Ballroom Memeology

Artwork by Candace La

What are memes?

Letʼs start with the basics; though, as collegiate dancers reading an online magazine, I assume youʼre already very well acquainted with these captioned images that are prevalent all over the internet. The term itself, “meme,” originally comes from Richard Dawkinsʼ “The Selfish Gene,” and refers to a unit of cultural information, similar to a gene carrying biological information, and in the same way that genes are passed on and their information is spread, so too do memes spread their messages across a culture.

The more relevant and relatable memes might go “viral,” while those that are too niche might fade into obscurity, yet possibly live on in the memories of a select few (“Itʼs an older meme, sir, but it checks out”). In the earlier age of widespread internet usage and social media, memes were typically concentrated amongst the more stereotypical “internet dweller”/4chan user, but from there they spread to sites such as 9gag and Memebase, to now where memes are prevalent across every social media platform and have become accepted as part of mainstream culture. 

My personal meme experience + joining the ballroom meme team 

As a millennial, I have been a connoisseur and producer of memes nearly since their inception (let the record show that I am not and never have been a 4chan user). I have posted “Rage Comics” on 9gag, captioned cartoons on Memebase, and now memes of all kinds on Reddit/Facebook/ Instagram. I have witnessed memesʼ evolution from niche and rather strange to becoming captioned images of pop culture, art, and current events, being shared on widely- used social media sites.

It is this experience with memes, as well as my ability to stay up-to-date on current meme trends and creativity with applying current meme formats to ballroom dance that got me an invitation to moderate Ballroom Memes for Latin & Standard Teens. The job description was simple enough: separate the wheat from the chaff with respect to user-contributed memes, and continue producing ballroom memes for the page to post, as I intended on doing anyway; I joined the moderator team without hesitation.

Rhythm shitposts

Ah, yes. The lowest hanging fruit. Poking fun at the least popular, least danced, and least respected style. We (mostly) jest; itʼs merely that Rhythm is to Ballroom as Cornell is to the Ivy League. It may be the butt of many ballroom jokes, but itʼs just as legitimate and respectable a style of dance as any. The memes had to be reined in, however…

The frequency of these “rhythm is awful, amirite?” posts was enough to draw criticism from at least a few Rhythm dancers and teachers who frequent our page (though, others messaged to say they found them funny), so we made a conscious effort to tone down these posts, and would like to make it clear that these memes were merely a vehicle for satirical reflection on the elitism of International styles vs. the American styles, and not genuinely intended to debase Rhythm as a style.

Unifying ballroom experiences, especially for collegiate dancers

For many, memes offer a way of expressing the same feelings and experiences many dancers have but donʼt necessarily discuss and share with each other. We have all been there: you have the best semi-final round of your life; you dance the best you have ever danced, aaaand…. you didnʼt make the final. You spectate the final with disdain as couples youʼre DEFINITELY better than waltz on the floor with their menial routines and inferior technique, wondering how the judges could possibly have made such poor decisions.

And of course, what better way to express everything youʼre feeling in this position than through a caption on an image, especially without necessarily letting your team and friends know the true depth of your rage and frustration. You submit your meme to my page, and all of the reacts start pouring in, all the “like”s and “haha”s, as well as dancers tagging their partners, “Omg this is literally us,” and you realize your frustration is a common experience, as does the rest of the community, enjoying a laugh over a sentiment they have all shared. 

In this same vein, memes allow dancers to really reflect and share how they truly feel about themselves, their dancing, and ballroom as a whole. Itʼs all too easy to caption an image of a dumpster with “literally my dancing” and post it as a “joke,” as though the poster is confident enough of their skills to jest about being bad, when in reality, the only joke is that theyʼre joking: the meme itself is entirely serious. 

TL;DR Dank memes are serious business and rhythm isnʼt THAT bad, I guess 

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