How Does This Become a Thing?

Off in a random corner of YouTube, I accidentally “discovered” mime dance. It had to be an accident, because I would never have thought this up myself. Not only did someone else think this up, but it caught on. There are thousands of these videos, and the vast majority of them appear to be religious videos. Some are several years old.

Watching them–and I’ve watched several now in fascination–I can see some continuity with the physical expressiveness of many gospel singers. I still have to wonder, though, how you move from that to the white makeup and gloves, lip syncing and dramatic literalism of mime dance. Articles and sites that talk about mime dance don’t seem to be very clear on its history. Rather they’re focused on its spread and on individual performers. I’d love to find out how it coalesced into its own form with its own traditions.

However it’s happened, this has caught on enough that there will be a conference for it this summer. Not the first, either.

Funny how the things we don’t want to appropriate end up largely invisible, huh?

How Does This Become a Thing?

10 thoughts on “How Does This Become a Thing?

  1. 1

    Wow. Yeah, that’s an interesting rabbit-hole to disappear down. I’ll be interested to hear what you find out about it.

    Not sure what you meant by your last sentence though.

  2. 2

    I’m just noting how opaque the culture of black communities and churches is when we, the dominant culture, can’t see a way to monetize it as we did with gospel. I know far more about how Mormons and Quakers worship than I did about this, and this involves an amalgam of art forms, which I pay attention to.

  3. 5

    Uh oh. I just posted a comment with a couple of Youtube links. It’s in moderation now, but apologies in advance if those links turn into embedded videos. Stephanie, you might want to edit those out…

  4. 8

    I find myself thinking, “If it were white people dancing in blackface….”

    I don’t think Shields and Yarnell count as an oppressed minority.

    Except perhaps by fictional olive-loaf wielding penguins. (Let’s see who gets THAT reference)

  5. 10

    Now that I’ve had a chance to see the vids, I feel the need to nip the “black people in whiteface” in the bud.

    Mimes wear white paint on their faces. A quick Google search showed me many white mimes wearing white paint on their faces. It’s kinda part of the uniform. This is not whiteface.

    Also, the whole issues of black and brown face is not just the makeup. People doing that are also trying to cop and (in most cases) make fun of an entire identity. These dancers are not trying to be or act “white”. This isn’t whiteface.

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