12 things we wished you realised about dance TV contests


Let Too Much Flavour take you on a journey through the false reality of reality dance competitions!

You’re on TV this Spring? Good for you. Sky One you say? You’ll need to hack someone’s satellite dish to watch then because face it, half the acts on these shows aren’t actually paid TV customers… Let Too Much Flavour take you on a journey through the false reality of reality dance competitions! Step one, click play on the video below so we can set the tone. Thanks!

Got to Dance is back (BGT will follow a few months after) and after months of “scouring the nation” with un-glamorous pre-auditions (see below) that take place in town halls and rented studios YOUR dance school might be beamed into viewers homes that care little about your personal struggle but more about how many flips you can do.

Got to Dance is the leading dance variety show on TV and that’s down to the fact there’s nothing out there to compete with it – the only other option being BGT that a dog won last time, and So You Think You Can Dance, which was scrapped after bad ratings despite being the show that put some emphasis on the work put in to be the best most versatile dancer.

And dancers are better than dogs (apart from dogs not having egos, a false sense of entitlement and when you’re a canine it’s OK to act like a bitch!) because the eventual winner of BGT gets to perform in front of the queen, and she already has several corgis.

Yes, while its great for exposure to go on TV dance shows you probably didn’t count these few points… This amateur exposé isn’t about Got to Dance and BGT in particular but all the TV shows you might be thinking of entering in 2013. They’re not completely unjustified either – everything here is an aggregation of facts from several years of watching dance acts making fools of themselves for a little exposure and conversations with dancers that have taken the TV path.

Disclaimer: The following is a collective of experiences that may vary from your own. Best read with a pinch of salt.

bgt-producer-emailThe producers wanted YOU

A TV producer’s daily regime is fairly simple: Get the work experience kid to draft a proposal email and research an email list, then mass send it out to the top 50 dance companies on Google.

Got an email from a producer last summer? So did I, and I have three different emails to contact me by. And this isn’t a dance company website or a talent agency. But they didn’t bother to check.

It’s quite funny that the email illustrated on the right was picked up by our spam filter, although props must be given for actually addressing it personally…

Your future is decided by your back story

Oh you want to represent the underground? Great, get a job as a tube driver. Ha!

Last time we watched prime time TV its programming never included the finer points of locking’s deep history or how street dance made its transition to dance studios worldwide but good looking people, bright colours and emotional climaxes. Something to aid digestion while eating dinner in front of the TV. Not thugged out dancers defending “real hip hop values.”

This year’s series of Got To Dance has adopted X-Factor‘s VT style (TV talk for ‘video tape,’ the sequences before an act comes on) of BLATANTLY SCRIPTED AND POSED SCENARIOS before each audition happens.

Where was THIS staged style of VT taken from? TOWIE, ITV’s flagship programme for aspirational bints.

Your popularity will increase overnight

All that exposure (live shows / on demand / YouTube videos / repeats on a Sunday morning) and you think you have it all! You’re a household name (as long as that household has a Sky Plus box…) and you’re planning your first UK tour if things go your way, merchandise range and umm… Masterclasses?

Yet you forgot to update your official social network pages regularly so someone created an unofficial fan page in your name that gets thousands of likes while you have 400 likes so no one knows what you’re up to because they couldn’t find you on Facebook? C’mon son!

Prodijig, Got to Dance 2012 winners updated their Facebook page TWICE in August last year.

EDIT: We’ve removed a line here about Prodijig taking too long to update their social media, and how winners of these shows should definitely keep their fans updated after winning so people don’t forget them. It turns out they were busy using the time to develop their stage show and national tour using their winnings to fund it. We can’t knock that, and it’s been removed since.

Commiserations to anyone that appears on TV and doesn’t take advantage of their exposure. Just don’t raise your performance fees unrealistically and wonder why despite the brief media attention you’re not making a living off the show.

Dancers always dance to the music used on TV

Any music used on TV is subject to licensing. This means a small fee goes to the artist/musicians that made the track every time it’s played. Licensing old music is a long and time consuming process with many legal pitfalls and complications when you account for allowing on-demand TV and YouTube clips to use the music worldwide.

Using chart music for performances can push sales. So why would producers want to shell out additional cash for a 1970s James Brown track when they can have Little Mix for a bboy set?

It’s about value not values.

It improves your career prospects

This one is difficult to dispute if your act is entertaining or ‘different’ to the masses and an advert director looking for a dancer at short notice happens to be watching, but you’re not the only dance company that’s done a TV show. There have been several series of GTD and BGT now – that’s a lot of finalists.

There’s no doubt that TV exposure can propel you career, whatever your intentions. But from the day those cameras stop rolling you have a year to make an impression. Then it’s the next series and you’re old news, so use the year ahead of you as motivation to get things done!

Do you have a one, three and five year plan to set out to achieve, or are you just being spontaneous and living in the moment? Only one of these choices hold some promise of longevity.

You can be a dance judge now

No, going on TV doesn’t give you a pass to become a judge at a dance competition. The organisers are just selling a ticket off your image for credibility. Some of the best most knowledgeable and esteemed choreographers in the world never went on TV, worked hard to get the respect they got, only to be trumped by a ‘famous face’ from TV who rose up the social ladder to sit in a judge seat.

You can still preach “the real”

You made the sacrifice of your dignity knowing under talented overpaid judges could rip your ego apart in front of a rolling camera or an over zealous editor saw a moment they could take advantage of for entertainment. Can you still tell others what it means to be real after that?

The viewing public will only see one story, and that’s the story that the script writer and editor set out. Depending on how well you come off it’s difficult to know whether you can shake off the “we’re not the same people you saw on TV, we have so much more to show!”

Below we have Simon Cowell telling Unity to fire their choreographer after being unsure whether he’s a boy or a girl… we’re talking about one of London’s top street dance companies being boyed off by Si Co and his malicious sidekicks?! Narr… Fastforward to 3 minutes 47 seconds for some harsh, harsh words.


That’s our peeps right there, Unity, who bring the house down with legions of screaming fans – and we’ve known them for at least eight years ourselves, only for a split second on TV to do that to them. Sheeeet…

Crying is standard

You’ve made it through life with the loss of a loved one, you’ve had a paper cut under your nail and you’ve had someone tell you you couldn’t catch a beat with a butterfly net, yet watching your company in front of a live TV audience reduces your hardened self to tears?!

You’re worse than this girl (guy?!) below!


Man up / wear your ovaries on the outside.

All those YouTube views mean anything

YouTube works by algorithms: Computer calculations that suggest recommended videos to other users based on their viewing history and how many times people click that video. Once YouTube computes a video is getting popular those videos are prioritised above others to get more views meaning people stay on the sight longer so it can serve more ads in front, across, and around videos.

The videos below are virals, but also still massively popular after over four years because people when people searched ‘dance’ it was always the first one they clicked. A million views on your video? That’s a drop in a massive data ocean.


YouTube works in your favour, that is, for advertisers by keeping visitors on the site to display more paid ads alongside videos. Got to Dance doesn’t appear to pay for sponsored videos, another way of getting you to click and watch more videos, probably because they come up top when you search the show.

The judges can ‘flow’ feedback

Seems funny how the judges happen to know what to say off the top of their heads without stuttering. Could it be that producers posing as the judges during tech rehearsals are note taking so the judges don’t end up lost for words when the cameras roll? Surely not?

Things will be the same after

Contracts are confusing misleading temptations offering you limited fame and modest fortune but what’s the best way to make sure you keep earning royalties? By selling your image. Everything from your look to the songs used can be owned by producers: Now anyone entering an ITV talent competition is bound to be on their official agency’s books to make life easier when setting up a national tour and to take a cut of any future appearances.

You won’t be able to host a show your best friend organised without your manager overseeing every minor detail and ensuring their “client’s bests interests” are taken care of, ie, “Why is their name not on the poster in the biggest writing above everyone else?”

Product placement


That little P inside a P you see at the start alongside subtitles notifications at the start of a programme mean a show is pedalling products payed for by companies during the show.

What is product placement? According to OFCOM, the regulatory body for UK broadcasters “Product placement is when a company pays a TV channel or a programme-maker to include its products or brands in a programme. So, for example, a fashion company might pay for a presenter to wear its clothes during a programme, or a car manufacturer might pay for a character to mention one of its cars in a scene in a drama.”

Here’s a shot from X-Factor USA – in America product placement has been common on commercial TV channels, but expect to see a lot more of it on British TV.

xfactor-product-placementEvery lingering shot on an Amazon Kindle Fire (2013 GTD sponsors) or Dance Central for X-Box (2012 GTD sponsors) is the equivalent of those cursed Sponsored posts on your Facebook feed. But on TV! Watch out for the logo next ad break.

In conclusion

What’s the moral of this story? While there are now so many more opportunities to making it big you better have the best crew EVER and be prepared to ride the wave of success being on TV brings without falling prey to the sharks. Come with your own game plan, make sure you get across what you want to get across and nothing else (talkin’ about your cat having to be put down so they can play an emotional song before your audition… sheesh).

In the past five years the sentiment has changed from TV dance shows from being the “bane of all evil that goes against everything dancers work for” to something accepted as a right of passage (note: THERE ARE OTHER ALTERNATIVES PATHS TO SUCCESS).

Understanding that producers are just trying to produce an entertaining show (to appease shareholders and advertisers) is something else the Keep It Realists should recognise – it’s entertaining television EVEN if it says ‘dance’ on the label.

Everyone has a right to try and make it no matter what, but if you’re playing up to the camera for a quick buck instead of sweating to earn your place in society then go see a spiritual guide about always taking the easy route. If you’re not being true to who you are in front of your grandparents, go check yourself.

Keep pushing your art and continue to give it value, champ!

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