Thursday, July 26, 2007

Waiting on the World...

**Caveat: I suppose it could be argued that this post belongs on my TV blog, but its timely political element prompts me to lend it some Street Cred.**

Every week, I watch So You Think You Can Dance and think about how I wish I could make my body move like these dancers can. I've never been the biggest dance fan, even though I took dance classes for 15 years. But my sister coerced me into watching this show because she loves Mia Michaels' choreography, and she knows that while I'm not a big dance aficionado, I do LOVE good choreography. She was right.

I'm so moved by these dances every week, particularly the ones choreographed by Mia or Wade (contemporary choreographers... and both nominated for Emmys), as well as Shane (hip-hop choreographer). Anyway, I'm not planning on waxing on about the dancing or the episodes. My point is that what I like about the dancing on this show is that it really is art. It's simply beautiful to watch, and I've grown to think of contemporary dance as one of the most moving forms of expression. These dancers say more with their bodies than most people ever SAY, period. See Mia's choreography from last season here (the dancing starts at 1:45):

That being said, I have a real problem with something that went down this week. I have yet to go back and watch the DVRs to get the exact transcript of all this, but tonight the results show became an apology fest.

Mia kicked things off by apologizing to the US Navy for wearing a fashion jacket last night that looks like a military jacket, except apparently one of the emblems on the sleeve is upside down. She said she had NO idea that the emblem was upside down, but apparently the Navy was really offended. (Why is the Navy watching So You Think You Can Dance?) I mean... ok. Yeah, maybe that wasn't the best wardrobe decision. It's just that anyone who watches this show knows that Mia is absolutely bizarre. (Her wardrobe every week is bound to offend anyone with a fashion sensibility. Haha.) But, okay. She also apologized for it a SECOND time later in the show. Sigh. Once was enough, Mia. We know you're just odd, not unpatriotic.

It's really unfortunate that Mia's wardrobe snafu was paired with Wade's political "controversy." And I use the word controversy loosely. Here's what happened.

They changed the format of the competition this week, adding a portion of the show where each remaining dancer dances to the same choreography and the same song, so that the viewers can compare them all on a more level playing field. Great idea, in my opinion. The performers danced this week's solos to Wade's contemporary choreography of John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change." In his explanation of the number, Wade mentioned that he wanted the solos to be powerful, so he had the dancers think about the lyrics of "Waiting on the World to Change" in terms of the war. (I'd argue that the song's already about the war.) (View the lyrics here, or listen to the song below.)


Regardless of your opinion of John Mayer or this song, this show is about dance. Okay, yes, we had to listen to/watch this 10 times in a row. Yes, their costumes were shirts they painted themselves, with peace signs on the front and a word chosen by the dancer stenciled on the back. (Words like "communication" "love" "peace" "passion"... these are not unpatriotic words.) But I didn't even notice any of that stuff when I watched the dances in the first place, because the choreography was amazing, the dancing was emotional and pristine, and the message was touching.

Anyway, after Mia's wardrobe apology to the US Navy, show producer and panel judge Nigel made an apology to the NATION on behalf of the show for Wade's number last night. (Wade was conspicuously M.I.A.) Yes, an apology to the country. Apparently they'd gotten a lot of complaints, and he wanted to make it clear that So You Think You Can Dance is behind the country and the troops.

Here's my problem... why is So You Think You Can Dance making a national apology for a message of peace??

First of all, the TV show didn't write the song.

Secondly, when did peace become subversive?! (Oh wait, silly me. It's always been that way. Okay, strike that.)

Thirdly, everyone's got to face the facts. This mess we've gotten ourselves into means that a whole lot of people are dying. These kids on this show have friends, brothers, sisters -- and even age-cohort counterparts who they don't know in other countries -- who are dying while they're dancing. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but the tears in the dancers' eyes last night show that it's true. I still don't understand how wishing for peace means you don't support the troops. In my eyes it means you do support them - you hope they can come home safely, and soon. I also don't understand how Wade's touching choreography has people saying his Emmy nomination should be taken away. His Emmy nom should be taken away?! You've GOT to be kidding.

Let's face it... art has always been used this way. Maybe because it's so powerful, art has been used throughout history to make political and social statements, advocate for change and encourage peace and harmony. I guess maybe art is inherently subversive. War time doesn't change that. (Insert arguments about how art for Art's sake and art commercially marketed for television are two very different things. That's a debate for another time. I maintain my argument.)

What's more, art is about expression. What's wrong with expressing a desire to change the world?! If you're a person who doesn't want to change the world, move the hell over and let the rest of us try to make a difference. The solos last night were emotional, honest, and anything but subversive. If we're not fighting for peace, love, communication... then why are we fighting?

We aren't supposed to express anything at all, is that it? We're supposed to mindlessly agree with everything the government says? That doesn't sound much like American precepts of democracy to me. It also doesn't sound very smart.

I won't get in to all my problems with the war... that's not even my point here. My point is that it was dancing, it was art, it was expression, it was powerful... and it shouldn't be flagged by the Department of Homeland Security or anyone in the square states for being anti-Bush or unpatriotic. (I'll also omit here my argument about how maybe being anti-Bush is the most patriotic thing you can do. Oh wait, I guess I just made it.)

Passion. Peace. Love. Community. Those sound like the foundations of democracy and patriotism to me. All I'm wondering is, what ever happened to freedom of expression? And if it's not allowed in the world of dance... we're really in trouble. One more reason I'm waiting on the world to change.

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