Why so international?

Why so international?

I have been and continue to be a big supporter of Dancing With the Stars and the other dance shows that offer any style of dance to the public at large.  I am also a big believer in the unique position America has had in increasing the world’s awareness of various dance styles and rhythms.  Only in America, with a melting pot of so many cultures and societies could the explosion of appreciation for the various musical genres, specific styles of movement and various hand, arm and hip actions become ingrained in our collective culture and then make these same rhythms, music, artists and dances far more popular than would be possible in any other homogenous society as continued to exist throughout most of the world in the 20th Century.

I know now that many people with heavy accents from overseas will now write the editor to tell him, “balderdash, after all we had competitions long before you or at least as long as you.  And ours were civilized.”  It is also true that these same countries were again trying to recolonize the world with their style of native dancing, going so far as sending emissaries and crusaders back to these same countries to tell them how to properly do the movement, style and action the “proper” way.  It is true that early American dance competitions were largely endurance contests of one sort or another.

However, the leading stage dancers and couples, who helped popularize and showcased the new introduced rhythms, were influenced by the American experience of new and exciting music and art as introduced by immigrants.  I don’t believe in any way that all immigrants were welcomed with open arms and considered equals.  But it is true that their music, style and moves were considered exotic and the showmen of the day knew enough to take advantage of it.  It is true that early on many of these showmen had just a few show dances and for each of their songs there was one routine (not unlike line dancing today) generally with a big finish and flourish for the audience.  However the popularity of many of these dances came only from the immigrant population bringing their music to this land, which subsequently became popular through radio, big bands, movies and dance schools.

This brings us back to the shows.  So while I am happy to support some level of immigration I am surprised the U.S. show has been unable to find American dancers and professionals to use as the “Pros” of the show.  I imagine the producers have great reasons to select Pros from other countries who have maybe even shown skill and class in their native country’s shows, but it seems to again push the stereotype that the exotic is never American, and the talent lies elsewhere.  It may also be just an international bias.  After all, it is hard enough to get your partner to consider and look at dancing, but no self-respecting American would ever see themselves dancing Bollywood in public or anywhere else for that matter, especially in those pants.

It may just be a time thing, just as one can only imagine that selecting a judge related to a competitor was expedient rather than prudent.  And I did enjoy their show when they came to town.  Of course, judges have been telling us for generations that they are just as hard on family or maybe even harder.  So much so, that in regular competitions they often recuse themselves when family dances since the other judges already know they are related.  The perception of what goes on matters.  It matters on Game shows and other reality shows, no matter how far off the reservation some of those are.  The dance shows seemed to be above this providing a fresh look at dance, whether through stars working to compete or young dancers working through different genres with different choreographers.  A touch of reality comes into play when you see dancers dancing to music you recognize, rhythms you have felt before and thanks to the stars, with people to whom we have a relationship.

Does anyone really care who gets a rose or who gets kicked off the island?  Yes they do.  And I really hope the shows recognize the obligation to get it right.  This is by and large an American audience who should be able to celebrate the many artistic contributions of American composers, our screen stars, and yes even native talent, whether immigrants or home grown, but American at any rate.  Yes there is undoubtedly a desire to educate, inform or expose the masses to the beautiful variety of dance, culture and style from around the world.  I just hope that expediency is not replacing thoughtfulness in the choices being made.

Michael Reichenbach


Vol XXXVII No. 01

September 19, 2014


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *