I get asked A LOT whether I watch good old SYTYCD and my answer is "mostly no." In part because I don't have cable, in part because at the end of the day, watching more dance is the last thing I want to do, and partly because it gets me agitated and thinking rather than relaxing. In other words, when I watch SYTYCD, it feels like work. It is not fun for me.
But, I watched last night. Season 10 Episode 3. The Top 20 episode.
The truth is I have a love hate relationship with it. Love: because the dancers are incredible and the choreography is interesting and thought provoking. Hate: (well hate is a strong word). . . Dislike: because I am concerned for the negative effects it may be having on the dance world as a whole.
Now, some of you reading this are saying "YES!" and some of you are likely thinking "How can it be bad?"
The problems I see are the following:
1. Competition: I personally dislike that there is a winner and every one else loses. Dancers are already swamped with huge insecurity issues (and that is because most people have insecurity issues). In fact, I think some dancers are attracted to dance because there is an impossible ideal and it feeds a need for external validation (applause, awards, selection for company, pieces etc). Competing confirms that they aren't good enough as they are and that is problematic for me as a dance educator.
2. This is going to be the BEST SEASON EVER!!! How many times did I hear that during the 2 hour show? Again and again, best, most crazy, most amazing, most fantastic, etc. This sense of always getting better, perpetuates the sense of current dissatisfaction. We are always striving for more, rather than finding joy with what we have and taking pleasure in the process of discovery.
3. We are training our audience to be impatient, judgmental and unidimensional. It is all about product. The end result. The final performance. The dances are 2-3 minutes of intense physical dance. So what happens when we ask our audience to sit through a 20 min performance? They are trained to lose interest. They are also trained to judge, making connections in terms of better and than worse than performances. We are also training our audience to appreciate dance that is physically demanding, hyper expressive and purposefully entertaining. Some dance is exactly that, but the majority of concert dance is not.
I see the benefits too! More people are watching dance! More people are interested in the art form. And, SYTYCD is one of the better reality TV shows I have seen. I mean, these dancers are not just personalities; they are performers, technicians and students. The choreography is inspiring for me, I get lots of ideas about how to push the physical limits of the human body. . . But, actually I am not interested in pushing the limits of the physical body, so. . . I am being inspired to do something against my interest. Strange.
I tried googling to see if there were other blogs about SYTYCD, and mostly I got just the promo materials.
Here are a couple that I found interesting:
A literal play by play of the last 2 hour show by Lauren S. (Entertainment)
Essay from 2011 by Kimberley Peterson (Educational)
If you know of one, or have written one please share in the comment section below.
What are your thoughts?
What do you get out of the show?
What do you learn from the show?
What concerns do you have for its impact on the dance world?
And if you teach dance, how does this inform/contradict your teaching?