My love/hate relationship with dance competitions on television

After finishing up a season of DWTS it's time to reserve my couch for another Summer of SYTYCD. Although this is probably my fourth season recapping the show, I always have mixed feelings about sitting down to give my two cents (often more like ten cents, really) about dance competition shows for

On the one hand it is logical for someone with actual experience in dance and choreography to recap the show. It balances and supplements all the content produced by journalists and bloggers with little to no dance experience out there in cyberspace.

So, why not me? Right?

On the other hand the question of whether or not such commercial representations of dance are a good form of exposure for the public and especially dance students is always looming overhead. Should I be supporting and promoting these shows that tweak my conscience?

In my mind there are a lot of good and bad things about being glued to the TV during this time of the year:

Love: Seeing dance in the mainstream. 

Once upon a time being a dancer meant you were some exotic weirdo (maybe less exotic than weirdo) who did ballet and received comments like: "I can't believe you do that to your body." Now dancers are not so weird. AND people can see (thanks to shows like DWTS) that you can dance at any age. Many people who might not have ordinarily taken a dance class are often inspired to do so by these shows. Win, win!

Hate: The gimmicks that seem to be required for television to be lucrative.

Shirtless men and gyrating hips do not necessarily a good dance make. I'm not saying that the folks that create these things aren't talented but the problem is that dance can convey more than (gasp!) sexiness. Dance can be a narrative about anything we choose and I would just like to see more alternate themes in what is presented on television. The world of dance is enormous (kind of like music) and it would be a good thing for people to be exposed to and enjoy dance that isn't so commercial in nature. In reality, commercial dance is such a small piece of the proverbial puzzle.

Admittedly, DWTS and SYTYCD do make an attempt to expose the audience to alternative styles and qualities of dance (SYTYCD has showcased such talent as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in past seasons). But the fact remains that the "sexiness" factor is still one that is praised time and time again and so we are given the impression that it's an important quality when the opposite is true.

Love: Watching dancers grow and develop their technique and stage presence.

The most rewarding part of being a dance instructor is watching your students "get it." Suddenly something you said or demonstrated sinks in and they take their technique and performance skills to a whole new level. Just about every week these dance shows treat us to a look at the learning process and how the dancers have improved with professional coaching. It's gratifying to see them continually growing and is a good lesson to students that reaching that level of excellence takes hard work.

Hate: The messages conveyed to young dancers.

In addition to the sexiness factor, you have to be able to do a thousand foutte turns, lift your leg over your head in a la seconde and do back-flips in every dance to be a good dancer. Not true! I can't tell you the number of questions I get about how to do all the "trick" stuff on stage after an episode of SYTYCD. Most of these are from very young dancers (or non-dancers wanting to take lessons) who think that's what a good dancer looks like. Being a dancer does not mean you have to have a bag of tricks. Those things are not requirements for good dance or a talented performer.

And, as you see, I try to overlook the bad and concentrate on the really positive aspects of these competitions. They are doing great things for dance class attendance even if sometimes we instructors need to do some reeducation along the way.

Readers, how do you feel about dance competition shows? Do you watch them?



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