Love Bites: On TikTok Dance Duets

This month's columnist reflects on how TikTok dances became a language between her and her sister during lockdown

Article by Eilidh Akilade | 08 Oct 2020
  • Clubbing highlights

I learned to spell my sister’s name before my own. She’d sing each letter, swinging her hips to the rhythm, dancing around the living room. I’d copy every letter and every step, barely realising it was hers and not my own.

Seventeen years or so later, during lockdown, she wanted to do it all again. But TikTok dances are hard and I have little coordination so we gave up early on in those slow, heavy weeks. But still, my sister clung to the app – I’d hear its erratic tones, softened by the wall between us. The sound became a constant and a comfort. 

It started out as a joke. She’d reach over from her corner of the couch, shoving something relatable in my face. But, slowly, each TikTok became more specific. Thanks to an algorithm or some sisterly bond, we found ourselves laughing over 2007 EastEnders, natural hair, our absent father – all things we had come to know together.

As life began to unfold itself once more, TikTok became a lens to understand each other. Sometime in August, I sat crying at the kitchen table. "You know, there’s a TikTok for this," she said, passing me her phone. She rearranged my misery into a different form, a different genre – one that was easier to hold. 

At 1am she sends me a TikTok – it’s how we talk now. We’re busy and no longer live together, and these few second-hand seconds say more than empty politeness. It plays, something about Replay (Shawty’s Like a Melody), and it’s not particularly funny but, to us, it sounds like those days where she clung to her Paul’s Boutique hoodie and I to her. For a moment, we share a sound and a vision. We share a past and a present.