Where have all the dancers gone?

I suppose the counterargument would be that people are dancing less for other reasons (economy? body image? lack of time?), and that the rise of televised dance is a way of filling the cultural gap.

In Boston, the city’s humongous twin dance clubs, Axis and Avalon, no longer even exist; they were recently demolished to make way for a giant House of Blues. And for the first time in recent memory, we’re having a serious party-dance crisis. Kids were Gettin’ Lite and doing the Chicken Noodle Soup and the Soulja Boy not that long ago. But have you tried Gettin’ Lite? It practically requires an instruction manual and two feet of clear space around you. Good luck pulling that off at a party.

Clearly we’re not dancing the way we did even five years ago. What happened?

It’s not that dancing is vanishing. In one sense, it is more popular than ever. On television, this year there have been no fewer than four dance shows: “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “America’s Best Dance Crew,” and “Step It Up & Dance.” On the Internet, YouTube’s No. 1 “top favorite” video of all time is the goofy “Evolution of Dance.”

But it’s no coincidence that as dancing explodes in popularity on TV, it’s harder to find at bars and the average party. What’s popular on these shows and clips isn’t dancing – it’s second-hand dancing. These people are dancing so we don’t have to.

Where once we were a culture eager to dance among the stars, we’re suddenly OK to sit back and watch. In the same sense that we watch more sports than we actually play, we seem to be letting the professionals do our dancing for us, too. And as we outsource our dancing to professionals, something important is lost.


from “And the beat goes off,” by Wesley Morris, Boston Globe, 3 August 2008 :: via 3quarksdaily

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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