Even If Reality Shows Aren't So Real, It's Good to Have Dance on TV

posted by Wendy Perron on Monday, Jun 25, 2012
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Ballet West's Bruce Caldwell, Adam Sklute, and Maggie Wright Tesch. Photo: Erik Ostling/The CW ©2012 the CW Network

“We’re facing a new dance boom.” With those words, Lisa Traiger kicked off the panel titled "So You Think You Can Ignore Dance on TV?” at the Dance Critics Association conference on Saturday. She reeled of the names of the many dance shows now on TV, with viewers in the millions.

Panelists were Adam Sklute, artistic director of Ballet West, now of Breaking Pointe fame; Vitolio Jeune, a former finalist of So You Think You Can Dance (and a fabulous dancer with Garth Fagan); Kate Lydon, editor at large at DanceMedia; and blogger Tonya Plank.

Traiger's first question to Sklute: Why did you allow Ballet West to be filmed for this reality TV show when other companies turned it down? Sklute recalled how he had performed in a number of TV shows and film projects while a member of the Joffrey Ballet, and they ranged from good to not so good. But, he said, “Even the weakest of those projects were good for the Joffrey and for ballet in general…It was no different in my mind than producing a brand new ballet, and that’s always a risk.” He put the vote to his dancers, who were willing to undergo the six-week period of constantly intrusive cameras and mikes. (And I have to say, some of the scenes, both inside and outside the studio, get pret-ty personal.)

He explained that although Ballet West had final say in what and where to film, they did not have control over editorial rights. So they knew the “story” would be skewed. Sklute’s energized, healthy attitude was evident: He said that when they watch the episodes on TV, he and the dancers have a good laugh over what’s been exaggerated through editing.

Jeune, from his experience on SYTYCD, said that he too had to realize that the producers were trying to make an entertainment out of the show and were less concerned with the actual dancing. As an example, he told us that they liked when he got goofy and had “personality,” but when it came time to learning a new dance, he had to focus and just work hard. That behavior was less encouraged. Jeune feels that if dance critics wrote about dance on TV, the actual dancing might get more attention.

 

Kate Lydon said that Dance Spirit (a sister publication of Dance Magazine) covers SYTYCD often, and there is now a tie-in: The season winner gets to be on the cover of Dance Spirit.

 

I’m enjoying this dance boom. I always felt that if dance were more visible on the media, more people would love it.

 

Beckanne Sisk, center, with other Ballet West dancers. Photo by Erik Ostling, Courtesy The CW.