90s music video dance routines crying out for a TikTok reboot

From B*Witched to Backstreet Boys and Destiny's Child, we break down the best choreography from the golden era of pop.

by Frankie Dunn
18 August 2021, 11:00am

Image from Destiny's Child, "Say My Name"

The 90s were without a doubt the pinnacle of pop. The stars were more of a mystery, the songs were one big hook, and my god, the music videos — filled to the brim with choreography — were legendary. These days, dance challenges are created to give new releases the best chance of viral success. The methodology wasn’t all that different back in the 90s, only with less TikTok and more texting to request they play your favourite video on one of the music channels, so that you can dance hectically in front of the TV in an attempt to learn the moves before the next school disco.

Want to know what that felt like? Well, we’ve rounded up some of the best 90s music video dance routines — featuring chair-based moves, line dancing on beaches, and dance-offs attended by Sabrina The Teenage Witch — for you to study and take inspiration from.

Los Del Rio, Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix) (1995)

Walk into any crowded room and stick this on to instantly weed out the millennials. You see, those that grew up in the 90s were indoctrinated to immediately line up and perform the moves triggered by the opening bars of the “Macarena”. Actually a remix of the 1993 original — an ode to a woman the song was named after and already incredibly popular in Spain — the English-language Bayside Boys version came with a music video and the moves in question. A relatively static routine, this one is all in the arms and hips, requiring a 90 degree clockwise jump-turn after every single sequence is complete. May feel-good dizziness ensue.

Spice Girls, Wannabe (1996)

After stealing a homeless man's hat and obnoxiously taunting some children, the Spice Girls rush into The St. Pancras Midland Grand Hotel to cause chaos. The famously one-shot Johan Camitz-directed music video for “Wannabe” (later outed by Mel C as actually being shot in two parts), sees a steadicam follow the girls as they dance backwards up steps (the skill required!) before each taking turns to convey their personality via a series of solo moves: Mel C does a backflip on a dining table; Victoria sits on a priest's lap and Emma does some super cute shimmies. Geri later said that she remembers the shoot being “very chaotic and cold”, something TV regulators in parts of Asia reportedly noticed when they banned the video for showing too much nipple. Luckily, not everyone was that pro-censorship and it went on to win Best Dance Video at the 1997 MTV VMAs, ultimately contributing to the group’s global takeover.

B*Witched, Rollercoaster (1998)

In this technicolour dream we join denim-clad Dublin girl band B*Witched — Lindsay, Sinead and Shane from Boyzone’s twin sisters — on the beach as they declare their intentions to ride the rollercoaster of love. The girls position themselves behind one another in height order and proceed to throw their arms out in alternate directions: an accessible fan-effect rollercoaster ride of a dance move that was recreated at sleepovers up and down the UK for the rest of the 90s. The single — which debuted at number one in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and was taken from their self-titled debut album — is crying out for a TikTok challenge reboot and if you don't do it we will.

Five, Everybody Get Up (1998)

After a very High School Musical set up, London band Five (“bad boys with the power to rock you”) strut into an exam hall in their leather coats, intent on making an entire year group fail their A-Levels. They serve up big, powerful moves from the offset, apparently riled up by the “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” riff sampled on the track. This routine hits the sweet spot of being both epic and incredibly easy to pick up, pretty much solely consisting of reaching dramatically from side to side, counting to five and gesturing to the camera to “bring it, bring it on now”. The quintet warned us from the very first chorus that they would forcibly “make us get down now” and they weren’t lying.

Steps, 5, 6, 7, 8 (1998)

“Why don't we take this hoedown dance party crossover to, like, Ibiza?” suggested whoever created the video for Steps’ breakout single… probably. And so, we join the UK band as they beautifully regurgitate a handful of beginner’s line dancing steps next to the beach bar, breaking only for a game of pool. Naturally, they save the best bits for the chorus: there's lassoing, grapevining, pistols shooting in all directions, hands dug deep into imaginary jean pockets and so much more. If you don’t already know it, learn this ASAP.

Destiny’s Child, Say My Name (1999)

Less a routine, more a series of iconic tableaux, the hit single from Destiny’s Child’s second album The Writing’s On The Wall was a true gift. Across a bunch of monochromatic living room sets (with matching outfits, naturally), Bey, Michelle, Kelly and Farrah inadvertently taught an eager generation how best to pose the next time someone pulled out a camera. Up until the 2:50 minute mark, that is, when the trio venture down to the basement car park — in full latex looks now — to crack out some actual moves. It's the slow circular crouch motion for us.

Britney Spears, (You Drive Me) Crazy (1999)

Brit finishes her shift at the vintage diner and heads straight for the dancefloor in the video for “(You Drive Me) Crazy” from her debut album …Baby One More Time. With an impressive troupe of backing dancers, she instantly blesses us with her signature spins and a spot of running man — but it's when she grabs a chair that the party really starts. Warming up, it seems, for the totally chair-focussed visual for “Stronger” that would follow just a year later, Britney straddles it briefly before instigating a dance-off. A high-kick establishes our queen as the clear winner. Oh and because it’s 1999, OG IRL Sabrina, Melissa Joan Hart — whose movie at the time was named after this single — appears throughout.

J.Lo, If You Had My Love (1999)

What do CCTV, Matrix-style computer code graphics and the blue-bodied iMac G3 have in common? Well, stick them in your debut music video and everyone will know just how ready for the new millennium you are. That’s what young J.Lo did. Existing in a space somewhere between The Truman Show and OnlyFans, the visual shows a man searching “Jennifer Lopez” online and proceeding to watch her live on what seems to be called “Internet TV”. She performs to the camera as she goes about her life and everyone fucking loves it. Be sure to stick with this one because halfway through, the beat switches up, a “Latin Soul” mode gets activated and J.Lo serves some serious moves to match.

Backstreet Boys, Larger Than Life (1999)

This heavily Alien-inspired epic truly has it all: a spaceship, cryosleep pods, hover-boards, Nick Carter dancing in an exo-suit surrounded by a hanger full of robot backing dancers. Oh and AJ in a chainmail crop top. At the three-minute mark, the six-packs come out and the moves level up to include punches, spins and arms raised up to the stars to accompany the band’s sweet, sweet harmonies. It’s very intense and bizarrely sci-fi for a song dedicated to the love and appreciation they have for their adoring fans, but it’s awesome.

Christina Aguilera, Genie In A Bottle (1999)

Hugely popular with music channels at the time, Xtina’s “Genie In A Bottle” was shot on a beach in Malibu. “I was out on the sand, greased up in like, baby oil in shorts and a little cut-off top”, she reportedly told a journalist, reflecting on the Diane Martel-directed video shoot. Indeed, that’s where we find a young Christina Aguilera for much of the visual, dreaming about her crush. But the dance sequences are the real highlight. Dressed in red parachute pants and a fringed crop-top, surrounded by dancers, Xtina performs a playful Genie-inspired choreography in the low evening light. Expect: lost at sea arm waves, 360-degree spins and full body rolls.

*NSYNC, I Want You Back (1998)

More verge of the millennium tech themes here, as *NSYNC struggle to summon an apparition of their dream girl while apparently living on some sort of space station. The dancing is non-stop in this one, with moves so prolific that if they’re not assisting each other through backflips, the boys are pogoing and/or running their hands down their bodies in an attempt to get their sexy on. “I Want You Back” was the band’s first single, so we’ll forgive the less than perfect execution and focus on the sheer enthusiasm JT and pals perform with — seriously, we were convinced we’d accidentally increased the playback speed. Fast-forward to this point for the best/worst/most hilarious move of the lot: a flappy-armed jump from side-to-side that we’re convinced they must regret to this day.
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