And if volunteers aren’t asked to learn choreography, what were they doing last year when they filed onto the field to dance to the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”?
The stadium was alive with a sea of dancing bodies performing solos that expressed the angst of a pandemic year. Watching them, spread apart and socially distanced, we were transported back to the days when the only dancing that could take place safely was the kind you did at home. But it wasn’t only that: Even getting them onto the field was a striking act of choreographic timing and precision. It was more than a corps de ballet completing the picture; they were the picture. For me, it was a thriller, a performance that was transcendent even on television.
Clearly, the volunteers were as integral as the professional dancers. Keenan Williams, a dancer and a member of 321 Hype with the Orlando Magic, performed as a volunteer in that Super Bowl, held in Tampa, Fla. He said his thinking was that it would be a way for him, a freestyle dancer, to expand his range by working with a choreographer.
In advance of the rehearsals, Williams said he received an email explaining that if he could learn a TikTok dance, he qualified. When rehearsals started, he found the situation to be different. “There were simple movements, but it’s definitely not TikTok movements,” he said. “It’s an actual production. It’s more organized. It’s more structured than in TikTok dancing.”
It was serious and painstaking. “If somebody moved their foot the wrong way,” he said, “it was, ‘run it back, run it back. Nope. Run it back from the top.’”
He said rehearsals took place over 10 days and were long — around 8 to 10 hours a session. Lunch and water were provided, Williams said; he also got to keep his costume, the red jacket, the helmet and gloves. (“Because of Covid and everything,” he said, “they were like, don’t give us back the clothes.”) While he knew what he was getting into, he said: “At least we could have gotten a stipend or something, you know? You can’t make a living off of exposure.”