Story Dancer: America’s Got Talent Merrick Hanna

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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]

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