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On NBC’s ‘Dancing With Myself,’ TikTok-Like Dances Meet Community TV

Even by the razzle-dazzle requirements of TV expertise competitions, “Dancing With Myself” units a powerful scene. Two stacked rows of room-size cubes, trimmed in shimmering lights, fill the stage — “Hollywood Squares” meets “Saturday Night time Fever.” On the judging desk sit the pop stars Shakira and Nick Jonas and the web superstar Liza Koshy; behind them, a cheering studio viewers. One dice’s door slides open to disclose the present’s first contestant, who begins to carry out …

… a TikTok-style dance problem. The type that creators on the app are recognized for filming of their bedrooms, pajamas non-compulsory.

The engineered glamour of community actuality TV might sound at odds with the carefree looseness of TikTok dance. “Dancing With Myself” has got down to show in any other case. The brand new NBC present, Tuesdays by means of July 19, tries to translate the viral dance problem phenomenon right into a actuality competitors format.

The packaging is acquainted: an elaborate set, a dwell viewers, a set of superstar judges. However this system’s social media-fluent contestants — who carry out quick dance challenges in remoted “pods” — don’t look, or transfer, like most dance-show opponents. And the judges aren’t simply commenting from behind the desk: They’re additionally billed as creators, setting and instructing the present’s dance routines.

“Dancing With Myself” is tapping into the of-the-moment energy of TikTok in addition to the now vaguely nostalgic energy of a community tv expertise present. In its efforts to marry these two cultures, it has confronted among the identical points which have roiled the social media dance world — and revealed how a lot TikTok dance itself has developed.

“It’s making an attempt to legitimize TikTok dance in a venue that’s the antithesis of TikTok,” mentioned Trevor Boffone, a trainer and writer of the e book “Renegades: Digital Dance Cultures from Dubsmash to TikTok.” “But it surely’s additionally displaying how deeply this sort of dance has change into embedded in common tradition.”

“Dancing With Myself” went into growth in early 2021, simply after the dance problem reached its zenith. “We noticed folks having these digital dance events and posting these dances from their residing rooms, with everyone searching for a approach to join,” mentioned the chief producer John Irwin. “And we thought, ‘My gosh, there’s received to be a present on this.’”

Movie star star energy clinched the concept. In December 2020, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas launched the dance-forward music video for his or her tune “Woman Like Me.” It rapidly went viral as followers tried to recreate a jazzercise-inflected passage of the choreography, which was created collaboratively by Maite Marcos, Shakira, Marc Tore and Sadeck Waff. Already a dance problem veteran, Shakira started reposting her favourite “Woman Like Me” movies to her social accounts. “She felt like the right individual to tug into this,” Irwin mentioned.

Shakira got here on board as each an government producer and the chief of the present’s judging panel. Later, the mannequin Camille Kostek joined because the host, and Koshy and Jonas rounded out the judging panel.

You’ll by no means hear the identify TikTok on “Dancing With Myself.” (“We didn’t wish to be ‘the TikTok present,’ as a result of we thought this motion was bigger than that,” Irwin mentioned.) However TikTok tradition, shined up for tv, shapes many facets of its format.

The 12 contestants on every episode study a collection of routines that resemble social media dance challenges of their brevity and relative simplicity. They carry out in sq. “pods” that counsel the boxed seclusion of cellphone screens, unable to see one another for many of the challenges. Like many TikTok dance creators, Jonas, Koshy, Kostek and Shakira usually are not skilled choreographers, however all reveal and assist train the present’s routines. Although judges have alternatives to avoid wasting favourite dancers, “likes” are the forex of the competitors, with winners decided by viewers votes which can be animated onscreen as showers of hearts.

The “Dancing With Myself” method to casting is probably most consistent with TikTok’s ethos. “On the app, what results in success just isn’t essentially good dancing, however, actually, the persona of the performer,” Boffone mentioned.

Although some “Dancing With Myself” contestants are gifted and extremely skilled dancers, the present makes a degree of together with charismatic opponents of all ability ranges. Many are already TikTok standouts: the dancing flight attendant, the dancing police officer, the dancing dentist. (And the dancing TikTok scholar. Boffone, who posts routines together with his college students on Instagram and TikTok, was forged as an alternate for the present’s fifth episode.)

“This can be a present that’s for everybody,” Shakira mentioned in an electronic mail. “It’s about celebrating the love of dance and private tales amongst all folks, not simply professionals.”

“Dancing With Myself” has arrived as TikTok dance reaches an inflection level. In 2019 and early 2020, when the platform was nonetheless primarily referred to as the “teen dance app,” its tradition revolved across the dance problem. However as TikTok has grown to incorporate a wider vary of customers and makes use of, dance challenges have change into much less dominant. The Renegade problem, which Jalaiah Harmon choreographed in fall 2019, has 124.8 million views. This spring’s blockbuster dance, choreographed by Jaeden Gomez to Lizzo’s tune “About Rattling Time,” has about 31 million views.

Persevering with questions in regards to the correct crediting of dance creators, significantly creators of colour, have additionally contributed to the cooling of the dance problem development. Final summer time’s #BlackTikTokStrike marketing campaign noticed some Black artists, annoyed by white influencers co-opting their dance content material, take a step again from the platform. (The app not too long ago added a built-in crediting characteristic that enables customers to determine the unique creator of a dance.)

The present’s relationship to this dialog is considerably sophisticated. “Dancing With Myself” doesn’t embody its contestants’ social media handles and even their final names, making it tough to seek out or comply with them on-line. It additionally replicates, after a style, among the crediting points many TikTok creators have protested. In the course of the present, the celebrities are recognized as creators of the dance challenges, and reveal the choreography as if it have been their very own. Behind the scenes, they’re aided by a group {of professional} choreographers — Brittany Cherry, Cameron Lee, Will Simmons and Kelly Sweeney — who have been themselves chosen by the choreographers and co-executive producers Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, who’re married.

“In the event you’re not a choreographer, it’s fairly a to-do to create that many dances in a brief period of time,” mentioned Napoleon, who, with Tabitha, has labored on “So You Assume You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars,” amongst different exhibits. “We’re there to help the creators within the choreography. We put a base collectively, after which we work along with them on what feels good and what strikes they wish to put into the dance.”

Napoleon notes that the present’s finish titles embody all the choreographers’ names, which is already extra crediting than some tv dance artists get. “To place that data within the episode itself, I believe it’d be complicated for the viewers,” he mentioned. “We don’t all the time say when Tom Cruise is doing a stunt or when it’s a stuntman.”

The “Dancing With Myself” contestant roster consists of a number of profitable social media stars. Why would they topic themselves to the reality-television meat grinder? As a result of common creators’ giant follower counts can obscure the narrowness of their fame, which is commonly restricted to a distinct segment on-line group. A nationwide TV present affords a bigger highlight — a boon for these craving higher recognition for his or her work.

“I imply, it’s community,” mentioned Marie Moring, a second episode contestant who has practically 700,000 TikTok followers. “Social media is pretty new, however NBC has been round. Folks know NBC.” And Moring, 46, discovered that the present helped her attain a brand new demographic: her friends. “A number of Gen X-ers, my folks, they’re not on social media, however they watch TV,” she mentioned. “Individuals are coming to my web page now simply to say they noticed me on the present.”

TikTok superstar can also be restricted by the platform’s short-video format, which permits solely transient glimpses of its creators. Keara Wilson, 21, the winner of the second episode of “Dancing With Myself,” is likely one of the most well-known TikTokers to seem on the present: She choreographed the Savage problem that swept the web in spring 2020, and now has 3.4 million followers. Regardless of her viral second, Wilson mentioned she thought few of her followers knew a lot about her.

“There’s simply not a lot you may present doing 15- or 30-second movies,” she mentioned. Hers was an odd half-fame — additional sophisticated by white creators’ appropriation of her choreography, which meant that many who encountered the Savage problem by no means knew Wilson created it. (Wilson is now within the means of copyrighting her Savage dance.)

However actuality TV is the realm of the again story, and “Dancing With Myself” consists of packages showcasing contestants’ offline in addition to on-line lives. On the present, not solely did the judges shout out Wilson because the creator of the Savage problem however viewers additionally realized about her coming marriage ceremony, and her in depth dance expertise past TikTok challenges. “It’s been two years,” Wilson mentioned throughout her episode, “and I lastly get to indicate who I actually am.”

Neither Moring nor Wilson noticed a major bump of their TikTok followings after showing on “Dancing With Myself.” Each, nevertheless, mentioned they cast useful bonds with lots of the creators they met on the present. Boffone described the lodge the place contestants stayed throughout filming as “TikTok summer time camp,” with everybody staying up late to observe dances and share profession recommendation.

“A number of us have been very excited to be round different folks that get it,” he mentioned. “It’s like, hey, how do I speak to manufacturers? What are some good methods for utilizing hashtags? It’s change into this cohort of individuals which can be all sharing sources and serving to one another achieve success.”

Although “Dancing With Myself” is removed from a runaway hit, it’d mirror the subsequent step within the growth of TikTok-style dance: taking the dance problem offline. Because the app’s vocabulary and memes have seeped into mainstream tradition, TikTok dance-alongs have begun occurring in all places from live shows to baseball video games. There could also be a day when you find yourself much less prone to see TikTok dance on TikTok than you might be to see it on TV.

“These sorts of actions, it’s not the platforms which can be creating them, it’s the folks,” Irwin mentioned. “We’re providing one other place for that motion to unfold.”



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