Beyonce Transforms Hit Song To Help Kids Shed Pounds

Michelle Obama and Beyonce have teamed up as part of the "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity. The pop star transformed the 2007 hit, "Get Me Body," with new lyrics and a new beat. The result is a workout dance video on YouTube. Schools around the country are asked to learn the moves and show them off on May 3rd in a simultaneous flash dance. Host Michel Martin speaks with Fabian Barnes of the Dance Institute of Washington DC about kids getting exercise through dance and pop music.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Sticking with the fitness theme, we want to tell you how Beyonce is taking a new role on Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity. Beyonce's connection to the Obama White House goes back to the 2009 Inaugural Ball, where she sang a rendition of Etta James' most famous tune for the first couple's opening dance.

(Soundbite of song, "At Last")

BEYONCE (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) At last...

(Soundbite of applause)

BEYONCE: (Singing) ...my love has come along.

MARTIN: Now, Ms. Obama and Beyonce are working together as part of the "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity. The pop star recorded new lyrics to one of her 2007 singles to create the song "Move Your Body," with an accompanying YouTube video of the choreography. Kids all over the country are being encouraged to learn the moves and participate in a National Flashdance Workout on May 3rd. Here's a little bit.

(Soundbite of song, "Move Your Body")

BEYONCE: Let's move.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Take your hands down. Take your hands down. Take your hands down. Take your hands down. Jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump.

BEYONCE: (Singing) Mission one, let me see you run. Put your knees up in the sky, 'cause we just begun. Hey.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Jump, jump, let me see you jump. Jump, jump...

BEYONCE: (Singing) Hey.

MARTIN: Now, we're telling you about this now so you can practice, because we cannot let these kids get ahead of us.

Joining us to talk about Beyonce's "Move Your Body Music" and the dance is Fabian Barnes. He is a former member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company, and he is the founder and artistic director of the Dance Institute of Washington.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. FABIAN BARNES (Founder, Artistic Director, Dance Institute of Washington): Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: And so we're moving now. We're moving. We're feeling a little bit motivated. Want to listen to a little bit more? And you can tell us why you think it works. Do you want to tell us a little bit why you think well, tell us a little bit - talk to me about the song itself and why you think this is a good song to get people moving, and then we'll play a little bit.

Mr. BARNES: I think it's a great song to get people moving, particularly kids, because it incorporates so many of the dances that they're doing today, as well as it puts some calisthenics and some aerobic exercises in place, jump rope and jump and shuffle and all the different dances that the kids love to do. So I think kids get really motivated when it feels like it's something that was done specifically for them.

MARTIN: Well, what about the grown-ups?

Mr. BARNES: Well, I think that grown-ups...

MARTIN: They need to move, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARNES: I think that's great. I think the grown-ups will. They may not do as well as the kids, but I think they're going to do a great job, too.

MARTIN: What about the choreography? And we'll link to it on our site, including a kind of a primer video that they've already made available, so you can kind of get your moves on and start to practice, as I said. What do you think about the choreography itself? You think it's a good workout?

Mr. BARNES: Yeah. I think it's a great workout. I think it, you know, it takes you through from the stretches in the beginning to the cool down at the end. But also, what's really important about the choreography is it incorporates so many things that the kids are already familiar with from Beyonce's many videos. I mean, all of her "Single Lady" moves, some of them are in there. It incorporates the Dougie, which is the new dance craze that the kids have been doing. And it also uses some old school dances like the Running Man, and it has a little Latin flavor in there at points, too. So I think it's really great.

MARTIN: Does it make a difference to have a celebrity like Beyonce involved?

Mr. BARNES: Absolutely. Popular culture is a very powerful tool, so by using someone of Beyonce's stature in doing something like a Flash Mob, is something that people are going to get really excited about and want to participate in.

MARTIN: And so but you know what? I wanted to ask you about this, though. As we mentioned, you were a soloist with the Dance Theater Harlem, which is a distinguished, you know, dance company. Many people will have had the opportunity to have seen it. I hope they certainly did. You were classically trained. How did you get the bug? You heard Cornell McClellan say that, you know, when he was growing up - I'm not going to ask your age. But when he was growing up, kids were often outside. They were all outside, and they just naturally moved, and somehow that that's changed. I wanted to ask, first of all, how you were bitten by the dance bug?

Mr. BARNES: Well, I'm from a very large family, and we danced and sang all over the house, and we did talent shows and participated in community talent shows. And actually, my older brother was spotted at a talent show and taken to a local ballet studio, and I followed him. So...

MARTIN: Okay. And do you find that what Cornell McClellan said is also true, that you grew up moving? A lot of kids, if you were of a certain age, you grew up being outside. But now it's - is it harder now, I guess is what I'm asking you, to get kids moving than it was when you and I were growing up? Okay, me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARNES: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARNES: No, absolutely.

MARTIN: You're 12.

Mr. BARNES: Yeah. Thank you. Absolutely. I think it's harder now, because kids are, you know, they're kind sedentary now. I mean, they're in front of a computer. They're, you know, they're texting. They're, you know, doing their thing with technology. Whereas when I was growing up, we were outdoors playing. We were dancing. We were, you know, we were entertaining ourselves by physical activity, usually. It didn't involve much. You know, there was no computers. There were no text - you know, no texting going on, so we were all, you know, playing or dancing or doing something physical.

MARTIN: Well, what do you think it takes now? Because the reason some kids aren't outside is that their parents don't think it's safe. I mean, that's part of the concern, is that they don't want them - they don't - you know, that parents are afraid of what happens when the kids are outside, or they can't supervise them as closely as they used to.

I mean, obviously, one of the advantages of a song like this is you could do this in your living room, right? You could do this inside or in your bedroom or something, and a lot of us used to practice our moves in the bedroom before we went out just to make sure we were tight, right?

Mr. BARNES: Uh-huh.

MARTIN: Okay. Well, what do you think it'll take?

Mr. BARNES: Well, I mean, I think what we're doing, I think, is great. I mean, I think this is a really good move. And I think, actually, you know, with the first lady and the first family, you know, being very committed to this idea of physical fitness is really important. And incorporating, you know, popular stars like Beyonce is going to make it go even further. So I think it's great. I think we're doing a great job.

MARTIN: Let's play a little bit more of the song, just so we can get ourselves motivated to move.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Actually, that's our theme song. Mm-hmm.

(Soundbite of song, "Move Your Body")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Hey, Mission five, let's go. Time to move your little hips, vamonos, vamonos. Hey.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey, hey.

BEYONCE: (Singing) Hey.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey, hey. Jump, jump, jump...

BEYONCE: (Singing) Mission six, turn your back real quick. Do the running man, and then you turn around like this. Hey.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Do the running man. Do the running man. Do the running man. Do the running man.

BEYONCE: (Singing) Mission seven, time to break it down. Step and touch to the danceful sounds. Hey.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Right and right. Right and right.

BEYONCE: (Singing) Hey.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Right and right. Let's move.

BEYONCE: (Singing) Mission eight, know that heartbeat break. Snap your fingers, snap your feet. Just keep up with the track. Hey.

Unidentified Man: Let me school you right quick.

BEYONCE: (Singing) Hey.

MARTIN: Fabian's trying to get a little bit of a move going here. He's trying to keep it very still and very classical.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You tried to I saw a little head moving there, a little head moving, a little some. Show us a little bit of the Running Man. Obviously, we can't show our listeners on the radio, but show us a little bit of the Running Man. What's your favorite move? You have a favorite move in the whole piece?

Mr. BARNES: In the...

MARTIN: You can show us here in the studio, in the whole stage.

Mr. BARNES: Well, I think the dance hall step, you know, the moving. You know, I can't do too much here, because the microphone.

MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. BARNES: But, you know, it's a little bit of both the hips moving and the feet moving with the arms. And so you've got the whole body moving, which is really the best way to work out, is the total body workout.

MARTIN: You've kind of got the arms going one way, and you've got the hips moving a little bit there. Do you think that everybody, people of all body types can do this dance? Because I know that's a concern some people have. They say, well, I haven't been working out in a while. And, oh, I haven't been out dancing in a while. I can't do it. Do you think everybody can do it?

Mr. BARNES: I think everybody can do it. I think, you know, they can do it at the level that they're at to begin with. And I think with physical fitness, I think it's something that you can, you know, get better at. So it's something to aspire to. It's a goal.

MARTIN: And are you going to teach this dance to your students, do you think?

Mr. BARNES: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Really?

Mr. BARNES: Absolutely. I want my young people to participate in the May 3rd Flash Mob.

MARTIN: Okay. And what about your big people?

Mr. BARNES: They can participate...

MARTIN: Notice, I keep talking about the big people, too.

Mr. BARNES: Yeah. We have adult classes, and we're going to offer it to them, as well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARNES: Yes.

MARTIN: And I do ask before I let you go, you know, do you have the sense - my sense is that kids naturally want to move. You know, kids are naturally moving their bodies and they're - you know what I mean? You see the little ones, and they want to dance. They dance without reservation. They hear music, they'll move and bop their bodies. And at some point, that changes. And is there something you can say to people who fee, oh, I don't want to - you know, they feel embarrassed to move. They're not a, you know, beautiful, professional dancer like you. Is there something you could say to inspire them to get moving?

Mr. BARNES: Well, first of all, you just have to just take the bull by the horns, and you get to a gym or get to a dance floor and just do it. Or it could be your living room, like you said, to just move. Don't be, you know, reserved. Just do it. And start, you know, where you're at, and build up. So, you know, I think I'm encouraging everybody to move.

MARTIN: Fabian Barnes, as we said, is a former soloist with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. He is founder and artistic director of the Dance Institute of Washington. He was kind enough to slow down long enough to join us in Studio 4B.

Fabian, I know you're going to bust a move for me, right?

Mr. BARNES: Absolutely.

MARTIN: All right. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. BARNES: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Move Your Body")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Baby, all I want is to let it go. Ain't no worries, oh, we can dance all night. Move your body. That means come closer to me.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today.

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