Wholesome videos of father-and-daughter dances regularly go semiviral on TikTok, but they don’t usually prompt conversations around parental incarceration and the rehabilitation of people in prison.
“My Dad has been in prison for 22 years,” reads the text in the Instagram Reel posted Oct. 8, while Justine Tuckett, a smiley blonde in overalls, taps her toes.
“I got to pick him up this week,” the text continues, as her beaming dad, Bill Lorance, jumps into the choreography.
He missed her childhood dance recitals and her wedding, but the first time Lorance danced with his daughter in two decades, it received over 45 million views on TikTok and Instagram.
Some commenters loved the sweet father-daughter dance; others felt hopeful that they could have a similar relationship with an incarcerated loved one. “And there are people who think I should have stayed in prison for the rest of my life,” Lorance told BuzzFeed News. “They’re just inflamed that he gets to get out and dance with his daughter, and his victim’s daughter will never dance with him.”
Lorance spent two decades in prison for killing his stepfather in 1999. At the time, his daughter was just 5 years old. She became one of the 2.7 million children in the US, according to the National Institute of Corrections, who have a parent who is incarcerated. To put that in a wider context, 7% of all children in this country have had a parent in jail or prison.
On Oct. 5, Lorance was released from California Medical Facility, a state prison. He was permitted three days of family time before his six-month transitional program began.
The dance was Lorance’s idea. He knew of TikTok, even though he’d never used the app himself. While incarcerated, he’d seen news reports about social media trends, listing off the car dance for Drake’s “In My Feelings” and the Ice Bucket Challenge. Before prison, he loved dancing in clubs and making home videos. As he watched the content creator economy grow, he dreamed of one day making funny videos for his family and friends.
And most importantly, he knew his daughter loved to dance. Tuckett, who lives in Utah with her husband and two young children, teaches Dirtylicious, a dance fitness class.
Tuckett, 28, knew some people would hate seeing her and her father dancing after the crime he’d committed. “My Dad put in the work everyday, he is unrecognizable from the person he use to be before prison,” she wrote in the video’s caption. “Some resilient people CAN be reformed. Some people DESERVE to re-enter society again. Some WILL embrace their children, grandchildren, and family one again. Someone like my Dad. 💕”
While Lorance knew the concept of a social media dance, he didn’t get the logistics. “I chose to not ever touch a smartphone in prison,” he said. “If you get caught doing it, you get more time added to your sentence.”
So he had a bunch of questions. How would they record it? Where does the music come from? How do they post it? “How much phones can do was shocking and mesmerizing and wild,” Tuckett said.
As a dance instructor, Tuckett wanted to ensure her dad looked good. The “WAP” dance was too complicated, the “Fancy Like” one too quick. She chose Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” because it had simple movements and a slow tempo.
After 20 minutes of practice, they recorded the video, and Tuckett posted it.
“I wanted to upstage her,” Lorance said. “I suck. I'm not even dancing, I looked like a robot that needs grease.”
At the time, Tuckett had about 200 followers. Now she has over 40,000 followers, and her DMs are flooded with people asking for advice on how to maintain a relationship with an incarcerated loved one.
So Tuckett and Lorance began posting more content together. They did an Instagram Live where they spoke about the crime he committed, and he talked about his past addiction and anger issues.
“I got a little emotional,” Tuckett said. “I never warned him before we got on Instagram Live — ‘Oh, by the way, there are going to be people you don’t know, hundreds of people saying whatever they want, no reservations, and they’re going to respond.’”
But Lorance didn’t mind. “He’s like, ‘I can read the really mean stuff, and it doesn’t hurt me,’” Tuckett said. Instead, he’s glad to be able to have a medium to talk about issues he cares about, even if he sometimes presses the wrong buttons while trying to figure out the apps.
“I’m interested in speaking about how guys can be rehabilitated while doing time,” Lorance said.
In prison, he became certified in Braille transcription by the Library of Congress, working on books for community colleges and preschools. He chose the role because of its specialized training and higher earning potential, working his way up to 95 cents an hour. “You can get more Top Ramen soups with that job,” he said.
In the weeks since his release, he’s opened a bank account and wants to purchase a car and secure a job. He posts photos on his Instagram most days of his morning sunrise beach jog or the fresh omelet he made.
“I know people are going to be like, Look at this dum-dum taking pictures of his breakfast, but it just proves it’s all new to me,” Lorance said.
After years of her dad being a photo on the refrigerator, Tuckett is thrilled her own children can make up for lost time. “He’ll be able to go to the dance performances, the baseball games, and be able to play and have those memories with young children, which he didn’t really get because he was in prison,” she said.
Lorance is already planning a redo of their dance.
“I was going to do the same thing solo just to show everybody that, with a little more practice, that’s how good Dad can do,” he said.