On NBC’s ‘Dancing With Myself’, TikTok-like dances hit network TV

Even by the amazing standards of TV talent contests, “Dancing Myself” brings out an impressive scene. Two rows of room-sized cubes, adorned with twinkling lights, complete the scene – “Hollywood Square” meets “Saturday Night Fever.” Sitting at the jury are pop stars Shakira and Nick Jonas and internet celebrity Lisa Kosh; Behind them, there is an encouraging studio audience. One Cuban door opens to reveal the first contestant on the show to start performing…

… TikTok style dance challenge. Such as the creators of the app are famous for shooting in bedrooms, pajamas optional.

The engineering charm of network reality television may contrast with the indifference of TikTok dance. “Dancing With Myself” is going to prove the opposite. The new NBC show, from Tuesday to July 19, seeks to turn the phenomenon of the viral dance challenge into a reality competition format.

The packaging is familiar: sophisticated set, live audience, famous jury collection. But the contestants on the program’s social media – who perform short dance challenges in isolated “pods” – do not look and move like most of the dance show’s competitors. And the judges do not comment just beyond the table: they are also named as creators who organize and teach the show’s dance routine.

“Dancing With Myself” uses the instant power of TikTok, as well as the now vague nostalgic power of the network TV talent show. In trying to marry these two cultures, she encountered the same issues that plagued the social media dance world – and revealed how TikTok dance itself had evolved.

“He is trying to legitimize TikTok dance in a place that is the antithesis of TikTok,” said Trevor Boffone, a teacher and author of Renegades: Digital Dance Cultures from Dubsmash to TikTok. “But it also shows how deeply such a dance is embedded in popular culture.”

Development of “Dancing With Myself” began in early 2021, just after the dance challenge reached its zenith. “We saw people holding these virtual dance parties and posting these dances from their living rooms, where everyone was looking for a way to connect,” said executive producer John Irwin. “And we thought, ‘My God, this has to be a show.’

The famous star force completed the idea. In December 2020, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas released a dance video for their song “Girl Like Me”. It quickly went viral as fans tried to recreate a jazz-painted passage created choreographically by Mate Marcos, Shakira, Mark Torre and Sadek Waff.. Already a veteran of the dance challenge, Shakira has started posting her favorite “Girl Like Me” videos on social media. “He felt like a great person to get into this business,” Irwin said.

Shakira participated as an executive producer and leader of the show jury. Later, model Camille Costek joined the host while Koshi and Jonas completed the jury.

You will never hear the name TikTok “Dancing to Yourself”. (“We did not want to be on the TikTok Show because we thought the movement was bigger,” Irwin said.

In each episode, 12 contestants learn a series of routines that mimic the challenges of social media dancing in their simplicity and relative simplicity. They perform square “posts” that indicate the separation of the phone screens in the box and do not see each other for most of the challenges. Like many creators of TikTok dance, Jonas, Koshi, Kostek and Shakira are not experienced choreographers, but all show and help teach the show routine. While the jury has the opportunity to save the favorite dancers, “Likes” is the currency of the competition, the winners are determined by the sounds of the audience, which are animated on the screen like a shower of hearts.

The “dance yourself” approach to casting is probably best suited to TikTok’s ethos. “In the app, what leads to success is not necessarily a good dance, but, indeed, the personality of the performer,” said Bophone.

While some of the contestants on “Dancing With Myself” are talented and highly skilled dancers, the show emphasizes the involvement of charismatic competitors of all levels. Many are already featured on TikTok: a dancing flight attendant, a dancing cop, a dancing dentist. (And dancer TikTok scientist. Buffon, who along with his students posts routines on Instagram and TikTok, were filmed alternately in the fifth episode of the show.)

“This is a show for everyone,” Shakira said in an email. “It’s a celebration of dance love and personal stories in everyone, not just professionals.”

“Dancing With Myself” came when the TikTok dance reached a turning point. In 2019 and early 2020, when the platform was still largely known as the “Teen Dance App,” its culture revolved around the dance challenge. But as TikTok has grown and embraced a wide range of users and uses, dance challenges have become less dominant. The Renegade Challenge, choreographed by Jalaya Harmon in the fall of 2019, has 124.8 million views. This spring’s blockbuster dance, choreographed by Jaden Gomez on Lizzie’s song “About Damn Time,” has nearly 31 million views.

Frequent questions about the proper credit of dance creators, especially color creators, also contributed to the cooling of the dance challenge trend. Last summer, the #BlackTikTokStrike campaign saw some black performers, frustrated white influencers, take a step back from the platform with the participation of their dance content. (The app has just added a built-in credit feature that allows users to identify the original creator of the dance.)

The show’s relationship to this conversation is somewhat difficult. “Dancing With Myself” does not contain the social media handles of its contestants or even their last names, making it difficult to find or track them online. It also repeats, as a rule, some of the credit issues that many TikTok creators have objected to. During the show, celebrities are identified as the creators of the dance challenge and show the choreography as if it were their own. Behind the scenes they are assisted by a team of professional choreographers – Brittany Cherry, Cameron Lee, Will Simmons and Kelly Sweeney – who were themselves chosen by choreographers and executive producers Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, who are married.

“If you are not a choreographer, it’s quite possible to create so many dances in such a short time,” said Napoleon, who worked with Tabitha on “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing.” With the Stars ”along with other shows. “We are there to help the creators of the choreography. We lay the groundwork and then work with them on what feels good and what movements they want in their dance. ”

Napoleon notes that the show’s latest titles include the names of all the choreographers, which is already bigger than some of the TV dance performers get. “Transmitting this information in the episode itself, I think it will be confusing for the viewer,” he said. “We don’t always say when Tom Cruise does the trick or when it’s a cascade.”

The “Dancing With Myself” contestant list includes several successful social media stars. Why are they subjected to a reality TV meat grinder? Because of the large number of followers of popular creators can overshadow their lack of fame, which is often limited to a niche online group. The national TV show offers a greater focus – kindness to those who want better recognition for their work.

“I mean, it’s it Network“- said Marie Moring, the contestant of the second episode, who has almost 700,000 TikTok followers. “Social media is pretty new, but NBC was around. People know NBC. And Moring, 46, found that the show helped him in a new demographic aspect: with his peers. “A lot of Gen X-ers, my people, they are not on social media, but they are watching TV,” he said. “People are coming to my page now to say they saw me on the show.”

TikTok Celebrity is also limited to the platform’s short video format, which allows only a brief overview of its creators. Kiara Wilson, 21, winner of the second episode of “Dancing Mine”, is one of the most famous TikTokers to appear on the show: She choreographed the challenge of Savage, which hit the internet in the spring of 2020 and now has 3.4 million subscribers. . Despite his viral moment, Wilson said he thought his fans knew little about him.

“You just can’t show a lot when making 15 or 30 second videos,” he said. It was his half-glory – further complicated by the appropriation of his choreography by white creators, which meant that many who met Savage’s challenge never knew that Wilson had created it. (Wilson is currently in the process of copyrighting his Savage dance.)

But reality TV is a backstory area, and “Dancing With Myself” includes packages that reflect the contestants’ lives both offline and online. The judges on the show not only named Wilson as the creator of Savage Challenge, but viewers also learned about his upcoming wedding and extensive dance experience beyond TikTok Challenges. “Two years have passed,” Wilson said during his episode, “and I have finally shown who I really am.”

Neither Moring nor Wilson saw a significant influx of TikTok followers after appearing on Dancing With Myself. However, both said they had established valuable connections with many of the creators they met on the show. Buffon described the hotel where the contestants were staying during the filming as “TikTok Summer Camp”, where everyone stayed up late to dance and share career tips.

“Many of us were very excited to be around other people who realize this,” he said. “It ‘s like, hey, how do I talk about brands? What are some good strategies for using hashtags? It has become a group of people who share resources and help each other succeed. ”

While “Dancing With Myself” is far from an obscure hit, it may reflect the next step in the development of TikTok-style dance: taking the dance challenge offline. Once app vocabulary and memes entered mainstream culture, TikTok dancing began everywhere, from concerts to baseball games. There may come a day when you are less likely to see TikTok dancing on TikTok than on TV.

“These types of movements are not platforms that create them, but people,” Irwin said. “We offer another place to spread this movement.”

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