Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Evolution...or "Where the Hell...

In the midst of grading, meetings, writing, and, you know, life (yes, I hear it's summer...to academics, "summer" doesn't mean what might think it means), I just wanted to take a moment to share the joy that is the "Where the Hell is Matt" series.  I've posted one of the videos before, but there's a new one! And while I prefer the music from the 2008 version, there's much to appreciate in each of them. What's equally fascinating to me is how we witness an evolution in the series.

The early ones (2005 and 2006) - http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/videos - are just Matt in various international locales doing a distinctively quirky dance.  I wasn't familiar with the videos back then, and, frankly, my initial reaction whenever I see them is: "Are you kidding me?? I could do that! Please, somebody pay for me to spend my days traveling the world just to dance--not even particularly well!"  (Okay, so I have a mean streak. I'm well aware of that.  And I'm not even a big fan of traveling.)

I didn't encounter these videos until after the 2008 version was released. The addition of group participation (starting at around 50 seconds into the video) transformed the concept entirely.  Now I wasn't just watching some (presumably) privileged guy dancing around in places I wouldn't in a million years get to visit myself.  Instead, I saw the joy of having people of different cultures, languages, traditions, regions, etc., all having a blast doing the same silly dance.  The video became more about them--and their unadulterated, unchoreographed enjoyment and enthusiasm--than it was about this Matt guy.

Watch the 2008 and then watch the 2012 version. They're both wonderful in their own ways.

The 2012 version is different in some key ways.  There's more of a sense of learning--Matt learning from other participants and teaching them as well.  That's because there's more choreography.  He isn't doing the "Matt" dance...he's doing their dances, and then they're all doing parts of a massive, spliced, choreographed "flash mob" kind of thing.  The crowds have gotten bigger too (AND it turns out one part was filmed where I grew up--phooey!).  My own personal preferences aside (I do love the sense of spontaneous fun from 2008), the changes over time are wonderful.  As a global exercise or outreach or whatever it is (well, advertising, for one thing), the bottom line to me is that it's just soooo damn cool to see so many people in so many different "worlds" dancing happily together...to see appreciation for their cultures...and to see so many people participating. 

For someone who makes her living with words, I have to admit that 1) these videos feel to me like they accomplish an awful lot without words and 2) I don't have the words to express how awesome I think this series is.

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