Are you Dancing with the Stars? Well, it appears America is!Are your dance floors filled with dancers and would-be stars mimicking the routines and dances popular on the newest successful incarnation of that perennial American favorite, the dance-based show? In other words, are you seeing the results of the nation’s infatuation with the TV phenomenon Dancing with the Stars?
In the Soul
America, for a variety of recreational, social and spiritual inspirations, has always danced.
With its current popularity, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) is just the current belle of the television ball, the latest in a long-line of media and non-media events sparking mainstream interest in dancing. American Bandstand and its various local and regional editions, Dance Fever, USA Dance Party, Soul Train and the popularity of movies such as Dirty Dancing, Strictly Ballroom, and Shall We Dance illustrate the continual presence and social import of dance in popular culture.
Twistin’ “In the House,” and Beyond
In 1961, President Kennedy and wife Jackie were spotted in the White House doing the Twist, sparking a revival of the dance and a return to the top of the charts for Chubby Checker’s version of the Hank Ballard-penned and recorded B-side, “The Twist.”
In 1992, Melanie Griffith choreographed a dance to support Billy Ray Cyrus’ remake of a Marcy Brothers’ song and the “Achy Breaky Heart” along with the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” sparked a revival of interest in country dancing. In contrast to the Urban Cowboy-inspired two-step craze of the mid-1980s, the dance popularity spike of the ‘90s primarily encompassed line dancing.
Remember the Gap commercial in the late 1990’s, with the energetic collection of khaki-clad 20- and 30-somethings jumpin’, jivin’ and wailin’ to Louis Prima’s honkin’ classic? Literally overnight, a new generation of zoot suiters hit the dance floors to Swing, Lindy and Balboa. Well, at least, until the would-be Frankie Mannings realized just how much of a physical, financial and dedication investment true dance proficiency required!
Star Charts: A Variety of Readings
While no singular sensation such as the Hustle, Electric Slide or Macarena is currently serving as a universal dance language, the present infatuation with the collection of B-list stars and top-tier dancers partnering to trip the ballroom light fantastic really is helping mobile entertainers across the United States.
Although his request list has not experienced significant change, Keith Alan (Keith Alan Productions, [city, state] reports: “I have noticed that more of the younger people are asking for the simple ballroom dances, like the Cha-Cha and Swing, and when I play them, I’m quite surprised at the number of kids that come out.”
“As far as the guests go, if they’re swing dancing to the Macarena…it’s time to take the hint!” joshed Dan Dubay of Dan Dubay DJ Entertainment, serving Oregon. “Seriously, I do see more couples pairing up and finding their place on floor, but most of the styles being represented are swing and cha-cha.”
For some entertainers, though, Dancing with the Stars’ impact has been negligible on their floors.
“I have not noticed anything at my events that would indicate DWTS had anything to do with filling the dance floors, music requests, partner dancing, or dance instructors,” observes Craig Brown of High Fidelity Entertainment serving the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area.
Surprisingly, at least one entertainer has detected unexpected consequences of the popularity of the TV series. Keith Alan, who, like a significant number of entertainers, offers the opportunity to share interactive dances with guests, has not seen an increase but, rather, a decline in such requests as a result of the show’s cultural impact.
“I’m being told by my clients that they DO NOT want any type of dance instruction. That is mostly for the line dances,” says Alan.
The varied musical tunes featured on Dancing with the Stars have expanded at least one entertainer’s request list.
“I think it has opened up a few of the DJ eyes to see the cool music that is out there that we don’t play,” says Dave Star of Star Productions, serving Central Oregon. “DJs now realize there are some people that know how to do the traditional moves to some classics we pull back out of our repertoire.”
More Couples Cut the Rug
Dubay has observed another impact of the DWS phenomenon-first dance routines.
“I’ve noticed that more couples in our consultations bring up that they’re doing a special dance and they know exactly when they want the music to start,” noted the longtime Oregon radio personality. “So we work out a visual cue or start the music when they ‘hit their mark.'”
And speaking of dancing, wedding shows now include previously unseen vendors, according to Alan. “The major studios, like Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray, are now doing more of the bridal shows in my area.”
Play Something We Can Dance To!
While you do not need to be an instructor or even seek to include dance exhibitions to leverage the popularity of Dancing with the Stars, knowledge of specific songs for specific dances such as swing and cha-cha will support your responses to guest desires and increase the chance for event success.
Unfortunately, popular songs for specific ballroom dances vary from region to region. For instance, in some areas, rhythm and blues-based songs are popular for swing, while other areas favor pop-arranged country numbers and still others prefer more moderate tempo contemporary songs. Dances in the Latin vein enjoy such challenges, too.
A conversation or two with some dance instructors, or networking with entertainers who feature dance instruction or exhibitions in their shows in your area, will illuminate the songs that will fulfill requests for specific styles of dance.
America is smitten with Dancing With the Stars. For mobile entertainers, always seeking the latest hook to help fill dance floors, that is a good thing. And, for at least one segment of the population, according to Alan, that is a great thing. “Older couples are just relieved that partner dancing is trying to make a comeback!”
Mobile DJ, dance instructor, emcee, voice actor, writer, teacher, and improv comedian, Mike Ficher owns and operates Dance Express, based in Bend, Oregon. A three-time presenter and host at Mobile Beat conventions, Mike has been expanding the public’s definition of mobile entertainer since 1986.
Filed Under: Issues from 2008, Performing
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