Thursday, September 28, 2006

if you can't dance to this...

There was a small video crew setting up yesterday before my broadway/jazz class. I mean, this is a class for young adults, for people who want to dance for fun and exercise, so I was pretty sure that it wasn't a talent scout or anything like that. So I duck into a changing room and strip down to my dance clothes...leotard, tights, little athletic shorts. Nothing matches, of course, and I quickly pray that this video crew is just for someone's resume tape or something. They make us sign waivers before we walk into the studio. MTV. So much for my dance outfit's obscurity.

The music starts. Seemingly for dramatic effect, it's 42nd Street, and as I'm just starting to sing along in my head, I notice this one awkward little boy in the front, right in the center of the studio. He's jiggling around a little, presumably loosening up. But it must be hard for him to "loosen up" when the video cameras seem to be trained directly on him. Sure enough, their unforgiving lenses are pointing straight at him, and I realize that he's not jiggling at all: he's trembling, and trying (unsuccessfully) to hide it.

He's probably fifteen or sixteen, but he looks about ten...towheaded and bespectacled, skinny and short, kind of how I always pictured Owen Meany in that book, you know? A very well-groomed man with an MTV t-shirt is crouching in front of him, with his back to the mirror, giving him the thumbs up and telling him sotto voce that he'll do great, just watch the teacher and do what she does, etc. I figure it out...he's on that show Made and he's taking this dance class to get graceful, or to be a better football player (poor tiny thing!), or to gear up for the prom.

But nobody I know watches Made for the inspiring endings. We all watch out of sheer schadenfreude: "Thank God I'm not a klutz like that!" or "Can you believe that people like this haven't been naturally selected out yet??" We watch because we like to see ordinary people humiliate themselves on cable. You know it, I know it, and the producers of the show know it. Why else would they put this newbie high school kid into an adult dance class and follow his every awkward step with two cameras?

"Come and meet...those dancing feet..." I felt a little sorry for him, but it was all I could do to concentrate on my own steps, to make sure that I wouldn't be the one tripping over my own feet in front of the cameras. My friends and family wouldn't be watching him in this scene anyway.

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