One of the fundamental differences between Dancers and Dancing in how they are perceived involves not the participants but spectators. Where dancers, from the 3rd person point of view, are almost always defined by how they look either in place doing lines, or in-line, or moving across the floor, Dancing has a basic definition of moving to the music or a beat. Neither the enjoyment of music nor experiencing a beat include visual experiences unless, maybe, when listened to under the influence of pot or other substances.

Having again and just been to Las Vegas, I am sure there are many that would object and tell you the current flock of musical shows, include so many visual aspects that add to the customer experience. To the extent that the T-Shirts and souvenirs sold are all artfully done for the eye, and flashing lights and action amplify the current milieu of shows that is certainly correct. Add to that the lighting, stage props and even carefully crafted backup singers or dancers and the overall experience becomes a visual spectacle.  That appears to now be the dominant way Americans perceive life.  It certainly stands true in the production of the current crop of Dance/Reality/Contest series that have largely replaced timing with speed and the original culture of the dances and music with all the bravado of Blackface in the Cabaret and Burlesque eras.

I remember going with a group to Las Vegas 35 or 40 years ago and seeing Tom Jones, as I remember, on a 90 foot stage with only a black backdrop and an orchestra hidden below the apron. I can’t remember him wearing a flashing or lit-up costume, or frankly even a change of attire for the entire show. The audience came to hear him. The girls certainly wanted to see him, yes, and hurl panties and such onto the stage but I suspect even that was for the hope or fantasy of a meeting of the flesh rather than just a visual experience. Audio speakers for the radios and TV of that day were not as good as they are now and provided a good excuse to go in person even though going was, as much as it is now, fan envy or devotion to the star.

In our recent trip to Vegas we were able to see the JABBAWOCKEEZ show at the MGM Grand and I must say I was delighted as to how their show incorporated the pulse, the beat, and the kinetic aspects so vital to the average person’s self enjoyment of dance. Like the stage show STOMP there was never a doubt of how or even why each movement existed within the music. Different from STOMP,  JABBAWOCKEEZ included a larger variety of movements, turns, jumps, lifts and even music in their show and blended it all so nicely, yes using lighting back drops and a variety of music genres. For those that have only seen the AGT version full of acrobatics, the stage version is a more complete study of just how to use the pulse, beat and movement to demonstrate the feeling of dancing, even if unfortunately for an old person like me, it was not a couple dancing together.

The inclusion of music from previous generations provided an excellent example of just how much change is rooted in the past . The ability to transport their well-known style of dance to each of the decades old genres of music and still maintain the artistry as well as history was a genuine pleasure to watch.  They are able to show slow movement can be as intense as speed when artfully done.  The ability to do it as team masked to emphasize the skill and the art of dancing as opposed to individual personality makes it even easier to just sit back and feel the mood. The intense volume might put off some, but the pulsation of the rhythm through the floor and seats seemed to add to the experience for the audience as well.

If you get a chance to see it do so, maybe with some cotton for the ears if high volume bothers you.

Michael Reichenbach

Published in Dance Week

April 8, 2022

Vol. XXXXV, No 14

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