‘Jerusalem’ dance challenge kicks off tourism season in Mykonos

The Mykonos team performs under the direction of Igor Hernandez at Windmills, with “Little Venice” in the background. Credit: Elena Andreou / Facebook

This year’s viral dance from Greece, Mykonos’ ‘Jerusalem’ dance challenge, was teamed up on Sunday to welcome the 2021 tourist season.

More than 70 local residents took part in the Jerusalma Dance Challenge on the famous resort island in the Aegean Sea.

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The Jerusalema Dance Challenge is not the first public dance performance that the people of Mykonos have taken part in. Prior to the lockdown made necessary by Covid-19 the last two winters, up to 150 dancers lined up every year on Greek Orthodox Palm Sunday along the famous waterfront.

Syrtaki’s initial flash mob performances in Mykonos set the tone. In the years that followed, other dances were performed. The local organizer hoped to set a Guinness World Record for the Syrtaki dance.

Product of continued global blockages, the “Jerusalem” dance challenge engaged people of all ages and nationalities, including hospital staff, police forces and nuns.

The Jerusalema Challenge is a dance, much like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which has become a global online video sensation.

The “takers” take on the challenge of performing a dance reel to the song Jerusalema, a gospel-influenced house song by South African producer Master KG and performed by singer-songwriter Nomcebo.

They upload a video of their dancing to social media and tag their friends, family or coworkers to challenge them to dance afterwards.

The dance trend started in February last year, when Fenómenos do Semba, a group from Angola in southwestern Africa, recorded themselves dancing to the song while eating. and without dropping their plates.

The awe-inspiring dance started going viral almost immediately, before exploding into the mainstream of the western world in early 2021 – but most people still copy the moves seen in the original Fenómenos do Semba video.

The upbeat song was originally released in November 2019 and garnered a positive response online, followed by a music video in December. It was later included on Master KG’s second album of the same title, released in January 2020. Only one edit was released on streaming services last July, after going viral in mid-2020.

Mykonos photographer inspired by the Jerusalema Dance Challenge

In Mykonos, local photographer Elena Andreou took inspiration from the video and thought it would be fun to create a team from Mykonos to take on the challenge. “I decided to do it because no one else had done it in Mykonos, not even in Greece,” she added.

Andreou started talking to friends about the challenge. They told her they were on board and she posted an open call for dancers to local Mykonos Facebook groups.

“When we need it, we can do great things together,” Andreou said of the challenge. Preschoolers just four years old and 73-year-old grandmothers took part in the show, which featured men and women in various professions.

Igor Hernandez, who has taken up residence in Mykonos in recent years, has instructed the performers in the choreography. Hernandez, an immigrant to Greece from Cuba, is no stranger to dancing. He has performed at local events demonstrating his talent in Latin and modern dance.

Hernandez said of the challenge: “It was really beautiful. We really worked as a team to make the performance come true. Over 70 people participated in the event through practices and performances.

Andreou said during the lockdown, small groups will gather at the Mykonos sports stadium. Everyone sent number six in SMS authorization messaging to 13088, indicating the reason for their exit as “physical exercise.”

During the lockdown, citizens’ movements were restricted and required the use of the text messaging system to justify trips outside the home. The group filmed and photographed at various outdoor locations around the island, using some of the most iconic locations.

Valentinos Komexillis captured the drone footage of the performances. The Team Mykonos Jerusalema Dance Challenge was filmed on the waterfront, at the windmills, with Little Venice on display, at Agios Yiannis beach with Delos in the background and at the Armenistis lighthouse. Komexillis also edited the video.

Andreou said in the post on his Facebook page: “A huge thank you to all of you who embraced the idea and accepted Jerusalema’s challenge. You were the first to dance in Greece, in our Mykonos, the queen of the Aegean Sea.

In February, Angolan dance troupe Fenómenos do Semba created the viral video Jerusalema Dance Challenge which showed their dance moves to the South African hit song Jerusalema. Their video takes place in a backyard in Luanda, where they engage in a group dance, while having lunch on plates in hand.

A literal collective movement

In the era of the coronavirus, the Jerusalema Dance Challenge video generated a kind of happy counter-contagion. Almost overnight, everyone from police departments in Africa to priests in Europe were posting their own Jerusalema dance videos that repeated the choreography.

The videos of the challenge were swept away by a message of hope, condensed into the single word “Jerusalem” and amplified by an electronic rhythm that its creator, Johannesburg-based musician and producer Master KG, described as “spiritual.”

Putting this rhythm together in November 2019, he invited South African gospel singer Nomcebo Zikode to perform it with lyrics. The magic lies in the Zulu phrase “Jerusalem, ikhaya lami” (Jerusalem is my home) arose from their scrambling. Then the Angolans provided an irresistible choreography – and the rest is history.

“We are happy to bring the joy of dance to the whole world through this wonderful dance”, write Fenómenos do Semba in Portuguese on their Facebook page.

This gift to the world is the secret of the collective movement. Not in unison with the cookie-cutter but through an individual response to polyrhythmic Africanist aesthetic principles which are held together by a master structure.

Dancing like this is resistance, incorporating kinetic and rhythmic principles that first circulated around the Atlantic (including the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa). It connects and revitalizes by staging an embodied memory of resistance to slavery.

The Jerusalema Dance Challenge is an example of how dance makes it possible to live together. Line dancing brings the parties to life through simple choreography that makes people dance together. The routines involve a directional movement activated by the change of foot, with the dancers turning 90 degrees to repeat the choreography. The syncopated steps create a pleasant tension, and more and more people can join in as the routine repeats itself until the end of the song.

Angola’s rich social dance culture has gone global through the more upbeat kizomba and semba couple dances. A DJ will periodically break up the dancing couples with a piece that unites the crowd through line dance routines that make reference to Angolan music and dance style kuduro: hyper-exaggerated, angular, dexterous and sardonic. Kuduro’s steps are difficult. To make the routines easier to understand, they are mixed with generic afro-beat dance steps.

Rich heritage of dance in Greece

Greece also has a rich dance heritage, of course. Iconic images of men and women stretched out with their hands on their shoulders in a rhythmic movement are evoked when we say “Greek dance”.

The Greeks have been dancing the way we have known for at least 3000 years. The origins of Greek dance date back to the 2nd millennium BC. Tradition has it that Crete, homeland of the Minoan civilization, is the cradle of Greek dance.

Minoan art and culture had a great impact on Mycenaean civilization and the people of the Cyclades, and these three together cradled what is known today as classical Greek, or Hellenic, culture.

The Greek playwright Sophocles, in his work “Ajax”, calls Pan the dancer of the gods who invented dances based on the dance steps practiced in Knossos. Athenaeus also points to Crete as the birthplace of several types of dance, including the pyrrhic dance, or war dance, and the sikinnis, or satyr dance.

Gold seals and rings decorated with engraved figures of dancing women have been found at Isopata, near Knossos, and at Hagia Triada, near Phaistos, from c. 1500 BC. At the eastern end of Crete, in Palaikastro, clay figurines have been discovered depicting several dancers, which also appear in the murals of the late Minoan palace of Knossos.

Cretan painted and sculpted figures of dancing women are often identified as goddesses or priestesses, suggesting a fundamental relationship between dance and religious beliefs common to most early communities and ancient civilizations, including ancient Greece.

Lucian, credited with the only surviving full text on ancient dance, believed the dance to be a cosmic creation because the stars and planets in their harmonious journeys dance around the universe. In Greek mythology, Urania, the Muse of Astronomy, also had a certain presidency on dance, taking up the theoretical side of the art of dance, whose main patron was her sister Terpsichore, the “delight of dance. “.

The primordial meaning of dance in ancient Greece is emphasized by archeology. The oldest inscription written in the Greek alphabet found so far, the Dipylon inscription, on a terracotta wine jug, qualifies it as “one of these dancers who now performs most delicately” prize.

With three millennia of dance in Hellenic DNA, another Greek region will surely want to accept the Jerusalema Dance Challenge from Mykonos.