Expressions Dance-Reality TV-by Natascia Boeri
Expressions Dance Company at Brooklyn Center- review by Natascia Boeri
I am proud to welcome Natascia one of our lovely new writers!
“Don’t take this personally but you were very corny,” was a comment to one of the dancers during the Q&A following the performance from a red-haired lady. The dancer didn’t seem offended and in fact agreed with her. Other adjectives that the company might have enjoyed hearing as well could have been superficial, loud, slutty, and so on, but that is to be expected when you choreograph a dance with a reality TV show as its backdrop.
Expressions Dance Company arrived from Australia, fresh and un-rested, due to libation consumption the night before, as I later found out – yet you would have never guessed from the energy the dancers kept throughout the show. And in case you started to tire of seeing sweaty, lean bodies intertwining themselves gracefully through different poses, there were photos, films, and words projected on the set pieces, accompanying the dancer’s story.
For this piece, Maggi Sietsma, the artistic director and choreographer, drew inspiration from the Russian ballet Petrushka, where a puppet-master craftily manipulates his three puppets through the stages of a tragic love triangle. This plot transforms easily into a reality TV show where contestants, despite being real people like you and me, are controlled in order to attain the highest ratings. It was this and actual reality TV shows that Ms. Sietsma wanted to confront in her production, having already tackled climate change in her previous piece,”On Thin Ice”. Turns out that they have their own version of “American Idol” in Australia – “Australian Idol.” Having strong, often-negative feelings surrounding the culture of reality TV, (maybe in part because I find it just so darn hard not to get snared into the shows when they’re on!) I was interested in seeing what issues would be brought up.
As expected, the superficiality, power, dishonesty, and sexism of today’s programs were performed and criticized during the show, with the chance to participate in a dialogue of these matters when the company sat down with the audience members afterwards. I especially enjoyed Ms. Sietsma comment that she wanted to illustrate how today’s media (she actually said “producers” but I’m taking the liberty to expand the guilt further) are manipulating puppeteers not only of the contestants but of the viewers as well. As the contest – and dance – progresses, the viewer sees the ugly truth of reality TV. Most of us are probably aware that these shows are just cheap imitations of life in the name of entertainment. However, the real problem here is how reality TV, with all its glaring sexism and ruthless stereotyping, is not only a replication of our society but also a tool of manipulation for that society – which is especially startling when one considers the young age of some of the viewers.
Other than leaving the theater with a grim outlook on our present and possible future society, I was glad to have trudged out to Brooklyn College on a cold, snowy night to experience a dance show on the reality of reality TV.