Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dance Your Pants Off

Riddle me this: when did childrens' dance recitals turn into Prelude For A Striptease?

Yesterday, I happened to find myself at the end-of-year dance show for a fairly large Toronto dance school. Among the usual vignettes (four year olds skipping in a lopsided circle, manically grinning tapdancers, sequins), there was a huge amount of booty shaking, shoulder shimmying, and pelvic thrusting. One number had the girls start in pairs: one bent over at the waist, the other standing behind. I'm no prude, but like, seriously? That's a sexual position. A really sexual position.

Bitching about "young people today" always makes me feel like a crotchety old lady, but I don't recall this skill set from my own days as a dancer. Granted, I was hugely self-conscious and not blessed with any rhythmic sense whatsoever, but the eruption of sexualized dance moves seems to have happened after I wore a tragic leotard and danced to "It's Raining Men." When I asked my mom about it, she told me that she had actually taken my younger sister out of a dance class because, and I quote, "they were teaching the girls to dance like sluts," which was completely weird to hear my mom say. "The little girls?" asked my dad, and my mom was all, you better believe it.

Ten or fifteen years ago was before dance studios started offering hip-hop classes, which, aside from a truly strange number involving cowboy hats and a lot of shoulder shimmying, was the source of almost all the sexy moves. I am a hip-hop fan, and not just backpack hip-hop: I've shaken my ass to Usher like everyone else. But. I shook my ass in a club, which I got into because I was of age. It's never really all that appropriate to "bend over the floor and touch your toes," as Li'l Jon romantically suggests. At least I was doing it as God intended: drunk, with other drunk people, sans audience.

Hip-hop is sort of the inverse of musical theatre. It's kind of inappropriate when adults are really into musical theatre. It feels a little embarassing, because it's artificial and showy. Musical theatre is designed for thirteen year olds: it's colourful and melodramatic, and someone's always tipping over in a hoopskirt. When twenty-nine year old women are singing along, it's a little shameful. Hip-hop takes that formula and flips/reverses it: when kids are into it, it becomes necessary to point out how fake everything is...which kind of ruins the fun. The stakes are higher, because while very few people have every been the object of inappropriate sexual attention for belting out the words to Rent on the streetcar, the same isn't true for little girls who dance like hoochie mamas.

I'm not claiming that hip-hop is bad for kids; I'm just asking that instead of teaching fifteen year old girls how to grind like video hos, dance instructors might incorporate breakdancing into the mix. It's an athletic and impressive dance style, and it doesn't require anyone to present their hindquarters like a mate-ready baboon. (Oh, damn it, again with the crotchetiness.) It would also be helpful to recall that nine year old girls aren't reknowned for their critical thinking skills, and that incorporating sexualized dance moves into routines designed for people who have yet to take sex-ed might be overstepping the mark.

So yeah: keep it in the (dirty, filthy, adult, fun) clubs, where it belongs, make musical theatre illegal for anyone older than twenty, and burn my tragic leotard. Can we all sign off on that? Because I suspect that next year's recital is somehow going to be an interpretive dance about handjobs, and that makes me afraid.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lost Has Lost Me

It's not really a secret, but I love spooky end-of-the-world drama - zombies, plague, hell, even a strong rain and big ark might be enough - but somewhere along the way, Lost has let my attention wander. I read recently that experts, like the people who produce these shows, say that in the future, these shows won't be produced. Not Lost specifically, since there's a strong contingent of borderline-crazy people who follow that action. Rather, the large-scale epic drama that costs networks, like, billions of dollars per season to produce, are on the outskis.

Which is too bad, really. Lost was fun for a while: it was outsized and outrageous, offering up tropical polar bears, time travel, plane crashes, and hot interracial love triangles. It jumped forward and back in time, carrying the viewer, breathless, along for the ride. What's not to love? Okay, sure, asking Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lily to carry the show was a little weird, since they're both super-wooden. And yes, okay, having like, three hundred people as series regulars was probably expensive, especially since the show is shot on Hawai'i...a place not noted for its accessibility.

No matter! Lost was engaging, interesting, complex television. Note that "was" in the last sentences, there, folks: this show has totally beefed it this last little while. Lost got boring when it raised about ninety thousand questions - who are these people? Who are the Others? What's up with that polar bear? Where are they? Did they just say they're going to move the island? For real? Why does this show raise a dozen new questions each episode and fail to ever answer any of them? Where are my Tums? - and then totally whistled and avoided eye contact with its audience. Aww! Lost got shy! What a crock.

Shyness is an adorable trait in a toddler. It's less charming on a multi-season show. A show, as a matter of fact, that takes a notoriously long hiatus between seasons. As a viewer, I'm getting used to long-form complex television drama; writers who use the televised serial as an art form are getting more common. However, those other writers are pretty adept at paying off their big setups (and I'll just slide right past that much-discussed blackout at the end of The Sopranos, thanks). Lost, on the other hand, has constantly upped and upped, and not in a good way, either.

In this day and age (June 17, Age of Aquarius), most producers know that their shows are eventually going to be DVD-ized. I was watching a commentaried episode of How I Met Your Mother (what? I love commentaries), and they talked about, when they were making the show, they could take certain liberties with details and timelines, knowing that their audiences were likely watching episodes in blocks, not in weekly chunks. It's possible that the creative minds behind Lost have taken this phenomenon to its logical, if mind-wrecking conclusion: no details, crazy timelines, all liberties.

I stopped watching a couple years ago, right around the time they announced that the series was going to have a definitive end date. Great! I though, I don't have to wait from week to week and from month to month, slowly growing an ulcer. I'll just forget about it...until I can line up all seven seasons next to my DVD player and watch everything at once. Sure, it's going to take a couple months, and I'll probably gain a whole pile of weight during my televisually-induced snack attacks, but at least I'll know the mysteries of the island.

And I swear to God: if they wipe out on the ending, leaving me with a Dallasian, "it-was-all-a-dream" farrago, there will be words. Fair warning, Jage.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In Search of the Wild Job

[There's an entry that mysteriously appeared from last week today. The vagaries of the intertubes are just confounding. Anyway, enjoy.]

I need some help. The job hunt is a major downer, and I'm starting to feel 100% unemployable. (Note to potential employers: I rate somewhere in the 90% employable range, which is totally decent and takes into account my propensity towards crankiness in the pre-10 a.m. hours.) Job hunting in the big city is hard, yo! Plus, I'm trying to shift away from jobs that involve getting pad thai sauce on my shoes, and focus more on jobs that require creativity, passion and maybe have something to do with my interests. Not that I don't like pad thai.

So what do I do? I was talking to my friend Jess last night about the miserable cycle that is job hunting: first we apply, then we hear nothing, then we apply again, then we still hear nothing, then we start eating bon-bons during the day, then we apply, then we hear nothing, then we start believing that we're never going to get a job, then we think about applying, then we wake up sweaty in the middle of the night, then we remember all the places we applied and sigh, then we come to believe that the problem is us. We are somehow flawed. Perhaps I've accidentally constructed my resume to give the impression of vast oceans of stupidity. I should check that.

Part of the problem is finding my passion. I like doing a lot of different things, and it's difficult to find gainful employment that remarks on all of them at the same time. I like working with my hands - what up, power tools? - but I also like to read and write. I dig working independently, but I really enjoy sitting in a room with a bunch of other people, storming the brains and whatnot. I love learning, but I'm not completely sure that life-long student status is for me (for one thing, the debt would be crippling.) I tend to chafe under authority, but I also need a clear corporate hierarchy. See? What is this mythical place?

There's a short list of people whose jobs I covet. For example, Matthew Blackett over at Spacing seems to have a job I could get behind. He gets to run a magazine that's all about urban living and space. Not one of those home-porn rags, since Spacing is about the city rather than the houses. His team writes about things like the TTC and pedestrian activism, the magazine and website are prettily designed, and the merch is awfully cool. Or what about Tammy Thorne, who runs Dandyhorse? I mean, I like bikes, and I like Toronto, and I like to write....colour me jealous.

It's not just people who run magazines, either - Jamie Kennedy (the chef, not the buffoon) seems to have a pretty sweet day job. Adam Giambrone - city councillor, TTC commish, probable 14-year-old - has a cushy gig. Rick Mercer has a good job. I would love to sit these people down and quiz them: how did they get there? What would they change? Are they hiring? Seriously, does my resume make me look like a racist?

I'll get there (someday...probably...oh, god, hopefully), and it won't be sitting behind the desk at the Rick Mercer Report or working the kitchen at JKROM - it'll be doing something totally different, rocking out with the Kaitlyn Kochany Awesome Express.