Saturday, June 21, 2008

think they have the right to dance wherever they like

This video combines my interests in white world-traveling and white dancing, but I'm not sure what to say about it in either of those terms.

Is Matt Harding doing good work here as a sort of benevolent cultural ambassador, cheering up people all over the globe? Or is he merely using masses of undifferentiated Others as props for a self-serving, self-aggrandizing performance, as a white American dork who thinks he has the right to go and dance wherever he damn well pleases?


  1. Or is he just an exhibitionist with too much time and money on his hands? I think the name of the url at the end of the video answers the question pretty conclusively.z

  2. I'm not sure who Matt Harding is, but if I had to guess I'd say he's some goofball that enjoys going to different places around the world, acting foolish and encouraging others to join in.

    I think that's a strange thing to do given he's had an amazing opportunity to travel the world.

  3. I don't remember if I've done a 'first time poster' sort of thing in the comments before, but if I haven't, hi! :) I keep meaning to comment regularly because I absolutely love this blog and how thought-provoking it is, but my feeds overload on me and I catch up after the discussion is long over.

    I've seen this guy before - save the few times he has people joining him in full "native dress", which did make me wince, I really think he's just having fun in a lot of different places and encouraging an audience to do the same. I doubt that this is all he does in the places he travels. It'd be a pretty big waste if so.

    At risk of seeming like a troll or derailing discussion here, which truly isn't my intent, I do have to wonder: I've seen this video before and enjoyed it as just an interesting and fun video, didn't really think of it along racial lines. This was a few years ago, and I've only recently started reading blogs such as this one and trying to enhance my understanding of racism and whiteness. Maybe it's holdover from my first time viewing it, or maybe it's the fact that I'm still learning, but I still don't really view most of the video racially. The majority of the people he presents are in street clothes and just having a good time.

    I'm sure he as a white man traveling probably isn't thinking about his own whiteness, but what I want to know is: is it wrong for me and other white people to do the same, to sometimes not view a multicultural thing through a racial lens? I'm not talking about colorblindness, but more the idea that these things don't always have to have broader implications. I'm not demanding an answer from anyone, though I do feel like I learn best from discussion and from the opinions of others. And yes, I know that discussing those implications is the topic of the blog. :) This has just been on my mind in a few ways, and it was the first time I thought about it clearly enough to pose the question.

  4. I happen to think they're rather cute and funny but perhaps that's because I discovered Matt quite a while ago before he was sponsored.

    In his early videos he would dance alone but I haven't given much thought to his "backup dancers". I imagine he thought it would be more "communal".

  5. I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with this, even with the local costumes. The only problem I have is pure, unadulterated jealousy.

    It's possible to infer some whitey happenings behind the scenes, but that's about all you can do. Overtly, this looks pretty awesome. In half the shots you can't even find Matt for all the crowd dancing.

    And crowds dancing, even goofy goober dances like this one, are awesome. No matter who starts it. If more white people could travel the world and dance with other people, and if more of the rest of the world could travel the world and dance with us, so much the better.

  6. He originally saved up money for several years, quit his job, and traveled on the cheap. He videotaped himself dancing. Later on, he found sponsors who liked his dancing so much, that they paid for him to travel.

    I love his dancing. It makes me happy.

    This of course does not stop him from being a white man benefiting from pro-white racism and pro-male sexism, but I see nothing wrong with this video as opposed to just a white guy traveling the world.

  7. This video reminded me of two video pieces by the contemporary artist Olaf Breuning (in this year's Whitney Biennial)-- viewable on his website,
    They're called "Home 1" and "Home 2" (from 2004 & 2007). I think these pieces are interesting because they seem to simultaneously ENACT that whole "white traveling" issue (as explored here and in the other recent post on this blog), and also CRITIQUE it (by making the whole spectacle and the white character so creepy, uncomfortable, and "problematic")... But there's still the question, if something indulges the same vice it critiques, how valid is the critique? (It's the "Natural Born Killers" controversy again, if a movie that supposedly critiques media violence is doing that through REVELING in it, does it become lame hypocrisy?)
    I think in this case the videos are SO uncomfortable and thought-provoking that it makes them worthwhile, especially as they are meant to be viewed within an art context where people are (ostensibly) thinking about these kind of issues, or should be... (Of course that doesn't mean that it will turn privileged white/first-world gallery-goers into better people when they travel, and that includes me)
    Just wanted to send that your way in case you haven't previously seen it...

  8. Most white people I know would be way too embarrassed to dance wherever they like.

  9. Aw, it looks like a beautiful thing. At least it feels so much more like global jubilation than all the bad news you hear everyday about division. Or maybe i'm used to looking inside. I'm Nigerian and we love when expatriates come into the country and actually take part with us in and our culture :)


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