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Meryl Tankard implies dance should NOT be for the masses.

In yesterday’s SMH Meryl Tankard says the performances on So You Think You Can Dance Australia are so awful they should not even be considered dance.

“It’s like a fast-food version of dance,” she said.

To me this is just another symptom of the intelligensia being scathing because they feel the art form does not come in the package they would like.

They are quite happy to take the masses tax dollars to support the arts (raver does believe in Government funding for the arts), however they get concerned when suddenly a privately funded show is connecting and educating more people about dance then is in their wildest dreams complete with metamucil ads.

Just because they don’t see it as “art” does not mean it isn’t.

Meryl Tankard, who is fine choreographer, declined to appear on So You Think You Can Dance. Which I found disappointing – was she worried that her work would be criticised by the non-latte set.

Mia Michaels an already acclaimed choreographer in the US, had no such qualms about appearing on the US version of the So You Think You Can Dance.

And her evocative and complex routines have been appreciated by millions of people world wide. I am sure people that previously would not have thought of attending her shows would now attend and love them.

Maybe Meryl should have shown us what she can do in a 2-3 minute routine, and she may have been surprised at the audience who would have turned up to see her new work which she is spruiking.


1 Reality Raver { 03.20.08 at 2:39 pm }

Amber Jacobson wrote this Letter to the Editor in the Sydney Morning Herald, and I agree with what she is saying also.

Letter below:
I studied performing arts at the University of Western Sydney and understand Meryl Tankard’s frustration at the abandonment of live theatre for film, television and “fast food” versions of the performing arts (“Think you can dance? Think again”, March 19). However, “real dance”, as she calls it, is not accessible to many people. For example, the cheapest ticket to her new show costs $43, a premium ticket $75. For those who do not live in the city there are other barriers, such as the cost of petrol, tolls and lack of public transport, to those wishing to experience “real dance”. Purism is a luxury many people cannot afford.

A determination to maintain dance in a “pure” form inevitably disadvantages those not fortunate enough to attend highly selective and competitive dance training institutions such as the Australian Ballet School, where Tankard was taught.

Further, it restrains innovation and development of new dance styles, such as hip-hop and pop. Why deny self-taught dancers such as Demi Sorono the chance to showcase their abilities simply because their technique has not been refined by training with world-class choreographers?

Elitism is a word that constantly arises in debates about art (performance or otherwise). I still experience frustration when I tell people I went to university in Penrith and see that look in their eyes, followed by the inevitable “Oh “¦ and how was that?” If I told people I had gone to NIDA, I am sure the response would be different. In my view, Tankard’s comments reflect this mindset.

Just because you don’t want to go to the Sydney Dance Theatre or don’t understand the nuances of contemporary dance, doesn’t mean you cannot or should not enjoy dance. Those not wishing to consume contemporary dance “pieces” do not attend Tankard’s shows. I suggest she stops watching So You Think You Can Dance Australia if it offends her sensibilities to such a degree.

Amber Jacobus Katoomba

2 Anonymous { 03.20.08 at 6:33 pm }

Reality Raver,

I’m sure you realise Mia Michaels appears on the American version which is UNREAL!!!! The standard of the Australian one is NOWAY near the American one so please understand where Meryl Tankard is coming from…. Pleas tell me the public understands this….??

3 Onadrought { 03.20.08 at 6:36 pm }

What a tosser Meryl Tankard is. If what the performers are doing is not dancing, what is it then? You may criticise the show for it’s dodge hosting, lack of personality of judges etc, however, the dancers are great and some of the choreograpy is awesome. And if it introduces people to dance, then great. It’s like some people criticise Jamie Oliver, however I know of so many people he has introduced cooking and fine food too.

4 Anonymous { 03.21.08 at 4:54 am }

To anonymous above…

Yet a poster on a ballet forum wrote this about Mia Michaels…
3. Who is that female judge? She professes to be a modern dance choerographer, but I’ve never heard of her, and I am fairly well informed on the dance world. How great can she possibly be if she doesn’t have a company or hasn’t presented any work significant enought to be mentioned in any major metropolitan newspaper?
With that bio I would hardly call her a modern dance choreographer, but more of a Broadway dance choreographer. In that case she is perfect as a judge for this show, though I tend not to agree with her taste in dancers. She tends to be a little rigid in her “old school” ideas of body acceptability.

Of course, Mia has a company (R.A.W.) and has been mentioned in publication such as The New York Times. So even people in the ‘dance world’ can be ignorant and/or have a snobbish attitude towards others in the same field. Meryl Tankard’s remarks come across like that. She turned down the challenge to bring her ‘real’ dance to mass audience in 1.5 minute dance pieces, then went on to rant about how these “fast food” version of dance are not real dance.

For me as a viewer, the short pieces are like commercials (advertisments) that offer the viewers a taste of the styles. Since most of the dancers are dancing out of their genres on the show, I do not expect the styles to be showcased at the highest levels. But if a style piques my interest, I would seek out that style in the local performing arts theatre. So SYTYCD does a really good job in exposing dance to the general population.

5 Anonymous { 03.21.08 at 4:59 am }

Sorry, forgot to include the original forum link…

So You Think You Can Dance 2007

6 Reality Raver { 03.21.08 at 9:46 am }

asia65Anon 1 – re: Mia Michaels on US version on SYTYCD and their version being better then our own.

In my blog I used Mia Michaels as an example of a choreographer who has utilised the program to show case her work – very successfully.

Also I agree the US version is much slicker, however it only really took off in Season 2. I am sure they had teething problems in Season 1.

However, I am still very much enjoying it. Yes the number of stand out routines are lower, however I don’t think Meryl Tankard was comparing the versions in the article.

I note she was not adverse to being negative about SYTYCD for her own publicity purposes.

Otherwise the article on her new show would have been buried in the arts pages of the broadsheets only.

Anon 2 – Thank you for copying that post from the So You Think You Can Dance forum re: the dig at Mia Michaels.

I agree with your comments totally.

This show exposes me to dancers, and choreographers that I would not have heard of. Yes I knew Kelley Abbey, but still had her in my mind as a starlet from an Australian Soap from 20 years ago.

My admiration for her work is now very high, and I think on par with the US show.

I am not a big fan of ballroom, but Jason Gilkison’s routines are always fabulous.

Also if Mia Michaels were to bring her company to Australia I am sure she would find a welcome audience both within the arts world and outside it.

My partner who would never go to dance (I think I dragged him to a Sydney Dance Company production once) probably would go to a Mia Michaels production with some enthusiasm.

7 Anonymous { 03.23.08 at 1:26 pm }

As an ex-professional who spanned different genres duirng my career, it’s sad to see snobbery and elitism are still alive and kicking in the dance industry. No matter the type of training, the audiences performed for, the ‘classification’of dancer, for each and every professional out there “To live is to dance” is the mantra, regardless. Meryl Tankard should realise this and take a much more inclusive approach to her fellow dancers/choreographers. A dancer is a dancer. End of story. As for not deigning to choreograph for the show — obviously not cerebral enough for her — well, I hope she caught Garry Stewarts brilliant work.

8 Natalie Bassingthwaite says F**k You To Meryl Tankard. | reality ravings { 01.18.09 at 3:48 pm }

[…] like a fast-food version of dance.” Previous stories on the Tankard’s criticisms are here and […]

9 Stephen { 02.12.10 at 12:22 am }

Some of you are clearly uninformed. Meryl did not criticise the dancers, although the show’s format. The ‘fast-food-ness’ of the show. She believes it would be a better show if choreographers had longer than 2 hours to teach the dancers and that way we the audience would be able to “connect” more with the artform. It’s true, it’s extremely fast-food like, which in some instances is fine. It is a trend that is becoming all the rage, especially in the world of theatre. These days, so many shows are doing without an interval because more often than not, they’re only 60 mins in duration. We want to get in and get out so we can go out and have dinner, or socialise, etc. Talk to any director, it’s a very real trend which is gaining popularity and people are getting used to consuming the arts in this fashion. Is it a problem? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps it’s great because the arts is extending to people that would have never given it a chance under the ‘old’ regime. Or, perhaps people are being cheated of that intangible connectedness.

Something to think about…