Thirty years ago today, Ian Curtis committed suicide, leaving a void in post-punk as vast as his legacy. In recent years the Joy Division tale has been explored to death—if you’ve been vacationing on Neptune, we highly recommend this documentary for an overview—but one thing that hasn’t been discussed enough is Curtis’ visceral approach to modern choreography. He was a dancer as visionary as Martha Graham, as stylized as Bob Fosse. Above, his former bandmates explain that his jerky dances had nothing to do with drugs. After the jump, we’ve curated a retrospective of his signature steps.
A melange of Curtis’ various moves in video clips made by a fan, but if you fast-forward to 1:06, you will see a fine example of one of his staples, the “Boat Sweeper.”
At 2:09, witness the tautness of Curtis’ torso, as his hands carry out the turgid shimmy of the “Maracas.”
The “Sit Back Down” slap comes in at 3:46, when Curtis brilliantly smacks his hand to the beat and shakes his head. A brilliant display of subtlety that Calvin Johnson later adopted for himself.
In this live performance of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Curtis has accessorized his dance with a prop, which leads to a more grounded lower region and allows him to do the “Rump Shaker” seen at 1:34.
Here is a small child dancing like Ian Curtis.