Bellaire high school teacher: a book on dubsmash and dance

Dr. Trevor Boffone, the Bellaire High School Spanish teacher who embraced the music and dance of many of his students at school, has written a book about that experience and ways to build community through media social, which is scheduled for release on July 2.

Renegades: digital dance cultures, from Dubsmash to TikTok, published by Oxford University Press is presented as the first book published on TikTok. According to Boffone, an occasional contributor to the Houston Pressher book “focuses specifically on black creators, cultural appropriation, community building, and anti-racist teaching using social media as these topics unfold on TikTok (and Dubsmash).”

At first, Boffone just wanted to make a better connection with his Houston high school students. He knew that music was important to them, had noticed that several of them were doing intricately choreographed dances, and had asked them to teach him some moves.

Soon these were recorded in ten-second videos which attracted a lot of attention, helped in large part by Boffone’s Instagram account, @dr_boffone’s. The Dubsmash app with its dance challenges was a natural home for their production.

Over time, Boffone and his students garnered national attention, including an appearance on hello america. Clearly, a white guy of a nerdy male teacher dancing with predominantly black students in the hallways of a school was attracting attention.

In his book, Boffone writes that this music- and performance-led activity is a way for these students to create a sense of community within a hip-hop culture. And he expands on that to talk about Zoomer culture (those born in the mid to late 1990s through the early 2010s), specifically Black Zoomer culture and how they use social media to connect.

But, of course, as with everything, not all of Boffone’s efforts were applauded. In a later chapter, he addresses the backlash he received from (mostly) white women who questioned the language used in some of the songs his students chose to dance to in the videos.

Its final chapter begins with an acknowledgment of the death of George Floyd and the significance of the cellphone recordings that were made that day (Black teenager Darnella Frazier just received a 2021 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for video she made that day seen around the world). Without social networks, the truth about this arrest would never have been revealed. The Revolution, he says, will be Dubsmashed.

Renegades: Digital Dance Cultures from Dubsmash to TikTok is available for pre-order now on 192 pages. Paperback $29.95, Kindle $9.99.

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