The New York Times weighs inPosted: August 21, 2014
an amazing document:
“Shake It Off” is not really a dance video. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is a dance video in the current pop sense — a video that treats dance less as an art in itself than as a cultural signifier. The concept of the video is to put Ms. Swift in the position of a pop star or R&B diva or rapper, fronting backup dancers. The scenarios cycle through genres: ballerinas in “Swan Lake” costumes; a crew of b-boys; emotive contemporary dancers in spandex; a cheerleading squad; Lady Gaga futurists in shiny tracksuits; and yes, a line of ladies jiggling the contents of their cut-off denim shorts…
…The punchlines, as this dance critic was happy to see, are mostly dance jokes. The way that Ms. Swift trips over the crossed legs of the ballerinas and topples while trying to bow deeply in toe shoes is not highly clever or knowing, but it’s funny.(it is??) And the frightened and confused look that she gives the overwrought contemporary dancers earns a dance critic’s immediate empathy. Ms. Swift in “Shake It Off” is like Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett, a heroine triumphing through klutziness. It is probably too generous to interpret the video as a satire of how dance gets used in pop videos, but it certainly is a satire of pop video conventions.
Which brings us to the twerking. The moment when Ms. Swift crawls between the lined-up legs of the twerking ladies, advancing through the colonnades of jiggling flesh as if she were the camera of Busby Berkeley, is very silly. A second later, when Ms. Swift breaks out in giggles, she is laughing at the absurdity of herself in that video genre, but also, I think, at the absurdity of the genre.
With respect to racial politics, it would have been better if the shots of ballerinas had included some darker complexions.
I am laughing at the absurdity of myself for reading this but also, I think, at the absurdity of the genre.