NewsLocal News

Actions

Viral Richmond dancer mashes TikTok craze with Irish flair

Posted at 8:17 AM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 08:18:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. — A Richmond-based Irish dancer has earned international praise, support, and new opportunities after her version of a social media dance challenge, blending traditional Irish dancing with Billboard’s number one song on the “Hot Rap Songs” list, went viral.

“Posted a video for fun and I never expected it to do what it did,” 20-year-old Morgan Bullock said. “Get seen by so many people.”

The post that has garnered so much attention was on the social media app, TikTok.

Recently, the “Savage Remix Challenge” has been trending and features videos of people dancing to the remix of the song “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé.

“I saw this challenge going around and I was like, ‘I wanted to do the video.’ I tried to learn the dance that everyone is doing and I wasn't very good at it. Kind of awkward with my upper body being an Irish dancer,” said Bullock. “So, I was like, ‘Hey, I can probably do some Irish dancing to this.’”

Bullock said she has practiced Irish dancing for almost 11 years following her introduction to the style.

“I started doing ballet, tap, and jazz when I was three. But, the studio where I danced offered Irish dance classes and so, when I was 10-years-old, I went to a recital, I saw it, and it was like something I'd never seen before,” said Bullock. “I enrolled the next opportunity I got and I just loved it so much. It was just so different from everything else.”

Bullock said she has trained at the Baffa Academy of Irish Dance in Midlothian and has competed around the world, including four times at the Irish Dance World Championships.

She said her highest placement in that competition was 43rd.

Bullock said she had taken a year off from dancing, but got back into during the pandemic.

And so, with that background, Bullock choreographed some Irish dance moves, filmed it, and posted the video, not expecting a huge response.

“I was expecting maybe, like, a couple of hundred at most would see it. Never millions,” added Bullock, who said the video started getting more exposure as high-profile accounts started posting about it.

This included Tina Knowles, Beyoncé’s mother.

“One that's been huge for me was Beyoncé’s mom reposting it on Instagram. That was insane. And then, just a really big Instagram account, The Shade Room, posted it and that got it out to, like, millions of people. Some celebrities like Kelly Rowland and Megan Thee Stallion, actually whose song it is, she liked it on TikTok, which is really cool.”

However, Bullock, an African-American, said that early on, the video did get some negative attention and accusations of cultural appropriation, which prompted her to push back.

“People who, initially after posting it were saying that what I was doing was cultural appropriation, because I don't look like, typically, what people picture an Irish person to look like,” said Bullock, who is African-American. “My response to that was just, that, I think people are so quick to call something cultural appropriation just because it's unconventional. And, I think what I'm doing with Irish dance, as someone who's trained in Irish dance for over a decade and competed, I think what I'm doing is cultural appreciation.”

But since her initial video and post about the negative comments, the support has continued to pour in from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“We can tell you how fortunate we feel to have such talent here devote themselves to Irish dancing. You are better than good at what you do. And are a credit to both our nation & yours. Lean ort [Gaelic for “continue” or “keep going”]!” tweeted the Irish Embassy in the United States.

“Brilliant,” tweeted Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Muhall. “Great dancing.”

Bullock even received praise from the creator of theatrical show Riverdance and was offered a chance to perform in the show.

“Your dancing is just fantastic. So proud to see you struttin your stuff. Love it,” wrote Bill Whelan, the show’s composer.

“That was just amazing to me as someone who's watched Riverdance for as long I’ve Irish danced and just been so in love with it,” said Bullock. “Being invited to dance with Riverdance at the Wolf Trap was, like, the best thing I could have ever imagined to come out of this. Because that show is the end goal for me with dance. Just to become a professional dancer and hopefully one day tour with Riverdance and to have the opportunity to perform on stage with the cast as, like, a cast member at one of the biggest places at the Wolf Trap is insane.”

Bullock said the offer was for the show’s performance in Northern Virginia. Originally scheduled for June, she said it has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is waiting to hear when a new date will be scheduled.

Bullock was also praised by the Taoiseach, or prime minister, of Ireland and invited to come dance in that country’s 2021 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Bullock said in the meantime, she plans to get back into competitive dancing and continue at Virginia Commonwealth University where she is a rising senior studying Elementary Education.

And she will continue to post new mashup videos.

“There are so many new people following me and it's really cool that this many people want to see my dancing.”