"Voguing" was the first social dance to gain prominence in the 1990s. The dance consisted of an improvised series of model-esque poses, typically placing emphasis on strong angles, symmetry, and precision. Voguing originated in the Harlem ballroom scene, a series of competitions for black and Latinx queer and trans performers. It hit the mainstream in 1990 with the release of the documentary Paris is Burning, which chronicled ballroom culture, as well as Madonna's hit song "Vogue." The dance has had a resurgence in the late 2010s due to the television series Pose, which represents a fictionalized version of the ballroom scene.
The turn of the century brought on a new dance craze: "krumping." This dance was characterized by rapid, intense, free-flowing body movements and originated in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles in the early 2000s. Krumping gained national prominence with the release of Dave LaChapelle's documentary Rize, chronicling the krumping subculture in LA, as well as Madonna's music videos for "Dirrty" and "Hung Up."
The mid-2000s brought us the "Soulja Boy," which was the first dance craze that harnessed the power of the internet. The rapper Soulja Boy Tell 'Em released his single "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" in 2007, along with a music video featuring a series of simple dance steps capped off by a dramatic pose inspired by the Superman franchise. The video was one of the first to go "viral" on YouTube, amassing 432 million views, and the dance became a staple of school dances and clubs across the nation.
At the end of the 'aughts, the words on everybody's lips were "Teach Me How to Dougie." The "Dougie" was a Dallas-area dance inspired by the moves of rapper Doug E. Fresh, but the dance—a brief back-and-forth hand movement— entered the mainstream in 2009 with Cali Swag District's video for "Teach Me How to Dougie." People across the globe posted videos of themselves doing the dance on YouTube; even First Lady Michelle Obama joined in the trend.
The viral success of the "Soulja Boy" and the "Dougie" paved the way for the massive global takeover of "Gangnam Style" in 2012. The video, released by Korean pop artist Psy, rapidly caught fire with worldwide audiences and became the first YouTube video to surpass 1 billion views. Gangnam Style's rise coincided with the birth of "flash mobs," viral videos in which a large group of dancers perform unannounced in a public space. Across the planet, people staged flash mobs to Gangnam Style and imitated Psy's moves from the video.
The future of social dance will take place, ironically, inside one's own home; the mobile app TikTok has spawned a new generation of viral dance moves that its users create and imitate in their living rooms and bedrooms. Whereas traditional social dances involved large, energetic movements designed to elicit a reaction from a crowd, TikTok dances focus on small, rapid arm movements designed to fit within the view of a cellphone camera. The future of social dance, it seems, will consist of precise, condensed dances designed to be performed alone or in small groups on social media platforms.