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Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian were two of the bright spots in the TV debacle called Superstars of Dance. Hailing from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, they represented the US in the couples category.

I would love to take some partnering tips from these two; they make everything look so unique and effortless. Of course, if probably helps that she’s teeny tiny and he has enormous muscles, but I have a feeling that’s not really their secret. They manage to make all those lifts and tricks into something more than just pandering to the audience. There is something real and fluid behind it. They are calling this style cabaret; I’m not quite sure how cabaret is defined, but it certainly has a Cirque de Soleil feel to it, with more of a focus on shapes than on patterns and rhythm. According to their webpage, they are the three-time world champions in this style.

Here they are on Dancing With the Stars, with James Blunt:

I like this one less as it is more competition-y, but you can still appreciate what they do:

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I had such high hopes for NBC’s new show, Superstars of Dance, but in the end it was a disappointment. There were a few nice moments, but ultimately, I turned the TV off before the show ended.

Superstars of Dance is billed as an international dance competition, with categories for solos, couples, and groups. It is hosted by Michael Flatley (aka The Lord of the Dance) and Miss USA Susie Castillo. The executive producer is Nigel Lythgoe, which explained why the whole thing felt like a sort of second-rate So You Think You Can Dance reunion.

Countries represented in the show are the USA, Russia, Argentina, China, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and India. There is a judge from each of those countries, who must sit out on the voting when their own country performs. I was frustrated that not all the judges were introduced. I would have liked to know what their dance background was. A friend mentioned this morning that it felt like they were trying to make the show into a faux Olympics, complete with the conversation with the dancer and the “coach” afterwards.

A lot of the dancing was sort of ho-hum. Some of it was spectacular but more for a “wow” factor than for artistic quality. For example, a modern/hip hop group from Australia had fantastic tricks and rhythm but it wasn’t anything close to a revelation– more like pandering to people whose ideals of dance are formed by MTV and SYTYCD. Robert Mourain, the one-trick pony we saw doing contortionistic popping and locking on SYTYCD was back representing the US in the solo category; why? Also, talk about perpetuating sterotypes…why are Riverdance-type dances the only ones representing Ireland. Could it be because of Michael Flatley’s role in the show? It was so cheezy.

The two high points for me were the couple representing the US (Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian) whose partnering skills I really admired, and the Argentine tango. Despite the horrible camera work and mediocre production format, they managed to keep it together and show viewers a peek into their art.

The low points were pretty much all in the solos. In particular, China. The woman danced with such long scarves it was hard to see any body movement. It was supposed to be a traditional folk dance, but it was set to a euro dance beat. The “Zulu” dancer representing South Africa looked more like a Rockette with all the high kicks than any African dance I’ve ever seen (feel free to call out my ignorance here if I am totally off the mark).

Too bad that another dance show has come up short. I’m glad to see so much dance on TV now, but we definitely need a quality increase. Some new faces would be good too. Nigel Lythgoe changed the face of TV with American Idol and SYTYCD, but it’s time for some fresh ideas. On the upside, my Monday nights are still free so I can go to dance class.

A million thank yous to Salsa Gigolo for bringing this MadTV spoof on So You Think You Can Dance and the presidential race to my attention. Not only was the Baroque Waltz hilarious, but the judge impersonations were totally spot-on.

I’m still wiping the tears from my eyes.

Seriously, the cha cha is so easy:

You go, Barack step back, cha cha cha, Barack step front, cha cha cha

If it’s too hard at first, just Biden’ your time, it will get easier!

This is one of the sillier photoshopped images of the politicians going around. It is nice to have some levity, not to mention some dancing in this ever more intense and dirty campaign season.

Early voting has started in many states. Here in Virginia, it began on the 15th. I cast my vote for Obama today, and it feels so good! If you need information about voting and early voting, go to Vote for Change and they’ll tell you when and where you can vote in your state.

Speaking of dancing with the candidates, I leave you with this now-classic clip of Barack Obama on Ellen:

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t blogged at all about this season’s So You Think You Can Dance. At first I was feeling bad that I was letting my readers down, but this is my blog, not yours, and let it be known that I am taking a break from TV right now. It’s not so much an intentional thing, but a time issue. I am in either rehearsal or class pretty much every night and weekend day. When I’m not dancing, I’m spending time with the real life human beings that I care about– my husband, my family, my friends. Real life rocks and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Given the choice, I’d rather be dancing (or at least participating in the dance of life) than watching it on a little screen.

Philosophizing aside, maybe the excitement of these shows has worn off for me. After so many years where dance was not the thing to do on TV, it was so thrilling to have shows like SYTYCD that brought dance back to the awareness of the public. Now we have almost reached a saturation point where there is a dance show on pretty much every network and channel, of varying quality and target demographic. I think it is great. There used to be just one or two nights where I could watch the one show on TV where people danced. That’s why it was so sacred to me not to miss it. In some ways, it also inspired me to want to dance more and dance better. It also in some measure inspired me to seek out real life dance watching opportunities, to delve into the distinctions and overlaps between art and entertainment.

We are now in the fourth year of this era of dance on TV. The public is now more educated about dance, and hopefully that will translate into inspiration to dance and see dance in real life as well. Judging from the number of blogs and blog posts that have exploded on this topic in the last year, the dialogue is alive and well.

 

From an article on “freaking” (grinding dancing favored by high school students) in yesterday’s Washington Post article “Two Types of Dirty Dancing”:

This is where, instead of shaking our head, we introduce them to the idea that dances can be highly erotic by delivering nothing while promising everything.

The title of this post is an age-old philosophical question, but I think it’s good to ask ourselves this question from time to time. Particularly as dance becomes a more common element in mass media, it’s important to think about what we value in dance and in art. Some might argue with even the practice of putting labels on things, but this is a blog about dance, I am passionate about dance, and given that, there are obviously some boundaries in my mind as to what constitutes dance and what does not.

I also ask, is all dance art? And if all dance is art, then how do we classify movement that is not art? What is art?

The source of all this soul-searching was this video that Loren sent me:

Without question, this is an incredible video. According to YouTube, these are the 100 dancers and acrobats of the Great Chinese State Circus; I believe the title for the work would be “Swan Lake on LSD.”

The ballet in this is not bad at all. Very technically proficient, and beautiful lines. I can’t fathom the amount of center and control it takes to dance en pointe on that guys’s head and shoulders while he is walking around. The frogs were very frog-like and very entertaining. But I ask, if all the acrobatics and head pointe dancing were taken out, would this video have had over 3.3 million hits on youtube? More importantly, would it be seen as anything special by dance and art lovers, other than another nice execution of swan lake?

Are acrobatics dance? Are acrobatics art? The following video of the Pilobolus “Dance Company” (I’ve added the quotation marks, more on that later) made me ask those two questions when I first saw it on Ariel’s blog:

For me, this is definitely art– a fantastically creative and sculptural treatment of the human body. But I’m not so sure that it’s dance. To me it falls more into the categories of acrobatics and contortionism.  Yes Pilobolus calls itself a dance company. Is that because it holds that movement + art = dance? Yet take some of the mindless pap you see on shows like Dancing With the Stars…it’s definitely dance, but it sure ain’t art. At least not in my book. Even on the shows I enjoy, such as So You Think You Can Dance, acrobatics are often thrown in the mix in order to pander to attention-deficient viewers who need explosive movements and crazy physical feats to hold their attention. The line between dance and acrobatics is often blurred, as is the line between what I consider art and what I would not consider art, but nonetheless find fun and entertaining.

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