Saturday, June 19, 2010

So You Think You Can (Teach Us to) Dance?

I've watched a few episodes of So You Think You Can Dance because my girlfriend is a fan.  I've quickly become simultaneously both a fan and a 'hater' of this show.  I'm a fan of the dancing and of seeing young people working hard, with much grace and passion and joy, to create fluid physical beauty.  I'm also a fan of the show's educative potential:  it both trains young dancers to make the next major leap forward in their careers and educates audiences in art-making.  Dedicated audiences will learn from this show both a tremendous amount about dance as a form and as a creative discipline; they'll learn what it takes to dance at such a high level of creativity and skill.

I'm also a fan of how the hosts frequently speak to the young competitors, since they clearly wish to help these dancers reach their creative potential.  No young dancer seems to leave this show having been ridiculed or dismissed either as artist or person:  good, good.  However, I'm also a hater of how the hosts also speak to the contestants:  they dole out vapid praise and inane compliments, telling these kids they're the "best" or they're "stars" or yadda yadda.  The hosts feed these kids' egos junk praise that is as bad for them as junk food.  It's terrible pedagogy.  It's also a terrible lesson for the audience.  To my mind, the show largely wastes an opportunity to teach audiences and dancers how to talk about art and art making.  Ugh.

I hear tremendous good intentions coming from the hosts and for that I'm grateful.  I also hear them set up their young wards--and these contestants are their wards, of sort, for the duration of their time on the show--for terrible battles with themselves as they continue to find their way forward as professional dancers.

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