Dallas Theater Instructor Inspires Students By Choreographing Dance To 'Uptown Funk'
Feb 25, 2021 by apost team
As a teacher, it isn’t always easy to relate to your students. There’s often a big, if not colossal, age gap between the two, which leaves some teachers entirely clueless when it comes to pop culture. TikTok? OK boomer? What are these kids even saying anymore?
But Scot Pankey, a theater instructor at New Tech High School in Dallas, Texas, seems to know exactly how to relate to his kids. In 2015, Mr. Pankey figured out that his students spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos, and so this clever teacher came up with a project involving the entire class: a choreographed dance number to the tune of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”
Not only has the video received widespread media attention, but it has also received millions of views, a shoutout from Bruno Mars himself and a whole lot of kids who wish Pankey was their teacher.
The choreographed video begins with a shot of a bored and exasperated Pankey behind his desk. But within seconds, the theater teacher stands, flips his pencil in the air and starts to boogie to the music. As he slides and dances throughout his classroom alone, the video hardly seems special. But as Pankey enters the hallways of New Tech High, viewers should catch on that this is no ordinary video. Out of nowhere, students join Pankey for a highly coordinated dance that would make the creators of “High School Musical” proud. One thing is for sure: Pankey is definitely one of the coolest teachers around.
Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video :-)
“I heard the (“Uptown Funk”) before Christmas and fell in love with it,” Pankey told The Dallas Morning News in January 2015, shortly after the video went viral. “We are a project-based school — there are only two in the Metroplex — and that means you give the students a project, put them in teams and they have to come up with solutions. They had three weeks to work on it, then present as a group what they learned.”
Pankey decided that his large-scale “Uptown Funk” dance would be perfect for his students, and so he proposed the project to six of his classes. The only catch was that Pankey, who seems like a thoroughly fun teacher, wanted to join in.
“I told them, ‘I am not a dancer, but I’d love to do this and go on this journey with you, and we can all learn from it and have a good time,’” he explained in his interview with The Dallas Morning News. “And they were all on board.”
The effort that went into the video is perhaps just as impressive as Pankey’s initiative as a teacher. Beyond the video’s massive scale — again, six entire classes take part in this dance — the routine was filmed by Bryan Urraca, a student council member at the time, in just one single take. Rather than filming one dance sequence at a time, Pankey seamlessly moves from one part of the school to another with his breakdancing students in tow. It’s perhaps no wonder that Pankey and his students’ impressive video went viral back in 2015.
But no one could have predicted that Mars himself would watch the clip and weigh in.
"I cried at the end,” Mars wrote on Facebook on Jan. 28, 2015. “Im still a thug though. Thank you to everyone involved in making this video."
When The Dallas Morning News asked Pankey about the response to the now well-known video, the New Tech teacher said that he was “overwhelmed.”
“We had a great time,” Pankey said. “I am overwhelmed by the response. I am honored. It’s all been very positive.”
Hundreds of YouTubers have left enthusiastic comments on Pankey’s original video — many of which praise the high school teacher for his dedication to his students.
“Scot Pankey will you marry me??? Oh wait, that won't work, I'm married,” Denise Coy writes. “But WOW!!! This puts a smile on my face every time I watch it. I LOVE how you interact with the kids and included everyone!”
And for those like Denise who can’t get over Pankey’s heartwarming video, we have good news for you. In January 2016, a year after Pankey’s original hit, New Tech High released another dance video, featuring Andy Grammer’s hit “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah).”
This time a junior at the high school, Deja Shipp, organized the 3-minute-long choreographed group dance with senior Micah Garden as filmographer. The entire piece, which has accumulated more than 200,000 views on YouTube, took students less than a month to learn, according to NBCDFW.
“Most people don’t like to work with other people so to show that a whole school can come together and show teamwork like that, it’s enlightening,” Garden told the local NBC station back in 2016.
Garden also added that he wouldn’t be surprised if Pankey’s videos became an annual high school tradition.
As for why Pankey chose Grammer’s “Good To Be Alive,” the answer lies in the song’s uplifting and “infectious” message, with lyrics like, “I think I finally found my hallelujah
/ I've been waiting for this moment all my life / Now all my dreams are coming true, yeah / I've been waiting for this moment.”
“(The students) really wanted to put a message out to whoever saw it that you’re special, that you are unique, you’re smart, you’re beautiful,” Pankey told NBCDFW. ”For high school kids to think that, and to want to put that out there, that says a lot about our student body.”
And just like Mars, Grammer couldn’t help but give the students his praise. In a tweet from Jan. 25, 2016, the singer-songwriter wrote, “UMMMMM THIS IS INCREDIBLE #goodtobealive #thismakesmyyear,” after a fan tagged Grammer in the video.
Unfortunately, Pankey and his students haven’t uploaded another dance video since “Good To Be Alive” in 2016. However, Pankey's channel does have some other gems — like this 2018 video that involves Pankey pulling a fun prank on his advanced theater students. With that said, we should all be on the lookout for another New Tech High School video out of Dallas because, as experience has shown, whatever Pankey puts out is likely to make your day.
“Now people are going to start to expect it, so you have to keep it going,” Garden said of the videos back in 2016. And he’s right — we’re looking forward to the next one, Mr. Pankey!
What do you think of Pankey and his students’ “Uptown Funk” video? Have you ever had a teacher like that? Let us know — and be sure to pass this fun and uplifting video on to friends and family members.