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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

How to dance like nobody’s watching

Sometimes I ask myself: Why New York City?

How does an approximately 305-square-mile patch of land have millions—MILLIONS—of people residing in tiny flats the size of closets and grunging it up on the subway to get to work while still maintaining the vast wave of affluent youth and dreamers flocking to its almighty gates by the hour?

Then I see a film like “Girl Walk//All Day” by Jacob Krupnick and I say, “Oh yeah.”

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art screened this 2011 film to kick off the seventh season of its annual Rooftop Cinema series and set the bar high for the films to follow. They screen these avant-garde flicks every Friday night in June on the gorgeous rooftop sculpture garden of the museum.

I went into this screening of “Girl Walk//All Day” with a higher anticipation for the outdoor venue than the film itself, but within the first five minutes the tables quickly turned. This movie is a feature-length music video set to Girl Talk’s most recent album, All Day, and it showcases some of the most swag dance moves and locations one could hope to see in New York City.

Crowd-sourcing resources like Kickstarter funded the entire film, which tails and tells the stories of three dancers (headed by “The Girl”) across this city of skyscrapers and endless possibilities.

The Girl (played by Anne Marsen) breaks out of a stiff and structured ballet class only to unleash a series of paradoxically elegant bumps, grinds and twerks all over Central Park, subway cars, malls and Grand Central Station; no location was off limits for their dance floor, and they even shot some footage on Wall Street during the peak of the Occupy protests.

Dance moves aside, this film does more than just entertain. As The Girl hops, leaps and skips around New York in the midst of the masses going about their days, a theme more and more common in our culture emerges—we are a really self-absorbed group of people.

Perhaps there is simply so much going on in New York at any given time that a man tap dancing on top of a bull statue has become blasé to passerby, but more likely is that we spend the majority of time these days with our heads down, looking at our smart phones to navigate to a destination or send an important text, headphones in our ears and completely submerged in what we deem important. We live in a generation that is oftentimes completely unaware of what is taking place right in front them.

Existing this way means we are missing out on a lot of key moments for human interaction, something I find incredibly valuable in an age where it is becoming increasingly normal to form relationships while speaking with someone in 160-characters-or-less snippets. A lot of bystanders in this film took several seconds to realize there was a girl literally dancing up on them or sometimes on top of them as they unsuspectingly sat in their seats. Others didn’t look up at all.

However, this film is more happy than hopeless, and it also proves there are still people out there who are willing to look up from their electronic devices and dance with a stranger in the street.

“Girl Walk//All Day” is a delightful testimony to the power of community and how the sheer joy of one person’s countenance can bring a smile to hundreds of others. As the video progresses, more and more people find the enthusiasm of The Girl irresistible and various members of the city soon join her, from other professional dancers to that one guy who manages your parents’ finances.

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This well-shot film is making its way across the globe, from Wisconsin to as far away as Korea, and motivating audiences to get up and move in every location. You have got to hand it to UW-Madison alumnus and the mash-up master behind Girl Talk, Greg Gillis—the man knows perfectly well how to get people dancing.

Hell, even sitting down on a blanket I couldn’t help but tap my toes and wiggle around a little bit. The music and moves of “Girl Walk//All Day” is so infectious a brave group of viewers got up to dance for the last 15 minutes or so of the screening and I don’t think a single person there left the rooftop without a smile on their face.

If you’re looking for a movie to lift your spirits with some good music to boot, Krupnick’s “Girl Walk//All Day” is a shining achievement of cinematic bliss and you can watch it in its entirety online at girlwalkallday.com.

Or if you’re looking for a change of scenery for your summer cinema, head up to the rooftop for another one of MMoCA’s screenings. They take place every Friday in June and films start around sunset at 8:30 p.m.—just be sure to bring a blanket or chair to pop a squat, because this tiny sculpture garden fills up fast.

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