So, how did you feel about last season’s show, THE MASKED DANCER?  Depending upon your position in the dance world, I suspect there are a variety of opinions.  While initially one might think that since the dancers were masked, the show might actually be about the dancing.  That did not turn out to be true.  I am not saying the best dancers didn’t end up on top, including Maks, but just that the theme of the show is, Who is the Star? And not How was the dancing?  The replays, the hints and even the questions were never about the dancing.

This show is all about celebrity.  The judges, most of who have no apparent dance experience, included a comedian, actor, actress, and producer as well as Paula Abdul whose qualifications cannot be disputed for anything to do with dancing, showmanship, etc.  I certainly do not know much about the inner workings of show business, but do hope that the judges had help from a slew of producers to help them note, make mention of, or even remember little details that were supposed to assist in discovering the identities of the masked creatures.  I cannot imagine anyone with a real life even wanting to know such insignificant details about other people’s celebrity lives.  At that level, you would think they would leave details to adoring fans, and they as a stars themselves would be worried about more substantive traits of people such as how good are you at your craft.

Although if recognizing celebrity is a judge’s asset then many Dancesport judges are amply qualified.  After all, many feel that even in open sanctioned dance competitions recognition and reputation matter as much if not more than actual dancing.  The question has been brought up if it is more important for the best dancer to win or the person who dances best that day.  While that would not occur, nor stand in a 100-meter dash with a clock and replay photo finish, it is hard to imagine that even the best Dancesport winners never have a bad day and therefore are rarely if ever beaten.  In fairness to Dancesport judges watching 12 couples on the floor at the same time for maybe 90 seconds isn’t really enough time to notice anything but celebrity.  The shows’ judges, all of them get much more time to analyze either the dancing or the clues.

You cannot have watched the program and not been impressed with the celebrity power of the cast.  Many names like Ice T, Bill Nye, Oscar De La Hoya, Gabby Douglas and even others don’t need an explanation for what they do.  The variety of jobs include Rapper, R&B, Science, Idol winner, reality star, dance mom and even dancer along with a gymnast.  But to a dancer’s eye, did any of that matter when you did not know who they were?  Just so you know who is willing to wear an outlandish costume and dance around, here they are:

  • Ice T – Disco Ball Rapper
  • Bill Nye – Ice Cube The Science Guy
  • Elizabeth Smart – Moth Activist
  • Brian McKnight – Cricket                                R & B Star
  • Vinny Guadagnino – Hammerhead Jersey Shore
  • Jordin Sparks – Exotic Bird idol winner
  • Oscar De La Hoya – Zebra Boxer
  • Mackenzie Ziegler – Tulip Dance Mom’s star
  • Maksim Chmerkovskiy – Sloth Pro Dancer
  • Gabby Douglas – Cotton Candy Gymnast

That being offered, the 1st Season of DWTS included a Bachelorette, a singer, an actor, actress, super model and boxer, but only one, maybe two with name recognition outside of those interested in that particular genre, show or art form.  I am not trying to belittle those stars, a few that really developed through the season but, have to ask why this new show has drawn such star power out of the gate.  Some might say it ran off the coat tails of the Masked Singer, but a full half of the Masked Singer’s Season 4’s 16 contestants are singers themselves and of the first six to be exposed none were singers.  You have to wonder if the contestants know who they are competing against and would you compete knowingly against eight professionals well versed in the contest’s craft if you did know?  Maybe to gain some celebrity, however fleeting?

That was not the case in the Masked Dancer with the one exception of course.  No real mention is made of the quality of the dancing with the exception of the judges remarking you look like a dancer or must be a dancer.  I suspect that the fact that the dancers were by and large solo dancing with back ups and framing rather than couple dancing offers a certain freedom to those that are not expert.  Certainly, that was the case in the early rounds.  If you like our genre you must like Bill Nye who admits to liking dancing and his parents also having been ballroom dancers.  However, he did not get too far in the competition.  Even the other dancers heard remarks and questions about their identity rather than comments about their dancing.

Maybe the next ballroom competition should put all the contestants in masks, and then let us see who wins.  Then they can unmask each of the losing rounds to see who moves forward.  The real story here may be about curiosity and not expertise.  I guess it’s easier to be curious about who someone is as opposed to what they can do.  Just like in To Tell the Truth finding the impostor is about the fun through the questions, whether in Jeopardy, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and now Masked.  For dancers of any and all genres, it is and continues to be great that our chosen avocation and vocations continue to get publicity of any kind.

Michael Reichenbach


Dance Week

Vol XXXXIV, No. 11

March 12, 2021

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