Parents Dance Like It’s the ’80s on TikTok, and Bring Down the House

TikTok can add a new skill to its résumé: disco time machine.

The social platform, normally populated with an endless scroll of Gen Z-ers dancing — mostly in short choreographed routines that have been practiced and perfected — has recently been infused with the energy of a surprising demographic: their Gen X parents.

In the viral videos, parents are asked by their adult children to dance as they would have back in the day to the 1984 sonic ear worm “Smalltown Boy,” by the British synth-pop band Bronski Beat. Most posts are tagged #momdancechallenge, #daddancechallenge or #80sdancechallenge, and they have racked up tens of millions of views.

The reactions have been perhaps unexpected, because instead of going for laughs,the videos are cool, like really cool, serving as a portal to another era: when dance was more often improvisational and spontaneous, when people felt the beat and found the rhythm organically, moving without the constraints of a horizontal aspect ratio.

When Valerie Martinez, 23, asked her mother, Yeanne Velazquez, 58, to participate, it was before the challenge had gone viral, and they had not prepared at all. “I didn’t even play the song for her before,” Martinez said in a phone interview this week alongside her mother. But Martinez was sure Velazquez would deliver, because her mother is always dancing, she said.

It was nostalgic for Velazquez, who said that when the song was popular, she was about 19 and would go dancing in the one or two clubs in Puerto Rico, where she lived. Now she and her daughter live in Florida.

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