Everybody Dance!

Doesn't it feel like dance is everywhere these days? Last night I found myself toggling between America's Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance; Best 15 Routines. My parents can't enough of Dancing With the Stars. Ever thought you'd see Tom DeLay do the Paso Doble?

Now I've always been a fan of dance. My first exposure to performing arts was taking ballet lessons as a preschooler at local dance studio. The first ticket I ever bought to a live performance was to Houston Ballet as a teenager. Through my love of ballet, I discovered modern dance, musical theater and movie musicals. But I was a geeky, arts-obsessed teenager that dug through the classic movie section at my local video store to find movies with Fred Astair and Cyd Charisse dancing.

But these days, I feel like I don't have to go looking for dance. It's everywhere! Dance competition shows get huge ratings across demographics. America's Best Dance Crew is clearly a teen market. Dance Your Ass Off is pushing weight loss through dance on Lifetime, television for (old) women. And of course the hugely popular shows on the bigger networks. So it looks to me like this isn't just a niche audience.

So how is all of this dancing on TV affecting dance in the outside world? In spite of all the financial trauma at Oregon Ballet Theater, attendance was high last year. Portland Center Stage's best selling show last season was Guys and Dolls . Up on the silver screen we have the upcoming releases of Nine and Fame that are positioned to be blockbusters.

Being relatively new to Portland, I'm still learning about the local dance ecology. I've seen amazing work by companies like BodyVox and NW Professional Dance Project. I'm looking forward to exploring more. But I'm wondering if the popularity of these dance shows is trickling out to our smallish local companies?

What about participatory dance? Are the ballroom studios full of people who think if that guy from Seinfeld can foxtrot surely they can give it a try?


Stephen said...

No matter what you think of these shows on TV, isn't it an amazing phenom that America, in the new century, can't get enough of dancing? I had a boyfriend in college who was a dance major & I thought that his training helped our relationship a great deal.

MightyToyCannon said...

Our household got hooked on "Dancing with the Stars (sic)" for a few seasons, and ignored a few. I became particularly skilled at predicting the judges' scores. The shows are great, entertaining fun, though I wish they spent a little more time talking about each dance and what they are looking for as judges. Like you, I'm curious how the prevalence of dance shows on TV has translated into more folks taking dance lessons.

As for you Stephen, I won't ask what aspects of your college bf's movement training were most helpful to the relationship. I think I can guess.

David said...

For us, it's "So You Think You Can Dance"...the choreography is brilliant, and we've become inured to the screaming girls and inane chat between numbers.

As for the local dance scene, I've just this moment returned from seeing OBT's presentation of an excerpt from Balanchine's "Serenade" at Waterfront Park in conjunction with the Oregon Symphony's full evening of live concert music. The music and dancing were wonderful!

I don't have any hard numbers, but it seems like more people are signing up for OBT's intro-to-ballet workshop series. I assume that makes for better informed audiences, which has got to be good for dance companies around town, large and small.

Jenny Wren said...

I'm a "So You Think You Can Dance" fan. Nigel's a lecher and Mary's screams make you just want to grab her by the ear and say, "Hush, woman!", but the dancing is top notch. Some of the dance shows are really shlocky, but I don't mind so long as they can get people interested in dance.

I took a salsa class a few years back and the class was packed. Latin dances seem to be especially popular. But I guess it all comes in waves. When I first moved to Portland, swing was all the rage.