Sherrie Silver, the Rwandan-Born Choreographer behind “This is America”
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino released a visual for his new song, “This is America,” just two days ago and since then has had all of Twitter in a frenzy about its meaning. Putting the video treatment aside, the track is unlike what fans are used to hearing from Gambino–a socially conscious interpretation of the current state of America, over an 808’s-heavy “trap” production. The video has sparked conversations on what exactly Donald was trying to portray, with speculation on symbolism ranging from: police brutality, Jim Crow caricatures, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Trayvon Martin’s dad playing the guitar, Clockwork Orange, and where the dance moves came from. How you interpret dancing in the midst of the video’s chaos is up to you, but watching him do the South African Gwarra Gwarra was intriguing. If you’re still wondering what it all means, then it’s best to hear from the video’s choreographer herself, Sherrie Silver.
Rwanda’s own, Sherrie Silver, did an interview with Pigeons and Planes to explain the motive behind the dancing. She mentions that her goal is to “take Afro dance and Afro culture to the world and then take the world to Africa…No matter how much is going on—even if it’s the middle of a war or poverty or hunger—one thing Africans share is we dance our sorrows away. Not even professionally, it’s just a part of our culture.”
On the Gwarra Gwarra being incorporated: “The one guideline he gave me was the Gwara Gwara dance. He really likes that dance. It’s the trending dance right now as well. So I had to make sure I got all the dances and did them properly because I knew everyone would be watching this and I had to get it right.”
On other dance moves included, “There’s the Shaku Shaku dance from Nigeria. That’s another big dance right now. We had so many. We had a lot of dances from Angola. We had the Alkayida, which is from Ghana. There was a little bit of the Azonto in there as well, which is from Ghana.”
On her favorite part of the video: “I really loved the bit where it says, ‘Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands,’ and we were all going around him. It’s a move from the Ivory Coast. It’s a particular way of walking. How we deserted him, that was something I really wanted, just to add to the drama. When does your shadow ever desert you? It’s almost like he noticed everyone was gone, then he goes back into his own world.”