In the reality television show “Bring it!” Diana Williams, owner of the ‘Dancing Dolls’ studio in Jackson Mississippi and her dancers go head to head in competitions with similar groups of dancers, winning trophies and bragging rights.
The show basically follows Williams, called Miss D and her protégés; mostly in the studio and in competition but also offers a glimpse of their lives. The Dancing Dolls, with their catchy slogan “DD4L” (Dancing Dolls for life), are a force to be reckoned with in the US south. They have lost a few competitions but they mostly win, so they are the dancers everyone else wants to beat.
The competitions are mainly modern dance—a lot of hip-hop moves and tumbling—and while the costumes are eye-catching, Williams though she comes over as brash, strives to keep her dancers modest. The girls are mostly teenagers, though there are a few younger ones, they are all in school and some of them are honour-roll students.
There are a few things that immediately come to mind when you watch the show. The first is that the dance studio keeps the girls fully occupied and safe. The second is that have to put in long hours of practice so they are getting exercise. The third is that there is an enormous amount of discipline involved—Williams is a no-nonsense woman—and there’s mutual respect between her and the girls though she pushes them hard when necessary.
Williams also keeps the parents in check; she does not brook any interference with the way she runs things. She will allow a parent to say why her child should lead, for example, then tell her point blank why it will not happen.
It is obvious that the constant competing keeps Williams and her dancers on their toes. They must frequently learn new choreographies and add props and surprises to their routines to keep things fresh. Touted as one of the top dance troupes in the US, the Dancing Dolls are always in the limelight. It would never do to allow things to get stale.
Recently, the National Dance Company of Guyana (NDCG) held its 36th ‘season.’ The ‘season’ is an annual show during which the company showcases its repertoire. Before I go any further let me just say that there is no comparing the Dancing Dolls with the NDCG. Our local group has a far wider base—in terms of the genres of dance it is able to teach and perform—and way more experience. The Dancing Dolls was only founded in 2001.
The NDCG and its parent organisation the National School of Dance (NSD)—the members of the NDCG are graduates of the NSD—are usually a joy to watch and this year’s production was no exception. The annual performances are based on a theme and it’s always amazing to see the variations and interpretations of that theme in dance.
However, having watched “Bring It!” recently and then Season 36, I could not help but wonder how the NDCG would fare in a competition against dancers of a similar calibre. I’m thinking of groups like Classique, Crystallite and others. Classique, as a dance troupe, is a highly polished machine. It has often held more than one dance show in a year, drawing huge crowds to the National Cultural Centre as it has an enormous fan base.
Dance competitions are not a ‘thing’ in Guyana. The last one would have been “Feel the Beat,” which was sponsored by GTT, where individual dancers faced off against each other. And as far as I can recall, that was the only competition. A contest that pits several troupes against each other in different genres and including individuals, duets, trios and so far would be a dance lover’s heaven.
In addition to preparing for their annual shows, a dance-off would serve to keep local performers on top of their respective games. It would allow them to show their prowess and really test their skills not just against their fellow troupe members but other dancers of unknown qualities. And anything that pushes someone to be the best she/he can at what she/he does is a good thing. Maybe this is something the Institute of Creative Arts can look into.