About the Interviewed: Spencer is a former student of the George Washington University, now graduated and teaching English overseas. He describes his ethnic background as “Potpourri”, with his family having a mixture of Scottish-Polish origins with some Irish thrown in the mix. His family has lived in North America for generations, so he prefers to identify ethnically as just that. He is 22 years of age.
When I was a student at the George Washington University, my friend Spencer got really into Ska music.
Spencer: “Ska is a genre of music best described as a combo of Jamaican Reggae and [Western] rock music.” Spencer tells me. “It involves a combination of electric guitar and jazz instruments. It’s pretty uptempo.”
Spencer then tells me about a type of dancing unique to a “Ska” performance.
Spencer: “When you listen to Ska, you’ve gotta Skank. That’s just how you do it. When you Skank you’ve gotta just move to the music. You’ve gotta move to the beat.”
Spencer then gets up and gives me a small demonstration. He performs a sort-of hopping motion accompanied by a fist pump. He hops and jerks to the rhythm of a song I’m playing on my ipod. As the music grows more uptempo, he begins to hop in a running-man pose. It’s important to note that his Skanking embodies a sort of lock-step movement. It’s a quick transition, and then a freeze; almost like a kind of rhythmic freeze-tag.
I ask him if he’s seen Skanking performed in other ways.
Spencer: “Yeah, people just go crazy. Ska is really loud so people just sort of let themselves go. Sometimes people shake around, they kick and stuff. I’ve seen crazy-ass stuff go down. I’ve seen people get hurt – they Skank so hard.”
Skanking is a form of dance closely associated with Ska music. It is accomapnied most often by Ska music, and it consists of bopping and/or running in place to the beat of a song.
Like Ska music itself, Skanking embodies something wild and free. Not unlike “moshing”, Skanking allows an audience to participate in the culture of the music they are receiving. Essentially, they’re taking the positive energy they receive from the music, and sending it right back to the performers in an epic loop of positive feedback.
Regrettably, by his request, I was unable to record Spencer’s Skanking demo, but I’ve found some videos that seems to capture the spirit of the dance pretty well.