The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


July 10, 2008

Dancing with Matt

Price of gasoline got you down? Are you sitting in an office cube like me on a beautiful summer day? Or, do you just need a 4 minute and 29 second break that is sure to make your smile?

Then get yourself to youtube and let Matt Harding dance you around the world.

Harding is an ordinary Seattle guy doing a running-in-place-sort-of dance at 69 global locations. Chicago Tribune critic Steve Johnson says, “It may well be the high point of Internet video so far, something that grew organically out of the Web and wouldn’t really have a place to exist if not for the Web.”

In each location Harding invites the locals—often children—to dance with him. Here in Chicago, that means 105 people bobbed up and down in front of “Cloud Gate,” a.k.a. The Bean. In Poria, Papua New Guinea, he dances with a handful of people in full tribal garb. Fantastic!

The joy of this video is watching Harding–unassuming (often behind the locals) and just plain happy. Harding apparently quit his job as video game designer in 2003 because of the industry’s trend toward violence. He began traveling and taping himself dancing in different locations. He edited it, e-mailed it to friends and eventually it was posted on a blog. And the rest is Web history. This is his third such video, sponsored by Stride chewing gum.

If you've got the time, check out the related videos—the outtakes, two other travel videos at other locations, and an interview with Matt. By his own admission, he is a bad dancer and will continue to travel and dance. His favorite clip is dancing with children in Rwanda, a moment he calls "immediate access to joy."

I suppose it’s too much to hope that Harding is a Lutheran. Nevertheless, today his message of grace reached my little cubical on Higgins Road. As Johnson concludes in his Tribune article, “Mostly, it’s got the throbbing subtext of possibility, the reminder that there is so much more to the world than a cubicle, a computer screen, a neighborhood or a mind-set.”

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Embracing diversity