Flip through the channels on TV these days and you're likely to run into someone dancing up a storm — or at least trying. Shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have huge audiences.
The most popular YouTube video, called "Evolution of Dance," has been watched more than 66 million times. The Web is abuzz with video sharing and social-networking Web sites, including YouTube, MySpace, Dailymotion and Facebook.
But none of them have the star power of MC Hammer. An icon of the early 1990s pop charts ("U Can't Touch This,") MC Hammer has spent the past several months poking around Silicon Valley. He's now ready to launch his new venture, DanceJam, a site that focuses exclusively on dance videos. MC Hammer says that being exposed to a wider range of genres helps all dancers.
"As dancers we always like to add ... different flavors to our style," he says. "What I think it would do is broaden your style. With the advent of ... DanceJam, you'll be able to see the emerging dances as they're happening."
Just as MP3s made it easier for garage bands to get noticed, video-sharing sites are now letting up-and-coming dancers influence one another. DanceJam also has features geared toward people who are trying to learn new moves online, including allowing visitors to watch dances in slow motion.
Many younger dancers are already using the Internet. Watching others dance helps them stay on top. Raymond Mora, or "Nasty Ray," is a 21-year-old breakdancer from San Jose. He says he often searches for b-boy videos on YouTube to see what other dancers are doing.
"And I find more of myself, too — I didn't even know who was recording me. I just see it online. And I was like 'Damn, already?' So I know someone's going to copy that move. So it kind of makes me want to step it up. If everybody sees my move already, then I know I have to step my own move up from watching it all over the place."
Other dancers use online video as a way to promote their material.
"Oftentimes, clients want to see you dance before they hire you and that's happened pretty frequently in the past year," says Melissa Cruz, a professional flamenco dancer from Oakland, Calif. "I think it's a great marketing tool."
MC Hammer says his site can take dancing, for both performers and fans, to the next level, with the best dancing reaching the widest number of people via the Web.
"From end-to-end, dancing goes so far," he says. "You know, from street dancing to Broadway dancing to modern to jazz to tap to cheerleading ...."
He's looking for a global audience, citing the popuarity of India's Bollywood films. "Dance drives every movie — so imagine the international implications there. So it's just a great opportunity for a language that is global to do really well."
Even if MC Hammer hasn't performed in his signature pants in years, he hasn't given up dancing entirely. He will be contributing some new dance videos when the site launches in a few weeks.