Posted by: hellonhairylegs | April 29, 2009

So You Think You Can Rant?

The second season of So You Think You Can Dance Australia? is over and a woman won. This was a small shock, not because Talia Fowler is a bad dancer but because of the way women are treated on that show (and the history women have with winning reality television shows, but that’s a different post). The very structure of the show glorifies gender roles as contestants compete in male/ female partnerships, then those gender roles are re-established by the stories within the dances (approximately half of which can be summed up by “heterosexual romantic couple + angst = lots of expressive arm movement”) and the costumes the dancers are given to wear. The dancers are expected to be eye candy, enormously talented and astonishingly versatile. It is a tribute to human ingenuity that some of them actually manage to pull it off.

The most irritating part of the show is the judge’s commentary after some of the Spanish dances. They praise masculinity, which in this context appears to be the act of flexing your muscles while pretending not to care about your partner. I happen to think that men can do better. Also, idolising jerks traditional masculinity probably isn’t a good strategy for a television show that relies on some boys going against cultural expectations and learning how to dance, especially given how proficient the show’s representatives are at talking about promoting dance within Australia.

The gender roles aren’t the only retrograde part of the show. No, when they aren’t telling stories about “tired old hookers” (don’t you think it’s interesting that one of the only all-female performances explicitly invokes the male gaze?) they’re blatantly ripping off other cultures with stereotyped costuming.

Then there was the fact that the first three people voted off the show were the only three black contestants, something that has been largely ignored by the media, the audience and on the show itself.

I want to make it clear that I’m not attacking the dancers. For the most part their work is choreographed by other people and they don’t get to choose their costumes. Furthermore the female contestants have gotten away with some Spice Girl feminism moments in the show which almost make me want to give it another chance. Almost.

I guess I’m going to grrlcott. Anyone want to plug feminist/ woman-friendly/ anti-racist/ progressive dancing groups in comments?



  1. […] ETA 29 April: Hey, a woman, Talia, won! Hellonhairylegs reports. […]

  2. as for more feminist dance troupes:

    not even where I live in the USA and WAY far away from Oz, but everything I’ve read about them makes them sound awsome!

  3. Thanks for that though, maybe karma can bring me and ’em together.

  4. I think Chunky Move (Melbourne based) might fit your bill. Legs on the Wall (Sydney based) are generally classified as physical theatre, but include lots of dance, and are so far from propping up gender stereotypes that I have had conversations with people who remembered the art/concept of performances they’d seen, but couldn’t remember whether it had been a man or a woman performing.

  5. I used to be part of an all-female mosh crew once. Considering how many guys will try and push you back out of the pit because “girls don’t mosh” I think it would definitely count.
    As far as actual groups go, I wouldn’t know any – but I wish I did!

  6. That sounds awesome. I might form one of them soon πŸ™‚

  7. Oh you should. Moshing is certainly a great way to release rage and have a fuckin’ awesome time.
    I think I found you through Hoyden about Town and I’m adding you to my blogroll. Hope you don’t mind πŸ™‚

  8. No problem, do you have a blog I can add to my blogroll?

  9. Sure do!

    berryblade dot wordpress dot com

    I don’t know why it isn’t linking with my username? How unorthodox.

  10. I can’t believe a woman won!!! Wow!

    Apart from all this, I get tired of SYTYCD because of the endless focus on hip hop (blergh) and how they fuck up jive / swing every single time they attempt it (by producers attempting to do a fusion thing with some other style – not by the poor dancers who only do the best they can with a shitty deal). But those are a dancer’s rants rather than a feminist’s rants, I guess.

    Dance groups what are awesome: The dance studio I went to growing up, that welcomed girls and teenagers (we only had a couple of boys) of all sizes. In my age 12-18 dance class, we had tiny skinny girls who were size 6 naturally (not starved – I was one of them) right up to girls who were size 16-18 and totally curvy. No pressure on anyone to be a different size, ever. Our principal also refused to put us in to eisteddfods because she said she didn’t like the atmosphere, too bitchy, and she didn’t want her girls involved in that. I ❀ you Mrs Parker πŸ˜€

    Also, my bellydancing group in Canberra – bellydancing groups tend to be fantastic for attracting and celebrating women of all ages and sizes – and my swingdancing studio, which is all about being creative and having fun.

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