The Majesty of Showing an Unexpected Skill Range

Lady Gaga has an amazing set of talents and skills, which many others have talked about better far better than I can. I’m impressed in many different ways, but what I wanted to focus on today was an aspect of her skill and self-control in not overdoing things, in using just enough to make the point, then moving on. It’s something that I treasure in the art I love, the ‘using just enough’, but more precisely in this instance, it’s the art of having a large amount of skill in an unexpected direction, and then doing something seemingly easy that shows that you have a lot of skill in that area.

In Lady Gaga’s case, what I’m getting at is we know she can sing[1], we know she can dance[2], but did you also know that she can speak French? In ‘Bad Romance‘[3], she seems to be really good at rolling her ‘r’s (3:21), and seems to easily to slip into French (3:52), both of which (to my untutored ear) sound well spoken. But she understands how much is ‘just enough’, and declines to descend into wankiness, carefully and with great skill putting the cherry on top of a delicious sundae.

Another great example is Psy (can you tell what part of my playlist I’m on right now?). He is a great singer & performer and dancer, but do you really know how *good* a dancer he is[4]? His most popular song (and the most popular song on Youtube, so popular they ran out of numbers) is a super-fun, somewhat problematic takedown of ‘Gangnam-style’ frou-frou culture in Korea. But what I want to talk about is his dancing.

At the end of the video, he’s in a dance-off with a friend (presumably) of his (it happens in a cut-down version earlier in the video, but this seems to be the uncut version). They’re having fun, each of them dancing in a way that works for them, and then suddenly, at 3:58, Psy breaks out his ‘legs-shuffling side-gallop‘ Gangnam-Style trademark dance, and his opponent, realizing he can’t compete at all, immediately stops, and has to take a second to regroup and find his groove. I’m not a dancing expert, but it seems to me that the ‘legs-shuffling side-gallop’ dance requires an inordinate amount of core strength, control, and body part isolation to bring off. If you watch the rest of the video, you can see that none of the other dancers get anywhere close to how well Psy is doing it. You can assume that Psy is big enough that they would find good dancers as back up for him, suggesting that either this particular dance is actually incredibly difficult to perform (or they are deliberately trying to not upstage him). Again, like Lady Gaga above, he makes it look easy.

Stay tuned for next time, when we talk about skill, privilege, and different ways of perceiving holding back. Thanks for reading!

Confusing skill & privilege, holding back

Note: The title of this post was also difficult to settle on, as I’m trying to express multiple related concepts:
– The idea that even having the skill is unexpected
– The idea that having that skill at such a high level is unexpected
– The idea that showing a skill and making it look easy (to show a very high level of skill) is majestic
– The idea that using a skill at a high level, just the correct amount, not overdoing it is majestic

[1] There are also great examples of this in the video, where she uses dynamics and range in an intertwined way to mold the energy and flow of the song, and it’s fantastic.

[2] Ibid.

[3] On a side note, can we talk about the censorship in that video, how they replaced ‘bitch’ with ‘bit’? I’ll admit it is some of the best-done censorship I’ve ever heard, the least disruptive to flow (except for perhaps ‘melonfarmer‘), but I still side with George Carlin on this one.

[4] Perhaps unsurprisingly, people in Korea do, but I didn’t. 😀

“During an interview with The New York Times, Psy revealed that South Korean fans have huge expectations about his dancing, so he felt a lot of pressure. In order to keep up with expectations, he studied hard to find something new and stayed up late for about 30 nights to come up with the “Gangnam Style” dance.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *