Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Finals of Superstars as disappointing as the rest of the series

The finale of SSD was broadcast Monday night. It was a one hour episode in which the top three contenders in each category—solo, duet, and team—competed for bronze, silver, and gold medals. The judges scores were hidden until each three performances were completed (relieving us of the melodramatic South African judge: “I feel compelled to give you a three” as if God was guiding his hand). The winning soloist went, perhaps predictably, to the Russian ballerina; the duet, rightly, went to the Argentine couple whose artistry was superior; and the team gold went to the US hip hoppers, a great injustice, in my opinion. The scores were totaled and one Superstar team was declared: USA with Gold and Australia with silver.

I am sorry to say that the final episode was every bit as disappointing as the rest of the series. Michael Flatley’s Yankee Doodle performance was pre-recorded, over-lit, and tackily costumed. The series seems to have been put together on a miniscule budget, with little serious thought given to the comparative quality of the dancers or their professional or amateur standing, and with utter disregard for how the dances were presented for a television audience. The camera work was so erratic that the performances were cut into ribbons and randomly flashed across the screen. It literally made me dizzy. It was a disservice to the dancers, the choreographers, the fans, and to the art of dance itself. I doubt the show will return for a second season.

Nonetheless, Superstars of Dance provided us with some interesting things to think about (the nature of dance and of competitions) and moments of kinesthetic pleasure.

I wish the producers had been more transparent about the audition system: How were these teams selected, by what criterion, and by whom? How are the artists challenged week-to-week? On SYTYCD, ABDC, and American Idol, contestants are given new challenges every week: they are required to perform outside of their personal training and experience. The finalists in those shows represent broadly talented artists; and in fact, the process of learning new styles or responding to specific challenges forces them to grow as artists. Witnessing individual development is one of the most rewarding aspects of these programs.

I am delighted that American audiences have been introduced to two of India’s classical forms, Bharatya Natyam and Kathak, and to the exciting social dance, bhangra. These dances have deep histories and strong national associations and I hope we will see more of them as the dance world globalizes. The Irish team performed with characteristic precision and the duets and soloists surprised me with their grace. They were highly underrated. I expected, and got, a professional-level performance from the Argentine tango duet. (I am planning to be a tango dancer in my next incarnation. Or a hula dancer. I will need many lives.)

Don’t forget to watch America’s Best Dance Crew on Thursday nights!

No comments:

Post a Comment