Sunday, 5 June 2011

So You Think You Can Capture Dance on Television?

Please browse away now if you don't want to hear the result.

The phrase "contemporary dance" contains no meaning.

Attempts to define dance often end in bitter arguments or a reductio ad absurdum. Contemporary used to be a short-hand for "not ballet". These days, companies that share ballet's emphasis on line, musicality, discipline or training undermine even that thin sliver of meaning.

I watched So You Think You Can Dance? Last Night.

For every contestant, the answer is "yes, I can."

They did solos that lasted about a minute, contained a trick or two, and expressed nothing.

They did duets - the only one I can even remember was called Prom Night, and garbled big band jazz and 1950s Americana.

A big panel of experts pontificated. I'm all for the critic being given more importance than the performance - it is the foundation of my every application to Creative Scotland. Yet this sanctified the structure of the post show discussion, in which everything gets addressed to the performers and nothing about the performance gets expanded into a broader discussion.

The audience did that screaming thing, which means "I like you personally, but haven't got an opinion on the qualitative value of the work."

The dancers were reduced to crowd-pleasing tricksters.

Cat Deeley bellowed.

They did some things they called contemporary dance. They were a bit like Kate Bush videos. I like Kate Bush, and I liked the way she danced back in the 1980s.

However, I wouldn't suggest that the video to Wuthering Heights became the foundation of a movement within dance in the way that Yvonne Rainer or Isadora Duncan might have done.

I have always regarded television as a poor media. It flattens. It fragments.

SYTYCD, by using contemporary dance, becomes another problem in using the phrase to mean anything.

When I was a lad, I liked art that disorientated. By that aesthetic, I ought to love SYTYCD. I try to write about it, but the format, the content, the atmosphere baffle me.

Ideas float in and out. Nothing develops. Opinions are static hiss.

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