Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Confluence of Mish-Mash and Realty Dance

So where are we at these days with dance on TV? It is the first time in history that dance has in fact been on mainstream network channels vs. PBS. Once something is in our TV homes it becomes integrated into our society. The fact that my young nephew knows the word "choreography" is a testament to that - not a lot of young men new that word when I was growing up. Our culture is dancing more than ever now, but what does that mean to people going to see dance - will it bring a new audience to the theater - or keep the old one? Now that people can see dance for free on TV, why get dressed up and go see in "live" - save for a show with the stars from TV. My original hope was that this new form of exposure would keep the performing arts alive, but now I am not so sure. After all, the arts are seminal to all forms of entertainment, and they make the commercial arena possible.

Here's a thought - what would SYTYCD be if A Chorus Line was never done? The Broadway classic opened a huge door of insight into the process of a dancer - in all ways. Simply put, it was a show about dancers competing to get a job - to make money. The audience got to experience the same sense of voyeurism as they do in "reality TV" - and hence the long lasting engagement of this hit show.
The story about the competing dancers on SYTYCD is the reason people can get interested in the choreography - plus the fact that it is explained to the audience. You get an insight into the process. In the dance world, we only do this for lecture demonstrations - and there is an arrogance about letting the public know too much. As if our work holds some sacred secret that if disclosed will kill the creative spark. Or possibly, creators don't really know what they are doing. The dance routines on reality TV (for that is what they are, routines from a dance class- not choreography) are spoon-fed to the audience.

To engage the TV audience more we have judges from who spew seemingly words of wisdom but who are not educated from any real substantive "artistic" arena - but put on a great show and allow for a fantastically arrogant criticisms. Most of which would not hold true for anyone working in the "concert" dance world. By the way, "concert" dance which means the entire ballet and modern dance world is considered insignificant to the commercial entourage. Mind you, I've had some of their choreographers solicit me for work in that arena, and anyone really good on the show has come from it.

The confluence of mish-mash on SYTYCD is pretending to educate, but in reality, it is using authentic forms of dance, that have been build over decades, as a means for developing a new form of entertainment, which is not reality. If the 1 1/2 minute dance routine where done alone, by itself with no background what-so-ever, the show would have been off the air long ago.

My point? We have a commercial and populist show that is an imitation of something authentic - and in order to keep one thing alive the other must be fed. Since the impact of their show comes from the arts - will there be a return. The arts need to be fed in all genres - in order to stay alive, and in order to continue feed more commercial forms of entertainment.

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