On NBC’s ‘Dancing With Myself,’ TikTok-Like Dances Meet Network TV

Even by the razzle-dazzle requirements of TV expertise competitions, “Dancing With Myself” units a powerful scene. Two stacked rows of room-size cubes, trimmed in shimmering lights, fill the stage — “Hollywood Squares” meets “Saturday Night time Fever.” On the judging desk sit the pop stars Shakira and Nick Jonas and the web celeb Liza Koshy; behind them, a cheering studio viewers. One dice’s door slides open to disclose the present’s first contestant, who begins to carry out …

… a TikTok-style dance problem. The type that creators on the app are identified for filming of their bedrooms, pajamas elective.

The engineered glamour of community actuality TV may appear at odds with the carefree looseness of TikTok dance. “Dancing With Myself” has got down to show in any other case. The brand new NBC present, Tuesdays by July 19, tries to translate the viral dance problem phenomenon right into a actuality competitors format.

The packaging is acquainted: an elaborate set, a reside viewers, a set of celeb judges. However this system’s social media-fluent contestants — who carry out quick dance challenges in remoted “pods” — don’t look, or transfer, like most dance-show opponents. And the judges aren’t simply commenting from behind the desk: They’re additionally billed as creators, setting and educating the present’s dance routines.

“Dancing With Myself” is tapping into the of-the-moment energy of TikTok in addition to the now vaguely nostalgic energy of a community tv expertise present. In its efforts to marry these two cultures, it has confronted a number of the identical points which have roiled the social media dance world — and revealed how a lot TikTok dance itself has advanced.

“It’s attempting to legitimize TikTok dance in a venue that’s the antithesis of TikTok,” stated Trevor Boffone, a instructor and writer of the guide “Renegades: Digital Dance Cultures from Dubsmash to TikTok.” “However it’s additionally exhibiting how deeply this type of dance has develop into embedded in widespread tradition.”

“Dancing With Myself” went into growth in early 2021, simply after the dance problem reached its zenith. “We noticed individuals having these digital dance events and posting these dances from their residing rooms, with everyone searching for a solution to join,” stated the chief producer John Irwin. “And we thought, ‘My gosh, there’s obtained to be a present on this.’”

Celeb star energy clinched the thought. In December 2020, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas launched the dance-forward music video for his or her music “Lady Like Me.” It rapidly went viral as followers tried to recreate a jazzercise-inflected passage of the choreography, which was created collaboratively by Maite Marcos, Shakira, Marc Tore and Sadeck Waff. Already a dance problem veteran, Shakira started reposting her favourite “Lady Like Me” movies to her social accounts. “She felt like the proper individual to drag into this,” Irwin stated.

Shakira got here on board as each an government producer and the chief of the present’s judging panel. Later, the mannequin Camille Kostek joined because the host, and Koshy and Jonas rounded out the judging panel.

You’ll by no means hear the title TikTok on “Dancing With Myself.” (“We didn’t need to be ‘the TikTok present,’ as a result of we thought this motion was bigger than that,” Irwin stated.) However TikTok tradition, shined up for tv, shapes many elements of its format.

The 12 contestants on every episode be taught a collection of routines that resemble social media dance challenges of their brevity and relative simplicity. They carry out in sq. “pods” that recommend the boxed seclusion of cellphone screens, unable to see one another for many of the challenges. Like many TikTok dance creators, Jonas, Koshy, Kostek and Shakira usually are not skilled choreographers, however all show and assist train the present’s routines. Although judges have alternatives to save lots of favourite dancers, “likes” are the forex of the competitors, with winners decided by viewers votes which can be animated onscreen as showers of hearts.

The “Dancing With Myself” method to casting is probably most in keeping with TikTok’s ethos. “On the app, what results in success is just not essentially good dancing, however, actually, the character of the performer,” Boffone stated.

Although some “Dancing With Myself” contestants are gifted and extremely educated dancers, the present makes some extent of together with charismatic opponents of all ability ranges. Many are already TikTok standouts: the dancing flight attendant, the dancing police officer, the dancing dentist. (And the dancing TikTok scholar. Boffone, who posts routines along with his college students on Instagram and TikTok, was solid as an alternate for the present’s fifth episode.)

“It is a present that’s for everybody,” Shakira stated in an electronic mail. “It’s about celebrating the love of dance and private tales amongst all individuals, not simply professionals.”

“Dancing With Myself” has arrived as TikTok dance reaches an inflection level. In 2019 and early 2020, when the platform was nonetheless primarily often called the “teen dance app,” its tradition revolved across the dance problem. However as TikTok has grown to incorporate a wider vary of customers and makes use of, dance challenges have develop into much less dominant. The Renegade problem, which Jalaiah Harmon choreographed in fall 2019, has 124.8 million views. This spring’s blockbuster dance, choreographed by Jaeden Gomez to Lizzo’s music “About Rattling Time,” has about 31 million views.

Persevering with questions concerning the correct crediting of dance creators, significantly creators of shade, have additionally contributed to the cooling of the dance problem development. Final summer season’s #BlackTikTokStrike marketing campaign noticed some Black artists, pissed off by white influencers co-opting their dance content material, take a step again from the platform. (The app not too long ago added a built-in crediting characteristic that enables customers to determine the unique creator of a dance.)

The present’s relationship to this dialog is considerably difficult. “Dancing With Myself” doesn’t embody its contestants’ social media handles and even their final names, making it tough to search out or observe them on-line. It additionally replicates, after a trend, a number of the crediting points many TikTok creators have protested. In the course of the present, the celebrities are recognized as creators of the dance challenges, and show the choreography as if it had been their very own. Behind the scenes, they’r
e aided by a staff {of professional} choreographers — Brittany Cherry, Cameron Lee, Will Simmons and Kelly Sweeney — who had been themselves chosen by the choreographers and co-executive producers Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, who’re married.

“For those who’re not a choreographer, it’s fairly a to-do to create that many dances in a brief period of time,” stated Napoleon, who, with Tabitha, has labored on “So You Assume You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars,” amongst different reveals. “We’re there to help the creators within the choreography. We put a base collectively, after which we work along with them on what feels good and what strikes they need to put into the dance.”

Napoleon notes that the present’s finish titles embody the entire choreographers’ names, which is already extra crediting than some tv dance artists get. “To place that data within the episode itself, I feel it’d be complicated for the viewers,” he stated. “We don’t at all times say when Tom Cruise is doing a stunt or when it’s a stuntman.”

The “Dancing With Myself” contestant roster contains a number of profitable social media stars. Why would they topic themselves to the reality-television meat grinder? As a result of widespread creators’ massive follower counts can obscure the narrowness of their fame, which is commonly restricted to a distinct segment on-line group. A nationwide TV present presents a bigger highlight — a boon for these craving higher recognition for his or her work.

“I imply, it’s community,” stated Marie Moring, a second episode contestant who has practically 700,000 TikTok followers. “Social media is pretty new, however NBC has been round. Individuals know NBC.” And Moring, 46, discovered that the present helped her attain a brand new demographic: her friends. “Plenty of Gen X-ers, my individuals, they’re not on social media, however they watch TV,” she stated. “Persons are coming to my web page now simply to say they noticed me on the present.”

TikTok celeb can be restricted by the platform’s short-video format, which permits solely transient glimpses of its creators. Keara Wilson, 21, the winner of the second episode of “Dancing With Myself,” is likely one of the most well-known TikTokers to seem on the present: She choreographed the Savage problem that swept the web in spring 2020, and now has 3.4 million followers. Regardless of her viral second, Wilson stated she thought few of her followers knew a lot about her.

“There’s simply not a lot you may present doing 15- or 30-second movies,” she stated. Hers was a wierd half-fame — additional difficult by white creators’ appropriation of her choreography, which meant that many who encountered the Savage problem by no means knew Wilson created it. (Wilson is now within the technique of copyrighting her Savage dance.)

However actuality TV is the realm of the again story, and “Dancing With Myself” contains packages showcasing contestants’ offline in addition to on-line lives. On the present, not solely did the judges shout out Wilson because the creator of the Savage problem however viewers additionally realized about her coming marriage ceremony, and her intensive dance expertise past TikTok challenges. “It’s been two years,” Wilson stated throughout her episode, “and I lastly get to indicate who I actually am.”

Neither Moring nor Wilson noticed a major bump of their TikTok followings after showing on “Dancing With Myself.” Each, nonetheless, stated they solid beneficial bonds with lots of the creators they met on the present. Boffone described the resort the place contestants stayed throughout filming as “TikTok summer season camp,” with everybody staying up late to apply dances and share profession recommendation.

“Plenty of us had been very excited to be round different people who get it,” he stated. “It’s like, hey, how do I speak to manufacturers? What are some good methods for utilizing hashtags? It’s develop into this cohort of individuals which can be all sharing sources and serving to one another achieve success.”

Although “Dancing With Myself” is way from a runaway hit, it’d mirror the subsequent step within the growth of TikTok-style dance: taking the dance problem offline. Because the app’s vocabulary and memes have seeped into mainstream tradition, TikTok dance-alongs have begun taking place in every single place from concert events to baseball video games. There could also be a day if you end up much less more likely to see TikTok dance on TikTok than you’re to see it on TV.

“These sorts of actions, it’s not the platforms which can be creating them, it’s the individuals,” Irwin stated. “We’re providing one other place for that motion to unfold.”