So U Think U Can Dance?

Curator's Note

In this clip from Israel’s “So U Think U Can Dance”, two Israeli Hip-Hoppers, Shocko and Gitit get to choreograph their own routine. The duo use this gesture to settle a score with judge David Dvir, a representative of the Israeli “Ballet old-guard”. In part, this routine was the production’s way of recognizing the pair’s large fan-base, who had protested the program’s privileging of classically trained dancers over Hip-Hoppers — not only for their particular technical skills, but also for the shape of their bodies. Indeed, Dvir had constantly censured the couple — while celebrating several horrific Hip-Hop performances by classically trained contestants — making particularly offensive remarks about Gitit’s weight, Shocko’s posture, and the pair’s proudly cultivated Afros. The routine begins in “mute” representing the loss of voice experienced by the duo on the show. It culminates in the incorporation of Dvir’s recorded voice, commenting: “I don’t like it… its always “flex” and never “point” and its nothing”. The dancers then take off their sneakers and jump around, flexing and pointing their feet alternately. The camera cuts to a close up on Dvir’s infuriated expression, and the couple laugh their way off stage. This clip is a good example of the way a locally produced version of a global franchise can serve as a site where “local” culture is produced through friction between conflicting cultural influences. Interestingly, the hegemonic position is not staked on reifying “national” genres like Israeli folk dance (itself a hybrid of European and Arab styles), but rather, on traditional Eurocentric notions of “cultural refinement” being challenged by a new, globally-influential African-American cultural form. This helps counter the simplistic essentialist argument that in “local” format adaptations a “pure” or homogeneous national culture is negotiated through foreign forms. Instead the hybrid dynamics of national culture itself are highlighted, as well as the fundamental role played by global television formats in societies undergoing cultural and economic processes of globalization.

Comments

Sharon Shahaf's picture

For a better quality of this

For a better quality of this and other clips from the Israeli “So U Think” please go directly to http://www.keshet-tv.com/borndancer/lobbyvideo.aspx This is the “video lobby” for the show on the broadcaster’s website. Unfortunately it only works with Explorer browser (and possibly only with PC computers) and…it’s in Hebrew. But fear not - To watch clips you can scroll down a little and click on any od the smaller windows (on the right of the little video screen). To get to this particular clip, select program 16 (on the orange drop down menu on the far right side) and scroll down to the very last clip from that show. Good luck and feel free to email me with questions. Sharon

This clip is an Israeli

This clip is an Israeli version of an American show. It is neat to see how tey inorporated hip hop music and dance showing the influence that the hip hop or African American culture has not just locally, but globally as well. I am glad that these two got a chance to show the world “what they are made of” after beign looked down upon a censured by the community.

Avi Santo's picture

Agreed, but should hip-hop

Agreed, but should hip-hop become a “fragrant” global commodity that any group can simply appropriate in order to express struggle?

I thought what these two

I thought what these two Israeli hip-hop dancers did was fantastic. They stood up for themselves with their art which made it even more personal for them. There is some truth that hip-hop is a global commodity just like with a lot of things being passed around the world. Hip-hop is an art form and it is taught in many schools and has been appropriated by many, therefore it is a global commodity. It does express struggles and the Israeli dancers were able to use the dance form to do just that, which is acceptable for any dancer despite their culture or race. Hip-hop has the fragrance of African-American culture with it because of where it originated from and that is not going to change. Hip-hop has become a global commodity just like these reality TV formats have. Every country just about has their own twist or version of a particular reality show nowadays. The show is supposed to represent that country and Israel with this dance show was represented by two hip-hop dancers that were Israelis. They should not be overlooked or treated any differently. What is very interesting about this show is it brought awareness to the inner tension that the country has with its own shades of people. There are a lot of people who feel like Dvir and that’s just toxic.

In resonse to Avi Santo's

In resonse to Avi Santo’s question regarding whether or not hip hop should become a “fragrant” global commodity, I think that it is acceptable to do so. Yes it is a part of music that was created with American culture with African Americans reflecting thier stuggles in life and culture, but there is no reason why hip hop can not be used around the world to represent the same thing I believe. This clip is an example of how these two dancers were critized about thier look, from thier hair to the way they pointed thier toes to the way they dances different from the other dancers in the compitition. The struggles they went through in the comptition were reflected in thier dance and they made a statement and spoke thier mind without the use of words, but through dance and the hip hop beats and music.

I agree with Tyler that it

I agree with Tyler that it is acceptable for hip hop to become a “fragrant” global commodity. Though it may be viewed as a “musical style” and perhaps an “art form” based in African Amercian culture, I am curious as to what reasons are behind its popularity and positioning as a global commodity, and whether it’s related to a common ground of the desire/need to express struggle, an appreciation of the rhythms and dance styles incorporated, or perhaps some combination?

Hip hop does has become a

Hip hop does has become a fragrant to global commodity. Hip hop is more than just a type of music but a style. Hip Hop artist uses Hip Hop to express their struggles and their accomplishments. Many can feel the same way and with Hip hop and use it to express how they feel such as the dancers. Different cultures our influenced by other cultures and it can take time for a whole to accept other cultures such as the judge.

I want to see the show go to

I want to see the show go to a Globally Dance off. Gather the best dancers from around the globe. Then have a dance off. It would be cool to see the diffrent styles of dance all together in one room. It would be like the Olympics of Dancing. Dancing has been an artform for ages. It expresses feelings and emotions. These dancers were creative in making their routine to get back at the judges. Very clever.

Hip Hop indeed expresses

Hip Hop indeed expresses struggle and is quickly becoming a fragrant global commodity. Is hip hop’s popularity due to the messages it portrays? Are many people viewing hip hop as an art form? Could hip hop’s popularity be due to the controversy it stirs up? When growing up, the things that our parents tell us to stay away from somehow become more appealing simply because our parents disagree. I enjoy Hip Hop very much, but when I sit and take in the lyrics, I wonder why it’s so popular? Could Hip Hop just be a way of giving it’s listeners a rebellious hi?

Sharon Shahaf's picture

Hallo folks Great to see a

Hallo folks Great to see a such a lively discussion developing here two months after I post this! I definitely agree that questions of cultural appropriation/cultural dominance are complicated by the global flow and popularity of hip-hop… If we define appropriation as a situation when the dominant takes on/mimic the culture of the subordinated to transgress into unchrted terrotories, to feel sexy or cool etc. - how do we interpret young Israeli’s taking on hip-hop? Should we foreground the dominance of American culture via MTV etc. in which case Israel is subordinated and the “mimicry” involved represents something different (the power relation at stake being the “cultural imperialism” of U.S culture?) Or … Should we consider that one of the dancers, Shocko, was introduced on the show as belonging to a lower-class Mizrahi background (Mizrahi Jews are those who immigrated to Israel from Middle Eastern and Arab countries and have been culturally, ethnically, economically, and otherwise opressed by the Eurocentric Ashkenazi Israeli elite) Shocko (which means literally Chocolate and refers to his brown skin tone) comes from a notorious south Tel-Aviv slam populated by struggling Mizrahi (Arab-Jewish) immigrants since the 1960s. Should his “appropriation” of hip-hop be considered in relation to that working-class ethnically marginalized background. Does it make him a more “authentic” hip-hop dancer?

I am not sure about Gitit as she can pass as both Mizrahi and Ashkenazi but I do have reasons to believe she comes from a more middle class background as she has had more access to training as a dancer.

In any event both of them were marginalized by (some of) the judges but widely celebrated by the audience. The global popularity of Hip-hop demonstrates how issues of race complicate archaic notions of “cultural imperialism”. When the “America” that influences the world is not white America a new ambivalent cultural field emerges. The fact that the cultural dominance of African Americans in no way shape or forms signifies the end of racism and racial discrimination in the U.S makes this all the more complicated. This case study begins to demonstrate then that we need a new theory/language to discuss what happens when cultural forms travel globally and get dislodged from their “original” context…

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