Now that Netflix's puzzling series The OA has finally returned for a second season, it's time we dedicated ourselves to true fandom. After all, with just the enigmatic first season in hand, it was hard to declare yourself a hardcore fan. For a minute, the show was like a sibling's strange new lover — you were intrigued, but you weren't quite sure they were going to stick around. Well, The OA is here to stay, at least for another season, and our first order of business is learning that dance.
The five movements are simultaneously the strangest and most appealing part of the show. They allegedly have the power to open a portal to another dimension. Provided without context, the dance veers into the land of the absurd. But coupled with The OA's rousing score and the nearly believable narrative, the gestures, which look like the contents of an offbeat interpretive dance performance, seem inspiring. Savvy Reddit users have mined the contents of the dance for clues as to the show's meaning. One argues that the style stems from Mudra, a ritualistic gesture in the Buddhist and Hindu tradition. (Another created a handy guide to the dance, on which I'll be heavily relying for this explainer.)
Choreographer Ryan Hamilton hasn't hinted that this is true — from what he told Vulture, the movements were borne of his and Brit Marling's brain power. He said, "I was going for it to resonate as powerful and human-based. Something that is just [believable] but gives enough information, makes it be heartfelt, human, and yet the power of it is from a more abstract force."
And, with that in mind, let's learn this dance. We've broken down the series into 12 sections, each with their own GIF. Keep in mind that for centuries, dancers have struggled to come up with a coherent written language — this is an uphill battle. But hey, maybe you'll open a portal or two.
1. Begin with your hands over your chest, palms facing out. Your forefingers and your thumbs should touch, creating a diamond shape over the center of your chest. Forearms should be parallel to the ground. For the first movement, push your hand forward, keeping your fingers touching. As you do so, turn your hands inside out — by moving your fingers downward — and thrust your head back. By the time your arms are fully extended, your head should be facing your hands and your wrists should be touching.
2. With your arms still extended, twinkle your fingers in a mystical version of spirit fingers. Return your hands to the diamond shape and place them, palm down, on your pelvis. When you do so, curve your spine and gaze at your navel. From there, bring your right hand to your mouth as if to feed it — your fingertips should graze your lips. Your other hand should remain on your pelvis. (Some theorize this movement is meant to signify eating.)
3. Toss your right hand down to your left hip — bend your knees slightly and allow your shoulders to bend toward your left. From there, slowly pull your right arm across your body and out to your right side. As you do so, twinkle your fingers. (Spirit fingers make their second appearance.) At the end of the movement, your right arm should be extended to the side, slightly higher than shoulder height. Your shoulders should also lean to the right.
4. Bring your hands together in a prayer position and bring them to your left cheek, as if tucking your hands under your cheek to go to sleep. Lean to your left side as you do so. From there, open your hands so that your fingers are splayed and, keeping them under your chin, rotate your body to face the right side. Wiggle those fingers again! When you swivel as far as you can to the right, clasp your hand — intertwine your fingers — and shoot them to the front of your body. You should center your body as well. From there, shoot your right hand out to your right side, looking toward it as you do. Do the same with your left hand. Hiss each time you shoot out your hand. Both hands should be splayed to the side at a downward diagonal.
5. Bring your hands to your forehead, making sure your elbows are higher than your head. Your palms should face your forehead. Flip your hands outward so your palms are facing out — repeat that diamond shape you've been doing. Slowly pull your hands down, looking up as you do so. When your hands reach shoulder height, push them forward the same way you did in the first movement. Keep the diamond shape, palms out. Then, rotate your wrists and look upward. Your palms should also face the ceiling. (I had a dance teacher once who compared this type of movement to pleading with the gods. Do with that information what you will.)
6. Turn your palms downward and keep your hands flat — arms should still be extended forward. Wiggle number four! Keeping your elbows raised, bring your hands to your chest quickly — as if you are slapping your chest proudly. Open your arms slowly to the sides, displaying your chest. As you do this, take a step forward.
7. Bring your elbows together, pressing your forearms against one another. Bend your knees when they come together. Slowly, allow your fingers and forearms to separate, looking up as you do so.
8. Use your right arm to swing across your body, pulling your torso over. It should swing from above your shoulder to your left ankle. (This is a little obscured in the video. Just trust me.) Add another hiss here. From there, bring both hands up to frame your face; look upward and bare your teeth. Pull your hands down to your chest, curling your fingers as if you are holding a baseball in the center of your chest. (Elbows should be up.) In one sharp movement, pull your elbows out as if you're pulling the baseball in half. Then, slowly extend your arms to the side.
9. Bring your arms straight above your head as if you are preparing to dive. Gasp audibly as you do. Then, pull your elbows down sharply so your forearms are parallel to the ground. (The actors here give a slightly audible "oh.") From there, wrap your left arm behind your neck and your right arm behind your back. Use your left arm to pull your torso to the left.
10. Use your right arm, still behind your chest, to "flip over." Throw it behind you then up and around, which should make you bend over. As you do so, move your left hand to your chest. Stand up straight, left hand on chest, then, bending your knees, present your left hand forward. Tilt your head to the right when you do this. Use your right hand to pull the other hand back to your chest. From there, brandish your right arm behind you and downward, keeping your left arm on your chest. Flutter the fingers on your right arm and look up to the left.
11. Bring your hands together and down between your legs. Then, shoot them up above your head, then quickly back down to your pelvis, looking down as you do so. Look up, then bring your hands to your forehead, twisting your wrists once. Then, brandish your hands forward (with wrist flip). Reverse the motion, bringing your hands back to your forehead.
12. Use your right hand, balled in a fist, to beat twice against your torso — curl your spine as you do so and hop with each hit. Knees should be bent and your right arm should be behind your back. Quickly, pull up to a standing neutral position. Your left hand should cover your eyes — use your right hand to guide the left down over the face. (This gesture seemingly represents the act of closing someone's eyes after death.) As you move your hand downward, splay your forefinger and your middle finger to cover both eyes. This is the final movement, the one that the Sheriff's wife demonstrates for The OA and Homer.
Better hop to it — those portals can't open themselves. And hey, when the second season arrives, you'll be able to perform the entire dance along with the cast.