If you’ve scrolled through TikTok in the past two months, chances are you’ve seen several of the 19,000 plus videos of people dancing to an ear-catching Djzayy mix of “Free Mind” by rising Nigerian superstar, Tems. The dance that’s captivated thousands across the internet is actually a routine that originated in Northwest Baltimore.
The Park Heights Strut, as locals call it, has been around for years. But a man named Bunkey Jr., who mastered the dance and added his own spin to it, named the new dance after himself and now has everybody from children to news anchors like Denise Koch trying their hands at it.
Born in Park Heights, Bunkey Jr., 32, has been going viral on Instagram and Twitter for years, so the popularity of his Bunkey Jr. Strut is no surprise to him. However, courtesy of TikTok, the dance has become a global sensation.
“The Park Heights Strut is a regular ol’ little two-step and that’s it. With the Bunkey Jr. Strut, you got the two-step, you got the legs, you got the spin, you got everything with it,” he says. “I’ve been doing this forever, since I was a kid, and I just did my own little thing with it and that’s what everybody is doing.”
Bunkey Jr. credits DJ Nelly Nell’s mixes as a huge factor in the dance’s rise to fame. “I say probably like two or three years ago when I was doing my thing with DJ Nelly Nell. He used to make all my mixes and I used to dance to them on Instagram and that’s what got it really popular, because people liked the music and they said nobody can do the dance like how I can do it,” he remembers.
Since then, TikTok has propelled the Park Heights native into newfound fame. Although Bunkey Jr. isn’t properly credited for the dance, he believes it unifies the city of Baltimore. “It’s something positive for the city and it makes me feel great because our city is always known for something bad. Like I got the kids supporting me, I got a lot of shows to do, I met a lot of people all because the city is behind me.”
Of his recent rise in popularity, Bunkey says, “Now that TikTok is out, I guess that’s what brung it to life because if you go on my page from years and years ago, you’ll see me doing the same thing when nobody else was doing it. Everybody was loving the dance, but it didn’t get a chance to get out there until TikTok came along.”
Capitalizing on the support that he has been receiving, Bunkey Jr. started his own clothing brand, RICH, which stands for Realize It Can Happen — a saying he lives by everyday. By simply dancing, he created a career for himself and utilizes his platform to bring joy to others.
“Every morning I wake up, everybody hits me and says ‘Man, I go to your page every morning because you make my day. You don’t know how special you are.’ That go for women, children and men.”