Reality Shows and Dance

August 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Allegra over at Here’s to Us proposes a new reality show, “America’s Next Top Author,” replete with agent pitches, books readings, and camera shots of pensive would-be authors hunched over laptops–such would be the drama of watching people write. (Read the rest of her humorous post here.) It’s a fun line of thought, but it made me think about what it would do to the publishing industry, author opportunities, and the general public’s interaction with books.

I got a glimpse of this outcome through a recent article where the The New York Times sat down with professional dancers to hear their opinion of the reality show So You Think You Can Dance. While these dancers appreciated the mainstream support dance was getting, they were concerned about the lack of opportunities taken to educate the audience, the audience’s expectation of flashy jumps and tricks accentuated by camera angles (meaning TV audiences will be less appreciative of slower, technique heavy genres such as ballet), and that contestants were getting jobs back on the show, but not elsewhere in the professional dance world.

Reality shows have certainly given us more exposure to various art forms, but they tend to give us a breadth of knowledge, not depth. And while the occasional winner becomes a self-supporting star (i.e. American Idol’s Carrie Underwood), it’s good to ask what–if any–lasting contributions do these shows make to the art world, and are they positive changes? Even if the answer is a small yes, the first priority of reality shows is still commercialism.

Yet I do enjoy SYTYCD, and I’m grateful for the chance to see talented choreographers at work and to be inspired by dancers’ movement. As the SYTYCD season just ended, here are a few favorite routines that combine good dancers, good choreography, and good music.

1. The contestants Melanie and Marko dance a contemporary piece by choreographer¬†Dee Caspary, set to the song,”Skin and Bones” by David J. Roch. I love the simple use of the hanging lightbulb as a prop–for the visual addition to the piece as it blinks on and off as well as for the symbolism involved as the dancers’ attraction to and fear of the light oscillate throughout the piece.

These two were my favorite dancers–individually and together. Their lyrical hip hop routine and their dance as statues are also worth a look.

2. The contestant Sasha dances a hip hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott (who also choreographs LXD), set to Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue.” It’s a fun storyline, and I love the 60s feel to it and light groove. Sasha performs another interesting contemporary piece using a simple prop: a wall.

3. These next two dancers didn’t make it far in the competition, but their hip hop routine by choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon was one of my season’s favorites. I love that this show has previously featured the gracefulness of hummingbirds in flight, and now the staccato-ness of woodpeckers learning to fly.

4. And a bonus: one group routine. Normally, clowns freak me out, but these clowns are too graceful. I love the costumes, music, and theatricality of this routine by Tyce Diorio.

A nod to reality shows for what they are.

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