TikTok’s Latest Trend Has Parents Dancing Like It’s the ’80s

TikTok’s Latest Trend Has Parents Dancing Like It’s the ’80s

TikTok can add a new skill to its résumé: disco time machine.

The social platform, normally populated with an endless scroll of Gen Z-ers dancing — mostly in short choreographed routines that have been practiced and perfected — has recently been infused with the energy of a surprising demographic: their Gen X parents.

In the viral videos, parents are asked by their adult children to dance as they would have back in the day to the 1984 sonic ear worm “Smalltown Boy,” by the British synth-pop band Bronski Beat. Most posts are tagged #momdancechallenge, #daddancechallenge or #80sdancechallenge, and they have racked up tens of millions of views.

The reactions have been perhaps unexpected, because instead of going for laughs, the videos are cool, like really cool, serving as a portal to another era: when dance was more often improvisational and spontaneous, when people felt the beat and found the rhythm organically, moving without the constraints of a horizontal aspect ratio.

When Valerie Martinez, 23, asked her mother, Yeanne Velazquez, 58, to participate, it was before the challenge had gone viral, and they had not prepared at all. “I didn’t even play the song for her before,” Martinez said in a phone interview this week alongside her mother. But Martinez was sure Velazquez would deliver, because her mother is always dancing, she said.

It was nostalgic for Velazquez, who said that when the song was popular, she was about 19 and would go dancing in the one or two clubs in Puerto Rico, where she lived. Now she and her daughter live in Florida.

The outpouring of positive comments on her daughter’s post, which has more than 12 million views and nearly one million likes, has been heartening, Velazquez said. What may set this trend apart is how overwhelmingly uplifting the reactions have been across TikTok and Instagram.

It’s a welcome break from the tedious tradition of mocking the 40 and older crowd online exemplified in the “OK Boomer” to Millennial cringe discourse.

“I wasn’t expecting them to actually have the moves though!” one commenter wrote. “I swear I saw a glimpse of younger thems in their smiles for a split second. Very heartwarming.”

“I can’t figure out if I just love watching parents be teleported or if I just love watching other humans dancing,” said another.

There were also scores of requests in the comments to see photographs of the parents from that bygone era, and some obliged, including Velazquez, who said she had no reservations at all about sharing the photos.

When asked if trends like these help bridge generations online, Martinez said, “1,000 percent.”

Giselle DeLaney, 28, and her mother, Sandy Cervantes, 51, decided to participate on a whim and said this week that they were floored by the reception. The video of Cervantes has more than 15 million views on TikTok, and about 1.5 million likes.

”It was just a happy moment for both of us,” said DeLaney, who had given birth to her first baby only days prior and filmed the video while her mother was visiting her in Maryland from Florida. The circumstances made the reception particularly special, bringing, as DeLaney put it, “a lot of positivity to our family.”

“It shows in their faces how all of a sudden they just go back to a good time, a fun time when they’re younger and, yeah, kind of living their best lives,” she said of the parents in the videos.

Social media, particularly Instagram and TikTok, are of course considered the domain of the young, which gives these viral videos and other popular accounts that highlight older people a chance to serve as poignant reminders that everyone was once young doing young people things, and that everyone — yes, you, too — will get older if you’re lucky.

Late last year, a video posted on the account cindeemindy showed her grooving to the beat of the 1980s track “Set It Off,” by Strafe; it was viewed millions of time and shared across TikTok and Instagram to raves and cheers. The Old Gays, an account for a longtime friend group of four, over-65 men who live in the California desert, gained 11 million followers and made them unlikely influencers (or “grandfluencers,” as they’re sometimes called). They also do a lot of dancing on their page, as well as share photos of themselves from when they were young.

Maybe in a few decades, today’s TikTok dancers will resurrect their polished moves for their children to post on the social network du jour.

“We’ll look back at videos that we made of us dancing — or our kids will do it to us — and it’ll kind of just bring a full circle moment,” DeLaney said. “We’ll think, ‘You know what? That’s who I was once upon a time, and this is who I am now.’ And in 20 years, when someone asks me, I’m going to be a different person, but I’m going to remember who I was.”