ED2012 COLUMN: Marina Blore, Director of ‘Flashmob’, writes us a Fringe Blog.
If there were no TV dance shows, then ‘FLASH MOB’, an hour long production currently performing daily at Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, would never have been created.
Almost all the cast came to the public’s attention through television dance programmes such as Got To Dance and So You Think You Can Dance.
For the sceptics of reality TV, there is no doubt that programmes focusing on dance such as the aforementioned and BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, have all helped to boost income at dancing schools around the country. A nationwide Yougov survey recently revealed that just over one in five British adults (21%) have become more interested in dancing as a result of TV dance shows. This has led to roughly the same number of adults currently participating in some form of dance covering a huge range of styles from ballet to ballroom and street to salsa.
Enthusiastic amateurs as well as budding professionals long for that magic two minutes of TV airtime that many are convinced will springboard them to international fame and fortune. The benefits for the winner are a cash reward and the prospect of job offers, management contracts and promises of earnings beyond their wildest dreams. However, in reality, for many that interest can be short lived with many great dancers ultimately relegated to the chorus line of albeit prestigious shows and A list concert tours within twelve months of their glorious win.
Whilst other reality TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor attract significantly higher viewing figures, (many fans admit to a greater obsession watching the oddballs put through during the audition process than the genuine talent that ultimately makes it to the final), it can also be argued that in the main, television dance reality shows tend to focus more on the talent rather than the back story or a potential headline grabber.
There is no doubt that reality shows provide a great platform for promoting genuine talent. Where else can an unknown artiste perform for just two minutes and reach millions of viewers, potential bookers, promoters and agents?
Tommy Franzen, now an Olivier award nominee for his dancing role in Some Like It Hip Hop and currently appearing in FLASH MOB agrees, but is realistic about what reality shows can do. He explains: “They are only tools. It’s up to you to make yourself successful. They are great for raising your profile and providing dancers with a great show-reel, but you still have to continue improving as a performer, perfecting new skills and learning how to take the right decisions about furthering your career to achieve personal goals and ambitions.’
Other pitfalls of the reality TV show are the unseen restrictions that are ultimately placed on the performer regarding choice of music, costume and in some cases choreography. Whilst the artiste may have rehearsed a routine to a particular music track, many applicants will tell you that they were forced to change to a new song due to TV clearance problems or another contestant already using the same music! Their image can be altered with costumes that are provided by the TV company, so what you see them perform on the show may not be their own creation as it was originally intended, but an amalgamation of input from the programme’s creative team.
As a dance management company we watch these shows to search for emerging new and unique talent and to cherry pick performers that we feel have potential for development and growth and would benefit from management guidance.
It was the desire to provide a platform for the wonderful dance talent that has been borne out of these reality shows that resulted in the concept of ‘FLASH MOB’. A ‘mob’ of very flash dancers able to genuinely show you their own choreography and visions as they were intended. Under the guidance of artistic director Gary Lloyd each dancer has themed their routine around the words ‘flash’ and ‘mob’ with references to flashbacks, flashes of an inner self, flashy dancing, a mob of dancers and they are also experiencing the joy of fusing different dance styles with their fellow performers.
The benefits of dance reality shows far outweigh the pitfalls, performers just need to be savvy about how they use their TV platform and in most cases, possibly lower expectations of the level of fame and fortune they can deliver. Success is down to the performer although talent will always out!
‘Flash Mob’ was performed at Assembly Hall at Fringe 2012.