The Best Remedy For A Dull Oscars Show: More Dancing
Did the 83rd Annual Academy Awards bore you? I certainly had trouble staying awake through the whole show. Granted, the poor chemistry between the handsome-but-ever-blasé James Franco and his gorgeous-but-geeky co-host Anne Hathaway was partly to blame. Plus, the bland material the show's writers provided them with did not help. But the thing I was most upset about when I was watching this year's production was the lack of dancing!
I know that as an editor of a dance magazine, I'm a biased observer. But I can't believe I'm the only one who was disappointed that the only dancing we saw during the more-than-three-hour-show was in the form of clips from Top Hat and Black Swan. I really think it took away from the glamorous, magical feeling normally associated with such a high-profile event. I suppose last year’s “Old Hollywood” style song-and-dance number choreographed by Adam Shankman and the special performance by The LXD may have spoiled me. But I really think there should have been more dancing in this year's production—especially in a year with a dance movie in the running for "best picture."
Perhaps I'm being too picky about this particular production. I suppose the omission of dance from the program was almost natural considering the degree to which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the organization behind the Oscars) ignores dance-in-film in general. Have you noticed that there isn't even a category devoted to choreography? (Note: The academy did give awards for "Dance Direction" for a brief, three-year-period in the 1930s. Click here to see the nominees and winners.) Seemingly every other element of filmmaking is accounted for at the awards—including writing, editing, music, visual effects, makeup and more—but dancing and choreography goes unrecognized. What gives?
I realize that films about dance are few and far between and that movie musicals have mostly fallen out of favor, but there's still plenty of dance in film, and plenty of hard-working dancers and choreographers whose work doesn't get the respect it deserves in this medium. It seems like a gross oversight that, in the past decade alone, choreographers including Benjamin Millepied (Black Swan), Rob Marshall (Chicago) and Shankman (Hairspray) have flown completely under the radar at the awards.
Here's hoping that the new wave of mainstream enthusiasm for dance being brought about by the popularity of Black Swan will inspire the academy to reconsider its position on dance and move to formally recognize it once again. (If I had my way, I'd add two categories: one focused on choreography and one focused on the dancers who perform in these films.) Not only would such a move give silver screen dancers and choreographers the respect they deserve; it would also likely increase the entertainment value of the annual awards show. Just think about how much more lively the show would be if the dancers from four or five films were to perform excerpts from the dance numbers in their movies in the same way that singers perform songs for the "Original Song" category! I can't think of a better way to break up the string of boring acceptance speeches and take some of the pressure off the hosts to fill time with less-than-witty banter. Win-win!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.