In the 12th season premiere of America’s Got Talent, 12-year-old Merrick Hanna’s dance performance caught me by surprise.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the 12-year-old dude in bright red pants. I certainly wasn’t expecting to experience a story. If you haven’t seen the video, do yourself a favor and watch it before reading on. If you have seen it, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say he didn’t dance, he told a story.
Stories are what make us human
As soon as I saw the performance, the first thing that came to mind is a quote from Jonathan Gotchall’s book, The Storytelling Animal:
“A story can sneak up on a beautiful autumn day and melt you.”
That’s what happened for me when I saw Merrick perform. Using his body, he visualizes the essence and emotion of the song. He brings it to life, makes it human. It’s relatable because Merrick communicates so much of human existence in a short performance: the beginning of life, joy, sadness, and death. To be human is to know this story, embrace it, to be one with it.
[shareable cite=“Josh Mitchell”]To be human is to be one with story.[/shareable]
“Human minds yield helplessly to the suction of story.” ~ Jonathan Gotschall
Within seconds after the performance, Simon Cowell rises to his feet and compliments this young dancer for not just dancing, but telling a story. A few minutes later, Howie Mandel agreed that it was the story that made the performance so good. (They cut this out of the YouTube video, but was in the full version of the show.)
In other words, the power of story is so strong, that it’s STORY that we prioritize when something reaches deep into our hearts. Of course, the dancing it self was pretty amazing, but it was emotion perfectly paired with narrative that caused this performance to be a success.
It turns out that Jonathan Gotschall’s idea that stories make us human still proves to be true. And maybe that’s why the video already has 3 million views after only being online for a day. We share stories because they’re a part of our human experience.
About the song and songwriter
For fun, I decided to find out more about the songwriter, Alec Benjamin. On YouTube his bio says “Hi, I’m Alec. I like to write songs that tell stories.” I wondered what his story was. On YouTube, he conveniently provides the “Story Behind the Story”:
In this video, Alec explains he got the idea for this song by sitting down at the piano and “seeing” the story of a handmade robot. He came up with the concept—ate some tacos at a “dope taco truck down the road”—and then finished the lyrics later that evening. Nothing super intentional or planned out, just a story about growing up.
Alec’s song isn’t just about a child and a toy robot—it’s a universal story all humans experience when transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. It’s about making new memories and leaving the past behind.
Alec is a not just a phenomenal lyricist and melody composer, he’s a storyteller. The song is good, but pair it with story dancing and you get a compelling story experience that causes tears, feels, and shares.
[reminder]What did you think? Did you enjoy this song and performance? [/reminder]