Friday, June 10, 2005

Dancing with the Stars

I managed to catch it this week, and it was a trip. 6 celebrities of the kind that participate in reality shows were paired with 6 top pro dance instructor/performers, and they're competing for marks from the judges and the audience. Each couple must dance one dance a week, with the whole floor to themselves. Of course we have an "execution" at the end of each show starting this week until we have a final winner.

The dances themselves are the so-called standard and Latin dances - the international style. Standard includes foxtrot, waltz, quickstep, Viennese waltz and tango, and Latin includes rumba, cha cha, jive, samba and paso doble. The series is six weeks long, so presumably they'll be doing six of the above. We've seen 4 - the ladies have done waltz and rumba, and the men have done cha cha and quickstep. It would be a crime if the other two weren't tango and jive (think swing/Charleston/Lindy). Standard Viennese waltz is boring (as opposed to American style smooth Viennese waltz), foxtrot is too much like quickstep and waltz, paso doble isn't so accessible and samba just has a little too much personality.

Each dance is rigorously defined for judging purposes by various organizations. Ordinarily the actual choreography is limited to using figures which are "part of the dance", but they're probably a bit relaxed here. There are three judges for each dance in a token attempt to maintain discipline and to give some useful feedback, but the results tell us that the audience rules the roost. Otherwise Kelly Monaco would be gone instead of Trista, with Evander not far behind.

(Evander Who? Yep, that's Evander Holyfield, past heavyweight boxing champion who has "danced" with Mike Tyson et al. One judge had just finished criticizing Evander's quickstep when another proposed that the first be given 5 weeks of training and then put in the ring with Evander).

Watching this could be intimidating to potential dancers. They have to understand that those routines, at least what I've seen so far, would take the average person many many lessons and much practice to learn. We're talking years at typical rates of study and progress. If you see showy moves, it's because they've had several intensive weeks to prepare with the full attention of top pros, and they know that much of their audience won't bust them on technical stuff like the judges will. (Also, the dancers have the floor to themselves, so "floorcraft" isn't an issue - they don't have to work around the other dancers like at real competitions or social gatherings. That makes life a lot simpler for everyone, especially inexperienced men doing standard dances)

A cynic might say that of course it takes time to learn - dance instructors typically get paid by the hour. To that I can only say "try it", and consider that somebody like Joey MacIntyre, who was the youngest man competing, has been dancing for a long time, and presumably wants to look good, had plenty of trouble working with his quickstep routine.

They don't call it quickstep for nothing - you could call it a faster foxtrot that at times looks like calisthenics for two. The tempo wasn't really brutal, but it was plenty for men who weren't professionals, and many of those beats were split into two steps. Anyway, it's harder than it looks, especially when the pros do it. Anyway, I can't wait to see Evander Holyfield attempt it - he'll literally need to be on his toes.

Meanwhile the ladies are doing rumba, which is the slowest Latin dance. It's supposed to be the most erotic, and it definitely doesn't look right if you look like you're dancing with your sister. That seemed to bother Trista, who basically wanted to clear some of it with her husband first (don't worry, honey, you're not your partner's type).

Stacy's Mom has got it goin' on - Rachel Hunter did well, even with some challenging moves. Trista just wasn't into it enough or maybe she just couldn't relax. Kelly Monaco, an ex Playboy Playmate, had no trouble with heat but needed work on her movement.

Joey MacIntyre was OK. John O'Hurley looked the part and got the highest marks. Evander? Well, he was a fan favorite, but he wasn't exactly lightfooted. Just don't tell him I said that.

If you liked the show you might consider going to a dance competition. I'll write about that in another post.

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