Idols of Dance

Idols of Dance

Obviously dancers, teachers, and studio operators around the world are thrilled about the success of Dancing With The Stars.  Studios are celebrating increased enrollment, students are expecting to be just as good as the stars in 10 weeks, teachers are hoping for their chance to be on the show, and competitions are enjoying increased attendance.  Newspapers that in years past covered very few dance events are now more than happy to publicize and cover dance competitions and anything having to with dance.  Most of these newspapers ignored for years the delivered press releases on the benefits of social dance, the historical impact of personalities within the profession, or upcoming dance events of any type except the most extreme.  Now multiple articles show up for just one event, and certainly with a star or two full time TV coverage will be at hand.

The popularity of the show in all the countries where it is currently viewed can only mean that society in general is … a) always wanting to see its celebrities no matter what they do or b) is hoping to see the rich and famous fall flat on their faces or c) is getting captivated by the allure of our pastime or d) is happy to see people compete in just about anything.  You may have your reason, but I suspect that all apply somewhere.

I have long been of the feeling that Americans admired its celebrities more than anyone else.  I am not sure that is entirely true.  Just look at other countries who have demonstrated their allegiance or infatuation with soccer and football stars.  They show that we may be neophytes at this.  Certainly South American and European fans get more violent than we when their countries lose major matches.   England has it’s fascination with the Royals and their sport celebrities.  Paparazzi are certainly popular elsewhere as well, and therefore it may be unfair to assume that America leads the way in idol worship.

Dancing With The Stars has now been televised in over 35 countries (per Wikipedia) and is expected in even more.  Many of these countries have no great history of competitive dancing, and other countries that do have yet to premier their country’s version of this show.  So who knows where it will end.  A quick look at recent winners from various countries’ shows demonstrates an overwhelming favoritism for entertainers over athletes.  Fully 75% of the recent winners have been entertainers, and the remainder athletes ranging from skaters to long jumpers, to basketball and football players.  While it may be possible that it was only the celebrity status of the athletes that drew votes, a look at our recent season would show much more.

Investigating just the final four of the US Dancing With The Stars we found two great athletes in Laila Ali, and Apolo Anton Ohno, and two accomplished entertainers in Joey Fatone, and Ian Ziering.  One could further choose to dissect the genres but certainly Joey and Ian were both comfortable on stage.  In addition they are most likely to be used to taking direction, smiling for the audience, learning lines, gestures, and working in tandem or with other people to produce a result.

The athletes are much more likely to have the physical ability to handle the regimen and duration of training that all participants endure.  Being champions they also more likely have drive to continue their training and practice to achieve a goal since they are used to only getting their accolades with a win.  Second place to sport’s champion is a loss.  Second place to an actor may still be an Oscar nomination.  Furthermore athletes may presumably be better focused on how to define movement of their legs, bodies or arms to create certain specific moves and steps, and certainly they are adept at having to change from a plan, since their opponent would most likely be doing everything in their power to insure defeat rather than cooperation.  Certainly sports that involve lateral and movement styles other than running should have an edge.

Previous seasons also have brought both athletes and entertainers to the finals, and all this can only continue to fuel the debate as to whether dance of this nature should be considered a sport or an art.  On some level it doesn’t matter, certainly to dancers.  We are just happy to have the exposure, publicity, and coverage.  However if the show and popularity of our endeavor is to continue, the general population will have to decide.  The Fred Flintstones or Joe Lunchbuckets of this world will be much more likely to play or at least try it out if they think and recognize that dancing can fulfill their athletic and sports tradition.  Leave the artistic soul, the feminine allure and the satisfaction of the inner emotional self to other activities.  For the average guy fun is about driving, control, speed and endurance.

For those reasons alone, I hope everybody comes down on the side of dancing is a sport.

Michael Reichenbach

To Dance Week

06 04 2007

 

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