Editor's Note: Joe Wieder has been a part of
the NY dance scene for as long as I can remember. I use to see him at the Copa when
I first started dancing myself. A true gentleman dancer who was kind enough to allow us to re-publish this 2nd article on the SalsaNewYork
Originally Published on Joe's Site: http://quickscape.com/joe/articles/gooddancing.htm
Good Dancing, or
by Joe Wieder
I'm in a Brazilian nightclub here in
New York, Club Indigo. The music is Lambada. Theres a dance show.
Two couples come out, four very attractive young men and women,
beautiful bodies, wearing little more than loincloths and g-strings.
Their bodies glisten with oil. They dance, slowly at first, then
faster and faster. They gyrate, they grind - they are sex personified.
I love it, the music, the dance, the energy, the sensuality. Its
sexy and its beautiful. The audience applauds wildly and I applaud
along with them.
Fast forward a couple of years. Im at a dance social in a dance
studio here in New York. The music is salsa. Theres a dance show.
Two couples come out, four very attractive young men and women. The
men are fully dressed, the women are not. The womens costumes are
little more than strategically placed cloth held together by strings.
The music plays, the dance begins. The routine is highly suggestive
sexually. The dancing is mediocre, actually quite poor. The
choreography is simple - the women are sex toys, the men are in
control. The audience applauds; I dont applaud. In fact, I'm
disappointed, even a bit angry.
Now, Im wondering. Am I the only person who didnt like the show?
It was a hot, sexy routine with beautiful women. What's not to like?
Did other people have mixed feelings in spite of the applause? So, I
asked a couple of men and women what they thought.
Not surprisingly, most of the men liked the skimpy costumes on the
women. The women were beautiful and largely naked. Some of the women I
talked to liked the costumes and wished they could get away with
wearing outfits like those. On the other hand, some women were
offended ("Yikes!," one said). The one thing that most
people did agree on was that there wasn't much of a DANCE routine.
There were risqué costumes and the choreography had shock value. The
routine got a lot of attention, but it wasnt about dancing.
So, heres what Im getting at. There are several issues here.
First, the obvious one.
Are we looking at dance routines that, more and more, trade off talent
and ability and replace them instead with provocative costumes and
blatantly sexual choreography? As more people join an explosion of
dance companies and want to perform, instead of creativity and
polished execution, are we getting mediocre dance routines with no
substance to fill the void. For one thing, I don't recall seeing these
types of performances from the more mature dance companies like those
of Eddie Torres or Jimmy
Furthermore, is a dance studio,
where people come to learn and practice dancing, the appropriate place
for putting on a show like this? There were also a lot of young men
and women in the audience at the dance studio. Do some of these dance
shows reinforce unfortunate stereotypes, such as women as merely sex
objects? Does this serve as an appropriate role model for these young
people? Moreover, Ive also seen shows at dance studios that
fantasize violence, abuse, bondage, and other highly provocative
themes. Are these really the messages you want to present at a dance
studio social? Hello?!
Let me be perfectly clear. I like dance routines that have a sexual
component. In fact, there should be sensuality and passion in dancing
especially in salsa. But, my point is, and this is what I'm
writing about - it's a matter of degree and a matter of place.
Performances at dance studios should emphasize DANCING. Anything else
ought to be secondary - subtle or suggestive but not in your face!
That means that costumes and choreography should complement the dance,
not replace it. The criteria I think is that if people remember only
the costumes or only the blatantly provocative choreography, then the
routine didn't do much for dancing and it probably shouldn't be at a
My disappointment is not with the dancers as much as it is with their
choreographers. My anger is reserved especially for the promoters, who
seem to use any excuse to put on a dance show and charge extra for
it and who dont seem to care about the quality of dancing the
show has to offer!
I know the dancers work hard, often very hard. Not to mention they
deserve a lot of admiration for just getting out there and performing.
Its just a shame that sometimes the choreographers and promoters
dont give them more and better material to work with.
© 2001 Joe Wieder. All rights reserved.
See a rebuttal to this article
by Lisa Linhardt - "To Cloth, Or To Be Clothed".
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