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 Evening Fever.” On the judging desk sit the pop stars Shakira and Nick Jonas and the web movie star 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 sort that creators on the app are recognized for filming of their bedrooms, pajamas elective.

The engineered glamor 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 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 group of movie star judges. However this system’s social media-fluent contestants — who carry out brief dance challenges in remoted “pods” — do not 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 similar points which have roiled the social media dance world — and revealed how a lot TikTok dance itself has developed.

“It is attempting to legitimize TikTok dance in a venue that’s the antithesis of TikTok,” mentioned Trevor Boffone, a trainer and creator of the e book “Renegades: Digital Dance Cultures from Dubsmash to TikTok.” “However it’s additionally exhibiting how deeply this type of dance has grow to be embedded in common tradition.”

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

Movie star star energy clinched the thought. In December 2020, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas launched the dance-forward music video for his or her music “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 particular person 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 may by no means hear the title TikTok on “Dancing With Myself.” (“We did not 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 points 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 a lot of the challenges. Like many TikTok dance creators, Jonas, Koshy, Kostek and Shakira are usually not skilled choreographers, however all display and assist educate the present’s routines. Although judges have alternatives to save lots of favourite dancers, “likes” are the foreign money of the competitors, with winners decided by viewers votes which might be animated onscreen as showers of hearts.

The “Dancing With Myself” strategy to casting is maybe most consistent with TikTok’s ethos. “On the app, what results in success is just not 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 some extent 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.)

“It is a present that’s for everybody,” Shakira mentioned in an e mail. “It is about celebrating the love of dance and private tales amongst all individuals, 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 often known 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 grow to be 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 music “About Rattling Time,” has about 31 million views.

Persevering with questions concerning the correct crediting of dance creators, significantly creators of shade, have additionally contributed to the cooling of the dance problem development. Final summer season’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 embrace its contestants’ social media handles and even their final names, making it troublesome to search 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 display the choreography as if it had 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 had been themselves chosen by the choreographers and co-executive producers Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, who’re married.

“In case you’re not a choreographer, it is 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 embrace the entire choreographers’ names, which is already extra crediting than some tv dance artists get. “To place that info within the episode itself, I feel it might be complicated for the viewers,” he mentioned. “We do not at all times say when Tom Cruise is doing a stunt or when it is a stuntman.”

The “Dancing With Myself” contestant roster consists of a number of profitable social media stars. Why would they topic themselves to the fact tv 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 is community,” mentioned Marie Moring, a second episode contestant who has almost 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 variety of Gen X-ers, my individuals, they are 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 movie star can 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 among 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’ll be able to 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 intensive dance expertise past TikTok challenges. “It has been two years,” Wilson mentioned throughout her episode, “and I lastly get to indicate who I actually am.”

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

“A variety of us had been very excited to be round different those who get it,” he mentioned. “It is like, hey, how do I speak to manufacturers? What are some good methods for utilizing hashtags? It is grow to be this cohort of individuals which might be all sharing sources and serving to one another achieve success.”

Although “Dancing With Myself” is way from a runaway hit, it would mirror the subsequent step within the growth of TikTok-style dance: taking the dance problem offline. Because the app’s vocabulary and memes have seened into mainstream tradition, TikTok dance-alongs have begun taking place all over the place from concert events to baseball video games. There could also be a day if you find yourself much less prone to see TikTok dance on TikTok than you’re to see it on TV.

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

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