To gain access to the lessons, please subscribe.

Sign Up

Left Shark: Not Just A Backup Dancer

On Sunday night, as I watched the annual Puppy Bowl, I made an effort to change the channel right as the Superbowl Halftime Show was about to come on. I watched and admired the voice of Katy Perry, the talent of Lenny Kravitz, and the time warp that was the Missy Elliot appearance. The animated scenery that surrounded all of the artists dazzled me. When Teenage Dream began to play, I was ready to sing along. But, to my surprise, a star was born on live TV. A star that became more popular than the Halftime Show itself moments after it aired. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I am talking about the only and only Left Shark.

Left Shark strutted his stuff on top of the stage, grooving to the beat and doing his best to keep up with spot-on Right Shark. But as the public eye watched before them, Left Shark had a supposed momentary lapse in memory, and began creating moves of his own. Many assumed that he forgot the simple steps, and some liked to think that he exemplified what it was to be a “true” artist in the moment of potential “disaster.” Regardless, I felt that Left Shark made a bigger impact on the world than we anticipated. Those spontaneous arm flails not only produced timeless entertainment, but I think that Left Shark taught us a few lessons about the art of dance.

A Good Example of a Dancer’s Professionalism

For those that are unfamiliar with dance, let me begin by telling you that, just like any other art form, it is incredibly unpredictable. You can be taught the choreography, memorize all the lines, and still never be prepared for what’s to come on performance day.
At the MTV Video Music Awards, we all witnessed the unfortunate wardrobe malfunction that Nikki Minaj faced during her feature in the collaborative song, “Bang Bang” with Arianna Grande and Jessie J. We’ve even seen Jay Z forget to sing live in concert as his wife, Beyonce, sang her smash hit “Crazy in Love” at his last show in Brooklyn for the Barclays opening. In all of these situations, the artist has two choices: to keep going or to give up. Obviously, for the sake of his soon to be fans, Left Shark pushed through what seemed to be a devastating moment for the dancer inside the shark.
Perhaps the dancer did not anticipate being handed a giant shark costume to dance onstage in, and maybe he just didn’t have enough time to learn the choreography. An article written in Cosmopolitan explained that those roles were intended for Mesa State Community College students, and were replaced last minute. Regardless, Left Shark made due with the given circumstances, and proved to the world that nothing would stop him from owning that moment.

The Misleading Nature of Choreography

Based on past performances in the SuperBowl and in any other televised broadcast of a live performance, the public is used to watching back-up dancers be in sync with each other, almost to the point of robots. What the public may not be as familiar with is the nature and choreography of theatrical dance. The quirky, nonsensical pieces of movement that have absolutely no unison in them.
Whenever I would ask friend’s what they thought of the “incredibly inventive” pieces I was in after a show, most would either pretend to be impressed or openly admit that they were confused. Perhaps the Left Shark took the Halftime Show in a direction we had never seen before. Maybe the Left Shark was trying to expose the viewers to the other side of dance.
And maybe that idea was a little far-fetched, but hey, I’m an artist as well. In fact, it turns out that Left Shark may have been doing exactly what he was supposed to. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed choreographer RJ Durell asking him about the incident seen before us. Durell told TRL “The sharks were given two main objectives…One, perform Katy’s trademark moves to the ‘Teenage Dream’ chorus, which they both did perfectly; and two, to have loads of fun, and bring to life these characters in a cartoon manner”. Judging by this response, the choreography may have been exactly what we watched after all.
And whom may you ask was the artist behind the shark? It was none other than Katy Perry dancer, Bryan Gaw, an artist with much experience behind the camera and on the big screen. His IMDB reveals his past features in Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Katy Perry: Part Of Me.
Whether or not Left Shark spaced out on live television or did exactly what the choreographer said to do, Left Shark (Gaw) successfully entertained the audience. Even while standing behind the star of the show, Left Shark did what every back up dancer dreams of doing: steal the spot light.
As dancers, we work hard to land jobs that can sometimes put us in ridiculous costumes only to flail our arms in the background of a celebrity, and I think that Left Shark proved that in the field of dance, anything is possible. You go, Left Shark.