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.