Sunday, September 6, 2009

A dance blog at the U! YESSSSS!!!

So... I was logging on to the University of Utah website yesterday and saw news about this blog- the U's Red Thread - and recognized a very familiar name. My former professor, Steve Koester, will be writing weekly about the TV show, So You Think You Can Dance! I know I will be a regular reader, and everyone else should too!

I have taken many classes with Steve - most recently a class called "contemporary views" where we discussed what makes art and what makes dance - not as much of a straight forward definition as you would think. On a particular day, SYTYCD was actually a topic we discussed. Steve has a knack for making you think about things and picking them apart in a way that you would not have done on you own... and ultimately you are more satisfied with your understanding even though the process might be frustrating. For example: One day we were asked to give a definition of what dance is. All of our definitions were similar with subtle differences. Then we were asked to define art - what is art? And finally entertainment- what is entertainment? How does it differ from art? and how is it the same? Then we watched this video. . .

REALLY WATCH IT!!! Does this fit in your definitions? Is it dance? Is it art? Is it entertainment? Does it make you want to change your definitions at all? ... excellent thoughts to ponder upon.

I myself go back and forth with my love of the show SYTYCD. It's a fun show, I love watching dance on mainstream media, and really it's just incredibly entertaining. And that's just it - it's my guilty pleasure - it's entertaining, but is it art? Not really. And my modern dance mind gets bothered by that sometimes. There was an episode a few years back that had a dance that was a little different, out of the ordinary, but still beautiful and actually a little bit thought provoking. It was completely trashed by the judges because in the words of Nigel Lythgoe, "I didn't understand it, and I don't like things I can't understand." At that moment I realized why they never have modern dance on the show. I have studied modern dance intensively for the last 4 years and I still see modern dances that I don't understand- but they make me think - and that's a good thing!!! SYTYCD is promoting dance as entertainment in a really big way which is totally awesome, but are we losing the art part of it at the same time?

Steve is the king of thought provoking. I went to see a show last year that was all his own choreography - amazing. The final piece had absolutely beautiful dancing, but ultimately I remember the meaning and feelings I got from it. It began by introducing his dancers... I-Phen Ling, this age, her marital status, weight, height, Taiwanese, NOT Chinese, and then began listing off these incredible insights about her, and down the line with every dancer. At times they were interesting little known facts, and then sometimes I felt like that fact was so private, I didn't have the right to know it. What courage for those performers to be so exposed - physically and emotionally. Later in the dance he started asking questions of the audience... Have you ever stolen something? Did you lie about it? Have you cheated? Of course answers were not expected - but it got you thinking. And you could feel the entire audience go stiff not only thinking about the times they have done those things, but now wondering about the times the person sitting next to them has. It was quite uncomfortable watching that dance, but man did you learn a lot from it!

I could summarize all the awesome things Steve says... or you could just read the blog. Do that.

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