Friday, Apr 27, 2018
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Dance, dance: makes Ohioan a major video star

Judson Laipply needed just six minutes to become a dance superstar.

That's how long it took him to perform, "The Evolution of Dance," a clip on the popular video-sharing Web site

In it, the motivational speaker originally from Bucyrus, Ohio, prances across a stage in an Orange Crush T-shirt and jeans, seamlessly dancing through 30 songs that go from Elvis to Eminem.

It's usually his grand finale at presentations, a way to help people visualize that life is about change. He put it online to satisfy some kids who saw him and kept bugging him about it.

Now, it has single-handedly made him a star.

Since Mr. Laipply, 30, posted the video on YouTube in April, it's been viewed nearly 30 million times, enough to make it the most-watched video in the site's history. As a result, he's been asked to dance at the NBA Finals in Dallas and on NBC's Today show.

Don't believe that Mr. Laipply - who has degrees from Bluffton College and Bowling Green State University - has become a phenomenon? Just approach random teenagers and it won't take long to find someone who's seen "The Evolution of Dance."

"I was just browsing around and saw it," said Jimmy Shanks, 16, a junior at Sylvania Southview High School who checks out YouTube three times a week. "It was funny."

You can check it out for yourself by searching for it on or going to Mr. Laipply's Web site,

Mr. Laipply's fame is just the latest testament to the ever-growing power of the Internet, where YouTube has become the newest darling since popping up last year.

The site, which allows people to post and view video clips for free, boasts that more than 100 million videos are viewed through it every day.

It had nearly 20 million unique visitors last month, an incredible increase of almost 300 percent since January, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a market research firm.

The vastness of the site's offerings is a big part of the appeal, according to Montana Miller, an assistant professor in the department of popular culture at Bowling Green State University.

"When you go to this site, you really don't know what to expect," said Ms. Miller, who specializes in youth culture. "All you can really predict is you're going to see something that surprises you."

That could be a home video of kids dancing at their prom or of someone's crazy dog. Or it could be something more scripted, like a parody of a Star Trek episode or a music video for a rock band.

The site famously circulated the "Lazy Sunday" clip from Saturday Night Live (though it was later removed at NBC's request) and allowed the whole world to watch a five-second clip of President Bush giving German Chancellor Angela Merkel an impromptu massage at the G8 summit.

Stefanie Bogner, 21, an MBA student at the University of Toledo, said she heard about YouTube from friends and got hooked on chunks of episodes from Canada's Next Top Model. She said Australia's Next Top Model is there too, but she's not sure if she has time for it.

"We'll see how much homework I have to avoid," she said.

YouTube is so easy - you can watch a video with just a click or upload your own from something as simple as your cell phone. It's become a gold mine for cultural observers who can look up videos of just about anything on the site.

"It's just amazing. It's turned us all into potential armchair anthropologists," Ms. Miller said. "What we're getting is insider knowledge, an insider viewpoint on what is really happening out there in human behavior and culture."

And with all that stuff out there, is it possible that what we really want the most is to watch Mr. Laipply bust a move to "Thriller," "Greased Lightning," and "Walk Like an Egyptian," with some "Kung Fu Fighting" and "U Can't Touch This" thrown in for good measure?

"You just can't predict what's going to catch on," Ms. Miller said.

Still, she gave it a try.

"[His video] is like having history fed to you in a syrup. It goes down easy," she said. "It's funny to watch the history of dance styles playing out before you."

Mr. Laipply said he's just floored by how his routine has taken off.

"I never would have thought that it would turn into what it's turned into," he said.

Mr. Laipply, who now lives in Lakewood, Ohio, calls himself an inspirational comedian and has programs on leadership, personal development, communication, and more. He remains hard at work with speaking gigs, which have definitely gotten a boost from his YouTube fame.

He's also putting together a new version of the dance that he hopes will be ready in late October. Possible additions include the time warp, the electric slide, the cha cha slide, and the hustle.

"How much I incorporate into shows will depend on my ability to keep dancing after the six-minute mark," he said.

All the exposure - including a performance at a Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball game - has been nice, Mr. Laipply said, but he is still waiting for an invitation to his dream gig.

"Probably a performance in Carnegie Hall," he said. "That or hosting the Oscars."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: or 419-724-6103.

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