While TV shows like Dancing With The Stars might dabble in the inclusion of digital talent on their rosters, Dance On’s Dance Showdown is all about merging digital celebrity and dance into a memorable experience.
“You get to see people, you get to know people, you really get to be a part of their journey,” explained series creator and judge D-Trix. In addition to a stronger set of dancers and choreographers overall, this season will also see props involved in some dances, making for a higher production value.
The fourth season of the show premieres today, which brings digital talent together with a choreographer to perform each episode. Unlike other dance shows that allow a week for talent to learn their moves, Dance On gives as little as 20 minutes at times. Contestants work together, complete challenges, and do solos. Everything is open to voting by fans, and contestants like Vine star Gabbie Hannaand magician Brian Brushwood have a lot of digital cheerleaders.
“No one’s going to be great, no one’s going to be a professional dancer within four days,” D-Trix said. “Anything you do new, you give props and respect to the people really going for it. Of course they’re not going to be perfect, but for someone to be vulnerable and just go for it [takes guts].”
The series has run for three previous seasons on YouTube as part of the Dance On network, which is the leading multichannel network for dancers and choreographers. The network’s creators have helped shape musical and dance trends, including viral hits like Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” In previous seasons of the show, Dance Showdown has welcomed some of the biggest names of YouTube, like Hannah Hart and Kingsley, but also given a platform to some digital stars who’ve later faced controversy, like Sam Pepper, who was on the show in 2013 and later stood accused of sexual misconduct in 2014.
Former contestant Steve Kardynal has joined this season as a judge, giving him a special relationship with the contestants. He remembers that going from occasional dancer at the club to learning choreography was crazy for him last year, so he knows what the contestants are going through.
Kardynal is known for his pop culture parodies on YouTube, and he said that his new dancing experience has inspired him to change the way he does videos.
“I definitely have a video planned that’s all filmed in one take; it’s inspired to this song by Kiesza,” Kardynal said. “So because of this show I am making a whole one take. It’ll be the longest preparation I’ve ever done for a video. That’s all because ofDance Showdown.”
The show doesn't only tap into the digital world of talent, but also crosses over to the established world of dance. Choreographer Laurieanne Gibson, who’s worked for years as Nicki Minaj’s creative director, is one of the judges, and she sees her involvement in the show as important for bridging the gap between digital and mainstream.
“There’s something about this show that I love, being a part of the future and touching the kids,” Gibson said. “I jumped on a Greyhound bus from Toronto to New York pursuing my dream, and now they get to access choreography and dance from YouTube and maybe take a little longer. I love being a part of something that’s the future.”
Gibson said when she leaves the world of YouTube and heads to a Diddy video shoot, the reaction from her industry counterparts is a mix of confusion and excitement. While Dancing With the Stars, and other talent shows like The Voicemight mine digital talent for their ranks, they’re still seen as part of the major industry system. Shows like Dance Showdown are instead a part of the digital ecosystem, homegrown and ready to adapt. TV networks have a limited amount of minutes in their programming schedules for dance-centric content, but YouTube has proven there’s an ever-expanding desire from viewers to watch more. Instead of being beholden to attaching C-list TV star names to the roster, Dance Showdown can engage with its neighboring digital stars and create a self-sustained show, with help from sponsors like Coca-Cola and Toyota. For D-Trix, the show is unlike anything else available.
“The only way you can watch something like this is Dance Showdown,” he said. “I think the goal is to bring more opportunities like this online. Sadly viewership on television is not as strong as it used to be, but kids are hungry for it.”
Episodes will premiere every Friday on Vessel and every Tuesday on YouTube, with voting starting Oct. 16 on DanceShowdown.com.