Dance Trends of the Digital Age Which Came, Went & Stayed

source: YouTube

Since the dawn of social media, dance trends have become a staple in both pop culture and the internet itself. Not only do they serve as an outlet for people to have fun while busting out their best dance moves on video, they can also help boost a particular song to unfathomable heights of popularity.

This is not to say that popularising dance moves became a thing only after the internet was created. Take for example the ‘zombie dance’ featured in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ which became a cultural phenomenon back in the 80’s as well as his celebrated moonwalk which every kid tried to mimic. Even traditional dances such as Lion Dance and tarian Zapin are still being practiced today.

source: Giphy

Throughout history, humans have instinctively shown that they possess a sense of rhythm (some better than others) that invokes the need to simply move to a good beat. Heck, cavemen were probably bobbing their heads to the sounds of sticks and stones (highly unlikely, but it’s a cool thought). There’s just too much history to cover so, as the title suggests, this article will focus solely on dance trends that popped off in the digital era.

You might be wondering why I’m even talking about this. The idea for this article came to me in light of Megan The Stallion’s new dance challenge that was made in conjunction with her song ‘Captain Hook’ from Megan’s latest album, appropriately dubbed the ‘#CaptainHookChallenge’.

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#captainhookchallenge Y’all want the music video 👀

A post shared by Hot Girl Meg (@theestallion) on

Complex reported that Megan originally posted this challenge on the mobile app Triller, which is a more dance-oriented version of TikTok. Nowadays, apps such as these appear to be the main driving force behind keeping new dance trends relevant as opposed to when everything was posted onto YouTube. That said, YouTube still plays a massive role in exposing said trends to mainstream audiences.

With all of that knowledge in mind, let’s delve a little deeper into the various dances that became global phenomenons, some of which eventually died out while others still live on in clubs, apps and whenever someone challenges another to a danceoff. I’ll do my best to keep a chronological timeline and forgive me if I forget to mention every single dance craze that has swept the globe. I’m shooting strictly off memory here.

Graceful movements by the Queen of Strong Knees source: Tenor

For the record, twerking will not be included because it’s been around forever (before Miley Cyrus), some of y’all just caught on to it REALLY late.

1) The Superman – 2007

Created by the one and only Big Draco (Soulja Boy), this dance was one of (if not the first) viral dances to spread like wildfire across the internet in the early days of YouTube when they still had a 5-star rating system- if any of you still remember that?

The song itself caused massive distress amongst ‘rappity-rap rappers’ most notably from West Coast gangsta-rap legend Ice-T who told Soulja Boy: “I know you’re young enough to be my kid but you single-handedly killed hip-hop, man.”

Not everybody shared the same sentiment as the younger generation of rap fans ate this track up during the time of its release and I know from personal experience that everybody was profusely crankin’ dat Superman. Both the song and dance have been cemented as classics in this day and age with many rappers citing Soulja Boy as a huge inspiration for them to make music.

2) Gangnam Style – 2012


Honestly, I doubt anybody was ready for South Korean performer Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ back when it first debuted 8 years ago. With one of the internet’s wackiest music videos accompanying a mind-numbingly catchy song in addition to the iconic and hilarious dance move that was so infectious, certain world leaders of the time even called for him to perform at political rallies.. Bossku.. *cough cough*

Unlike Soulja Boy’s ‘Superman dance’, it’s pretty rare to see someone bust out this move in a club or anywhere else for that matter. To be 100% frank, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done in a club setting ever. Then again, I was still in school when this came out. If I recall correctly, the last time I saw someone doing this dance was during a football match after a goal was secured in one of the FIFA games.

3) Harlem Shake – 2013

Ah, the Harlem Shake. Curated by one Filthy Frank, who’s better recognised by the general public today as the artiste Joji. Similar to Gangnam Style, everybody wanted to hop on this bandwagon.

Thankfully (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), I was very cynical back then despite putting up a carefree and positive facade which was why I refrained from participating in this relatively short-lived ‘dance’ trend. 2013 was a weird time for the internet but I guess this type of stuff was what most kids growing up back then were in to.

The Harlem Shake isn’t really a dance per se as the people who did take part in this mess basically just filmed themselves being normal at the very beginning of their videos then followed up by doing all types of f*ckery from humping walls, tables and just the most outlandish sh*t, because why not. The man who made this ‘dance’ (in the pink suit) is now renowned worldwide for his anthems of sappiness.

4) The Whip & Nae Nae – 2015

Alright! Now we’re getting back to dance trends that feature actual dancing. This was one of the first popular dances which I actually had interest in learning to do properly. As seen in the video above, this dance particularly appealed to children but honestly, people of all ages were ‘whipping’ and ‘nae nae’-ing.

Let me paint you a mental picture. The year was 2015. My friends and I were fresh out of school and what else do you do after finishing 5 years of secondary school? Take every chance to get as faded as humanly possible Hang out and occasionally party when we could (if we had extra pocket change to spare for a RM50 cover charge + other stuff).

Fetty Wap songs were in heavy rotation 24/7 in addition to many other hits of the time. One such song was ‘Watch Me’ by rapper, Silento (who has now faded into obscurity along with many other one-hit wonders from that year) which birthed the ‘Whip & Nae Nae’ dance. Many clubs today still play this song and some people still do the dance despite it becoming a thing 5 years ago.

5) The Dab – 2015

Speaking about this hurts my soul as this dance move was once powerful yet simple to pull off and looked insanely cool which allowed you to win the hearts of women and/or men alike.. when done right. Alas, like any other trend that goes viral, people started to besmirch the sanctity of this glorious dance.

Popularised by famous rap trio Migos, it is heavily debated who actually started this move with some sources claiming it to be the rapper Jose Guapo, an affiliate of the Migos pictured in the .gif above while others say it was Skippa da Flippa, who formerly also had close ties to the Migos.

Regardless of where it originated from, the move eventually gained massive traction amongst athletes, celebrities and the masses. What killed the dab for me is hard to put into words. Just go on YouTube then type out ‘dab cringe compilation’ and you will understand the pain that I am feeling. A lot of people criticised Bill Gates for doing a uniquely Bill Gates version of the famed dance move:

But Bill owns Microsoft. What’s your excuse? source: Giphy

If you wanna see the sheer power that lies in the art of dabbing, let me treat you to this YouTube video made by a dancer named Zavi, where he and his talented group of friends effortlessly dab their heads off to a song about… you guessed it: dabbing, which is appropriately titled ‘Dab On Em’ from the musical catalogue of rapper Big Will.

As of now, dabbing is dead (at least to me). Unless you work it as part of a greater dance routine. Aside from that, you should be ashamed of yourself if you still hit the dab in 2020. But hey, do you.

6) Mannequin Challenge – 2016

Arguably the precursor to most TikTok/Triller-based challenges (which was also posted on both platforms in their early days), the Mannequin Challenge was one of the main causes for the shift to share these dance trends onto mobile phone apps as opposed to the traditional process of uploading these videos onto Facebook and YouTube.

That’s not to say that Facebook and YouTube didn’t help boost the challenge’s popularity as well, just pointing out when this whole ‘mobile shift’ began. Matter of fact, it was Vines (R.I.P.) posted onto Facebook and YouTube that really blew this whole challenge up.

The Mannequin Challenge is pretty similar to the Harlem Shake and would even be considered less dance-y as all that had to be done to take part in this was just filming people frozen in motion while the song Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd played in the background. I fuxx with Sremmlife but yeah this isn’t really a dance anyway, sorry for wasting your time, just felt like I needed to talk about this.

7) In My Feelings (Kiki/Shiggy) Challenge – 2018

Now we’re getting a little current with the whole TikTok, Triller, (Dubsmash? if that’s still a thing) era of dance challenges. What really kicked off the trend of posting onto these new mobile apps, I believe, was the ‘In My Feelings’ challenge. Also known as the Shiggy Challenge, named after the entertainer who was the first person to post a video of himself dancing to the hit Drake song.

You know the one I mean (even if you wish you didn’t). “KIKI DO YOU LOVE ME? ARE YOU RIDING?”. Yeah, that song. People were posting their own variations of the challenge all over social media platforms and there was a time where my IG story timeline was flooded with people I know doing said challenge, while others took it to extreme levels placing themselves in near-death situations.

While I do love me some Drizzy and felt that ‘In My Feelings’ was a good song, people shouldn’t stoop to putting themselves into harm’s way for a little bit of fun and/or clout.

Fun fact: I’ve just found out that it’s spelled Kiki instead of Keke cause’ I looked up the lyrics to double-check.

8) Hittin’ the Woah – 2019

I can’t even lie, this was pretty cool. Unbeknownst to me, I was already hittin’ the woah before it even became a challenge albeit with less steps and not as polished as the people in the video above. Imma sum this one up real quick:

  • cool moves
  • people still do it
  • originated from a song called ‘Woah’ by KRYPTO9095 FT. D3MSTREET.
  • Name me another song by either of them… exactly
  • Buat TikTok salah satu tanda kiamat (Making TikToks is a sign of Judgement Day)

Yeap, that’s about it for this one.

9) Say So Challenge – 2020

Aw man I love Doja Cat so much. I’m also blessed to be in a workplace where my colleagues (one of them especially) enjoy her music as well. First gaining popularity with her breakout hit ‘So High’ which racked up millions of views on YouTube, she eventually broke through to the mainstream with that ‘Moo’ song. I could go on and on about Doja Cat but we’re talking about dance trends here.

Possibly the latest dance challenge sensation (before Megan Thee Stallion’s challenge blows up at least) You can’t tell me that you haven’t seen countless people, mainly ‘influencers’, dancing to the chorus of the song ‘Say So’ by Doja. It’s a catchy and adorable tune, but when every single IG story on your timeline are videos taken off TikTok, you tend to get tired of hearing and seeing that real fast.

If you do enjoy doing these different dance challenges, by all means go ahead. I can’t bring myself to hate on people who just wanna have fun. Some do it strictly for clout but in this day and age, clout is like a new form of currency so I can’t knock the hustle.

Honorable mentions:

(Top to bottom) The Dougie, The Milly Rock (my fav), The Shoot Dance, The Floss, The Jay Walk

Tired from all those dance moves? Have some JUICE.