TikTok Announces Major New Partnership with Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021
Leah Howard Choreographs the TikTok #JoinOurFloat Dance Challenge
TikTok Australia announced this month its official debut as a partner of The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021 with a month-long program celebrating the incredible LGBTQIA+ trailblazers on the social media platform ⏤ the funniest, bravest, most fabulous and inspiring Australian creators! ⏤ with a special new hashtag dance challenge.
Fronted by ARIA Award nominee, queer icon and Mardi Gras headline performer, G Flip, the program invites Australians from across the country to virtually join onboard TikTok’s debut Mardi Gras float at this year’s parade on March 6, 2021.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year the Mardi Gras will re-locate its world famous parade to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) with the floats being live streamed in venues as well as having audience members at the SCG.
To mark the partnership, TikTok launched a national #JoinOurFloat hashtag dance challenge in early February, which saw a new routine choreographed to an exclusive remix of G Flip’s track ‘ Queen’ [Touch Sensitive Pride Remix]. The challenge asks the TikTok community to learn a series of dance moves, and then post or stitch their own challenge expression under the hashtag. The best entries will be collected and edited into a dance film which will be broadcast across giant rolling screens as part of the Mardi Gras parade.
Veteran Australian performer and creative Leah Howard was happily surprised to be invited by TikTok to choreograph the 60 second dance challenge routine to the catchy ‘Queen’ remix.
“It was just by chance I got involved … I had just started a TikTok account to have a look as I’d heard so much about it. Then TikTok called and invited me to be involved in their Mardi Gras hashtag challenge in creating choreography to be used on their Mardi Gras float. We came up with choreography that we wanted to put out there on TikTok for people to learn so that when the float is in the main parade all those TikToks performed by people to the song ‘Queen’ and tagged with #JoinOurFloat will be created into a film to be played on the float and SCG screens,” explained Leah.
While Leah thinks it is “so cool” that TikTok will be sharing and celebrating user generated content on its parade float and within the SCG at Mardi Gras, she also appreciates the new learning curve the task presented her.
“The challenge to create the chorey was interesting because I had to create the effect of a rainbow moving body and add a crown motif as well. It was such an interested process as a choreographer. Over a two week period I worked with a couple of dancers to workshop the way the choreography moved, the way we could build-in effects, and what were better options. It was a back-and-forth project with the tech people at TikTok to produce the final routine. And all within 60 seconds!
“I also had to consider how people would be filming their dancing on their phones through TikTok, as it’s not common practice to film a full body in a full dance … so it is even worth doing anything below the hips if its going on TikTok? Or will they have a room big enough to film their whole body under a ring light?,” she said.
Leah uploaded the ‘Queen’ routine in a series of tutorial videos on TikTok via her account @rosechocolatebeauty. Then the ambassadors shared the dance routine to their pages and … Voila! … a new hashtag challenge had begun.
Clearly, the game changer in global social media in 2020 was TikTok, for many reasons, but Leah is positive about the platform’s rise in popularity, especially for dance artists and creatives.
“I think the accessibility of TikTok is great for dance. I love that on TikTok I can just watch people enjoying dancing regardless of their ability. I watch people pick up choreography and learn musicality, and often in very different ways than how we teach dance. They’re listening to music and lyrics and picking up on different things that we in the dance world with a choreography mind-set might not see. And I love watching people feel satisfied and accomplished with their dancing on TikTok.”
Leah believes the description of dance has changed because of the TikTok phenomena.
“It’s a fun platform in that sense. And that’s what I wanted to do with the Mardi Gras dance challenge to G Flip and Touch Sensitive’s Pride Remix of ‘Queen’ … to make it fun, colourful, uplifting and still a bit of a challenge.”
The five ambassadors came into the studio to learn the routine from Leah for the #JoinOurFloat challenge. “We taught them the routine and had a couple of rehearsals which was fantastic because they’re not all confident dancers. They really got into it and gave it a crack! That’s the best part of this project … seeing people give dance and movement a go no matter what … and that’s what I love about the TikTok platform.”
“This young, new generation is unashamedly unapologetic, and that’s great! And even as we see TikTok evolve into new areas away from dance, we see people of all ages who probably never even thought about being arts and entertainment practitioners, suddenly finding themselves being so because of TikTok. It’s super great seeing people get involved in creating content.”
The #joinourfloat challenge launched on TikTok with a Top View spot and videos from TikTok’s LGTBQIA+ creator ambassadors @KevinIntheCity , @MitchellCoombs , @Lawrence_Bing , @meissa.com.au and @emmahorn.
Lee Hunter, General Manager, TikTok Australia and New Zealand said, “TikTok celebrates our incredibly diverse community and like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, we’re committed to elevating LGBTQIA+ voices and providing an open, inclusive platform where people can show up as their true selves. We’re excited to be marching in the official event, and in the spirit of inclusiveness, giving the wider Australian community the chance to #JoinOurFloat and become a part of Mardi Gras, wherever you are. To our LGBTQIA+ community, we see you, we hear you, and we celebrate you.”
In addition to the #JoinOurFloat challenge, TikTok will broadcast G Flip LIVE during her star performance on parade night. The TikTok LIVE stream gives Australians, and the world, a parade’s-eye view of the action, with content streaming through G Flip’s TikTok account from on Saturday 6 March.
The program will also be supported by a series of LIVEs in the lead up to parade night with some of star LGBTQIA+ creators including; superstar Lawrence Bing, who will discuss trans-visibility on TikTok and reflect on the history of Sydney’s Mardi Gras event; internationally acclaimed drag legend @courtneyact ; as well as @emmahorn and @louis.hanson who will act as roving reporters.
Tune in at 7 pm on Wednesday 3 March, @TikTok_Australia.
The final word goes to Leah Howard, “Even after Mardi Gras I hope this challenge keeps going because it promotes a good sense of pride, joy and happiness in people because it’s a good disco style dance that I think is pretty achievable and brings us all together.”
Check out some of the #JoinOurFloat posts from the TikTok Ambassadors: