To say that nothing much has happened in the world of dance in the last 50 years is a complete and blatant disregard for the thousands and thousands of hours that millions of dancers around the world of every style and form have poured their hearts and souls into. I am thoroughly disappointed in Alexandra Villarreal, the writer of a Huffington Post article that just grinds my gears.
Don't get me wrong, I like Maddie Ziegler and the way she has managed to land herself some neat roles in various music videos and TV shows thanks to her talent and young age. But for someone to so blindly believe that she is somehow single-handedly responsible for saving the dance world is pure blasphemy.
Before injuries took dance away from me at just 16, I trained 35+ hours per week, in styles ranging from ballet to contemporary, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre, modern and lyrical. Throughout my training, I earned numerous coveted awards and was accepted into a number of prestigious dance schools. My injuries, including two fractured vertebrae and broken bones in my feet and ankles, in no way lessen the impact I made on the dance world. And what millions of others do every single day.
In today's increasingly fast-paced world, ideas and creativity are flowing faster than they have ever been. Every single dancer is an artist, not just the ones who land themselves deals on music videos that are more in the public eye than a live performance on stage given by companies around the world.
Villarreal writes that "not much has happened in the dance world since way back in the 1960s...or perhaps it has, but it hasn't taken in the shape of innovation." I'm not sure how the writer gives herself the right to write those words. In one sentence, she has undermined the hard work, talents, efforts, countless hours and incredible strength - physically, emotionally and psychologically - that characterizes dancers. She even has the audacity to say that dancers of today are "millennials, an especially lazy and self-indulgent lot when it comes to performance. They lust to be stars without putting in the work to deserve the title." WHAT?
There is absolutely nothing lazy about performance. There is nothing self-indulgent about pushing your body to the limit and then beyond. There is nothing lustful about hours and hours spent in the studio, in the gym, at the physiotherapist's office and in rehearsal. Yes, competitions play a huge part in the dance world because there needs to be a collective way of earning places to study at prestigious schools, to be seen by important people, to build your resume, to distinguish yourself and for countless other reasons. You may as well say that sports don't matter because they're all about winning or losing. You may as well take away employee-of-the-month at the local fast food chain, because that's not real hard work is it? *Sarcasm intended*.
You cannot put the entire dance world on Ziegler's shoulders and call her a lifesaver of a dying art. Yes, she is big in the media right now because she is working with a couple big names - Shia LeBeouf and Sia to name a few, and she's made some Ellen appearances. But that does not sum up the dance world even minutely. Yes, her "work ethic, not to mention her evident love for the art, has made her relentlessly relevant," but there are countless others who are the same.
You cannot expect someone to put themselves through what we, as dancers, have to do, without loving it. There is a deep, passionate love for the art that all dancers know and that so many more appreciate.
In saying that "more dancers need to be like Maddie," Villarreal fails to realize that there are plenty of dancers just like Maddie. And there are plenty of dancers who are nothing like Maddie, but still possess all the qualities, beauty, grace and incredible passion and drive that make them equally as great, if not more. I mean no offense by this post, I just wish that people like Villarreal would wake up and realize how much else is going on outside the latest music video and reality TV show.
Photo of myself by Sylvain Senez.