The Facts Behind that Controversial Dance-Team Meme

April 5, 2018

Some say it’s just some viral-video fun, others say it’s cultural appropriation bordering on racism. Who’s right?

It all started on March 14, when @_forevergolden (a fan account for the Alcorn State University Golden Girls dance team) posted a video on Instagram showing current team captain Elexis Wilson dancing with her teammates as they entered the Alcorn stadium for the season opener in September 2017. The video proceeded to rack up about 30k views from @_forevergolden’s 19k Instagram followers.

But everything changed when Mark Villasana, aka @bottledfleet on Twitter, set the routine (originally to “Stay,” by ’90s R&B girl-group Eternal) to “Dreams,” the 1977 Fleetwood Mac song. That’s when the Internet kinda broke—and “Dreams” climbed its way back to the Billboard Top 20 for rock songs. Reminder: A song written IN 1977 (!!) made it to the top 20 in the last week of MARCH 2018! Wild, right?

But not everyone’s happy with the clip’s rapid rise to Internet fame. Andy Baio, a [white] blogger and a co-founder of Kickstarter, was among those who pointed out that across the tweet’s thousands and thousands of shares, the Golden Girls were only rarely credited for their sweet moves. You can read more from Baio about the historical and cultural context behind the clip here, but for now know that he’s suggested people unthinkingly sharing the “Dreams” version are disrespecting the historical legacy of drumline/drill team/dance team at historically black colleges and universities in the South—and maybe even engaging in a kind of digital blackface.

Team captain Wilson, for one, seems to have taken the video’s viral status in stride. “I was shocked that actually somebody watched that video,” she told the Washington Post. Everyone’s been blowing up her phone, excited about the video’s popularity, she says, but for now she’s staying focused on the Golden Girls’ five-days-a-week practices. Would the team ever do a Fleetwood Mac number in tribute to their viral moment? Maybe, Wilson told the Post: “Music is not boring. If you’re a true dancer you can dance to anything. A true dancer can make it work.”

The Internet may not agree on much, but one thing seems clear: The Golden Girls are FIERCE. Keep up the good work, ladies, no matter what you’re dancing to!