Iman Mekonen, Spectrum Editor
When Morgan Bullock uploaded a video of herself Irish dancing to “Savage Remix” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyonce on May 2, she didn’t expect it to go viral.
After the song dropped on April 29, the senior elementary education major saw various dance challenges emerge on TikTok but said the upper body movements were challenging to her. Bullock said after listening to the beats of the song, it was easy to translate it to the taps of Irish dancing.
“One day I went out to a park nearby and just started messing around with rhythms and recorded the video,” Bullock said. “I just, I never expected it to be shared as much.”
Bullock, a dancer with the Baffa Academy of Irish Dance, said crafting the dance for the video took hours. She said she holds her choreography to high standards — even if it’s for fun.
Bullock said she spent a lot of time making the video, trying the dance “over and over and over” until she got it right.
“If I had more daylight, I would have kept going,” she said.
Since the video gained popularity, Bullock has received praise on TikTok for her Irish dancing to the popular song, including a like from Megan Thee Stallion. As of Friday, the 13-second clip has more than 173,000 likes on the app. The video was reposted by Tina Knowles, Beyonce’s mother, on Instagram.
“I never would have thought that Megan Thee Stallion or Beyonce’s mom would ever, like know who I was,” Bullock said.
The Irish Embassy, as well as Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S, praised Bullock on Twitter for her viral performance.
— Daniel Mulhall (@DanMulhall) May 5, 2020
Bullock also got a reply from the official account of “Riverdance,” a traveling Irish dancing musical with more than 20,000 followers on Twitter. The program invited her to perform in the show the next time it comes to Northern Virginia, Bullock said.
“To have the show that made Irish dance what it is today reach out to me and ask me to perform with the cast is just like, there aren’t even words to describe it,” Bullock said. “‘Riverdance’ has been always the end goal for me as a dancer.”
Morrghan you are “rockin” it. We heard you on the radio here in Ireland and we are super proud of you. Great dancing and we look forward to your next video.
— Riverdance (@Riverdance) May 5, 2020
Bullock was also given a scholarship to the Riverdance Academy, which is the new audition process to become a dancer with the show. She was shocked to be presented with the “amazing” opportunities in a live interview with “Liveline,” an Irish radio show.
“That was the biggest shock to me,” Bullock said. “I just like, cried on live radio,”
— Liveline (@rteliveline) May 8, 2020
Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar also invited Bullock to perform in Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2021. She said that if traveling isn’t a concern by then, she plans to attend the celebration.
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 5, 2020
Bullock said receiving support from both inside and outside the Irish dance community was unexpected. She described the response as “an amazing thing to come out of this.”
“There aren’t words to describe how crazy that is to me because it was just like so unexpected, and it happened so fast,” Bullock said.
Bullock started dancing when she was three years old in dance styles like jazz and hip-hop. When she was 10 years old, she saw Irish dancing for the first time at a dance recital and said it was like nothing she had seen before.
After watching the performances, she asked her mom if she could participate and fell in love with the discipline after attending classes.
Despite being the only person of color in her classes, Bullock said she has always felt accepted by the Irish dancing community. But after posting her viral video, she received negative comments on social media accusing her of cultural appropriation.
Disappointed by the backlash, Bullock took to Twitter to address the issue.
I know I shouldn’t even pay attention to the ignorant people in my mentions, but i’m only human and this stuff gets to me so I felt the need to just write this down and get my frustration out pic.twitter.com/XTVjUzbSV1
— Morgan Bullock (@Morrghan) May 4, 2020
Bullock said being accused of cultural appropriation ignores people who have Irish heritage and are not the “typical” Irish person.
“It also ignores the fact that culture is something that should be spread and shared and embraced by people all over the world, especially something as universal as dance,” Bullock said. “You don’t have to speak the same language as someone else to enjoy dancing. It’s visual.”
Bullock said the positive responses and the opportunities she has received have outweighed the negative comments.
After realizing at a young age that she was one of few people of color in the dance community, Bullock decided to use that to her advantage. She said her dance teachers were her mentors as she worked on building her confidence.
“I’ve learned that because I have that built-in standout factor, I have to back it up with good dancing,” Bullock said. “If they look at me, I want to make sure that they don’t wanna look away.”
Since the viral video, Bullock has continued to post her Irish dancing to contemporary music on social media. She has also received messages of support from other dancers of color who see Bullock’s success as an inspiration.
“One thing I love so much about dance is that it is something that we all can enjoy, no matter where we come from,” Bullock said on Twitter. “Today and everyday, I dance for unity.”