This will be the first in a series of "reviews" of (my thoughts on) articles in Dance Magazine. I'll choose one article and post a review each time a new issue comes out. Stay tuned :)
I just opened my new issue of Dance Magazine June 2011 yesterday during dinner. As an avid "So You Think You Can Dance" watcher, this article, "The So You Think Effect", caught my eye. Written by Victoria Looseleaf (who teaches at USC and Santa Monica College), this article gives a few famous studio owners' perspectives on how popular dance TV shows have affected interest in dance and therefore enrollment in studio classes. Owners interviewed include Amy Giordano of Chicago's Giordano Dance Center, Tom Karaty of New Jersey's In The Spotlight, Diane King of Manhattan's Broadway Dance Center, and a few others.
The article in summary:
Giordano (Giordano Dance Center) cites that there is a higher demand for ballroom classes, which she thinks is because of Dancing with the Stars. On the other hand, Karaty (In The Spotlight) has noticed that, in his studio, most of the dancers do not even watch the ever-popular dance TV shows. However, there are some that do watch SYTYCD, but he feels that this may be detrimental to the dancers because of the show's promotion of "modern and barefoot dance that is angry and not uplifting". King (Broadway Dance Center) has noticed that there may not be that many more new students enrolling at BDC, but that shows like SYTYCD have inspired existing, younger students to work harder. Aside from the young aspiring professionals that frequent BDC, King has noticed that there has been a "15 percent increase" "in terms of the adult beginner population".
On one hand, I think it's great that the general public has exposure and can appreciate shows like SYTYCD. On the other, there are also problems with airing shows like this. While I personally enjoy watching SYTYCD, I feel that by popularizing the dance styles found on SYTYCD, the public's view of the dance industry has become more and more commercialized and glamorized. Young dancers who watch the show may try to emulate the styles and postures they see older contestants doing and find themselves getting hurt. Beginners are less likely to start in ballet, "which is the underpinning of any of [the] dance styles" (Leslie Carothers-Aromaa) you see on the show. Even existing dancers are affected: they will want to take more contemporary, jazz, musical theater, and hip hop classes as opposed to their basis in ballet or tap. The truth is, unless you're a bboy and only a bboy (or bgirl I suppose), that ballet is what you need to start with in order to have a solid foundation for anything else. Without the strength, discipline, alignment, and skill you garner in ballet, you will get hurt.
Also in the article, Marlana Walsh-Doyle of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center says "I think the shows have made dance more popular. People accept it more as an art form. When the students see stuff on TV they think it's good for the body and it's fun," while King (BDC) stated that "because the dancers on So You Think train hard, that brings attention to the field in a positive way." Like I said before, it's great that this positive attention is brought to dance. Ever since this show became popular, I've even noticed my classmates getting more excited to come and watch our annual dance productions. People who have never danced before have auditioned to be in the production, simply because of what they see and how fun it looks. And this interest is great! Only, when they start trying to do double pirouettes, sautes in arabesque, or even tendus, the problem arises: they can't, so they resort to pushing through everything using bad posture, the wrong muscles, and sheer will. They continue to gape and gasp at the abilities of the trained dancers and expect themselves to be able to do something like that.
Overall, I'm thankful for SYTYCD. It's opened me to many styles I'd never been interested in or seen before, affected my perseverance in a positive way, gotten me to try new things in my dancing and choreography, and given me a taste of reality and what's possible if I work hard. This season, I'm rooting for Melanie - I think she's got a gorgeous, soft strength that's adaptable to each style. But I'm also wary of the dangers of watching the show - getting too sucked in to commercialized dancing, or getting hurt. It's a tough call. Is it good that TV shows are popularizing dance? Is the way they do it good for the industry? We'll probably never know, but I hope so.