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The Dumbing Down of Dance and Alliterative Excess

This article in the

Washington Post laments the fact that the American public seems to want less of

Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing the works of


Twyla Tharp and more B-list celebrities learning to salsa. Network and public television have listened.

"...The sharp rise in reality-show dance on TV is matched by a dizzying drop in public television broadcasts of the pros. In other words, the washed-up celebrities and adventurous athletes of "Dancing With the Stars" are all that the viewing public knows of dance these days, since ballet and modern dance companies have been virtually voted off the air."

The article points out, in a commentary from Jac Venza, longtime executive producer of PBS' "Great Performances" series, the ratings for adventurous, quality dance were always really low. Despite those ratings, the performances continued, capturing groundbreaking collaborations between dancer, choreographer, and artist.

PBS now has a substantial library of those performances and we, in turn, have an artistic catalog we can resource. This is no longer happening and that, to me, seems like the major loss. I'll admit, I'm not one to sit through PBS dance performances, but, then again, I don't watch " Dancing With the Stars " either. I do know that for the sake of cultural and artistic legacy, I could care less about preserving Marie Osmond's take on the rumba.

The question becomes who will pay for this preservation? The productions are getting more expensive and, in terms of corporate philanthropy, there hasn't been a single donor with the passion to keep dance on television, as there has been in years past.


The article then asks a crucial question:

But can we culturally afford not to have concert dance on TV? "Dance in America" educated a generation of viewers about ballet and modern dance. Enter the uneducated generation. If no one knows what a ballet is, or what a modern dance or tap dance performance looks like, who the heck is going to buy tickets?

How important do you think it is to preserve televised dance performances of the "Dance in America" and "Great Performances" variety? I guess the other question is, do you like "Dancing with the Stars" and, if so, why? I have close friends, one of whom is a modern dancer, who love this show. One could argue that these are two very different discussions, but the fact of the matter is, resources are backing "Dancing with the Stars" and its new spinoff , while televised performances of modern dance and ballet starve for funding and audiences.