To the average viewer, the Super Bowl represents getting together with friends for food, family fun and of course football. For most, this goliath event is all about the game itself, specifically the action on the field. But for others with a keen, artistic eye, it’s about so much more… like dance!
How so, you may be wondering? It just so happens that dance is intermittently woven throughout NFL football games, including the Super Bowl. Most obviously by way of the team cheerleaders, who pump up the crowd with dynamically choreographed dance moves and energetic chants. Many believe that they are as essential to the team spirit as the official mascot and the players themselves.
Dance is also a big thing off of the field. So much so that the city of Houston, Texas, which was the host city for this years Super Bowl LI, had a nine day long pre-game festival called Super Bowl Live, also known as the Super Bowl fan experience on Avenida Houston. This interactive street festival ran from January 28- to February 5, 2017, all day, every day until game time. For hours each day the streets filled with revelers, many of who traveled from out of town, as well as other states to cheer on their favorite team and join festivities leading up to the big game. The fan fest boasted an entertainment line up teeming with back to back talent from top bands to dance acts and more. They filled the big stages and also filled the crowd packed streets with great energy and sound. Many in the crowd freely danced along to the sounds from the entertainment stages perched above them.
Back inside the arena the movement never stopped. From the cheerleaders on the sidelines to the featured half time show that once featured music and dance legends Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince. Other icons in the pop dance world like Janet Jackson, Beyonce and Bruno Mars have also been headliners and kept the crowds dancing on their feet. This year that theme continued with “Just Dance” singer Lady Gaga headlining the half time show. As most would expect, she wowed crowds with her flashy costumes, catchy lyrics and over the top, signature dance numbers. She also caused a lot of jaws to drop by leaping from what appeared to be the top of the arena far down to the stadium floor below. She then ended her performance with another gravity defying drop from an elevated platform, disappearing down into what looked to be a deep hole in the ground.
Particularly throughout the regular season, much of the dancing action happens along the field among the players themselves. Many of them have become well known performing frequent celebration dances. Players such as Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski, Victor Cruz, and several more, are well known for their flashy footwork both on and off the field. Once upon a time such dances were just brief displays of elation after scoring a touchdown or win. Nowadays they have evolved into highly expressive displays of artistry, showing off much fancier footwork, complex choreography and real showmanship. Rather than the once spontaneous, relatively simple steps performed by their predecessors, the touchdown dances of today have become an all out dance showcase of sorts. So much so that the NFL commissioner has since increased the amount of fines and penalties for performing what is deemed as excessive celebrations by players during games. Despite having to pay ridiculous sums of money and receiving costly penalties on plays that sometimes affect the entire team, players like Antonio Brown, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco never let that get in the way of expressing their elation through dance while on the field. They know how much the fans enjoy their energy, elation and showmanship, so risk punishment to express themselves and entertain their fans.
Some of the guys even perform pre-planned dance routines in pairs or groups, especially when showing off viral crazes like the dab, the Whip/Nae Nae, Ju-Ju on the beat and the running man challenge. Fans love this as they can join the viral wave by dancing along with their favorite players from out in the stands or where ever they may be watching.
On the other end of the spectrum, while the highly publicized adds are a major highlight each year, sometimes creating more buzz than the game itself, this years adds ranged from creatively comical to controversially political. In spite of the heavier tone of some adds, there were of course plenty of light-hearted ones, namely a T-Mobile commercial featuring dapperly dressed pop star Justin Beiber as a self-proclaimed celebration expert, in which he commentated on Patriots star Rob Gronkowski and former Bengels running back Terrell Owens’s celebration dances. This commercial was such a hit with audiences in part because of its star power and also because it highlighted notable players who also just happen to be quite the showmen, showing just how connected dancing is to professional football. Did you find yourself dancing along with the half time show, or maybe even some of the athletes?
This year, although not as many players were spotted dancing during the game, they are sure to continue and turn it up in regular games throughout the season and for years to come!