The Evil Imp

Trendy Spikes

Writings and rambling in the press are telling anybody that will listen that the current crop of dance shows on television, ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and their ilk, are cheap and nasty but they’re good for dance.

The aforementioned BBC “talent” show is doing a contemporary dance bit this coming weekend with choreography by several contemporary dance makers (most of whom are male but that’s another argument).

Rafael Bonachela is quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying his appearance on the show has been good for ticket sales for his company’s current tour. Newcomers to the fold might be a little bit surprised to find out that his work is not set to over the top power ballads as demanded by television producers.

Considering the quoted seven million audience for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ it is perhaps not too surprising that some people will be curious enough to go to an actual theatre to see an actual show. This is a good thing. The more people getting off their backsides and coming to the theatre the better no matter how they found out about it.

Internet search giant Google, however contemptible they may be on some issues, do provide some interesting insights into what people search for online at any given time.

On the above graph the blue line represents searches for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ over the last twelve months inside the UK. The term ‘Contemporary Dance’ is illustrated by the red line. What should also be on the graph are two lines showing search terms for Mr Bonachela and Mark Baldwin (who has also appeared on the show).

The lines for those two terms don’t show up because there is not enough data for Google to plot a graph meaning there was no measurable uptick in searches for either of those two dance makers, at least using Google’s metrics. There is a tiny uptick in the general searches for contemporary dance but it’s barely above the point from previous months.

Our second graph again shows the BBC programme in blue with searches for “dance classes” in red. The graph does indicate a spike of interest in line with the airing of the programme but looking at the previous 12 months (illustrated by the graph) that particular search term was always between 2 and 4.

Also, you would expect to see a drop in interest during December and early January (when most dance classes are off) followed by a spike later in January when classes resume.

It’s probably safe to say that although these programmes might bring a few people into theatres to watch a full evening of contemporary dance in general the interest is in the television show itself and viewers are showing very little interest in either the participants or the dance makers chosen to appear.

Over the long term the BBC, Sky, et al will keep these programmes on the air as long as people keep watching them but like all light entertainment shows it’s probably going in one ear coming straight out of the other and little or nothing is getting stuck in anybody’s head.

If major networks were really committed to dance and the arts on television, as they are always saying they are, then instead of putting on forgettable competitions they would simply feature actual work, be it theatre, dance or music in prime-time.

When they do feature dance on television, sans phone voting and ex Muppet Show choreographers, it is of course relegated to BBC4 in the middle of the night.