The Return of Hampton Williams

[Content Note: In the first video, Lil' C uses a violent phrase which is understood by the show/dance community to be a compliment.]

So, on the last season of So You Think You Can Dance, one of the dancers who auditioned was a young man named Hampton Williams, who did his own freestyle variation that he calls the Exorcist. It was one of the most beautiful and moving things I've ever seen, and I cannot watch it, even after having watched it dozens of times, without crying. I could've sworn I wrote about him when he first appeared, but I can't find the post if I did, so here it is (again?):

Video Description: A thin, young, black man with long locked hair, wearing a black t-shirt and grey trackpants, does a freestyle hip-hop routine to Evanescence's "My Immortal," which ends with his miming taking out his heart and offering it to the audience. The judges are overwhelmed—Nigel Lythgoe tells him he might be a genius; Mary Murphy weeps; Lil' C comments on how vulnerable Williams made himself and bows to his performance. The audience gives him a rousing standing ovation. He is sent to Vegas.

Earlier this week, on the latest round of auditions for the new season, Hampton Williams returned, and this time he brought with him his girlfriend Dylesha (also trying out this season) and their 4-year-old daughter Kiera, to whom he'd taught his Exorcist style. Then this happened:

Video Description: Hampton Williams is introduced in voiceover by Cat Deeley as the last contestant of the day. Onscreen, he says, "My name is Hampton Williams. I'm 22. And I'm back for Season 10." There's a video package recounting his try-out the year before. Onscreen, Hampton says, "The reaction last year was astonishing. People tell me that I've made them cry; I've changed their life; I actually inspire them in some type of way. Just to do that, is just an accomplishment to me. People know me as the Exorcist—inspiring, touching, sometimes scary—but, back home, I'm just a dad." Scenes of Hampton playing with his daughter. "I live with my girlfriend Darlesha, and we have a beautiful daughter named Kiera." Darlesha, a young black woman, says, "Hampton's a great dad. He takes care of her, spends a lot of time with her; I mean, Kiera's his world. She's his everything." Scenes of the family at the park together. Hampton says: "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't inspire anybody, because she inspires me."

Hampton takes the stage, and Kiera is shown in the audience, watching her dad and grinning proudly. The judges—Nigel, Mary, and guest judge Minnie Driver—greet him warmly and welcome him back. Nigel asks how his family is. Hampton says, "My family's great. My little girl is here today, and, uh—" Nigel asks where she is; Hampton points her out, and she waves at the judges. "Is she a dancer?" Nigel asks. Hampton replies, "Yes, yes she is. She's amazing, honestly. She's my inspiration." Nigel asks Kiera if she's going to dance for them, and she nods and takes the stage with her dad. Nigel directs her to microphone and asks how old she is. "Four," she replies. "And has Daddy taught you how to do the Exorcist dance?" Nigel asks. "Yes," says Kiera. "Ooh, has he?" says Nigel. "Can we see you dance now?" In the audience, Darlesha cheers. Kiera agrees to dance. Hampton moves off to the side, to give his daughter center stage.

"Cue music!" says Nigel, and the music begins. Kiera begins to dance in her father's style. After a moment, Hampton moves toward her and begins to dance with her. In the audience, Darlesha grins and cheers, and then moves onstage with them. All three of them are dancing in Hampton's signature style, and it is so beautiful. Kiera waves her hands like a wizard conjuring a ball of energy, then throws it toward her father, who reacts as if he has been knocked over by her strength. Kiera conjures another ball of energy, then throws it toward her mother, who reacts the same way.

Mary Murphy says she has chills. Members of the audience cheer; some are crying. The family continues to dance as if they are exchanging energy, as if Kiera is powerful. And she is. The room is on its feet, cheering. As the music comes to a close, the parents lift their daughter's face and kiss her cheeks.

Over a standing ovation, Nigel thanks them. He asks Kiera what it's like to dance with her parents. She almost can't explain: "It makes my mind go, and, I love my momma so much." Nigel asks Darlesha her name. "Darlesha Goggins," she replies. "This is an incredible family," Nigel says. "Just inspirational. Loved all three of you, I really did. This was a really moving experience." Cheers and applause. "The lucky thing is," continues Nigel, "there are three of you, and I've got one—" He holds up a ticket to Las Vegas, where the next round is held. "Two!" says Mary, holding up another ticket. "Three," says Minnie, holding up a third. "Three tickets! All three of you are going to Vegas!" The family react joyfully and hug each other.

Everything about Hampton's dancing just reaches down inside me and tugs something deep. But this moment, watching this little girl feel so powerful, watching her parents give her the gift of being empowered through art, just tore me to shreds. In the best way.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus