Walk it Out and Put a Lid on It

One of the more charming aspects of an internet community that has no censorship, such as comments posted to public sites like YouTube, is the astounding variety of stupid that one can find in this green earth.

The fine points of mental feebleness encountered in these comments must be seen to be believed, not to mention the creative spellings and grammar.  But of course you fine people who come here to read my blog are familiar with the comment trolls and spammers who like to insult everything and anything in their path– therefore I need say no more about that.

Except that I am late to the "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) party, and I too want to say my bit about the shocking amounts of hate spewed in all directions over this video, and specifically over its choreography.

So, you know, hold on to thy proverbial effing hat.

____________

In case you, like me on occasion, live underneath a rock, there has been as of late a very popular song by Beyoncé by the title of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)".  The song is about commitment, the ring in mention being an engagement ring, and the chorus referring to the simple yet poignant statement that if you, young responsible bachelor, actually like the woman you're dating you should probably proffer a ring as a sign of your love and commitment to this woman.  Because, you know, many women like that kind of tchotchke, as we're genetically engineered to hoard and to seek mates who are able providers as much as the gents are genetically predisposed to want to screw anything that moves. 

In other words, it's an "eff you, buddy– I'll probably get the proverbial ring (i.e. commitment) from a worthwhile suitor, so suck it, you tepid douchebag" kind of statement.  Personally, any song that gives some self-respect to doormat-prone women is a welcome song, but I realize that my feminist roots are showing.

The song was released back in October, and as with all songs in our modern times, a video was released alongside it a few days later.  The video in question is a bare-bones black-and-white choreographed piece which was inspired by a viral video on YouTube; this one was a dance routine created by legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse and which was performed on the Ed Sullivan Show by his wife at the time, Gwen Verdon.  If you have not seen this routine, it's worth a watch:

The music, "Mexican Breakfast", I find a little dated –it definitely screams 1960s; and the polyester suits the dancers are wearing are a little jarring on the senses.  However, the choreography itself is clean, crisp and brilliant in its simplicity; it looks deceptively easy, and yet it has sudden turns and rhythmic twists that keep you focused on it.  And I am not saying this to tout myself as a dance expert, which I am not: the fact that the video had already been set to other songs and was in itself an inspiration to Beyoncé –and myriad parodists thence– is just a testament to just how good a good artist can be (and I am referring to Fosse's genius and to Verdon's crisp interpretation of his moves).  So when you see Beyoncé's tribute performance, you see all the elements of the original, but with an extra sauciness that makes the choreography her own.  Where Gwen Verdon shimmies and thrusts in a rogue pixieish way, Beyoncé's hips shake to and fro in a thoroughly sexual manner which is enhanced by her choice of a very suggestive and skintight leotard that is cut almost dangerously high.

For those of you who have not seen Beyoncé shaking her particular junk, I give you the link, because embedding has been disabled.  Click here to see "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."

Now, I understand that if you don't like Beyoncé, that you would be inclined to say her version sucks or that she looks fat/silly/too sexy/clumsy/etc. doing her version.  But when you insinuate that she is a thief and that she "stole" the choreography, I find the statement thoroughly uncultured and hurtful.  And really, I just don't like slanderous statements bandied about as if they were meaningless drivel that didn't really matter.

Dance and choreography thrive on people copying and reproducing and recreating the moves of others: it's how we learn.  In ballet, great choreographies put on by such bright stars as George Balanchine are still being reproduced and are as appreciated as new works.  Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery in the dance world– it is also what keeps it going and recycling old moves into new ones.

So, you are entitled to dislike new versions of things, it's true.  But calling someone a thief because they are choosing to pay tribute to past heroes of dance and choreography and by doing so exposing a new generation to the work and art of people about whom they would have never heard is narrow-minded and stupid at best.

But probably not as stupid as actually reading the comments on YouTube.

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This entry was published on January 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm and is filed under Pop Culture. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Walk it Out and Put a Lid on It

  1. I like the overall message of the song. I wokuldn’t say I’m an UBER feminist, but I do think it has a good underlying message. I may have maxed out on Beyonce dancing in a leotard (haha) everywhere, but catchy song.
    I’ve been enjoying all of the parodies though. That amazing guy who knows the entire routine is a riot. And I saw one really cute one of a little girl doing it. Fun with YouTube…

  2. *grins* In my opinion the term feminist is too quickly applied to anyone who stands up for women’s rights of any type. I guess that could be from growing up through the 60’s and 70’s and hearing and seeing all the reactions to women demanding to be treated as equals and not as property or second class citizens.
    Somewhere along the road to equality a lot of the social courtesies got labelled as sexist and I think that was one of our greatest failures as a society.
    Personally, I like having a man hold open a door for me or letting me go first. I always thank him. Yet my husband has had women get upset at him for being a gentleman and accuse him of being sexist and condescending and a lot of other nasty words. Funny thing is they never do that when I’m around and he still acts the gentleman.
    If I reach a door first I will hold it open for whoever is behind me. Often if it is a man he’ll reach out to hold the door. Again, I smile, say Thank You and proceed forward. How is this courtesy in any way demeaning to me as a woman?
    As far as Beyonce’s song is concerned, I agree with her. In this age of easily spread diseases and diseases a person could be carrying and not be aware of, I would want some form of commitment if I was single and dating. It doesn’t have to be an engagement ring, it could just be a commitment ring – something that shows that the two of them are willing to devote their time and energy towards getting to know each other and not be involved with other people.
    The statistics on cheating show that a ring – engagement or wedding – won’t stop anyone who doesn’t want to hold to the commitment made to the other person. However the message behind Beyonce’s song is more about not just having casual sex but instead devoting your time on building a relationship. After all, we only have this life to live and while some people may like casual sex, most of us want a partner to grow old with.
    As for the dance routine, as long as she doesn’t claim it to be hers (and she doesn’t as far as I’m aware) so what if she took it from an old video. As they say Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this makes a nice tribute to the choreographer and keeps his work alive. In the end, isn’t that the best way to honour someone?

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