Today I’d like to introduce 4dancers newest contributor, who will be writing about “So You Think You Can Dance”, among other things. Read more about Kimberly Peterson’s background in her bio at the end of this post, and be sure and chime in if you have something to add to what she has said here. I’m thrilled to have her aboard…
You’ll find her writing to be more than a mere “re-hash” of the show, but rather a closer look at some of the deeper issues that are raised by it. Read on… – Catherine
This perfectly technical and yet expressive dancer is also inherently malleable, utilized simultaneously as both tool and material, from which a choreographer can construct their vision. It’s the purpose of the show, So You Think You Can Dance, to find a dancer who has found this illusive “sweet spot”.
While specializing in one particular genre, each dancer is tested and pushed to the limit in any number of genres from the highly classical and technical, to the guttural nature of street dance and every point in between. As the season gets underway, the audition process reveals much about the connections between genres, technique, performance and this “sweet spot”.
Watching the audition process and looking back over the previous seasons, there seems to be a clear pattern between the style of dance a dancer specializes in and the probability of getting straight through to Vegas vs. the choreography round. While open and aware of the trends and upcoming genres, it appears that certain styles do seem to lend themselves better than others to success in both the audition round as well as future success on the show.
This being said, the standard of excellence achieved by a dancer who has found the “sweet spot” could very well be found in a dancer who specialized in a specific genre, and even a particular style of the genre. This makes me wonder if this notion isn’t a tad bit outdated – if the “consummate” dancer isn’t a moot point. It’s an important distinction and one that So You Think You Can Dance seems to be challenging.
Dancers who truly are excellent, transcend genre and instead take the audience on a journey of honest experience. Truly this isn’t something innate to only one genre and certainly this can be achieved without the mastery of every style of dance. But perhaps it is precisely because of this transcendence that the idea of a “sweet spot” still holds sway.
While the show focuses on finding a dancer who can do any style of dance required, they are not simply interested in technical ability. They recognize with stunning clarity the ability of an audience to be moved by the dance and hold this ideal equally, if not a bit higher, than simple technical aptitude. This raises many questions about the nature of the “sweet spot” and if, in fact, the understanding of the term itself is changing.
Does the “sweet spot” matter? Given the multifaceted approach to many genre styles, does mastery of a genre really “limit” a dancer? Why attempt to master every style? Do choreographers really want or need so much power as to mold the very essence of a dancer; and how could you make work in that way without subjugating the contributions of the dancers and compromising their connection to the work? How can a dancer be valued if they are simply a material or a tool to be used?
So can we/are we redefining the “sweet spot”? I think we are. Terms only mean what the general culture ascribes to them, and while those obtaining the “sweet spot” have long been seen as the ultimate dancer, I believe we are changing what that means. Rather than focusing on the ability to master all styles, we are focusing on the elements a dancer possesses that make them truly excellent, regardless of style:
- The ability to comprehend and utilize movement principles to distill the essence, meaning or feeling of movement.
- Having their own vision, creative opinions and awareness of the world/society in which they live and work.
- The ability to incorporate their vision, the vision of other dancers and the choreographer’s vision into the dance work.
- The ability to honestly connect with the audience in a meaningful way.
- The ability to utilize these principles regardless of the terminology or the genre used.
As the show progresses and we watch the auditions continue in Vegas, pay attention to not only the technical prowess exemplified, but also the honest connection in performance. Look for dancers who are intelligent with their performances, bringing themselves into the dance given.
Try not to be swayed by mere repetition of a given phrase, but those dancers who add to it – those who give all of themselves to a phrase, developing the work as they perform it.
Lets see how often the judges get it right…
Contributor Kimberly Peterson is a transplant to Minneapolis from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She has received her Bachelors and Masters of Arts degrees from Texas Woman’s University’s prestigious dance program.
Her graduate research entitled: B-Sides: Independent Record Labels and the Representation of Dancers explored the parallels between the independent music industry and current methods of dancer representation. This research has produced a vision of a for-profit system of representation for the arts based largely on the institutional structures of independent record labels, for profit businesses, and the unique atmosphere of her time at Texas Woman’s University. This research is still developing and Kimberly continues to develop her research for future presentation and publication.
She has taught as a substitute teacher for Denton Dance Conservatory, a pilot after-school program with the Greater Denton Arts Council, a master class series with Dance Fusion and a number of personally choreographed works. She has also served from 2000-2004 as the assistant to the coordinator of KidsDance: Rhythms for Life – a lecture demonstration on the principles of dance to area second graders that is now in its 11th season.
Drawing on her experience with producing dance works, Kimberly has served as a lighting designer, stage manager, event coordinator, volunteer and as an advisor in various roles: most recently RedEye Theatre, The Soap Factory, Minnesota Fringe Festival and MNPR’s Rock the Garden in collaboration with the Walker Arts Center.
She was also a featured choreographer, representing her university at the American College Dance Festival Association’s South Central Region’s informal concert series in 2002. Her work has been commissioned by Tarrant County College in 2006 and has been set upon Zenon Dance Studio’s scholarship dancers as a featured choreographer in 2010.