Dancing Queens: A New Reality Show about Pro-Am Ballroom

Last week, I saw this trailer on social media:

Your initial reactions are probably similar to mine. My eyes rolled a little at the extreme push to overdramatize, like every good reality show does. I don’t like reality shows in general for that reason, but I admit I was also curious and wondered where I’d be able to stream the show (Peacock+, if you’re also curious).

It reminded me of the short-lived reality show called Montecito that aired in 2014. I remember frequently rolling my eyes while watching it with Roomie. Like this new show, it followed several very wealthy women as they competed in pro-am ballroom. It portrayed a cliché that the U.S. ballroom world has only itself to blame for creating – rich women are doted upon by their attractive young dance instructors and said women quickly develop unreasonable expectations that go beyond the standard student-teacher relationship. I was very judgy toward one woman in particular who threw a tantrum because her teacher was dancing with another student in the heat before hers and she would have to walk onto the dance floor by herself. At my first competition, my teacher was going for the Top Teacher award and was dancing in practically every heat. I barely knew what I was doing and I had to go out by myself. I yelled at the TV that she should get over herself.

Unlike Montecito, which (if I remember right) featured women who were new to ballroom, Bravo’s Dancing Queens features established pro-am dancers competing in higher level Latin. Bravo is also responsible for the various Real Housewives shows, so its producers have perfected the formula for creating buzz about a new reality show. The trailer for Dancing Queens hints at all the drama you could want in “reality” TV – sexual tension, family/marriage tension, overzealous competitiveness, betrayal, sabotage, and of course tears.

Soon after I saw the trailer and laughed it off, I was surprised to see some rather strong opinions popping up online about the show. People were offended at the drama and shamed the show for portraying the pro-am ballroom world in such a negative light that didn’t match their experiences. The dancers who signed onto the show were being accused of the same along with caring about nothing except winning, and it was even suggested in one post that the NDCA should consider banning them.

I’m sorry, what now?

You’re joking, right?

It’s a REALITY SHOW! Of course, the trailer focuses on the negative and overly dramatic. That’s what gets people to watch!

If you’re also on social and follow me, you may have already seen my post gently asking people to chill out and stop getting their rhinestoned panties in a twist. I also had to give props to Bravo’s producers for doing their job so well. We’ve only been shown a “first look” trailer and people are already getting caught up in the drama.

I hope we all know by now that “reality” shows are anything but real. They may be unscripted (more or less), but the editing that goes into the final version of the show is what creates the story that we watch. Audio is clipped apart from video, and then it’s all stitched back together to make us think something was just said, which actually wasn’t or which was taken completely out of context. We are shown someone’s reaction right after we hear something, in order to make us think they’re reacting to what we just heard, when the two actually occurred entirely separate from one another.

Reality shows rely on the same thing every fictional show does – storytelling. You have to be able to engage and then keep your audience’s attention. There’s a high road and a low road to storytelling (sensationalism being the low road), but there still has to be a story. Otherwise, even watching rich women screaming at each other over brunch gets boring. In today’s society, with so much content constantly being streamed at us 24 hours a day, there’s no room for a slow-building “once upon a time.” You have to grab people immediately.

Hence, the opening of the Dancing Queens trailer. We see high heels and then someone’s butt, and hear “Everyone has a hobby…but ours costs six figures a year…We pay hot men to dance with us…” What does that sound like to the average human who has no idea what pro-am ballroom dancing is? Lead with the sex, then add in the tension and conflict. Boom, another reality show is born.

What surprised me more than anything in the trailer was people’s harsh reactions to it. Not so much the reactions themselves because making assumptions and snap judgments about reality show participants is part of the guilty pleasure of reality TV. We all do it in some form or another, even if it’s to turn your nose up at the whole reality show concept because such trash is below you.

But this time, it’s not just a bunch of strangers that we’d be watching and making fun of while we eat a bowl of popcorn. These are fellow pro-am dancers. I don’t know any of them personally, but I see them in Facebook groups. I may have seen them dance at competitions. They may have seen me dance. I would think knowing that they exist outside the TV screen and share our passion for ballroom would humanize them more and make them less of a target, at least in the ballroom community. Apparently not.

When I first saw the trailer, I didn’t immediately recognize any of the women. It wasn’t until I saw their names listed that I realized I was connected to some of them online. It was that connection that made me pause and regret my initial eye-rolling. I thought about the woman in Montecito that I judged to be so entitled and self-centered that she was too good to walk out on the dance floor without her paid escort. Maybe she was entitled and self-centered. Or maybe she was just stressed out about the competition and having to walk out alone was just one more thing. Maybe having a camera crew follow her around was weirding her out and making her act differently. Who knows!

That’s what I wanted to remind people when I spoke up on social about the show. We don’t really know what went on behind these overly dramatic scenes that we’re shown. People accused the women participating on the show of portraying the worst side of pro-am, but do you really think they had any control over how their video and audio clips were edited together? Maybe they are willing to sabotage their friends in order to win, or maybe that line was taken out of a conversation about how they’ve witnessed others sabotage friends.

The truth is that ballroom is not all smiles and sparkly dresses. Not everyone is friendly and welcoming to all. Some are downright nasty. Can we blame Bravo for capitalizing on what’s already there?

Let’s also not forget that only a couple trailers have been released so far! They’re going to push the drama as far as they can in those clips in order to get as many people as possible to tune in on the premiere. That’s how they make their money. We have no idea yet how the actual show is going to portray the world of pro-am ballroom.

While some feel the show will be damaging to the ballroom world, I look at it as an opportunity. When non-dancers found out I competed in ballroom, they almost always asked “like on Dancing with the Stars?!” I laughed, told them no, and shared my real experience. Dancing Queens is like the click bait to grab people’s attentions. It will be up to us to keep their attention with the real reality.

So? What are your thoughts on this new reality show? Will you be watching Dancing Queens?


4 thoughts on “Dancing Queens: A New Reality Show about Pro-Am Ballroom

  1. milesrayl says:

    Not sure if Bravo is defecating on ProAm ballroom or just those type competitors. It seems to me you’re correct that they’re capitalizing off of it for the sake of profits regardless how it impacts people personally or the sport itself. I also wonder if in fact the folks involved are okay with the exploitation as long as they satisfy their own emotional/psychological and or financial needs. Which in my opinion is the only way these type of shows can exist. Needless to say I won’t be watching. There’s enough actual drama in the ballroom that this overdramatized version is not welcomed or needed. Not to say this has no basis in reality…because it does unfortunately. “Reality TV” is very unreal.

    Liked by 1 person

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