National Dance Styles and Global Television Formats

Curator's Note

My clip, a feature performance from Dans Eder Misin, (Turkey’s adaptation of the popular franchise known in the U.S. as So You Think You Can Dance) signals the ways in which dance formats contribute to global television’s negotiations between national particulars and transnational media flows. Here, a demonstration of Flamenco technique climaxes with the appearance of a lone female Sufi dancer, whose entrance onto the stage is set against the fusion sounds of ambient trance. The performance evokes a complex network of global and local tensions, not only between different culturally prescribed ways of moving, but between local forms of secular commercialism and religious worship, and between traditional and modern Sufi Muslin beliefs concerning women’s participation in public whirling rituals. The performance, like so many international adaptations of SYTYCD, traffics lavishly in the sensual pleasures of international youth culture’s hybrid gestural and rhythmic aesthetics, while at the same time renegotiating social and national identities through movement and performance styles that enlist the body in television’s own ongoing cross-fertilization of global and local markets. For me, the appeal of the Flamenco-Sufi performance in particular, like the SYTYCD franchise overall, is that it produces, through contradictory juxtapositions of human movement, global sentiments that are always inevitably national—or specific to a particular history, location, and cast of familiar characters, or characterizations. The clip raises questions relevant to my work on global television. Indeed, to the extent that dance serves as critical markers for the production of social and national identities, how might Dance Studies contribute to the development of Global Television Studies, particularly where questions of format adaptation are concerned? Does the recent international popularity of dance-themed reality television shows suggest that the time has come to rethink relations between dance and nation?


Anna Beatrice Scott's picture

This is a particularly hard

This is a particularly hard way into a difficult topic: I could not see the dancing because of the banner and had to force myself to ignore it. This resulted in my straining not to turn it off because of how I was taught where dance is located and how it is acknowledged. That said, perhaps your study might look more at how the movement itself is framed on screen, and not so much, at least initially, what it entails. There are so many issues about taste here, where dance resides, how it actually starts, what signals its end, and how one standardizes it to become content.

Avi Santo's picture

and yet I think the banner

and yet I think the banner ad that runs across the screen and obscures the television viewing audience’s view of the step work is partly the point. It is partly how these movements are framed (or covered up), though I do think that a closer look at camera movements, shot selection, etc, might yield some interesting results as well. There is clearly something going on with the inclusion of the Sufi dancer in the Flamenco routine. I was interested in the relatively separate yet equal spaces these dances occupied on the same stage. If the ideological message conveyed is about redefining global/local identities, then perhaps an obscuring of the footwork is a necessary aesthetic choice, since most viewers are not masters of technique, but are invested in the spectacle. Too much detail might take away from the effect.

Jane Desmond's picture

Thanks for putting this up

Thanks for putting this up Dana. So much to think about here as you lay out in your opening comment. For quite a while I’ve been interested in thinking about how dance forms travel across community boundaries and across audiences, spaces, and places. The first thing that struck me was how, well…tepid the rendition of flamenco was compared to other performances I’ve seen in Spain and the U.S. But of course that might be not at all what the obviously engaged studio audience was perceiving. It’s interesting to think about the persistence of genre names in these competitions (this one includes “hip hop” and “salsa” as some of the other videos that pop up from the show). While not wanting to fall into a trap of some imagined “authenticity,” and recognizing the hybridizing processes at work, there is an interesting persistent tension between the name of the genre, codified elsewhere, and the particular renditions created in other communities for other audiences. We might ask which of the supposedly defining hallmarks of the genre—flamenco in this case— have been preserved (an upright stance for the male, rounded arms, etc.) and which are muted (complex rhythmic footwork using various parts of the feet at a furious pace which is indicated but not actually rendered here with its relatively slow and uncomplex footwork rhythms). Then, as you say, there is the importance of the national symbolism associated with the flamenco and sufi forms, and what these might mean to the specific audiences watching in the studio or on the web.

I’m struck too by your invitation to think about the potential for more connections between Dance Studies and Global Television studies. It would be productive to compare some of the current work on the circulation of music genres and that of dance to consider more what role the centrality of the physical dancing body on television vs. the aurality of the music -circulating on CDs or the radio— plays in these mass mediated forms.


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