Friday, November 13, 2009

Editorial: Street Dancers & Music Artists

Where can street dancers go for work in the entertainment industry? It's a tough field as we all know. One area that we're looking at today is with music artists. Whether it's music videos, club shows, or national tours; performing with a prominent music artist is a competitive job for many street dancers. But is it different from the early 1980s and 1990s? There are some similarities, but also plenty of differences. (Photo above is from a Getty Images archive.)

Unlike the early 1980s, few mainstream music artists in the 2000s have street dancing as a prominent feature in their show. They're musicians first, not street dancers. Dancers who perform with them are simply eye candy in the background. Street dancers have to compete with more choreo-focused dancers for these jobs. Common knowledge dictates that you have to "look" like the part in order to get the gig as well as being able to pick up the choreography. With this set-up, it's been hard for individual street dancers to shine. But are we seeing a new trend? We're starting to see street dancers appearing in high profile music videos, whether it's Madd Chadd and PopNTod in Chris Brown's "I'll Transform For Ya" or Pandora in Common's "Universal Mind Control." A year ago, the publicized ACDC vs M&M Cru online dance battles brought exposure to many street dancers unknown to the mainstream America. That's good news for these bboys, poppers, and lockers who can showcase specialized skills that few other choreo dancers can provide.

Another possible positive trend is that dance crews can now be seen as marketable commodities in promoting a music artist. Due to the success of America's Best Dance Crew and the online dance fan community, a music artist/executive might spot a win-win situation in bringing a well-known crew on tour or in a music video. The JabbaWockeeZ performed with the New Kids on the Block. We are Heroes appeared in Omarion's "I Get It In" music video. And the Beat Freaks are showing up in Diddy and Dirty Money's "Love Come Down" video. It only makes the music artist look cooler. Plus, it's a guarantee that dance fans will flock to see their favorite crews. That only puts more eyeballs on your promoted music artist. For street dancers in crews, sticking together as a group is like being part of a union. It can benefit the whole team if they brand themselves wisely.

But here are the complications. Music videos are still first and foremost about promoting the music artist. That's the business side of it. Street dancers are there to support the musician. In the realm of music videos, they're not in the spotlight. The same is true for dancing in live shows or national tours. Plus, music videos are rarely featured on MTV. We're more likely to search for them on Youtube or on Myspace Music. Does that mean fewer advertising dollars for music video budgets leading to possibly fewer financial opportunities for street dancers? That's a possibility. The plus side of music videos being distributed via online video sharing sites is that they're given more longevity than in the past. Now, we can search and favorite the music videos with our favorite routines and dancers.

So here are some things we'd like to see. A breakthrough music artist who's also a street dancer and features street dancing in their show. Current musicians allowing dance crews to showcase more at their live shows and tours, which can only bring in more fans to buy tickets. And qualified street dancers being hired as choreographers for group routines in music videos. They all lead to more opportunities for street dancers who choose to pursue work with music artists in their industry. It's not the only path that a street dancer can choose, but simply one of them. Maybe it's possible that street dancers and music artists could collaborate on an equal level to bring a special brand of entertainment that we haven't seen yet. Let's hope for the best.

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