Culture Shock

SYTYCD photo © 2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. © Adam Rose; Video Judge photo courtesy Video Judge® and DanceBUG®; garment bag photo courtesy Revolution Dancewear. Photo of Str8Jacket crew at World of Dance by Vincent de Vela; Dance Moms photo by Scott Gries, © 2018; Bunheads photo by Adam Taylor, © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Frozen photo © Disney. All Rights Reserved; Sophia Lucia photo by Robert Sorey, courtesy Capezio; Luigi photo by Milton Oleaga; photo of Misty Copeland in The Nutcracker by Doug Gifford.

What happened while you were reading DSL? Plenty.

by Karen White

Blink your eyes, and 14 years have gone by. Technological and cultural developments over the past decade and a half have had an undeniable impact on the dance education industry, the jobs we do, and the kids we teach. Let’s stroll back in time and take a look.


Facebook steps onto the social media stage. Little did anyone realize this fun way to connect with friends would develop into a vital marketing tool, a helpful info-sharing forum, and a public sounding board for irate customers. With GarageBand, teachers who needed to cut a song from 3:58 to 2:15 could throw out their dual tape decks and (finally) enjoy playing with music.


So You Think You Can Dance premieres during the slow summer months, and by the fall all dance students have a new favorite dance style—contemporary. The impact of YouTube would take longer, but the video-sharing service would eventually be praised for putting an entire world of dance, past and present, at students’ and teachers’ fingertips—and blamed for the growing popularity of tricks and extreme flexibility, bad instructional videos, and choreography theft.


Arriving just as the competition scene was exploding, Video Judge superimposed judges’ comments over a video recording of each dance. No one missed the scribbled comments on paper or the cassette tapes with the often unintelligible comments. And in the “Why did this take so long?” category, a new costume company, Revolution Dancewear, began shipping costumes on hangers in garment bags, which impressed parents and made studio owners’ jobs immensely easier.


Classes everywhere were interrupted by the happy peal of iPhone 1.0 ring tones—and the unhappy grumbles of teachers, many whom remember the first time they said, “No, you cannot answer your phone in the middle of barre!”



Although hip-hop dance had been developing as an art form since the early 1970s, the dance style was becoming a dance studio staple just as the World of Dance tour (WOD) launched (following the lead set by Monsters of Hip Hop in 2003). “What is this—magic?” asked teachers who were instantly presented with an endless number of songs about cats on Spotify.


In a classy, single-sleeved black leotard, Beyoncé danced her way to Video of the Year awards from MTV and BET with her much-imitated “Single Ladies.” In 2010, a viral video of prepubescent competition dancers clad in red-and-black bras, panties, and thigh-highs gyrating to the same song started a conversation on age-appropriate costuming and movement that continues today.


Love it or hate it, there was no ignoring Dance Moms, a reality show about youthful competition dancers, their drama-queen mothers, and their confrontational teacher that had studio owners answering the phone with: “Hello. This is ABC Dance Studio—nothing like the studio you see on TV.” For another perspective on dance competitions there was the feature film First Position; the parents were calmer but the pressure just as intense in this Youth America Grand Prix documentary.


TV’s infatuation with studio dance continued with Bunheads, a charming show starring Broadway legends Kelly Bishop (from the original A Chorus Line cast) and Sutton Foster that couldn’t find an audience past actual bunheads and bowed out after a single season. Son of a studio owner Travis Wall and his competition dance cronies starred in All The Right Moves, which documented the creation of Shaping Sound, a concert dance company that played to theaters filled with enthusiastic competition kids.


Frozen, the movie. “Let it go, let it go!” Need I sing more?


Pint-sized dancer Sophia Lucia smashes the world record for consecutive pirouettes by spinning 55 times while wearing tap shoes, launching the Golden Era of Multiple Turns. Most competition dancers couldn’t come close to replicating her feat, but that didn’t stop them from trying.


A teaching legend is lost—Eugene Louis “Luigi” Faccuito dies in April. A star is born—Royal Ballet bad boy Sergei Polunin is introduced to the greater American audience through his performance in Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” video. A world is changed—American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland appears on Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” cover.


Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone bring dance romance back to the movies in La La Land. Choreographer Mandy Moore is lauded, while cringe-worthy videos of a youthful Gosling in dance studio recitals circulate endlessly on social media.


The video game Fortnite has serious weaponry and slaying and . . . dance moves? Yup. Suddenly, dance students everywhere were floss dancing as fast as they could, or hip-swiveling through the fresh (as in Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) dance. The kids couldn’t get enough of these dances that they considered way cool—but wait a minute, isn’t that the Charleston?


Dance Studio Life magazine bows out. Dance educators everywhere say, “Thank you.”