TV: Dance in the Comfort of Your Home

I still remember the days when I would eagerly await the latest movie with all the right moves, since there was so little live dance in Pittsburgh. The best of the best?  That Google-like opening camera sequence that swooped in on the playground in West Side Story. And I went back repeatedly to catch Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, a ballet that elicited passionate paroxysms, relatively speaking, from the New York Times’ critic Alastair Macaulay in its recent American Ballet Theatre performances.

Well, now the dance is coming to me…in my home…at my leisure, with the help of On Demand, DVR and the Internet.

It’s everywhere, so it seems, virtually every night of the week. Or you can view them on your computer…whenever. But certainly the array of programs should appeal to virtually every taste. Well, almost. There are some who are resistant to the artistic quality, like Bill T. Jones, who has been vocal about the topic. But, let’s face it, they have already had an effect on dance-at-large and are not going away, which is a subject for another blog article. In the meantime, here’s a brief rundown:

America’s Best Dance Crew. (MTV)  ABDC just concluded Season 7, with the Electrolytes capturing the crown this year. But if you haven’t been following (and most of American hip hop groups and studios have), catch up online and look ahead to Randy Jackson’s next competition.

Bunheads. (ABC Family, Mondays at 9 p.m.) Finally! A smart show about dance. If you liked the Gilmore Girls, writer Amy Sherman-Palladin has moved from small town life to small town life dance in this tale of a ballerina turned Las Vegas showgirl who impulsively marries a man, moves to a California coastal town and awkwardly settles into life with his mom, who happens to run the local ballet studio. You have to be adventurous to like the odd little paths that the story line takes. Jaw-dropping, surprising and thrilling, Sutton Foster, to those of us who haven’t seen her star on Broadway, is a revelation. In a world of botox, she has a Gumby-like face that registers real emotions. And her timing, which is everything in dance, is applied generously to the terrific plots. Love it!

Breaking Pointe. (CW, Thursdays at 8 p.m.) Here we move behind the scenes of ballet, which has been a virtual no-no in the past. Ballet West, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, opened its doors to the cameras for this reality show. They tackle some taboo subjects about ballet, to their credit, including the stress during promotion time, when some dancers are cut, and the ignominy of being placed in the second cast. The cast is glamorous — this is a top ten American company — and we also explore a robust heterosexual perspective of an art form usually viewed as fey. I predict that it will create new audiences for ballet.

Dance Moms. (Lifetime, Tuesdays at 9 p.m.) We’re in the midst of season two and the Dance Moms are once again locking horns with Abby Lee Miller — the woman we love to hate. Even though the story lines are faux beyond belief — the pyramid, the changing of the routines during the competition season (both things that don’t usually happen) — it’s the Abby-isms that keep viewers coming back.

Dance Moms Miami. (Lifetime, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.) DMM was created to play off the popularity of Dance Moms. It has a Latino flair, but not as much heart as the original.

So You Think You Can Dance. (Fox, Wednesdays at 8; Results on Thursdays). Nigel and company seem to be Nurturers this season, recognizing the dancers’ talents and not cutting them to shreds, which caused problems in previous years, particularly season three’s brilliant runner-up, Danny Tidwell. They have learned that good technique has to be the foundation, that the emotional content is icing, so to speak. We’ll see if America can finally recognize true dance talent — the best results have come from those who never won.

Speaking of SYTYCD, season two runner-up Travis Wall gets his own show in August on Oxygen. It will trace him and three friends as they form a dance troupe. And the perennial popularity of Dancing With the Stars resumes in the fall.

The only thing is, will American dance studio professionals turn away from live performances and embrace dance in their own homes?

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