Giving “A Chance” A Chance

I am such a snob. Seriously.

I never watch reality television, even dance shows. I really don’t handle fabricated drama well. I don’t find it amusing or entertaining. I have an appreciation for the true talent of creating full fiction. It takes talent to create a world where none existed before. I also have an appreciation for documentary, the anthropological collection and presentation of information. It’s hard to do that well for the general public without adding in a bunch of nonsense and down right crap. So I get annoyed when people try to pass off junky pretend drama instead of true talent. I think its insulting to people who actually have talent and people who work hard. I’m also not good with shows like So You Think You Can because I’m sort of out of current pop culture so the “celebrities” are lost on me. I usually have zero idea who most of the contestants are – the judges too for that matter!

But I do know the BalletBoyz. I have respect for them. I would hope that they wouldn’t get involved in crap and I would hope that when a television show tries to throw crap at them in the name of ratings, they wouldn’t have it. Real dancers should take a stand against crap. PLUS, Catherine of 4Dancers and Nichelle of DanceAdvantage are having blog contest and you gotta trust these ladies!

So I watched the third episode of A Chance to Dance on Ovation on Friday night. Bear in mind that I haven’t been watching the series, so I’m starting from scratch here. In this episode 24 dancers have already passed an audition for Billy & Michael (the BalletBoyz, of course) and they are on their way to NY. They have a pit stop at… drumroll… Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Thank god, the dancers all knew what Jacob’s Pillow is and got excited about it because I happen to know people who take ballet class that know Black Swan, the movie, but not Jacob’s Pillow and that’s the sort of thing that makes me want to scream. Anyway, I lost interest during most of the personal jabber when the dancers were moving into the cabins, meeting roomies, etc. But I got interested again when they started their day with a ballet class taught by Billy. I was amused by a statement made by one of the dancers that none of the non-ballet dancers wanted to stand next to the ballet dancers at the barres. Funny. Wise decision. The class didn’t actually seem that difficult and the camera shots made it hard to see if the dancers were doing well and what their skill level was. But it was clear even just from head and arm movements who were classically trained and which dancers weren’t. There were a lot of the same corrections that I hear in my beginner ballet classes – shoulders down, expand the extensions, don’t look down, don’t hesitate. The jumps and turns were kind of sloppy if truth be told. Again, you could immediately tell which dancers were balletically trained and which one’s were not. Because Michael & Billy thought class was kind of lousy too, in an attempt to save the day they had the dancers do improvisation – that was kind of painful. One would assume that each dancer would offer up their strengths and stay clear of their weaknesses – but they didn’t. God only knows why. The episode ended with Michael teaching the ladies an ensemble piece and Billy working with the men on a solo. The men’s choreo involved this crazy jump and one of the dancers hit the floor with such a horrific sound, it made me cringe. They insisted on playing this moment over and over again, of course. Fortunately the dancer seemed to be okay despite falling right on his knee! The ladies were learning their piece to perform on an incredibly beautiful open outdoor stage. They mucked it up and made Michael mad. My opinion – they looked like maybe an advanced beginner ballet class with some decent dancers and some not so hot dancers. I don’t want to be mean and I know that when you are under pressure and nervous in a new environment, dancing is hard… well, dancing is hard ALL THE TIME. But, um, isn’t that part of being a professional dancer? I know that it’s a show working with non-pros or pre-pros rather and that part of the show was to pick up dancers quickly but I’m not sure it offers up a great reflection of the talent that is out there. During the auditions, some of the dancers obviously greatly and gravely overestimate their abilities. Again, not to be mean, but some of those dancers auditioning were really very limited in their skills. I’m extremely limited in my skills too but I know it!

I didn’t hate it. In fact, today Ovation played episodes 1 & 2 and I watched them both. I didn’t hate them. From an adult ballet student’s standpoint, it was interesting to hear the expectations and the corrections of Michael and Billy. Michael said that performing is 60% technique and 40% personality. I think I’m at a stage in my training where I understand that. I’m very aware of technique and my teacher is a technique fanatic as well but he also encourages me to “explore” the music and to begin to “dance inside” of the music not just on it. I think personality and my own internalization and interpretation is a large part of that 40% personality. It’s also interesting to hear those same corrections that I hear in my own classes about expanding my extensions (a correction given to a “compact” dancer) and committing to a step instead of hesitating. The show also reminded me as a dancer that although my choice of dance is ballet, it would be good for me as a dancer to perhaps consider contemporary or modern or other forms of dance to expand my current skills.

After watching the first two episodes, it was still hard to fully grasp the level of skill of the chosen dancers. The dancing segments are so short and clipped that it’s really tough to get a feel for the dancing itself. What is interesting is that they are auditioning dancers of all kinds but when Michael and Billy give them steps for the audition they are pretty much always balletic. The ballet dancers seem to do okay with them but the other kinds of dancers can’t keep up with the ballet. It’s not until they are given the opportunity to dance in their own style that they look decent. If I could make one request it would be less jabber by the dancers and more actual dancing – even dance class. I love to watch dance classes. They should just keep wearing numbers and dance it out, I’d like that.

Will I watch the rest of the season? Well… I would like to see what the BalletBoyz come up with  for their performance at the Dizzy Feet Gala. More dancing, please!

6 thoughts on “Giving “A Chance” A Chance

  1. 🙂 I think that for me, Michael and Billy are probably the reason the show is enjoyable! (I especially like Michael–he’s funny and charming while still knowledgeable and professional)

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this! It was so interesting to read!

    • Hi Catherine!

      I agree. Michael & Billy would be the reason that I would continue to watch the show. I learned a lot from their corrections, thoughts, and discussions. Michael’s complaints and expectations regarding the performance were really eye-opening from a dancer’s perspective. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I did enjoy the show.

      Thanks for reading! I greatly appreciate the feedback 🙂

    • I realize that because of ratings and that sort of nonsense, that tailoring a show about dancing for dancers would be asking a lot since that leaves off such a large segment of the population but maybe someone should try it! You never know, people might really enjoy a show that really is about dancing!

      I think I dislike it because it always feels so fabricated… the aspect of trying to make things dramatic in order to hold an audience’s attention. For me the auditions, classes, and rehearsals were interesting, the rest might as well have been commercials.

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