To quote Will Shakespeare,
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”
When the Bard had that thought and penned that gem, do you think he had the Super Bowl Halftime Show Stage in mind, and does that same rule apply to dancing sharks?
Fast forward to 2015 when a phenom known as Left Shark became one with Shakespeare’s message and danced ever so briefly into the heart of all Americans during Katy Perry’s performance at Super Bowl XLIX (49). Sure, Katy was the halftime artist, but Left Shark stole the spotlight.
The seven-foot-tall fishy backup dancer became a national treasure following the “Teenage Dream” segment when he tried to keep up with his more rhythmically gifted Right Shark counterpart, flailing his fins as though they’d been injected with novocaine. To be honest, I don’t know if anyone has ever related to a Super Bowl halftime performer more in their lives.
Looking less like sharks and more like giant blue onesies with fangs, they made every effort to dance, but Left Shark, visibly struggling with the choreography, promptly became the butt of the internet’s jokes. His arrhythmic moves were endlessly memed, and Left Shark became an instant sensation.
Everyone wanted to know: Could he not hear the music? Could he not see his cues from inside that costume? What happened?
At the time, the man inside Left Shark refused to talk to the news outlets. Reddit immediately requested an AMA with Left Shark, but all they could get was the Palm Tree….Until now.
On Wednesday, Left Shark finally came up for air and broke his silence. The Washington Post revealed the man
behind inside the shark, publishing an op-ed written by Left Shark himself, dancer-turned-hair-stylist Bryan Gaw, who spent five years touring with Katy Perry. “It was really only a few seconds, a snippet, maybe four or five counts where I improvised in my giant blue shark costume,” Gaw wrote. “But people went crazy.”
In an interview with NPR, Gaw elaborated on his decision to take liberties with the routine. “So there’s a set choreography,” he said. “There’s also what’s called free-style choreography, or, like you get to move around or play your character as a dancer… I’m in a seven-foot blue shark costume. There’s no cool in that. So what’s the other option? Well, I’m gonna play a different character.”
True, there’s definitely no cool in that, he has a point there. So the character, he claims, was an underdog (undershark?). An everyday person. Someone imperfect. Wow, Bryan Gaw is the method actor of the deep blue sea, and proof that Left Shark isn’t the hero we need, but the one we deserve.
“As a dancer, you take on the vibe and the energy of whatever piece you’re performing. Just because you’re working with a pop star doesn’t mean you aren’t presenting an art piece. Improvisation is part our job: We perform the choreography, but we’re also supposed to fill in the gaps. If I’m instructed to go from one side of the stage to the other, I don’t just walk across like I’m shopping at the mall. I was a big shark. I had to be a big shark. That’s what separates a dancer and a performing artist — the ability to fill in those gaps and to interpret the work.”
Look, I’m sure becoming one of Katy Perry’s permanent backup dancers is no easy feat, so just think of all the blood, sweat, and tears that brought Gaw to the Super Bowl stage in the first place. Then, when he finally makes it there, he has to dance in a… giant shark costume? “Yes, Hi, I have 4 years of Julliard and I was Left Shark in a little number called the Super Bowl Halftime Show…”
Regardless, Gaw’s lackadaisical prancing shark performance was certainly a gift. The thing is, once you’ve gone straight Daniel Day-Lewis on carnivorous fish choreography, where do you go from there? When you’ve brought joy to literally millions of people during a brief televised performance, where can you go?
If you’re Left Shark, you leave the road life, learn how to cut hair, and start working in a West Hollywood salon. Gaw explained that he gets nothing but love for his sensational antics, Katy Perry wasn’t even mad, and he even lists Left Shark on his résumé. From the Washington Post:
“My life has slowed down since the Super Bowl. But for me, fashion, hair, styling, dance – it all blends together. I’ll continue to dance and be a stylist.”
Three years later, Gaw has no regrets.
“Don’t take life so seriously. Be you. Do you. I think people were so attached to Left Shark because America loves an underdog. They love to root for one. The Super Bowl is a machine, so heavily planned and executed, and then along came this oddball shark. It gave people something to connect to.”
Look, whether or not Left Shark’s famously inept-looking performance at the 2015 Super Bowl was a rogue free-style flow gone awry, the result of an ill-fitting shark suit, stage fright, or the sheer fact that the choreography just didn’t stick despite the grueling monthlong 10-hour-a-day, six-days-a-week rehearsal schedule, doesn’t really matter. What does matter are the life lessons we can take away from this groovin’ great white:
- Don’t take life/yourself too seriously.
- Have no regrets.
- Be a lovable oddball shark.
- Root for the underdog every once in a while.
- Channel your inner Shakespeare.
- All it takes is a couple of seconds to be jawesome and make someone laugh.
- Sometimes a left shark might be the right shark for you.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the “30 for 30” on Left Shark. Speaking of TV, I wonder when Discovery is going to air Left Shark Week…
Are you more of a Left Shark or a Right Shark? Let us know in the comments below!
Two Buttons Deep is a news & entertainment website based in upstate New York.
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