things to think about

today i am thinking about: FAT PEOPLE DANCING
July 1, 2009, 12:56 am
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There is a new television show. It is called “Dance Your Ass Off.” It is about fat people dancing and/or losing weight. This is the pilot episode! As charter members of the National Institute for Fat People Dancing, I am honored to have invited an expert, Nina Kisselgoff, to join in our review.

1. The premise: fat people. Who want to lose weight. By DANCING THEIR ASSES OFF. They’re dancing for their lives! They’re dancing to change their lives! They have a thin person dance coach to guide them. Charlie Brown it out: woh woh woh woh woh.

2. Stupid fat-related episode name: Shake and Rattle Those Rolls

3. Most flabbergasting outfit, and take “flabbergasting” however you want: Ruben’s dance outfit: gray velour loose pants, sheer glitter chiffon multi-layer caftan, waist chain, pompadour, rhinestone “r” on the back of shirt, gold chain with another glitter “r”, and gold jazz shoes.

4. But HOW WAS THE DANCING? For that, I — Ariel Croce — will be joined by Nina Kisselgoff, a guest critic. We are working out our shared criticism, as we are sure you can see from the style of these reviews.

Alicia: Where are her arms?! Where is her range?! Why is fat girl dancing all about putting your ass in the air?! She has spunk. HOLY SPLITS BATMAN.

Ruben: Where are his arms?! Very simple. His biggest talent is lifting his partner, which he does beautifully. He believes in the dance and he has chemistry with his partner. Sometimes he finds a good line and it’s beautiful.

Shayla: HOLY SHIT WE LOVE THIS ONE. SHE JUMPS. SHE CARTWHEELS. SHE DOES THE SPLITS. SHE CAN FUCKING DANCE. She also has good lines and is clearly nailing the choreography. Also, her outfit — silver lame with silver lame fringe, lots of skin. HOT.

Warren: Croce says: Holy crap, that was so compelling and charming. He did the steps, he did them fully, and that’s pretty good. He was charming! Kisselgoff says: I enjoyed it, and the choreography was basic but played to his strengths. I love the fact that he’s not afraid of looking slightly foolish and thus gives 100%. I wish that he had connected to his partner more.

Trice: Croce: This choreography is not that exciting. Her dancing is ok. It is not that exciting to me. She’s just throwing herself around. The fast part was compelling. Kisselgoff : She was committed, she had energy, but it was all over the place.

Angela: Croce says: Oh dear. She is so lost! She is so very lost. Cartwheel is great! No rhythm. Kisselgoff : She had more personality than the other contestants, but personality doesn’t make up for a lack of rhythm and confidence.

Mara: Croce says: Nice kick! She’s really crisp! Kisselgoff says: She’s definitely crisp but she could use more movement in her core. Mara is the first to get an 8 from a judge! She broke through the 8 wall!

Tara: Croce: She is a boring performer. She is just flailing around. Kisselgoff: I am so bored watching this. I feel like I am watching someone’s middle school talent routine in very inappropriate for middle school clothing. These costume designers are not afraid to show fatty stomach and that’s great.

Karla: Croce: she is kind of just jumping around, but she is cute about it at least. The worm! The worm! Kisselgoff : I love that the choreography took advantage of her sense of humor – she did the robot, the roger rabbit, and did the worm from standing!

Miles: Croce: That was so cute! that was so fun! He was actually a REALLY GOOD mover! Kisselgoff : HOW WAS THAT NOT AN 8?

Brandon: Croce: the choreography is good! He is ridiculous in his mouth but he is a good dancer. He is a likable dancer. Kisselgoff : He can move his core more than the other people can, but he clearly feels awkward.

Pinky: Croce: This is bad choreography. It does not make her look good. HANDSTAND! She is pretty tough and she can get it just right. When she is on she is on but she just isn’t quite there and I want her to be so badly. Kisselgoff: She’s tough. She’s crisp and finishes her movements with a pop, but she doesn’t quite know how to place her arms rather than flailing. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t know how to get her arms around her whole body. But she’s definitely got tons of potential.

5. But how about the SCORES? How did our fat people do?

Name Dance Score Weight Loss % Overall
1. Karla 7.0 5.43 12.43
2. Ruben 6.0 4.42 10.42
3. Trice 6.0 4.15 10.15
4. Miles 7.3 2.65 9.95
5. Mara 7.3 2.52 9.82
6. Shayla 7.0 2.37 9.37
7. Alicia 6.3 2.91 9.21
8. Pinky 7.3 1.28 8.58
9. Warren 5.3 3.24 8.54
10. Brandon 6.6 1.56 8.16
11. Tara 5.7 1.90 7.60
12. Angela 5.3 1.88 7.18

6. Let’s talk about the scoring. The judges kept the dance scores very tight — a range of only 5.3 to 7.3.  Some of the most boring dancers are scoring fairly high and some of the good dancers are scoring relatively low. We hope they let the dance scores differentiate further as the scores change because the weight lost is really boring. Across a total of 36 scores, there were 3 8s given, nothing higher, and nothing lower than a 5. Pretty much everyone got 6s and 7s, as you can tell. Also, they are giving credit for panache and selling it, not good technique or skill or difficulty; that’s nice and all, but it means this isn’t much of a dance show.

So then we have the weight scores, where the differentiation really happens. The weight loss spread was much larger — a range of 1.28% to 5.43% . Since all the dancers are scoring so narrowly, the weight loss is where someone can really differentiate themselves. However, this creates an issue: the Pinky Problem.

Pinky is already a dancer — a b-girl — and lost the least weight of anyone. She was critiqued by the British scornful judge as follows (not quite verbatim): “How are you in the bottom two? Rehearsing like that, all that cardio, you should’ve burned more.” But of COURSE Pinky didn’t lose a ton of weight. It sounds like she is already pretty active. If she is already active, her body isn’t going to go into shock and start shedding pounds like some of the people who have been less active. Despite tying for first in her dancing (in a 3-way tie that should have illustrated the need for a bigger point spread), she was in the bottom two — even BEFORE SHE DANCED — because she had lost the least weight. This, more than anything else, makes this a weight loss show whose gimmick is dancing, rather than a dance show whose gimmick is losing weight.

7. Things we love so far:

  1. Ruben the 43 year old gay ex-vegas dancer who has been with his partner for 17 years.
  2. Ruben and his partner John’s snow globe X-mas photo. The snow globe is larger than either of them.
  3. Alicia’s SLIDE TO THE SPLITS.
  5. Karla can do the worm. From standing.
  6. Everything Miles does!
  7. Pinky’s handstand freeze.
  8. Brandon is precious. And totally proud about being a virgin.
  9. Costume designers who are really really excited at the chance to show fat girl stomachs.

8. Things we do not love so far:

  1. This show is trying very hard to say that exercise and eating right will make you healthy, not make you “lose weight” — at least that is the language they use explicitly. However, given the general milieu, some of the marketing, and the weekly weigh in, we are going to consider any reference to “this show will make me healthy” equivalent to “losing weight = make me healthy.” This is still pretty fatphobic, even if it is dressed up nicely. It’s complicated because, well, exercise and eating right WILL make you healthier. But not because of your weight loss or lack thereof; just because it’s good for you.
  2. The scoring issue above. Basically more dance less whatever.
  3. Are there no fat dance professional partners they could find?!

9. Important tallies:

  • Crying occasions: 10
  • Fat = death: 9, with two special shout-outs to type 2 diabetes.
  • “All i need to be happy is lose weight:” 3
  • “Being thin = dates”/being fat = no dates”/If only I were thin, I’d be pretty/handsome: 5.
  • Losing weight/this competition will CHANGE YOUR LIFE: 7
  • Fat people eating uncontrollably: 6
  • I am not NEARLY as fat as these other fat people: 2
  • Choreographically unnecessary open mouths: 15 from Warren, 1 from Mara but it was open for the whole dance, 16 miscellaneous.
  • Instances of choreography calling for fat people jumping: 13
  • Fatty splits: 5

10. Questions for discussion.:

  1. Pinky is already a dancer. She enters competitions. Somehow, she is still fat. Clearly, she has not been dancing her ASS OFF. Or something. Are you at a disadvantage if you are already active when you get on this show, meaning you are less likely to experience a big initial loss once you start exercising?
  2. Ruben’s partner of 17 years is in the ICU fighting cancer. Ruben is on a second-rate cable network’s television dance/weight-loss competition. Is his partner really that supportive? Is all not well in gay snow-globe paradise? INQUIRING MINDS NEED TO KNOW.
  3. Because the judges know who is in the bottom two weight-wise — the last two dancers — they could change their scores to either eliminate someone or keep them around. SKETCHY.
  4. Are they REALLY putting each person up in their very own loft?! Privately?! With their own kitchen and dance studio?! So they are not forced to interact constantly in a grating formula guaranteed to cause drama?! The “next week’s episode” makes this seem like it will not impede the drama, but still: curious!

11. Issues we’ll be watching for:

  1. Are people of color being portrayed as fat because they eat poorly vs. white people are portrayed as just happening to be fat? Do white people get all the “trying to lose weight for noble health reasons” plot lines?
  2. Are there instances of fat positivity that we’re not noticing because they are surrounded by inherent and implicit fatphobia?
  3. When is it bad dancing, and when is it boring choreography?
  4. Will the score ranges get better? As the show continues, will dance score be the deciding factor, or weight loss?

today i am thinking about: RIP PINA BAUSCH
July 1, 2009, 12:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Pina Bausch was a genius. Her dance was visceral and beautiful, emotional and chaotic without sacrificing strong choices. I don’t want to spend the time to research her to eulogize her. Here is what the NY Times says:

Ms. Bausch, whose roots were in prewar German Expressionism, helped change the perception of what could be brought into a dance performance. Her shows featured a deep sense of theatricality; disconnected and sometimes absurd episodes; and elaborate, unusual sets, like carpets of carnations and peat moss or a collapsing wall.

But I don’t really want to write you about Pina Bausch. I think she is a choreographer. She makes dances, not speeches. Here are the things you need to see.

1) Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre du Printemps is one of the most creepy, visceral, terrifying, and beautiful things I have ever seen. The floor is made of dirt. If you only click once, click here.

2) Pina Bausch’s Cafe Muller. I think this is actually her dancing, which I find so interesting. Her body is so wiry and creepy. Her energy in her arms is so intense.

3) Pina Bausch’s Orpheus and Euridice. This is one of two operas she choreographed. Look for the fugues throughout.

Orphée et Eurydice – Pina Bausch
by falliero2
There is more but I don’t have it right now. It is amazing. She is visceral and so so quick to attack. She is an artist whose work I never got to see live and I wish I had. I should still get to, but it is still not the same.
There is another interesting-interesting post afoot about dance of a different kind; consider this a foreshadowing.