For the choreographically challenged, learning to dance in public around real people at real parties may inspire fear-induced elbow-jerking or the yearning to shell out $19.99 for “Darrin’s Dance Grooves.” Darrin Henson, a self-proclaimed “dynamic dancer,” peddles his video on late-night infomercials, promising to teach all the hottest dance moves step by step. The dynamic Henson is a faculty member in the department of hip-hop at Broadway Dance Center in New York and the winner of several MTV Video Music Awards for choreography. But even with all this experience with professional dancers, Henson’s video features “normal people” movin’ and groovin’ to the tunes of Britney Spears’ “Crazy,” ’N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” and Jordan Knight’s “Give It to You.” Henson’s aim is to help normal booty-shaking folk get down teenybopper style in just 60 instructional minutes.
The video is aimed at late-night TV watchers with disposable incomes and two left feet—which would seem to make Harvard students a prime target demographic. But Darrin fans on campus are hard to find, mainly because Darrin doesn’t really deliver the goods. Fatima K. Ahmad ’04, who test-drove her roommate’s copy of the tape, calls it “pretty funny” but was disappointed with the selection. Henson only teaches the consumer how to dance to the choruses of the songs featured in his ads, leaving the slow-footed to improvise the rest of the dances for themselves. Ahmad’s friend Zachary D. Lazar ’04, who is a Crimson executive, also gave the tape a try so he could move like Britney in the “Crazy” video. But he gave up on Darrin, calling the lessons “tough, because in a real dance class, people can dance behind the teacher, whereas the tape has Darrin staring back at the viewer.” The video is hard to follow and, according to Ahmad, “you need to be a good dancer to begin with.”
Katherine D. Rose ’02, who received the video as a stocking-stuffer from her brother, agrees that the level of expertise expected of the viewer is unreasonable. What she and the others found most annoying, however, were the homages to Henson himself that are included between shots of dancing. These self-indulgent nuggets of vanity revolve around two themes: Henson’s contribution to the dance world through his revolutionary techniques and his devotion to his art. “The video emphasized his prettiness,” Lazar says. “It’s just Darrin wearing his tight shirt. You sometimes can’t even see his legs. Instead you get a cut-away of some pretty girl in the back.” Viewers say the video is not educational but rather a schmaltzy attempt to capitalize on the success of well-known pop artists. But it is not all bad. Even dissatisfied would-be dancers find redeeming entertainment value in the video. “I like Darrin, don’t get me wrong,” says Lazar, “but I wish I could move like him!”