Monday, November 3, 2008

Consumerist Dancing?

These new dance TV shows, such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” “America’s Favorite Dance Crew,” and “Dancing with the Stars,” have grabbed my intention as they seem to be shaping the dance world. The question is whether they fairly represent "dancing." There are certainly positive and negative aspects with these shows, and in my opinion, they generally benefit dance. They have caused dance to be in the forefront of people’s minds because of the publicity given to them. Their ratings are through the roof as millions of people faithfully submit votes in support of their favorite dancer. Dance has been given better exposure, and outsiders can see the intense dedication and hard work behind a dancer’s lifestyle. The world has to have more respect for the arts now. It has revealed that not just anyone can become a dancer overnight. “Dancing with the Stars” is proof that years of practice are required to achieve the grace and poise that are exemplified in the “professionals” verses the jocks or actors. One eighteen year old female dancer I talked to was in partial favor of the shows from the standpoint that it gave dance more exposure. Her only concern was that dance was unfairly represented. Instead of basing dance off of technique, dance was becoming something that was based on the whims and desires of what we want to see on our TV. In a sense, dance has become “Americanized” in that it has become an outlet to satisfy our consumerist nature. We are unfairly representing dance because not all the styles of dance are given equal time on TV. Ethnic dance and contemporary work from Europe are rarely seen, and instead we advertise the styles of dance that we are comfortable with. The following video portrays this eclectic style from Europe performed by the Nederlands Danz Theater.

Another younger dancer I talked with could not decide her stance. One point she made was that the shows were accomplishing some good because they help put things in perspective like the complex performance process. The hours of rehearsal with rigorous movement taking its toll on a human body, the makeup and costuming, the backstage nerves all combine to set the tone for a piece. “So You Think You Can Dance” is one show in particular that helps people visualize these steps by showing video clips of the dancers preparing themselves for stage time. The only downfall is that dance could easily become commercialized. Hair and makeup has to be altered for cameras whereas on a proscenium stage, it would have been completely different. Commercialization has a way of taking away aspects of real art.

Dance on TV has begun to move away from classical forms like modern and ballet and has gravitated towards music videos and acting. Nothing is wrong with this, but there must be a balance between the two so that people know that dance encompasses a range of movement and is not restricted to a specific style. We, as dancers must broaden our scope of movement to adapt to anything given to us, and these TV shows make it hard to ensure this because of time constraints and lack of varying choreographers. But regardless, people are better appreciating dance because this art form is shown in a positive light.

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