Daily Archives: May 22, 2009

Gene

There’s been a rather interesting dust-up going on in After Elton over a character named Nigel Lythgoe.
The host of a Fox “reality show” called So You Think You Can Dance lythgoe has been markedly uncomplimentary to the same-sex orientented in general and one couple that tried out for the show in particular. The ever-dedicated Michael Jensen has been keeping tabs on this creep (who might be described as a dessicated Simon Cowell, minus the charm) pointing to this memorable quote.

“Dancing is role-playing most of the time. And you need to be strong and lift girls. You need to look stronger than the girl you’re dancing with. You control the dance, especially in ballroom. So if you mince about the stage, you’re not doing what the choreographer is asking you to do. He’s asking you to be strong. If your choreographer then wants to do an effeminate routine, then that’s fine, but most of the time we don’t do effeminate routines so straight or gay doesn’t come into it for me.”

Oh really? How uh forthright of you to say so.

Consequently Lythgoe’s latest shenanigans should come as no surprise.

The show featured its first same-sex couple — Misha Belfer and Mitchel Kibel — who were introduced with incredibly condescending dramatics including a clip of “It’s Raining Men” and many “dramatic” shots of the two swirling about.
During the couple’s audition (Misha is gay and Mitchel is straight), Lythgoe and fellow judges Mary Murphy and Sonya Tayeh kept exchanging bemused looks, and at one point Nigel covers his eyes as if he’s too horrified by what he’s seeing. Then when the two guys take a tumble, Nigel laughs at them.
Okay, much of the above can be expected during auditions when you get folks who aren’t always great. But what came next definitely shouldn’t have happened.
After the two dance, Nigel comments that it’s the first time they’ve had two guys do a Samba and he says he doesn’t really know what to say. He notes their styles were good, if he just “sticks with the dancing” and ignores their gender, but that the pair would probably alienate a lot of the SYTYCD audience. Nice way to assume your audience is as intolerant as you are, Mr. Lythgoe!
Nigel also shares that that he “likes to see guys be guys and girls be girls on stage.”
He then makes the shocking observation that “he didn’t like it, but if we just keep it down to your dancing, rather than your dancing together, you were good.”

“Dancing rather than your dancing together”? WTF?

Editor’s update: After I posted the above, I got in touch with Misha himself to find out what he thought of how Fox and the judges treated him. Misha had no problem with the judges comments regarding the technical aspects of their performance, but was not happy with how he and Mitchel were treated otherwise. In fact, Misha told AfterElton.com that there was even worse said that Fox didn’t show. . .

“It was more offensive than what they showed. Nigel said that he’s not sure that the fathers watching this at home would be encouraged to take their sons to allow them to learn to dance. Nigel told me that they [the show] has spent all these seasons trying to build up the idea that a male can dance and make it more acceptable, and we didn’t really help the cause.
I told him that I have a father, too, and I went through that. I told him that the country is already going through a lot of changes and could handle some more. Nigel didn’t say anything to that.
The judges kept going on about a man and a woman and I kept correcting them that it was a leader and a follower.
Nigel asked me after the choreography round, how I liked dancing with a girl and I said, ‘I’ve been ballroom dancing since I was twelve, so I’ve been dancing with girls my whole life.’ It was very inappropriate and the only reason they advanced us wasn’t to see if we could improve or be versatile, but was to make us dance with girls.”

IOW, the same old tired tune the Heterosexual Dictatorship has been humming under its fetid breath since the Dawn of Time. Thankfully more people are beginning to notice just how off-key it is. But for someone of my generation it brigns to mind my continued ambivalence about . . .Gene Kelly.

A wonderful dancer and choreographer — and a brilliant actor too — he starred in the very fist movie I ever saw, Singin’ in the Rain — which as you can well imagine changed my life. I loved every nanosecond of it. But at the same time I’m well aware of Debbie Reynolds meant when she said “The two hardest things I’ve ever done in my life were giving brith and Singin’ in the Rain.”

She was, after all, just a teenager in 1952. Louis B. Mayer loved her to pieces and saw she had star potential. Singin’ in the Rain turned that potential into fact. But wonderful as that was for her, Kelly was quite the taskmaster. Dance rehearsals went on and on and on and on. The results of course clearly speak for themselves. But it’s also clear that Gene was having a lot more fun HERE

This unacknowledged part of Kelly’s oeuvre invariably springs to mind when I think of him. Yes of course he made his greatest mark with the ladies.

Though he is reflexively recollected dancing with himself in Singin’ in the Rain’s title number.

gk

In his invaluable Original Story By Arthur Laurents recalls a prickly and contentious Kelly, who wasn’t all that happy working with the crew known for good reason as “Freed’s Fairies.”

Perhaps that what drove him to create one of the most idiologically pernicious TV “spectacualrs” (that’s what they called ‘em then) of the 1950sas his NYT bio notes –

“late in 1958 [Kelly] conceived, wrote, narrated and danced in an NBC-TV special called “Dancing Is a Man’s Game,” in which he used athletes to demonstrate the sheer physicality and manliness of dance, often viewed by Americans as an effete art.”

So there was Gene, showing us all how butch dancing was.

I cringed.

Then I got angry.

Yes folks, men dancing met that they were “effeminate.” Needless to say not everyone suffers from such hangs-ups.

But fear of Insufficient Butchness is what’s behind the culture’s attraction-repulsion to Rudolph Valentino

Here’s that same dance re-inetrpreted decades later by a couple of Big Ol’ Gay Homosexuals

Yes, yes, I know. “What about Baryshnikov?” Well one thing you can say about Misha, unlike Kelly –and despite The Turning Point where closet queen Herbert Ross fudged Arthur Laurents screenplay — he’s never made a personal or artistic issue of the fact that he’s straight.

And speaking of The Turning Point, in the end it’s not all that different from Billy Elliot, whose hero has a gay friend but who defaults to straight like so many characters before him. ( stifling a yawn )

Of course things are changing.

Isn’t that lovely?

I’d like to end with my favorite tango. Music by Astor Piazzolla ( “Ni l’eglise, ni bordel” as Jacques Rivette reminds us.)

Take it away Wong Kar Wai!