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Visions of Hell and Heaven

I know it's been a while since the Super Bowl and its less than appropriate halftime show, but I wanted to really think about it. I'll start by saying it was not all bad. If you watch the show (link here) there is a segment from 4:12-4:53 where Shakira dances with some horn players (I think the instruments may just be for show) that I found enjoyable. I also liked the final segment from about 12:15 on. It is Latin, so these segments are pretty spicy, too spicy for some folks, but they are not the kind of thing that I would find highly inappropriate. Since it was the Super Bowl, I would have toned it down to accommodate the wider audience, but it was not the kind of thing I would be angry about.

The rest of the show was another matter. To show what I mean, lets contrast two images:

I hope you can see what I mean. If you look at the picture on the right you have a picture of people dancing as couples around the light, with a warm inviting glow permeating the space. On the left, I think they were trying to depict an army of zombies dancing around a succubus. Most of the Halftime performance looked like it was choreographed to depict Dante's Inferno.

Here's a scene of assorted body parts. I've cropped out Jennifer Lopez on the pole. It looks like there is a disembodied head floating there.

Here's another comparison, this time of the show vs the Vienna Opera Ball . In these pictures the audience on the left can't really see the orgy that is happening (if you look at the video that is just what it looks like.) because they are below it. All of the individuals are in an ill defined shape. On the right you see the same warm glow as in the first picture, and the audience can see all the dancers. Even at this resolution, it's easier to pick out individuals in the ball than at the halftime show. Hell is a union in which the weak loose their identity to the strong, whereas Heaven is a union where individuality is enhanced.

If we want to look at individual relationships I would compare two video clips. On the Halftime clip, if you are up to it, watch from 3:30 to 4:05 in the show. Shakira lies down on the ground and singer Bad Bunny hops in like a chimpanzee, wearing a silver suit. He looks like some villian from a campy 1950's Sci-Fi comic. You get an entirely inappropriate view of her backside while he screams at her and in the background men are cheering. As she gets up she looks away and smiles. Not a cheerful smile, but some sort of evil looking smile. Bad Bunny lears at as she thrusts her hips. Then they dance not with each other, but by each other. Lack of relationship. Lack of Connection.

Compare to this clip of a masters medley from the 1999 UCWDC Championships. Watch from 0:30 to 0:55 (I chose this clip because the Country 2 Step Routine that Cody & Resa did at this event has always been my favorite.) Resa Slides through Cody's legs, lies on the floor, then sits up gracefully, and Cody helps her to her feet. She looks beautiful, powerful and feminine. It's clear she can get up on her own but revels in the fact that Cody helps her. By helping her get up it allows Resa to balance herself in a shape she could not do on her own, and allows her to accelerate into the move in a way she could not on her own. His contribution amplifies her femininity. Also, her smile is sultry but still a smile that welcomes someone into her world.

The only "inappropriate" conduct in the routine involves Cody is checking out Resa's backside. But it's comically obvious that he knows he shouldn't be- that is, the routine is telling us it's NOT appropriate. And it's in clear contrast to the rest of the routine, when they are obviously working together. It's clear he knows how to be a gentleman. This is in contrast to the Halftime show, where neither male singer shows any indication that he knows anything at all about being a gentlemen. At no point in the show does Bad Bunny Dance with Shakira or J Balvin with Lopez. He just shows her off to the audience. We are told this empowers women, but if it does, then it empowers women at the expense of men. It is no better than empowering men at the expense of women. Man and woman really means little except in respect to one another. The only acceptable empowerment is one that empowers both men and women as men and women. This hardly did this at all.

Monastery of St. Catherine at Sinai. The Sinai Pantokrator (Greek for “Ruler of All,”)

Still from Video Clip

You can tell me it's Latin dancing, it's the style, and I will tell you, no, it's not. Latin does not have to be anywhere near this crude. I looked up Salsa dancing on Youtube and with relative ease I found this beautiful salsa. I love the setting. I did not realize at first that they shot it at night, but the golden glow it takes place reminds me of the gold background in religios icons, as well as the glow in the pictures of the ball.I also found this one, in a simpler setting.

In both there are a few moments when someone who does not dance would say they are too close, but from having danced for over 10 years I would say that's not the case. I remember when I first started dancing and I saw a similar move I thought to myself I would not do that kind of move, but the physical connection is not what it seems. At around 0:20 in the first video they are connected at the belly, not the groin. Is it too close? No, because they are both in complete control of their bodies with the intent to create beautiful art and beautiful relationship. Later at 1:00 is what I would consider the most risque connection, but it lasts maybe 2 seconds. Also, they are connected off to the side, so it's the front of his right leg that connects to the back of her left leg. Latin is going to be more sensual than waltz or foxtrot, but if you read the poetry of the Song of Songs, its meant to be sensual in the same way. I do think both ladies' outfits could be nicer, but I am not scandalized by either. I enjoyed watching both videos and the skill and elegance of the dancers.

Now Latin dancing is too much for some people, and for that reason I just about never teach the Latin style dances in churches. However, the dancing in these two videos is much closer to what I teach in comparison to what happened in the halftime show. If the halftime show had contained this quality of dance they would not have nearly so many complaints.

Imagine it this way. Supposing I made a salsa (dip, not the dance) that was mostly tomatoes along with some onions and little bit of jalapeno. Someone else made a salsa that was mostly jalapeno with a tiny bit of tomato and onion. Maybe my salsa has too much kick for some, but most people could eat my salsa and enjoy the kick. But the other person's salsa is something you could never hope to even taste. Only people in love with having their mouth on fire would like it. That's the point. It's not that a woman can't stick out her rear or thrust her hips or open her legs in a dance. It's just when the routine is nothing but these actions (as was Shakira's opening number) that it becomes unacceptable. Just as people who each nothing but hot peppers have a dull sense of culinary taste, so too people who like the halftime show have a dull aesthetic taste.

Supporters of the show have called its critics prudish, and I will admit that many of the critics are prudish. I deal with them all the time, so I know! But it does not mean that all of us critics are prudish though. We simply want to have good relationship and good art. We don't cross the lines the show cross, the lines separating good taste from bad. We do cross the line from no relationship into proper relationship, lines neither Bad Bunny or J Balvin had the skill to cross. We seek heights the show had no idea existed. The show didn't extol Latino Culture; it slandered it. The problem was not that the show was too sexy; the show tried to be sexy and fell on its face.


None of the performers or venues included in this post are associated with Theology of Dance in any way.

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