November 25, 2012

Many in Maine embrace infectious dance mania

Cheesy and cheeky, the 'Gangnam Style' moves of South Korean rapper PSY appeal to the sense of fun among young and old.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

Carl Little had just voted, and he wanted to celebrate.

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South Korean rapper PSY performs “Gangnam Style” at the American Music Awards on Nov. 18 in Los Angeles. Dance enthusiasts in Maine say they are attracted to PSY’s willingness to have fun.

The Associated Press

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Carl Little, a 58-year-old author and freelance art writer in Maine, does the “Gangnam Style” dance outside a fire station in Somesville on Nov. 6 to celebrate the fact that he had just voted. The dance, which originated in a music video by South Korean singer PSY, has become a symbol of fun and joy for people of all ages since its release last summer.

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So the 58-year-old author decided to break out in the "Gangnam Style" dance on Election Day -- bouncing on an imaginary horse and pretending to throw a lasso overhead -- right there on the steps of the fire station in Somesville.

In a world that's been shrunken immeasurably by technology and pop culture, it seemed appropriate to Little to celebrate a basic American right by breaking into a silly, joyous dance made famous by a South Korean rapper and his infectious music video.

Because spreading silliness and fun is a basic American right, too.

"I first saw the dance on a 'Saturday Night Live' skit, and it just blew me away for some reason," said Little, who lives in Mount Desert and has written 15 books on artists. "I just loved the energy of it. It was a moment of relief for me to have voted, and I just wanted to do something fun."

"Fun" seems to be the key word most people use when trying to explain the enormous popularity of the song "Gangnam Style" by PSY and its accompanying dance.

Back in the day, we had the mashed potato, Michael Jackson's moonwalk and even that minor league ballpark favorite, "Macarena." But thanks to viral videos and the ability to watch them anywhere, "Gangnam Style" has become a dance craze like few others.

The video has been viewed more than 808 million times on YouTube as of Saturday. It's so embedded in current pop culture that everything you do -- whether it's watching television, surfing the Internet, going to a concert, hanging out at a bar or just plain walking down the street -- you're likely to see someone doing the "Gangnam Style."

In Maine, the "Gangnam Style" dance has shown up not only on Election Day in Somesville, but in dance classes, in supermarkets, on soccer fields, in school yards, in the act of a local stage hypnotist -- and in the homes of both young and old.

The big question is this: How did a song sung almost entirely in Korean about hipsters who live in Seoul's Gangnam neighborhood -- not to mention a dance that looks vaguely like a kindergartner playing a cowboy -- become so wildly popular?

"Some of my friends were doing it at soccer practice, and it just looked like fun," said Will Mullen, 10, a fifth-grader at Mast Landing School in Freeport. "Then I heard the song on the radio, and saw how to do it on 'Ellen.' It's a really cool dance."

A dance so popular that fifth-grade boys aren't embarrassed to do it? That's impressive.

One of Will's soccer-playing friends, 10-year-old Jesse Bennell of Freeport, first saw the "Gangnam Style" dance on the TV news. The news that night featured a story on the dance being performed at an Ohio State football game. That made Jesse seek out the video.

"I really like the dancing," said Jesse. "And I like the way he sings. It's all really funny."

Indeed, PSY -- who usually wears shades, a black tie and an evening jacket -- looks more like a '50s lounge singer than a 21st-century pop star. In the "Gangnam Style" video, he's seen dancing his way through a mish-mash of weird places and scenarios, from stables, swimming pools and parking garages to elevators and subway trains. He even sings while on the potty.

The video can be seen as a parody of music video history. And the song itself, with its bouncy techno beat, is insanely catchy.

Plus, PSY himself appears to be having fun. As he told Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show, the proper "mind-set" for doing the "Gangnam Style" dance is to "dress classy and dance cheesy."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Madonna performs onstage with South Korean rapper PSY during the MDNA concert at Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 13. The rapper’s “cheesy” and insanely catchy dance routine even prompted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to say PSY had “unlimited global reach.”

Guy Oseary/The Associated Press


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