Straight to the punch

While watching Beyonce’s music video for “Diva,” I noticed Beyonce performs the same punch dance move that was featured in the choreography that Toni and the Lionesses perform in The Fits. The motion of punching is an offensive attack. It is an action where one strikes their opponent. However, in both choreographed performances in The Fits and in “Diva,” the dancers punch their hands rather than an actual person. This choreographed gesture that represents punching exhibits itself as just on the cusp of hitting someone – for they do not actually strike an opponent – by just meeting the brink of an attack. It is also notable that the punch gesture is the final move of the sequence, presenting the choreography as a visual strike to the audience that concludes the performance. The punch as an abrupt concluding move leaves the audience to sit with the remarkable energy of the performance, in a similar way that an opponent must absorb the energy of a physical punch. The punching gesture conveys a declaration or an assertion through the body’s sweeping yet sharp motion. The motion of the punch takes up space. Additionally, the moment the fist hits the hand, the hand and fist are arched above the head of the dancer. Their arms sweep high above their heads, drawing the eye’s attention to the punch. 

As we saw in The Fits, this dance move concludes “the clap back call” sequence. Throughout the film, we see Toni crossing back and forth between her boxing training and practicing with the Lionesses. The gesture of punching in “the clap back call” links Toni’s practice of boxing to her new role on the dance team. During the scene where Toni is alone on the bridge, she practices “the clap back call” but modifies it by incorporating literal boxing punches. This scene is the first time that we see Toni successfully perform “the clap back call.” The punch that concludes her dance sequence expresses a declaration of perfecting the dance moves. 

Furthermore, relating the punch’s expression of success to Beyonce’s “Diva” performance, the punch signifies a declaration of Beyonce’s hard work of building her stardom as a woman. During the line “A diva is a female version of a hustler,” the punch gesture occurs on the word “hustler.” The term “diva” has conventionally had a negative connotation, specifically when describing women; however, Beyonce’s performance redefines the term by equating “diva” to a more masculine term “hustler.” Furthermore, the song entails Beyonce’s success as a performer and takes ownership of her hard work to build her reputation. With that in mind, the punch communicates Beyonce’s strike to her audience that she has become successful through her hard work but credits her hard work to her diva personality.  

To further this discussion of the punching gesture, I would like to consider if this being incorporated into female dance moves has a connection to boxing being such a male-dominated sport? Is there a relationship between dancing and boxing that we haven’t further explored? If so, what is it?

1 Comment

  1. I think there are definitely connections between dancing and boxing. Both require lots of practice to execute correctly and a certain level of technique. They are also both rooted in physical strength and endurance. These qualities can be seen in “The Fits” through all of the scenes of the boys and the Lionesses practicing for hours at a time. It is interesting to see that for boxing people usually think of physical strength first over technique, while for dancing it is vice versa. This may have to do with the fact that boxing is male-dominated and society values physical strength in men while dancing is female-dominated and being delicate and “perfect” is a value we push onto women.

    Regarding your first question, I think that the incorporation of punching into female dances moves in “Diva” and “The Fits” plays into our discussion of Beyoncé and Toni being able to move in between the realms of masculine and feminine. Beyoncé is obviously very feminine most of the time in her dress and is quite proud of that femininity, but as seen in videos like “Upgrade” and “If I Were A Boy,” Beyoncé is not afraid to enter the realm of masculinity. Toni also crosses between these realms both physically and metaphorically; she is the only person in “The Fits” who enter both the boys’ training room and the dance studio. The punching gesture seen in both of their dances seems to push the masculine and feminine together, just as Beyoncé and “The Fits” do in their artistry.

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