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Nia Dennis' 'Masterpiece' Sparks a Race Discussion

UCLA gymnast goes viral (again) for a floor routine celebrating Black culture
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2021 5:30 AM CST

(Newser) – UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis is making a habit of going viral with her floor routines. In February, she did so with a Beyonce-inspired performance, notes CNN. But she's outdone herself with a new routine celebrating Black culture that has racked up more than 10 million views on Twitter. "This is what #blackexcellence looks like," is how the school's athletic department put it in its tweet. "@DennisNia does it again!" The routine featured music from Beyonce again, but also from Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Missy Elliott, and Megan Thee Stallion. "This routine definitely reflects everything I am today as a woman," said Dennis afterward, per the Los Angeles Daily News. "And of course I had to incorporate a lot of parts of my culture." She scored a stellar 9.950 in her team's first competition of the year, notes the Los Angeles Times.

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Celebs have joined in the widespread praise, including Missy Elliott herself, who tweeted that the routine was "snappin," reports Billboard, which rounds up the reaction of others. Rebecca Schuman of Slate calls it a "masterpiece," but she notes that amid the plaudits are lots of comments in the vein of "Why does it have to be BLACK excellence?" and "Leave race out of the gym please." In Schuman's view, "the astounding sensitivity among so many observers to the mere mention of the word Black in the context of praise for a stellar athlete who just debuted an entire exercise celebrating Black culture" shows just how prevalent such attitudes are in the world of women's gymnastics. The sport has long had a "whiteness problem," and Dennis' viral routine is another welcome step toward "dismantling the sport's entrenched structures," she writes. (Read more Nia Dennis stories.)

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