Back-up dancers out of step with artists
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In the aftermath of the MTV Video Music Awards controversy surrounding Miley Cyrus’ performance I learned that the issue of scantily attired, provocative dancers is not just a US phenomenon.
In Vietnam News, my daily paper, the Life&Style section headlines read “Back-up dancers out of step with artists”, noting that many dancers “wear scanty and unaesthetic costumes”.
The article underscores a cultural tug of war underway in Vietnam, the struggle between traditional art forms and the desire for commercial success. Taking a cue from not only the US but their Asian neighbors (Korea and K-pop music comes quickly to mind) glitz sells, and the purists are fighting an uphill battle in Vietnam.
The Director of the Vietnam Dancing Artists Association, Kim Quy, bemoans the excessive use of back-up dancers to “enliven performances”. “It spoils the music” she continues and “two-thirds of these dancers have not had professional training”. Duy has raised this issue before but admits “people just ignore me”.
A local stage manager adds that no one cares about the professionalism of dancers, “as long as they are attractive”. This should not come as a shock given the world’s focus on “beauty” at the expense of talent.
An additional criticism among the cognoscenti of folk music and traditional performance in Vietnam is that not all songs are appropriate for dance accompaniment. One critic, who preferred for some reason to remain anonymous, said that “dancers from the Central Highlands (of Vietnam) wore ethnic costumes of that region, while the singers performed a farmers folk song from the Mekong delta”, culturally and geographically far from each other.
Incongruous is one way to describe that; maybe like how many MTV VMA viewers must have felt when a scantily clad Miley Cyrus – the former virginal Hannah Montana to US kids – engaged in vulgar dirty dancing on national television.