This South African travelled the world filming over 400 strangers dancing – and became a sensation

Business Insider SA
  • South African filmmaker Miklas Manneke's video of over 400 people dancing across the globe went viral on social media.
  • Manneke started the project after impulsively asking someone to dance for him while in China.

An impulse decision in China led to a two-year journey around the globe as South African filmmaker Miklas Manneke filmed people dancing.

The culmination of the project, a YouTube video posted March, has since gathered over 13,000 views.

“While exploring Beijing, I was filming someone on my iPhone. I randomly yelled out, ‘Can you dance for me?’ and without hesitation, he was dancing in the middle of a crowd,” Manneke told Business Insider South Africa. 

“It was almost infectious and everyone started smiling. I think it was about that momentary connection with a stranger, the courage that it took to approach people and also courage for them to dance that captivated my imagination.” 

He says he immediately knew it was something he would do every country he travelled for his acclaimed short film, Kanyekanye. 

A stranger dancing inside the New York subway (YouTube)

Manneke shot over 400 strangers in 20 countries, all with his iPhone. 

“There was something about dance that transcended cultures, borders, and languages with the joy of being liberated from social constraints for a moment,” he says. 

Also read: This South African couple travels the world for a living

On YouTube, users praised Manneke for his creativity.  

“Coca-Cola commercials should be jealous of this vibes,” Jone Troconis Aldaz said. 

L Doss said: “It made me tear up with happy tears - I don't know why.” 

Miklas Manneke (supplied)

Manneke says he shot his favourite scene on the Great Wall of China ,where he just wanted to film a pair of people dancing. “Eventually, this one-shot ended up having over 30 people join the dance and almost created this natural flashmob.” 

“This was a moment that I will never forget, it still gives me goosebumps today.” 

A stranger dancing on the Great Wall of China (YouTube)

Mannek has over 70,000 followers on Instagram. He says he used his iPhone because it gave him the flexibility to shoot easily while on the move.

“The best camera is the one that you have with you.” 

His biggest revelation through the two years was seeing how dance and creative expression “transcends our artificial borders of culture, language, and geography.

“I started to notice each dance was an expression of the person. Whether they are introverted or extroverted. It took a lot of guts, and I felt like we were breaking some weird social rules,” Manneke says. 

But when people started dancing, you could see that hesitation disappear. [It showed me] that we all, somewhere deep within us, retain the instinct we act on as very small children, to move to our own rhythm.” 

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