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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 Magazine. 

Originally Published on Joe's Site: http://quickscape.com/joe/articles/gooddancing.htm

Good Dancing, or Whatever?!
by Joe Wieder

I'm in a Brazilian nightclub here in New York, Club Indigo. The music is Lambada. There’s 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. It’s sexy and it’s beautiful. The audience applauds wildly and I applaud along with them.

Fast forward a couple of years. I’m at a dance social in a dance studio here in New York. The music is salsa. There’s a dance show. Two couples come out, four very attractive young men and women. The men are fully dressed, the women are not. The women’s 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 don’t applaud. In fact, I'm disappointed, even a bit angry.

Now, I’m wondering. Am I the only person who didn’t 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 wasn’t about dancing.

So, here’s what I’m 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 Anton.

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, I’ve 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 dance studio.

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 don’t 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. It’s just a shame that sometimes the choreographers and promoters don’t give them more and better material to work with. 

Joe Wieder
© 2001 Joe Wieder. All rights reserved.



See a rebuttal to this article by Lisa Linhardt - "To Cloth, Or To Be Clothed".

More Articles on Dance Floor Psychology, Getting More Partners, and Dance Floor Etiquette   


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