SNAP!’s ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ and the end of the Cold War

I promise not to make a habit of this, but permit me one more time to return to the artistic high water mark that was the age of rave.

It will surely not have escaped your attention that this month marks the twentieth anniversary of the six week chart-topping reign of ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ by eurodance outfit SNAP!

Rhythm is a Dancer is perhaps best known for one of the worst lines in the history of pop. Against his better judgment, the rapper Turbo B was persuaded to say:

Gotta be what you wanna
If the groove don’t get you the rhyme flow’s gonna
I’m serious as cancer when I say
‘Rhythm is a dancer’


Anyway, this lyrical gem had completely blocked any memory I had of the video to this track which turns out to have been filmed at the rocket park at Cape Canaveral.

If you can look past the latex catsuits and robotic dancing, in the background there are a series of missile monuments to twentieth century space exploration and Cold War militarism.

Here stands Thor, once packing a thermonuclear warhead for both the US Air Force and the British RAF; it was also the vehicle that launched the first Corona spy satellite. This somewhat diminished god of thunder is here rendered a background prop alongside a tinsel-encrusted Flying V.

There too is the Mercury/Redstone rocket, representing the first human spaceflight programme of the United States, famously pipped by the flight of Yuri Gagarin.

Marvel at the iconographic resonance between the three white bodysuited figures of Atlas, serenely unburdened by their polystyrene Earths, and the massive Atlas rocket, still going strong today as the workhorse of expendable launch vehicles.

Okay, one can read too much into this. But it is the sheer silliness that is most interesting.

Rhythm is a Dancer marks the fact that this sort of hardware belonged to an earlier age, whose threat had seemingly passed.

It is an anthem to the smugness of 1992, a year when Boris Yeltsin had announced that Russia would no longer target US cities with their nukes; Francis Fukuyama had just published The End of History and the Last Man; and the European Union had been founded by the signing of the Maastricht Treaty.

Halcyon Days.