So You Think You Can Dance - Season 9

Stephanie

New member
Does anyone else on here watch So You Think You Can Dance? This year they have a belly dancer named Janelle Issis. She is 24 years old from Vestavia Hills, Alabama. She is the first belly dancer to make it to Vegas week, and the first belly dancer to make it to the Top 20.

Here is her audition tape:
 

Erik

New member
I haven't had television for six years, but a couple of weeks ago I was jumping around on YouTube and found this clip. [Although I'm a transplanted Floridian I felt a little surge of pride to see that she was from Alabama.]

I liked her dancing at the house party and the nursing home. The rest was just too....I don't know....contemporary, but that's just an opinion. I understand TV, and they must always keep it contemporary.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
I haven't seen it, but I've been hearing a lot about it from my friends. I believe this is the same girl from the documentary, "American Bellydancer." She didn't make the cut for the Bellydance Superstars audition when Miles Copeland first put the troupe together. Jillina starts talking about her at around 7:01:



I didn't enjoy her audition performance. She's too...frenetic, and IMNSHO, a bit sloppy in some places.

On second look, I noticed her paddle turns weren't graceful. You're not supposed to bob up-and-down like a carousel horse. I'm not trying to be mean or hateful, I'm going by what I've been taught. She does have a wonderful smile and stage presence, though. She just needs a bit of polish. Like Erik, I enjoyed her nursing home performance much better than her audition. It was as if she was trying to use her sex appeal to win the judges. That kind of dancing probably wouldn't cut it in an actual bellydance competition.
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
So she thinks she's belly dancing, hmm? :think:

Why on earth doesn't someone enter one of the contests and do a genuine belly dance? Or do the people who use middle eastern music and appropriate movement never make it to the video stage?

Bridges? Wild leaps into the air? Hiphop or whatever kind of music was going on there? :naghty:
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
So she thinks she's belly dancing, hmm? :think:

Why on earth doesn't someone enter one of the contests and do a genuine belly dance? Or do the people who use middle eastern music and appropriate movement never make it to the video stage?

Bridges? Wild leaps into the air? Hiphop or whatever kind of music was going on there? :naghty:
I knooooooooooooow, right? *cringes* It's no wonder Jillina said she has no dance strength. :wall:

I need to make a correction, Miss Issis tried out for the Desert Roses troupe. She was beaten out by a fourteen-year-old.
 

Erik

New member
Why on earth doesn't someone enter one of the contests and do a genuine belly dance? Or do the people who use middle eastern music and appropriate movement never make it to the video stage?
Sometime around 1980 (to the best of my research and recollection) belly dancing became respectable, and instantly it became old news. Television lives in mortal fear that if viewers see something they've seen before, something not fresh and cutting edge, they'll change the channel.

In watching the clip Farasha provided, I concluded that Miles has good intentions and a good talent for marketing, but little else. It is said that you should not criticize unless you can do better yourself. Well, I know I can do better than him. Miles, don't just talk to the dancers. Listen to the dancers!
 
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Darshiva

Moderator
I saw this clip when it did the rounds on facebook. I'll do now what I did then - bury my head in the sand & pretend it never happened.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
I just now read through some of the YouTube comments. It seems that she would have preferred to use Middle Eastern music, but the show picked her music, and she has no choice or control in the matter. Stupid show producers. :mad: If that's the case, then poor girl. :(

She STILL bobs like a carousel horse on Red Bull. Just saying. :confused:
 

Stephanie

New member
A lot of the contestants' audition music had to be changed because they couldn't get the rights to use the music on television, they were asking for more money than the network was willing to pay for each song, etc. So just ignore the music (which is easy for me because my sound is broken).

I think it's interesting to hear comments/opinions from actual belly dancers because, as someone who hasn't started taking classes yet, she looked good to me.

ETA: She made it to the Top 20 so she did something right. She did well dancing in the other styles they gave her choreography for, otherwise they would have cut her. Because a LOT of people got cut during Vegas week. So even if she's not the best belly dancer, she is good enough at the other styles to be on the show (which is going to be mostly if not all non-belly dance anyway).
 
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Yame

New member
She has a beautiful smile and great stage presence. With that said...

She looks completely untrained. Not just in belly dance, but in other dance forms as well. I understand everyone is ranting and raving about her versatility and her training in other forms, but where are her clips of her doing other dances? Or, for that matter, where are the clips of her belly dancing?

Her "belly dance" clips don't look like belly dance at all. They look like J-Lo, Beyonce, or Shakira dancing. Her isolations are uncontrolled and all over the place, her arms are absolutely unrefined. The expressions aren't demure and graceful or subtly flirty like they should be in belly dance, they look vulgar and sexual. She over-dances to the music, not knowing when to slow down or stop. She uses only random, non-Middle Eastern music (I understand she probably had no control over what they played for her audition, BUT I looked at her youtube channel and none of the videos she posted has actual belly dance music, other than the ones where she uses BDSS Paul Dinletir music which is questionable anyway). For someone who is Palestinian and close to her roots, where is the Arabic music and the connection with it? The costumes are cheap airport specials.

I understand I am being very harsh on her, however when you go on national TV claiming to have been belly dancing from age 4 and to have training in other dances, that really raises my expectations. You'd think that with 20 years of training she'd have had the time to perfect her technique, to get a grip on musicality and expression, and to get some better costumes? But I guess not.

As for her "other" dancing, it's hard to tell because there's no video of her doing hip hop or jazz or whatever else she says she has training in, but I can generally tell when a belly dancer has had extensive training in other dances and is good at them just from their belly dancing alone. It will usually show in their lines, transitions, spins and turns, posture, usage of the arms, etc. Her posture isn't great, she seems not to know what to do with her arms and hands, and there is nothing special about her lines. Her transitions look amateurish, she bops up and down in her spins (in some folkloric dances this is how you spin, but generally this is a sign of an untrained dancer), her legs and feet are too far apart in her turns. In the first clip posted, she randomly does a jump in her butterfly costume. That jump looked sloppy. Look at this video and compare her dancing to the clips of the dancers after her. There is absolutely no comparison. The dancers after her looked like trained dancers. Beautiful lines, high jumps, impressive extensions, straight legs, feet nicely centered, etc.

Janelle Issis & Additional Solos - SYTYCD 9 (Vegas Week) - YouTube

Do belly dancers need to be able to do that? Absolutely not. But if you're going on So You Think You Can Dance and differentiate yourself from other belly dancers from the past who had training only in belly dance, you better be able to walk the talk. There are so many belly dancers who have real, true, extensive training in other dance forms, who could keep up with the other choreographies while auditioning as belly dancers. Elisheva of NYC comes to mind. She LOOKS like a dancer. Janelle does not.
 
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Farasha Hanem

New member
Yame, you put into words exactly what I was thinking. I'm a horrendous bellydancer myself, with absolutely no background in any other dance except Klutz dancing. xD Seriuosly, though, I've been here on this forum long enough to know what bellydance is supposed to look like, and unfortunately, this isn't it. I, too, would like to see clips of her dancing in other styles.

Another thing that bothers me---why are there never judges or producers on these shows who actually have a background in authentic bellydance??? >:/ As long as these shows are controlled by people who seemingly don't have respect for cultural dances, and whose main goal is to put on an "exciting" show, the GP will continue to only be exposed to watered-down, sexualized, hip-hopped-up pseudo-versions of bellydance. It's enough to make a dancer ninja-zill the producers. -_-
 

Yame

New member
Yame, you put into words exactly what I was thinking. I'm a horrendous bellydancer myself, with absolutely no background in any other dance except Klutz dancing. xD Seriuosly, though, I've been here on this forum long enough to know what bellydance is supposed to look like, and unfortunately, this isn't it. I, too, would like to see clips of her dancing in other styles.
And your comments were spot on. We develop our brains and eyes much sooner than we develop our bodies. Within a few months or a few years of dancing we already know how to differ good dancing from bad dancing (provided we have the right sources and influences), we already know what dance is supposed to look like, even if we might not be able to do it ourselves. It takes a lot more training and repetition for the body to start doing what you think it should do. So you don't have to be a great dancer to be a great critic.

I am sure you are not a horrendous belly dancer. And neither is this girl, by the way, but it's all a matter of knowing your place and not putting yourself out there before you are ready, and especially not putting yourself out there on national television if you are not something wonderful.

I'm not a great dancer either, but then again I'm not representing belly dance on national television. I do have training in ballet, I've been doing it for over 2 years and I STILL don't look like a "trained dancer." But I make sure the exposure I get is proportionate to my dance skill, and I keep training and trying. It doesn't happen overnight. But when people go around dancing like that for millions of people to see, this is the impression they get. That they can watch a few videos, buy a hip scarf, and there ya go, instant belly dancer.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
And that's exactly the thing that concerns me. A lot of the YouTube comments were along the lines of, "Well, she may not be the best bellydancer/doing authentic bellydance, but she's representing our dance and putting it out there." But what these commenters don't realize is that it's giving bellydance the WRONG exposure. It is continuing the misleading view that slutty facial expressions and over sexualized moves are a part of bellydance. They get the idea that you can use any music and call it bellydance. Plus, they're deprived of the chance of seeing good bellydance, both in technique and musicality.

I agree she's not a horrible dancer. In truth, she's better than I am. @____@ I only wish that she had used that 20 years of dancing to find someone who would have given her an honest critique of her dancing, and better training. It's rather hard for me to think that she hasn't gotten that.
 

Aniseteph

New member
It happens because of a combination of the GP and the judges not having a clue what it should look like, and them and the production team loving the idea that it might be oh noes a bit too sexy and they are being dangerous. :rolleyes:

In her defence, I suspect the production team egged her on something rotten so they could do all the tired old schtick. If I hear one more male judge on one of these shows doing the cartoon wolf bit (eyes on stalks, tongue rolled out etc) I'm going to puke. Save it for the strippers.
 

Erik

New member
I'm going to puke.
More proof this forum needs an emoticon that can regurgitate.

If I don't react like that, it's because I'm used to it, like a morgue attendant is used to it, and because as mentioned earlier I understand how the television industry works. I understand a lot of things that I don't necessarily approve of.
 
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