Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Does a Desire for Dance Denote a Decade of Depression?

There has been a very interesting phenomenon taking place in the last few years which is both encouraging and disturbing. I’m speaking of the reemergence of dance into our national psyche. With a slew of shows, from the ever-tacky and totally addictible “Dancing with the Stars” to the more exciting “So You Think You Can Dance” to the horribly dull “Dance Wars: Carrie Ann vs. Bruno” (should have been renamed “Dance Bores”), America has been lapping up dance shows with a hunger I’ve never witnessed before.

When I was a child, I loved to dance. I would put on my records and dance around the living room as if I were Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. It wasn’t until later, when I tried dancing around my first grade classroom that I discovered this was not acceptable behavior for a boy. The unfortunate consequences I experienced later on the playground further solidified my realization that dance was something best left to the girls. Of course, when I was in college and started going out to clubs, dancing was an acceptable part of the dating ritual. (Though I also learned you should never look like you’re enjoying it too much. Just bob your head and move your body, and keep a slight grimace on your face. That was acceptable dance protocol in my neck of the woods.)

But now dancing has come back with a vengeance, with unlikely support from macho sport stars like Emmet Smith and Helio Castroneves. It almost feels like “opposite day,” because even ballroom dancing has become “cool” again. But why is this phenomenon occurring now? Why are Americans so thirsty for talent, and entertainment, and a good pirouette? Could it be that the last four or five years have been so stressful, and the current state of the economy so scary, that we are harkening back to the days of the Great Depression when big Hollywood musicals were the best escape from the harsh reality of life?

Seems plausible. Only this time it’s different, because there appears to be a new respect for dancing, fueled by wild new moves of energetic street performers and new dance forms like crumping and hip hop. So though I am very happy that dancing has become “cool” again, I’m afraid it points to a much bigger problem. Depression. When people are depressed, or when there is a depressed economy, people naturally turn to something that is out of the norm. They gravitate towards fantasy or romance stories, and find comfort in the energy and talent they observe in extraordinary individuals. No wonder talent competitions of all kinds have emerged over the last few years. We need someone to root for. Someone to throw our support behind. Someone who will ultimately unify as a country. How appropriate that we turn to an art form that is the ultimate expression of man’s strength and versatility, of his creative and emotional capacity, of his triumph over challenges and difficulty. If only our country’s leaders had a little more of those qualities, we might not be in the current state we’re in.

Even Paul Abdul, not the brightest lightbulb in the lamp, seems to have hit upon the current collective thought with her appropriately titled "I Want to Dance Like There's No Tomorrow." I'm hoping the song isn't also prophetic as well.

But that’s just me. What do you think of the current dance craze?


Mo said...

I have to admit the whole TV dance craze escaped me... until I fell for the kids on "Step It Up And Dance" -- pure cheez but I loved it.
And my future ex-husband Cody won!

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Hey, I love Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann and Dancing with the Stars.

But to answer your question, it's why ABBA is so popular right now --make sure you go see Mamma Mia! July 18th to cheer you up after you've seen Batman: The Dark Knight --when there's too much anxiety and angst and heaviness going on in the world, people need to cope.

Dance, going out there, self-destructive behaviors, and yes, even ABBA are escapes, some joyous, some not-so-much from the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that our media and our government is piling on us every single day.

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life....wouldn't you rather dance to ABBA than read another headline about our soldiers in Iraq or some horrible racist intolerant thing our politicans' ministers muttered under their breath or screamed from a pulpit?

I know I would.


tashabud said...

I agree with Matthew S. go dance where ever. I dance to the music at home all the time. My daughter and hubby just smile when they see me dancing away. No, I'm not a professional dancer. I just like to move with any kind of music beat. I'd like to watch all the dancing and singing competition shows, but my work schedule doesn't allow it. Great post.

Sue said...

My daughter is a dancer and we are very into So you think you can dance, but thats not really the point you were making. I think you have a really solid theory on people needing someone to cheer for. The United States certainly is in a depression right now and we have given up any hope for our current president to get us out of it.

BillyWarhol said...

yeah i think the Debacle of the last 8 Years could explain it*


Henson Ray said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.
Mo--I didn't watch "Step It Up.." but I heard a lot about Cody.
Matt--I found the Dance Wars a little tedious...or maybe I found Carrie Ann and Bruno a little tedious...just didn't hold my attention as much as the other shows.
Tashabud--these days, I dance whenever I want to. It's very freeing.
Sue--The arts have always been a helpful panacea during hard times. I just hope these don't last too long.
Billywarhol--Hear, hear!!!!

RoxiticusDH said...

Hey, look who's back on your EntreCard widget! Good times here in hell. I don't know where I saw it, but another blogger had comparisons of various Presidents/candidates dancing, and I laughed, as I was intended to do.


P.S. -- Have you checked out Matt's six-pack today? SSSSSSSSSSizzle.