291-311, in: Sabine Huschka/Gerald Sigmund (eds.): Choreographie als Kulturtechnik. Neue
Perspektiven. Berlin: Neofelis.

Charli D’Amelio:
George, Cassidy (Sep 5th, 2020): “How Charli D’Amelio Became the Face of TikTok”, New Yorker:
www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/how-charli-damelio-became-the-face-of-tiktok
Dance credits:
Setty, Rddhi: “TikTok Dance Creators Struggle to Win Credit and Copyrights”, Bloomberg Law:
news.bloomberglaw.com/ip-law/tiktok-dance-creators-struggle-to-win-credit-and-copyrights
TikTok choreographers:
Tait, Amelia (Aug 18th, 2020): “Meet the choreographers behind some of TikTok’s most viral dances”,
wired: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/tik-tok-dances

Whitewashing:
Pearce, Sheldon (Sep 9th, 2020): “The Whitewashing of Black Music on TikTok”, New Yorker:
www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-whitewashing-of-black-music-on-tiktok
Saint-Louis, Tai (Jan 21st, 2022): “PLAYING CATCH UP: THE ABSENCE OF BLACK CREATORS ON
FORBES’ TIKTOK LIST HIGHLIGHTS A BIGGER ISSUE”, Black Enterprise:
www.blackenterprise.com/playing-catch-up-the-absence-of-black-creators-on-forbes-tiktok-list-highlights
-a-bigger-issue/

McClay, Cashe (July 15th, 2021): “Why black TikTok creators have gone on strike”, BBC News:
www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57841055
Music Industry
Whiele, Benedikt; Rodrian, Rebecca (Aug 3rd, 2022): “Wie TikTok die Popmusik verändert”, SWR3:

Image credits: TikTok /  charli d’amelio, lizzo, jess qualter

Anna Chwialkowska
Anna Chwialkowska is an anthropologist, dancer and dramaturgist based in Berlin.
She has completed her dance education at the Dance Intensive program at Tanzfabrik and performed
in works by Danilo Andrés, Breeanne Saxton and David Bloom. As a freelancer, she is working as
production manager and dramaturgical advisor for Sergiu Matis, and research associate in the
Moving Margins project convened by Sasha Portyannikova and Nitsan Margaliot. From 2016-2020
she has been working as project coordinator in the Anthropocene Curriculum project at Haus der
Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.
Her creative research deals with strategies and means with which humans make sense of the world
(e. g. through science, religion, or language). Her performative works include A Line Makes Sense,
and Forschung aktuell both presented in 2022 at Tanzfabrik Berlin.
Her academic studies include a B.A. in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Spanish and M.A. in Cultural
Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Köln focusing on
knowledge production in dance at the intersection of language and the body.

Lena Jansen
Lena Jansen is a freelance journalist based in Leipzig, where she is also currently doing her Bachelor’s
degree in Political Science. She mainly works as a social media journalist for funk, a German public
content network that is aiming at young adults. Besides reporting through social media platforms like
TikTok and Instagram, she is researching on their social dynamics and implements them in her work.
In her studies, she focuses on (online) political education and the political systems in Germany as well
as in Poland. At the moment she is doing a research about people who don’t necessarily view
themselves as “political” and how they still implement their political views and values in their daily
discourses.








Moving Margins Chapter II
moving arti|facts from the margins of dance archives
into accessible scores and formats









Supported by the NATIONAL PERFORMANCE NETWORK
- STEPPING OUT, funded by the Federal Government
Commissioner for Culture and Media with
in the
framework of the initiative NEUSTART KULTUR.
Assistance Program for Dance.