WHY MILLENIALS MATTER TO THE DANCE WORLD: A RESPONSE
February 13, 2015
I was disheartened to read Ms. Villarreal’s recent article on the “dying field” of dance. She claims that reality TV star Maddie Ziegler is a hopeful force to reinvigorate the dance world, and sets herself apart from millennials whom Villarreal calls “an especially lazy and self-indulgent lot when it comes to performance” in the Huffington Post.
She goes on to say that these dancers “lust to be stars without putting in the work to deserve the title.” While I agree that Ziegler is talented and ambitious the focus of my response is more to tackle the faulty comments and misconceptions used to support Villarreal’s argument. She makes a broad, unsupported claim that proves the disconnect between the average middle America TV dance audience and those that understand and respect the other kind of dance: the one where dancers work their asses off day in and day out to receive little money and little recognition.
The athletes of the commercial dance world are talented and hard working, and I’m not trying to discredit their efforts. However, because of their exposure to a large audience via reality shows, commercials and movies, a distorted and distant view of concert dance and “the alternative dance community” as Villarreal labels it, develops.
Before you make general claims, let me inform you of something- take into consideration the hundreds of thousands of dancers who’s parents drive them hours to the closest studio so they can take class, the dancers that can barely afford to take technique classes to improve their skills but they love it so much they take on a job, or two or three, the dancers that take out several loans to attend their dream college so they can work with the best professors and be surrounded by inspirational peers, the dancers that can’t afford health insurance, or rent, or food because they took on a performance for free in order to make their choreographer friend’s dream become one that is realized. Don’t discount them, don’t discredit them. Their efforts should not be overshadowed due to overconsumption of the media’s version of “dance,” which has been altered, edited, and produced.
Dancing is tough. It takes courage, passion but most importantly, Will! There are countless unrepresented dancers that perfect their technique and artistry day in and day out just for a shot to dance professionally. Try visiting Danspace at St.Mark’s church in the East Village to see an exciting burgeoning crop of thinkers and makers creating new work, or go to Lincoln Center and watch the young, fresh corps of the New York City Ballet rock soloist and principal roles for the first time. The dancers of this new generation are working so hard, just to get noticed. There is a sliver of a chance that they’ll be lucky enough to make a career out of it.
I’m here to tell you that dance as a field is alive and thriving. So You Think You Can Dance and Dance Moms does not dictate what good dance is or how the art form progresses. Dance isn’t validated by how many tilts Ziegler can do in one competition routine. You allude that nothing exciting has happened in the dance field but you forget David Hallberg’s historic partnership with the Bolshoi Ballet, Misty Copeland’s Under Armour ad and her ground breaking exposure for African Americans in ballet, the emergence of the LA dance project, Benjamin Millipied’s appointment to the Paris Opera Ballet, Lil Buck bringing jookin to the international stage, Company XIV’s burlesque enterprise, and the inexplicably creative Crystal Pite who is paving the way for female contemporary choreographers just to name a few. After all, Ziegler most recently shot to heightened popularity for her solo role in Sia’s music video “Chandelier,” due to the choreographer Ryan Heffington, who has not gotten nearly enough recognition for his efforts and vision.
Go see something new and avant garde, donate to a choreographer’s kickstarter campaign, or better yet when you meet a dancer tell them congratulations and good luck. They are a part of a tremendous network, defined by passion and history, exemplified by an older generation that has enriched the form, and innovated by a new group of artists to carry it forward. Job prospects may seem limited, funding competitive and finite, but the possibilities for creativity, movement and love are endless.
To be a dancer takes guts.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Bailey Moon