CFP: [Graduate] The Portrayal of Contemporary Dance by Mass Media

full name / name of organization: 
Kymberley Feltham
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The rich history of contemporary dance has come to a cultural crossroads
with current dance trends at odds with authentic artistic development. The
recent appropriation of contemporary dance into mass media comes as a mixed
blessing. While contemporary dance is gaining public acceptance and
notoriety, the vehicle that is driving this movement forward is controlling
its content. The “culture industry” as referred to by Theodore Adorno is a
metaphor comparing popular culture to a factory, creating standardized
goods and “infecting everything with sameness”. As the genre gains mass
appeal the content becomes bland and easily digestible, neither challenging
accepted norms nor creating innovative work. This paper sets out to
explore the transition of modern dance into the current contemporary
trends, with an assessment of the genre as it appears on the popular
televised dance competition So You Think You Can Dance (USA). An
examination of dance as it appears on the competition allows for a study of
contemporary dance as a cultural commodity.
The application of Adorno’s theories regarding the culture industry when
applied to contemporary dance are of concern, given the potential weakening
of the art caused by its commoditization. The televised dance competition
So You Think You Can Dance provides wide appeal as entertainment, and an
opportunity for education regarding contemporary dance. However it will be
argued that what is actually being presented is a safe and unobtrusive
version of contemporary dance that does not speak of its rich innovative
history. As the genre of contemporary dance becomes popularized in this
commercial form, it weakens the potential dance has as an agent of cultural

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Received on Fri Feb 08 2008 - 12:16:31 EST