Twerking for a new Australian navy ship: the dancers who launched a thousand memes

Nino Bucci explains it to Josephine Tovey
·4 min read

Watch: Australia - Doll 101 Squadron dance troupe hits out at 'deceptive' TV coverage over show at Sydney navy event

So I hear there is a new scandal involving the Australian defence force?

Yeah, there’s been further developments this week regarding the investigation into war crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan …

No, no, sorry, I mean what’s this about an “inappropriate” performance at the commissioning of a new ship?

Ah sorry, twerkers in red, not lunchboxes in pink, my mistake. Yes, a dance troupe performed as part of the official commissioning ceremony for the HMAS Supply in Sydney on Sunday. 

Back it up, back it up. They did what?

Well, the navy has a new ship, and had a bit of a soiree to celebrate it, and seven dancers dressed in defence force-inspired hats performed on the dock. The ABC published a video of the routine on Wednesday appearing to show stony-faced dignitaries watching on, but it later turned out that they weren’t actually there for the performance.

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The ABC has been approached for comment about the editing of the video.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the routine did not feature on the video released by the navy. That clip had lots of drone shots of the ship (funded under a $90bn defence program), seamen marching in formation, and blokes in uniform talking about “diverse and professional” teams and the ship’s “legacy”. Oh, and the governor general, David Hurley, spoke, calling it “a cause for celebration” and “a great navy day”.

Talk me through this performance.

Look, I don’t really know my whips from my nae naes, but basically a troupe of seven women did a little dance accompanied by some thumping beats … I’m going to say dancehall music? I think you can hear Sean Paul in there? 

It really was quite a scene: there’s this hulking ship in Sydney harbour and a handful of dancers in booty shorts and berets just giving it their absolute all.

The ship, for whatever reason, has a Facebook page managed by the navy, and on it there’s a 90-minute video of the ceremony (again, the dance isn’t in it). That shows the sort of stuff you’d normally expect to happen at something like this: a brass band playing the national anthem, words of commiseration for Prince Philip, and even a rendition of the Lord’s prayer. Perhaps the dance was a welcome departure from the usual stuffiness? 

Watch: Navy ships capture video of pyramid-shaped UFOs, orbs flying above

I mean, a bit of dancing seems way less on the nose than say, telling women not to go out alone while attractive, but I digress. Did anyone enjoy it?

Those scallywags on the internet sure did. People particularly loved the ABC’s treatment of it: splicing shots of the dancers smacking their own butts with footage of the crowd, who were clutching swords and had medals pinned to their chest, soberly watching on. But there now seems some doubt about how accurate the ABC’s footage was.

One person who didn’t love it though was Liberal backbencher and former soldier Phillip Thompson, who was quoted in the ABC story complaining that on the one hand, the ADF had been going “a little bit woke … we can’t afford to be doing that” while also clutching his pearls over the dancers, saying, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to be twerking.”

Apparently, what the ADF needs is less krumping, more killing. Andrew Hastie, the assistant defence minister and another former soldier, was also quoted in the story as saying the military’s “core business” would always be the “application of lethal violence”.

Oh. Given that other, actual scandal you mentioned at the beginning that seems … a less than ideal take.

You might say that.

• Correction: This story was updated on Thursday 15 April after the Department of Defence issued a statement saying that dignitaries arrived after the dance routine.