БƗƗҚ.17 // No aircraft were harmed in the filming of this video

A comprehensive review of the #JerusalemaDanceChallege at airports

In mid-2019, South African musical artist Master KG put out a song on social media called Jerusalema. It received positive feedback from fans, so he enlisted the support of fellow South African vocalist Nomcebo to record a better take with him. He uploaded this new version to YouTube in October, and then formally released it as a single on November 29. An official music video followed in December 2019 and the song became the title track on KG’s second album, released in January 2020.

In February, the Angolan dance troupe Fenómenos do Semba choreographed a dance for the song and uploaded it to YouTube with the hashtag #JerusalemaDanceChallenge. Released into a world that was locking down, the catchy yet easy-to-replicate steps set against a song that had all the trappings of a global anthem became a blueprint for how the world could stay connected while physically separated. The Jersusalema Challenge quickly trended across YouTube, Facebook, Tikitok, Instagram etc, and by July reached the hallowed ground of being dubbed the “new macarena”. 

As you’d expect from any global sensation—be it the Harlem Shake or the Ice Bucket Challenge–the dance has been performed by hospital staff, children, grocery store clerks, Philharmonic Orchestras, the military, socially distant flash mobs and more than a few nuns. Scrolling through Jerusalema videos, one group of people has been contributing way more videos than I would have thought: airport employees. Don't get me wrong, airport staff are extremely well suited to viral dance videos: they’re a diverse bunch with all sorts of bright costumes, heavy infrastructure is at their immediate disposal, and there are myriad possibilities for set changes. I just don’t think I had ever seen something like this before. As I thought about it more, it started to make sense: who stumbled into some free time more abruptly this past year than airport staff?

Crew and staff at Flughafen Stuttgart in Germany participate in the Jerusalema Challenge. (Source: YouTube)

It’s easy to look at a viral dance video in the pandemic as some sort of beacon of the human spirit in a time of darkness. It’s also valid—especially as companies (like airlines) began taking on the dance challenge as a form of marketing—to analyze it through the lens of uncompensated labor and appropriated culture that will ultimately serve to enrich the global ruling class. Both are true. But honestly, I’m really a sucker for all-things-airports, and thousands of pilots, ticket agents, flight attendants, mechanics, and airport firefighters (!!!) from around the world have gone well out of their way to put together some absolute classic dance challenge videos over the past six months. 

I’ve combed through YouTube to find as many airport and airline challenges as I can (currently 31) and put them into a YouTube playlist. There is some staggering creativity on display: we’re talking choreographed waltzes with luggage trolleys (Ravinala Airport in Madagascar), riffs on the pre-flight safety demonstration (Austrian Airlines), dancing out on airplane wings (Skylink in South Africa) and a completely over the top tribute to the closing of Berlin’s Tegel Airport.

The Gendarmerie Nationale at Aéroport Antananarivo in Madagascar just got right after it. (Source: YouTube)

I reviewed each video in a thread on Twitter, which I immediately deemed a success because within a minute of tweeting it out I was followed by Mohahlaula Airlines, the national airline of Lesotho.

Thanks for reading,

-- Grif

P.S. A few more stills to whet your appetite:

Austrian Airlines flight attendants incorporated some pre-flight security moves. The charming way to fly! (Source: YouTube)

FlySafair in South Africa wasted no time setting a high bar for technique in the early days of the competition. Source: YouTube)

Latvian firefighters dancing to a South African song on a runway in Riga. If this isn’t the type of content you’re looking for, well, you know how to unsubscribe. (Source: YouTube)

The flight crew from Turpial Airlines in Venezuela out on the wing. (Source: YouTube)

Simply incredible moves left and right from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. Also the only video to feature the company basketball team. (Source: YouTube)