Once upon a time, a dance craze struck Knoxville. That craze was the Funky Chicken. Abandoned for more trendy dances, such as the Lambada, the Macarena, and swing, the Funky Chicken worked itself slowly around the world, settling into such rural communities as Savannakhet, Laos, and across the Mekong river in Mukdahan, Thailand. As there are several Thai restaurants in Knoxville, the dance has once again found its way into local dance clubs.
This dance is rumored to be one that is compatible with karaoke, as you simply flap your body around while your head remains comfortably in place at the mic. Ben Upton frequents local karaoke bars and saw a Thai gentleman perform the Funky Chicken onstage. “When I saw him flap around like that, I was like, ‘that is so cool.’ I just knew I had to take it to the club scene,” said Upton, who is a dance trendsetter in clubs such as Fiction.
The dance traveled back to Knoxville through Lao and Thai residents visiting relatives here, and local adventure-seekers who were not afraid of leeches or elephants and made their way into rural Laos and Thailand to seek out dance clubs. It is so easy to do, and can be applied to just about any musical style or beat that it quickly regained its popularity.
The Funky Chicken is slowly catching on with college students as they see people like Upton dancing in cages hanging from ceilings in clubs such as Fiction or the Electric Ballroom. “I used to come here to see chicks dance in the cages,” said Jimbo Smathers, a heavy-set Pellissippi student. “Now I see guys dancing the Funky Chicken. It’s similar, and almost as satisfying, but not quite. The good thing is that I couldn’t dance before, but thanks to the Funky Chicken, I can. And now the chicks are dancing all around me, so I can see them better.”
The dance is spreading very steadily around town, and is even making its way into church youth group functions due to its relatively clean and non-suggestive movements. “Anybody can do this dance. It is here to stay this time,” concluded Upton.