Left shark speaks: I was improvising 'a different character'

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching so it’s a perfect time to remember one of the most iconic moments of any previous halftime show: The moment ‘left shark’ became a thing.

Looking back, he was definitely off but it wasn’t that bad. Dancer Bryan Gaw didn’t really want to talk to the media about his big meme-worthy moment at the time but today the Washington Post published his account of his sudden and unexpected moment of celebrity. As he sees it, he wasn’t missing his cues so much as improvising a little:

No matter how many times we had rehearsed this routine, I knew I could not go on autopilot. The Super Bowl is the biggest stage there is — a dream for every dancer. This was it. Now I had to give it.

After I danced, the cast and I watched the rest of the halftime show from the sidelines, and we were back at our hotel by the fourth quarter. By then, I already had friends texting me: “Please tell me you were one of the sharks.” I replied that yes, I was. “Which one?” they wanted to know. I had no idea.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I began to understand what had happened. We were on the first flight out of Arizona to Burbank, Calif. I’d gotten up at 6 a.m. When I got off the plane and turned my phone back on, my entire voice mailbox was full. Every major network, newspaper, every agent had called. They all wanted to talk to “left shark.”

Doing something “rogue” at the Super Bowl is not an option. The National Football League does not play, especially after the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. Every rehearsal was filmed. And it was really only a few seconds, a snippet, maybe four or five counts where I improvised in my giant blue shark costume. But people went crazy. And the phenomenon of “left shark” was born…

And when you get a chance to improvise, as a dancer, that’s your moment. It’s a gift. And you’re entrusted with those moments to improvise because you are known as an artist who can handle it.

Gaw expanded on his decision to get a little goofy in an interview with NPR which also went up today:

“So there’s a set choreography,” he said. “There’s also what’s called free-style choreography, or, like, you get to move around or play your character as a dancer. … I’m in a 7-foot blue shark costume. There’s no cool in that. So what’s the other option? Well, I’m gonna play a different character.”

And that character, he claims, was an underdog. An everyday person. Someone imperfect.

Gaw had already been on tour with Katy Perry for nearly 5 years at the time and continued with her through the end of 2015. He says he maintained a very positive relationship with her and the other dancers after the big halftime show.

Today, after a total of 10 years as a dancer, Gaw has moved on to something else. He went to cosmetology school and is now working as a hairdresser at a Salon in West Hollywood. He seems pretty happy, almost philosophical, about how things have worked out. “I didn’t become a millionaire, but I had lived one of the biggest dreams any dancer could imagine,” he writes. He adds, “It was an experience I’ll always have. I hope other people keep following their dreams, keep growing and never be afraid to be that quintessential left shark.”