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Looking at the Village People's Y.M.C.A. music video, I don't see the well known dance with dancers shaping the letters with their arms... when comes the chorus, they just clap their hands above their heads.

ymca

In most of dancing hits (The Twist, La Macarena), people just look at how dancers perform in the music video to learn the dance craze.

I wonder how does the dance was invented, and how does it spread in a way that thousands of people will dance it in a live show.

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Citing a spin.com interview of Randy Jones and David Hodo (respectively the cowboy and construction worker of the song):

Jones: We were flying up from South America for the show, and we worked on the choreography on the airplane — handclaps, turning, marching in place…stuff like that. Well, the audience at this particular taping was a bunch of kids bused in from a cheerleader camp. The first time we got to the chorus, we were clapping our hands above our heads. And the kids thought it looked like we were making a Y. So they automatically did the letters. We saw this and started doing letters with them. It was purely audience-generated, which is probably why it’s still so popular. And that’s great for me, because it keeps the checks coming in every six months.

Hodo: When I saw the movements, I thought, “Wow, that is so stupid.” Then everyone in America started doing it, and I thought, “Wow, that is so brilliant.” It took on a life of its own. The next thing we know, Hideki Saijo has the No. 1 hit in Japan with his version of “Y.M.C.A.” And we hit No. 2 [in the U.S.]. That’s how it always works. Saijo claimed to have invented the dance, so as soon as we got to Japan, we straightened him out.

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