Tiane Doan Na Champassak’s “The Father of Pop Dance” reproduces a photo album with images of Champassak’s father dancing in a dark room in Los Angeles in 1967, wearing wildly patterned, colorful, groovy outfits. He dances confidently and in earnest, but there’s an undeniable (and charming) ridiculousness to the pictures. Some of the images are double-exposures, showing the dynamism of the performance, and viewed in rapid succession the book could almost function as a stop-motion animation. White splotches scar the images, presumably this is where the pages of the original photo album stuck together. The white specks, however, do not taint the effect of the images; quite the contrary, they add a nostalgic feeling, adding to the sense of irretrievableness inherent in the photos and their pronounced 1960-ness. At times, Champassak’s father even seems to dance within a whirlwind of lights from a disco ball.
The joy that emanates from these pictures – and from the photobook – is difficult to overstate. The obvious skill, the physical mastery, and the confident expressions of Champassak’s father let us think of the lives our own parents must have lived before becoming parents, and they remind us of an old adage: dance like nobody’s watching (even when you’re in a photo studio).