If social distancing has finally inspired you to download TikTok, the social-media app dominated by Gen Z, congratulations! Welcome. It’s time for you to learn some TikTok dances.
Just as the currency of early Instagram was photos of latte art, the currency of TikTok right now is 15 to 30 second dances. The pros — in this case, teen or 20-something dancers — make up choreography, and sometimes it catches on, inspiring other people to upload their own versions. It’s like the macarena, or Soulja Boy, but harder and made for your viewing pleasure. Even Hailey and Justin Bieber are doing them.
The dances were inescapable on my feed, but until recently, I hadn’t tried them. I’m not a great dancer; my experience is limited to a high-school production of Grease. But I am a big fan of endorphins, so I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and learned many whole TikTok dances including Renegade, Cannibal, Say So, Hit Every Beat, Hey Boy, and Rule the World. If those words mean nothing to you, take a deep breath, get into something comfy, and check out the ten dances below, ranked from easiest to borderline impossible.
A quick note on the medium: Audio is central to TikTok. Instead of passing around photos or jpeg formats, the sounds get used over and over. The word “sound” can be used to describe a song, a clip from a TV show, any audible component. It’s also the easiest way to find the dances — click on the sound used in the video. Some dances are scored to actual clips from songs, such as the hugely popular Doja Cat “Say So” dance, and others use more obscure remixes. A song that came out in 2010, Kesha’s “Cannibal,” is currently the soundtrack to one of the most popular dances. It’s not common for the dances to have names, so for the purpose of this list, I’ve called them by the song they’re scored to, or an official name if there is one.
Hit Every Beat challenge, with “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer
This is easy if and only if you already know the macarena, which, if you’re reading this article, you probably do. It’s a good one to warm up with. Think of it as the equivalent of a child’s pose at the beginning of vinyasa class.
Do the macarena twice as fast, pretend to drum a few times, then hit the “woah.” The “woah” is probably the most important TikTok dance move. Move your left arm down at a diagonal and move your right arm up, parallel to the left. Pulse. Confusingly, there are some other versions of the “woah,” most commonly a kind of “turning a car wheel” motion, but those are not the proper “woah” to do in this context.
“Say So” by Doja Cat
If Laura Dern can do this one, so can you. It’s short, sweet, and requires a lot of attitude. I learned it after drinking two glasses of wine, but that’s not necessary. The key moves are the body roll and the punch, which you’ll find in a lot of TikTok dances. I put on a tutorial and dedicated five minutes to getting the basic moves down. Now, my muscle memory has kicked in well enough that I can add my own flair. That’s another key to TikTok dancing: add your own flair. This is your time to shine! Doja Cat liked this dance so much she put the creator Haley Sharpe, or @yodelinghaley, in the music video.
“Relationship” by Young Thug
One of the baffling things about TikTok is that so many people seem to get their partners to join in on TikTok videos. This dance is a good example. The moves pretty much correspond to the lyrics — the last word of the song is “baby” so you make a rocking motion. The first couple in the above compilation is composed of TikTok’s reigning dance king and queen, Chase Hudson and Charli D’Amelio. Learn from the pros.
“American Boy but Shibuya is There Too”
If you’re on TikTok long enough, you’re gonna hear this song used for lots of videos, not just dancing. As far as I can tell, it’s a remix that originated on YouTube. There is a deeply funny tutorial of this dance here. My weakness, I’ve learned, is that I have a hard time getting my lower body to do anything while my upper body is reciting dance moves. But it’s crucial. The dance moves will only take you about 20 minutes to get down, but perfect execution takes more practice. Annoying, I know—- but at least we have lots of time on our hands.
“Cannibal” by Kesha
I have wanted to learn this dance since I first saw it. My first attempt was after a night out and a video of me practicing was subsequently sent to my friends. Embarrassing, I know, but it’s an occupational hazard when you decide to commit to TikTok dancing. This has two extremely fun dance moves — the heart shape pulsing in the middle and the opening “I’ll eat you up” hand gesture. Everything else is filler. @ya.girl.bri.bri97 is credited with coming up with the choreography, and posted a tutorial here.
The Renegade, to “Lottery” by K-Camp
Okay, we’ve arrived at the Renegade. It’s undoubtedly the most popular dance on TikTok, maybe in the world right now. I saw someone do this in church over Christmas. But despite its popularity, it’s kind of a hard dance. It’s best to use a tutorial for this one. I think the first half is more challenging: The combination of the woah, clap, figure eight, and wave is a lot for my arms to take in. But once you have it down, it’s satisfying and you’ll find yourself doing it at any given opportunity, just to brag.
If you’re actually a dancer or looking for a challenge, check out the original Renegade. It was created by 14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon on the app Funimate. It migrated to TikTok and as it proliferated, it got a bit easier. Here’s the original:
“Candy” by Doja Cat
Another dance where the lyrics and the moves pretty much correlate. But in this one, you have to throw it back — a central move in the TikTok oeuvre. Your torso does a body roll while your leg kicks back. You’re throwing “it” back, and “it” is your butt. I don’t want to look at myself “throwing it back” so I haven’t recorded any videos of this one. But I do like the casual, cocky, ending hand motion. @Talialevinger posted this dance first in October with the caption “made up a dance!” And yes, this is another Doja Cat song. She comes up a lot on TikTok.
“Supalonely” by Benee
@Zoifishh posted this dance in early February and the sound has been used in 3.7 million videos (not all of them are dancing, but many of them are). Blessedly, she also recorded a tutorial at half speed. Honestly, it feels like it’s at full speed. There are a lot of body rolls and hair flips in this one. The pout and chest bumps at the end, along with the victorious swaying, is a well-earned treat after a rapid ten seconds. And it really shows that a big part of TikTok dancing is being able to keep a beat and sway/dance through whatever your arms are doing. The dance moves are mostly your arms, but proper execution includes engaging your whole body. Which, for the uncoordinated, is daunting.
“Rule the World” by Liz
This is the one I spent an hour learning last night. It moves so quickly — it leaves me winded half of the time. The moves are all high energy — punch the air, flick off the sweat, and finish it with a pose at the end. The dance’s creator, Ciara aka @ceceiswoke, made a tutorial at half speed, but even that is faster than I, for one, am used to. Block out the hour you would have spent at the gym and go for it.
“Attention” by Todrick Hall
You can really only do this if you can do a split. And if you can do a split, you probably don’t need help learning TikTok dances. But maybe that’s something the rest of us can work on while social distancing — getting a perfect split.