I had very high hopes when I saw the trailer for the ‘Legion of Extraordinary Dancers’ or LXD, the ‘first online dance adventure’ or whatever the slogan is they are operating under.
Why? The trailer makes it look like there might be a variety of styles of dancing,superheroes, great cinematography, and the ever fabulous ‘other asian’ from Glee (Harry Shum Jr.- who I also discovered is the dancing silhouette from the ipod commercials).The trailer looked like a dance version of Batman- the good one with Heath Ledger, not the terrible one with George Clooney.
here’s my gripe with this lesion of dance video now bombarding hulu:
1. Each week features a new ‘episode’ or chapter- yet the stories don’t have any connecting thread from week to week. There’s something else missing, hmm…..what could it be. Oh yeah, a BASIC PLOT. I was really annoyed that it often sets up a really simple premise (a new guy hired at the office/ two guys messing around in a barn..that came out wrong, as in training/dancing/battling- like how sometimes boys think ‘playing’ is attempting to beat the crap out of each other) with talking.The show opens like any normal t.v. show and isn’t until we are supposed to sort have a grasp of what’s happening that the dancing starts. I am bothered by this because the power and beauty of storytelling through movement is completely lost here. I’m not saying all great dance has to have a ‘story’- a lot of great choreography doesn’t consist of characters resolving conflict, forging relationships, etc. but it usually conveys or drums up some sort of emotion. When I watch LXD all I can think is, ‘wow look at him kick! um…is it over yet?’
2. The music and cinematography- I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine who watches ‘So you think you can dance’ and she was saying how annoying it is when the camera will only focus on one dancer, how that must really hack off the choreographers when the t.v. land audience doesn’t get to see the work as it is meant to be presented. A close-up shot of some pretty girl and her pushed up cleavage might do wonders for the ratings and votes, but it sure messes with the integrity of the work, on so many levels.
Video for dance is tricky, I know. My dad used to record the videos of old performances with Alexandra ballet Company in St. Louis and he would record every performance, from different angles. I used to help him pick takes that were more flattering (to me, if possible. Ooo, I held that arabesque longer, go with take A!) . It is hard to keep the video visually interesting, while still showing the full picture- it’s fine to do close-ups during solos but those sweeping shots during group sections don’t give the full stage picture- and the beauty and power of so many bodies moving together in space can be lessened. Anyways, what bothers me the most about the cinematography here is that it is so flashy that it reminds me of how much production value is being brought to the table, which somehow is distracting to how amazing the dancers are. I liked the premise of dancers as superheroes because in some way, dancers to me are superheroes. everyone has legs and arms and muscles and bones but can 99 percent of the population do what these dancers in the videos do? Not likely. I for sure can’t do any of it. With how much technology allows people to do (like fixing singers pitch or photoshop in pictures) a flashy production makes what they are doing seem fake to me. I find the way the show is presented too glossy, it takes away from the humanity of the dancers.
3. I mentioned that I can’t do any of what these dancers do. This statement is completely true, and bothersome to me since I AM a dancer, of one sort. Am I the only one who wants to see something besides this new age break dancing meets capoeira? (Brazilian street dance/fighting) First of all, every ‘chapter’ features some kind of dance off, so the relationship dynamic between dancers is always the same. And it’s just fancy kicks and tricks and flips and spinning around on your head over and over. This is not to say I’m not impressed and amazed by these dancers, but come on, I’m not asking for classical ballet but spice it up a little and give us something different. Oh and give us something with a story told through DANCE and lets the amazing dancers, not fancy camera tricks, be the stars.
(For a cool example of Dance Videography, check out contemporary ballet company ‘La la la Human Steps; Amelia’ on you tube. The dancers are amazing, the choreography is strange and wonderful, and the lighting, set, and camera only enhances how fascinating they are!)