Monday, December 31, 2007

Still Stepping Up

“Step Up 2 the Streets,” the follow-up to 2006’s popular “Step Up,” is scheduled to be released on Valentine’s Day 2008.

When rebellious street dancer Andie (Briana Evigan) lands at the elite Maryland School of the Arts, she finds herself fighting to fit in while also trying to hold onto her old life. When she joins forces with the school’s hottest dancer, Chase (Robert Hoffman), to form a crew of classmate outcasts that will compete in Baltimore’s underground dance battle The Streets, she ultimately finds a way to live her dream while building a bridge between her two separate worlds.

Featuring the directorial debut of award-winning up-and-comer Jon M. Chu, “Step Up 2 the Streets” reunites much of the production team behind the original film including “Step Up’s” cutting-edge hip-hop choreographer Jamal Sims, who is joined this time by choreographers Hi-Hat (Bring It On) and Dave Scott (Stomp the Yard). Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig of Summit Entertainment produce with Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot of Offspring Entertainment.

There is a special guest appearance by Channing Tatum, who starred in the first “Step Up” movie as Tyler Gage, the brother of Andie.

“Fame” still flying

The studio is backing a remake of the 1980s musical “Fame” with “300” producer Mark Canton and Lakeshore Entertainment.

The $25 million redo is slated to hit theaters on Christmas Day, 2008 and will be based on the Alan Parker film set at the New York Academy of Performing Arts, which starred Irene Cara and Debbie Allen and launched a generation of wannabe performers.

MGM plans to retain many of the musical elements of the original movie that also launched a global television hit and international stage show.

Fred Astaire dancers kick up their heels

Evan Mountain and his wife, Lada Reschikova, danced the salsa, swing and merengue on Christmas morning without leaving their living room.

The owners of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., performed their fancy footwork on a network television special that aired on Christmas morning, but was taped last month at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

They planned to be at home watching along with the estimated 40 million other viewers who were expected to tune into the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade Show on the ABC television network.

"I'm going to TIVO it," said Mountain, who took four of the studio's dancers to Florida last month for the performance. "It was a blast. We had a ball. I kept telling my teachers they may never get a chance to do anything like it again.

"On Christmas morning when we see it, I bet it lasts five minutes. It took hours and hours (to tape). It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun."

Tony Dovolani, a professional dancer on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, invited Mountain, his wife and their dance instructors to be among 150 couples that would dance his choreographed routine during the show.

"Tony is a Fred Astaire Dance Studio teacher and a friend of ours," Mountain said.

The ballroom dancers, with women in red and green and men dressed in black, performed on a stage at Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Several cast members, including some celebrities from “Dancing with the Stars,” kicked up their heels along with them.

"It was kind of surreal," Mountain said of the experience.

Dancers rehearsed from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. their first day at the park. Their second day began at 5 a.m. with more rehearsal, then cameras started rolling.

"It was quite an experience," he said. "They would tape us going through the dance and then the dance and the music and then the dance and music and pyrotechnics. They shot off fireworks around the castle. They probably had 10 cameras around, up in the air, moving around us while we were dancing."

Mountain, who began ballroom dancing five years ago, said the choreography was easy, but the dance surface – cobblestone - was hard on the feet.

"We're used to dancing on wood floors," he said.

He and his wife opened their Fred Astaire Dance Studio two years ago. Running a food brokerage company is his full-time job. He also helps his wife, who runs the dance studio.

Although most of their students are adults, Mountain and Reschikova offer a junior dance program and they plan to start teaching an enrichment program at the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills next month.

"She was hoping to get 20 kids to sign up. By the second week (of registration) 97 kids had signed up for it," he said, crediting “Dancing with the Stars” for ballroom dancing's increased popularity.

Mountain, Reschikova and teachers from their studio - Karla Pinet, Joe Coombs, Olga Agafonova and Leonid Sidorenko - all participated in the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade Show, hosted by Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, which started at 10 a.m. on Dec. 25, according to ABC's Web site.

This article, written by Sharon Dargay, was found on

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dancers get a ‘kick’ out of Rockette experience

Megan Bryant is giddy. She's just learned that Pilates can add an inch to your height.

"I'm 5 foot even, but I'm only 16, so maybe I'll grow more. But if Pilates helps, I'm totally doing that."

Bryant needs to be 5 feet 6 inches by her 18th birthday to have a shot at the goal she's been dancing toward since she was three years old: to become a Radio City Rockette.

Bryant and 18 other students from Covington, Va. spent all night on a bus to New York City Dec. 14 to attend the Rockette Experience at Radio City Music Hall, an intensive course in the company's technique as the Rockettes' 75th Christmas Spectacular unfolded on the famed stage downstairs.

Over three hours, participants learn tap and jazz routines from the show, including those eye-high kicks (dancers do about 400 per show).

They also learn the tricky "hook up." Rockettes appear to link arms to form a tight-knit kick line, but they're not actually allowed to touch -- leaning on a neighbor could send the dancers crashing to the stage.

Finally, they undergo a mock audition, where they receive grades and feedback.
It may sound like Rockette-for-a-day fantasy camp, but the $108 class (offered throughout the year) is not for newbies - you'll need at least intermediate dance skills to participate. While most attendees are teens, older professional dancers sometimes sign up as training for the official Rockette auditions in April.

For those even more serious about a Rockette career, there's a weeklong boot camp each summer, where dancers learn the moves and get a chance to shine for Radio City talent scouts. Since the Experience started six years ago, about 30 Rockettes have been plucked from the 2,000 dancers who attend the courses each year.

To these small-town dancers, class instructor Cheryl Cutlip's road to Rockettedom is inspiring: She left High Point, N.C. - a town with one dance studio - carrying two suitcases, bound for New York. She's now in her 15th season at Radio City.

Cutlip offers some sobering facts about Rockette life: Rehearsals for the holiday show start in September, running seven hours a day for four weeks. During the 10-week season, Rockettes kick their way through 16 performances a week, doing as many as four 90-minute shows in a day. And that's not including one-offs like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the "Today" show, presidential inaugurations and private appearances.

And they do it all in costume, sometimes with each dancer sparkling with 3,000 Swarovksi crystals.

"It's pretty hardcore," says Covington dancer Kelly Drummond, 16.

Click here to read more.

Monday, December 24, 2007

‘How She Move’ set for Jan. 25 release

Dance is ready to once again take center stage on the big screen.

The new film “How She Move,” directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, is slated for release on Jan. 25.

The story focuses on an aspiring medical student whose drug addicted sister recently died and who may be forced to relocate from her posh private school to the crime-infested neighborhood in which she was raised.

Unable to afford the tuition needed to fund her private-school education, ambitious teen Raya returns to her family home in the city while reluctantly forced to reevaluate her future. Upon learning that the top prize for an upcoming step-dancing competition is $50,000, Raya uses her impressive moves to earn a coveted slot in her good friend Bishop's predominately male JSJ crew.

Isolated from the local females due to jealousy and separated from her fellow dancers by gender, the ambitious dancer is subsequently kicked off the team for showing off during a preliminary competition. Now, if Raya has any hope of realizing her medical school dreams, she will have to either earn back Bishop's trust or organize her own dance crew and start over from scratch.

The movie stars Rutina Wesley, Tracey 'Tre' Armstrong, Brennan Gademans, Clé Bennett and Kevin Duhaney.

Serious About Salsa

ATLANTA, Ga. - The lights are dim, the music is pulsing and couples are circling the dance floor in elaborate, revealing costumes.

It's not "Dancing with the Stars," but rather the grand finale performance of the Atlanta Salsa Congress at the Waverly Renaissance Hotel ballroom. On a recent weekend, the events included everything from beginner salsa lessons to choreographed group recitals.

Carolyn Parera, 40, is at the center of the action, twisting and twirling around the room.

"Dancing is my passion," Parera declares. "I will dance until the day I die."

In addition to the emotional lift, Parera has found surprising health benefits from the regular activity. A single parent from Atlanta, Parera may not appear to be a typical dancer. During the day, she helps run a pediatrician's office, but in her free time she works on improving her moves.

She became interested in salsa five years ago when her teenage daughter was taking dance lessons. Instead of waiting in the car, Parera decided to join them.

"I started enjoying it," says Parera. "As time went along I started losing weight."

In fact she has dropped 100 pounds since she began. She also lowered her cholesterol and blood pressure and reduced her reliance on an asthma inhaler.

"I feel wonderful," she says. "My health is much, much better, so that gives me more energy, more motivation, more self-esteem."

Parera reports she's now spending more time with her 17-year old daughter. The two moved side-by-side while taking a group lesson together during the dance weekend. As the instructor counted out loud, the students swayed and stepped to the music.

"The more you hear it, the more you want it," Parera says. "It's like an addiction. You start and you keep going, but in this case you feel healthier."

For the full text of the article, click on

Cheryl Burke is ready to Rumba

Cheryl Burke, the two-time Dancing with the Stars champion, is not suffering from appendicitis and can rejoin the DWTS tour as soon as Friday, E! Online has confirmed.

A tour spokeswoman said in a statement that Burke met with her personal physician and, after undergoing some tests, received a clean bill of health.

"Burke will be performing alongside the all-star cast in her hometown of San Jose, California, and at all remaining shows on the tour," the rep said.

The 23-year-old Latin-dance specialist who helped Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith win the prestigious disco-ball trophy was forced to miss the tour's opening night Tuesday in Seattle after she suffered severe cramps during rehearsal.

At the hospital, doctors suspected appendicitis, but she flew home to get a second opinion.

Her return to the tour has to be good news for choreographer and DWTS veteran Louis van Amstel, who called Burke's absence Tuesday a scheduling "disaster."

"Cheryl can't be gone for more than a week. I won't let her!" the panicking pro exclaimed, probably only half-joking.

Karina Smirnoff stepped in to dance with Lachey, a change of plans that, she admitted later to, didn't go off without a hitch.

"We had a couple of moments when we ran onto the floor at the wrong time, in the wrong place, in the wrong direction," Smirnoff said Wednesday. "But that won't happen tonight."

The show will go on without Burke again Thursday in Sacramento, but she'll be back in Lachey's arms by tomorrow.

Sabrina Bryan, Joey Lawrence and Wayne Newton (singing, not dancing) are also in the lineup for this leg of the 37-city tour.

Friday, December 21, 2007

‘I Believe In Dancing’

Looking for a little inspiration this holiday season? Read how world-renowned author Robert Fulgham feels about dance – and how it’s part of his everyday life.

Dancing All the Dances as Long as I Can
By Robert Fulghum

I believe in dancing.

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. So I dance daily.

The seldom-used dining room of my house is now an often-used ballroom — an open space with a hardwood floor, stereo and a disco ball. The CD-changer has six discs at the ready: waltz, swing, country, rock 'n' roll, salsa and tango.

Each morning when I walk through the house on the way to make coffee, I turn on the music, hit the "shuffle" button and it's Dance Time! I dance alone to whatever is playing. It's a form of existential aerobics, a moving meditation.

Tango is a recent enthusiasm. It's a complex and difficult dance, so I'm up to three lessons a week, three nights out dancing, and I'm off to Buenos Aires for three months of immersion in tango culture.

The first time I went tango dancing I was too intimidated to get out on the floor. I remembered another time I had stayed on the sidelines, when the dancing began after a village wedding on the Greek island of Crete. The fancy footwork confused me. "Don't make a fool of yourself," I thought. "Just watch."

Reading my mind, an older woman dropped out of the dance, sat down beside me, and said, "If you join the dancing, you will feel foolish. If you do not, you will also feel foolish. So, why not dance?"

And, she said she had a secret for me. She whispered, "If you do not dance, we will know you are a fool. But if you dance, we will think well of you for trying."

Recalling her wise words, I took up the challenge of tango.

A friend asked me if my tango-mania wasn't a little ambitious. "Tango? At your age? You must be out of your mind!"

On the contrary: It's a deeply pondered decision. My passion for tango disguises a fearfulness. I fear the shrinking of life that goes with aging. I fear the boredom that comes with not learning and not taking chances. I fear the dying that goes on inside you when you leave the game of life to wait in the final checkout line.

I seek the sharp, scary pleasure that comes from beginning something new — that calls on all my resources and challenges my mind, my body and my spirit, all at once.

My goal now is to dance all the dances as long as I can, and then to sit down contented after the last elegant tango some sweet night and pass on because there wasn't another dance left in me.

So, when people say, "Tango? At your age? Have lost your mind?" I answer,
"No, and I don't intend to."

Independently produced for NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

‘Dancing With the Stars’ returns March 17

ABC has announced “Dancing with the Stars'” sixth season will premiere on Monday, March 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

“Dancing with the Stars” will debut with a 90-minute performance episode broadcast on March 17 in its regular Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT time slot. ABC will then air “Dancing with the Stars'” first sixth-season results show on March 25 in its regular time on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
“Dancing with the Stars” spring 2008 sixth season will use the same Monday/Tuesday broadcast schedule that ABC first implemented in order to keep last spring's fourth installment of the show out of direct competition with Fox's Tuesday/Wednesday American Idol broadcast schedule. Idol's first seventh-season results show broadcast will air Wednesday, March 12 at 9PM ET/PT on Fox.

Friday, December 14, 2007

“So You Think You Can Dance” audition dates

Do you think you can dance?

Auditions for the popular Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance” have been scheduled in cities across the country. Auditions for season four will be held:

Jan. 17, 2008 - Dallas, Texas
McFarlin Memorial Auditorium at Southern Methodist University
6405 Boaz Lane, Dallas, TX 75275

Jan. 31, 2008 - Charleston, S.C.
Charleston Music Hall
37 John Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Feb. 21, 2008 - Washington, D.C.
Location TBD

March 6, 2008 - Los Angeles, Calif.
The Orpheum Theatre
842 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014

March 20, 2008 - Milwaukee, Wisc.
Milwaukee Theatre
400 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53203

April 3, 2008 - Salt Lake City, Utah
Location TBD

More information on the show, and the audition process, can be obtained on

Tango Teaches Valuable Lessons

On the edge of a makeshift dance floor in the cafeteria of the Miami (Fla.) Lighthouse for Blind, 18-year-old Heriberto Puig and 16-year-old Patricia Alvarez join hands and practice their steps together as music from another time and culture fill the room.

In an age of hip-hop, rock and salsa, they and about two dozen other blind or visually-impaired teens were learning the intricate art of Argentine Tango, and in the process found they had gained a whole lot more in terms of physical stamina, social skills and confidence in themselves.

"This class has helped me mature a lot," said Alvarez. "I'm not a big ice-breaker. To start to ask somebody to dance is not my thing, but I can do it now that I've gotten more involved in this class."
The idea for a dance class for blind and visually-impaired teens came from two South Florida women who love tango passionately. Dianne Basha Castro, an interior designer, and Carol Durbin, who specializes in making facilities accessible to the disabled, wanted to share their love of this historic dance with others.

"One day I woke up and it just was like lightning, I knew," said Castro. "I said, I know what I have to do, I have to start a non-profit, and that's a way of giving back to the community.”

Castro called her friend, Durbin, and together they excitedly hatched a plan to secure funding to form The Shimmy Club, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching tango to the blind and visually-impaired.

The after-school tango classes began in June, and at first many of the teenagers who signed up were a bit shy and hesitant, especially about dancing with a partner. Gradually, the students warmed to the idea, and began to engage themselves in the dance lessons, finding that, indeed, tango was tailor made for them.

"It levels the playing field for them. No one's blind in the class. They're just a bunch of teenagers all working together to dance tango," said Durbin.

Castro and Durbin are convinced their Shimmy Club program for teaching tango to blind and visually impaired teens could easily work in other cities - provided they can get the requisite funding.

They have discussed their ideas with officials in New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere in Florida.

"I couldn't be more confident that we will hopefully be able to reach other people's lives in the same manner," said Castro.

For the full text of this article, written by Mark Potter of NBC News, click on

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top Ballroom Dancers Compete in “America’s Ballroom Challenge”

“AMERICA’S BALLROOM CHALLENGE” is the exciting series that brings together top ballroom dancers from around the world to compete across dance styles for the title of “America’s Best.” The series returns for a third season with five one-hour episodes. Shot in high definition at the world’s largest ballroom dancing competition in Columbus, Ohio, season three of “AMERICA’S BALLROOM CHALLENGE” airs Wednesdays, Jan. 30 through Feb. 27 from 8 to 9 p.m. ET on PBS.

Hosted by actress and dancer Jasmine Guy and seven-time U.S. National Latin Dance Champion Ron Montez, “AMERICA’S BALLROOM CHALLENGE” once again takes viewers onto the dance floor and behind the scenes as 24 world-class couples compete for the ultimate dance title. Each of the first four programs will focus on one of the four major styles of competitive ballroom dancing: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Latin. The six finalists in each style will first compete as a group, performing the five standard dances in the category, with expert judges scoring their performances. Then the dancers will have an opportunity to shine, performing a show dance solo. Each program will end with the crowning of one couple, named champions in that style.

In the fifth and final program, the four champions will compete across dance styles for the coveted title, with each couple performing two pull-out-all-the-stops solos.

Only one couple will be named “America’s Best.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DWTS nominated for People’s Choice Award

In less than 11 hours, voting ends for this year’s People’s Choice Awards.

To the delight of ballroom dance fans across the country, this season’s “Dancing With the Stars” has been nominated for an award in the Favorite Competition/Reality Show category.

However, DWTS is facing stiff competition. In order to take home the trophy, DWTS will have to beat American Idol and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Log on to before midnight (EST) tonight (Dec. 5) to cast your vote. The awards show, hosted by Queen Latifah, will air on CBS on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 9 p.m. (EST)

Rural Dance Tradition in its Twilight

All over the United States, where there are Eastern Europeans, there is polka. In the isolated farmland counties of eastern Nebraska, where it is not uncommon to drive 30 miles for groceries, polka helps tie people together. The dances and the radio shows devoted to the music keep old friends in touch and circulate local news.

Polka reflects their lives - their sense of humor and romance, and what they remember of Czech family ritual.

Polka came to Nebraska in the 1850s, when Czechs fled worsening economic conditions in Bohemia and Moravia, drawn by the promise of large tracts of American farmland. In the beginning polka meant just one thing: a specific, two-beat couples dance. But now it describes a range of dances and rhythms usually achieved with an accordion, a tuba and sentimental lyrics about family, food, love and rural memories.

There are plenty of stylistic differences. Polish polka, for instance, is a different animal from Czech. It is faster and more staccato, with every instrument playing more fills; it sounds urban, and it swings. Czech polka is simpler, more legato and emotional.
Skip to next paragraph
On a Sunday evening at the Starlite Ballroom — the area’s largest polka palace and the only one with a wooden dance floor — Lenny Blecha, 42, leaned against the bar, watching his wife dance with a succession of old men. It was the annual birthday dance for his distant cousins Bob and Greg Blecha, father-and-son farmers and jacks-of-all-trades from Pawnee City, Neb.

Lenny Blecha runs an auto-body shop in Table Rock, Neb., and also buys and sells polka records on eBay. Television, he says, has hurt live music in general, and all of his friends listen to rock and country. But he’s still incredulous that even the older folks in the rural counties aren’t doing more to keep the polka bands working and the dances running.

“I’m one of the youngest here, and we get a lot of compliments,” said Blecha. “People wish there were more of us. And the younger generation I visit with, they don’t understand. I say, ‘Why don’t you go visit with your parents and grandparents and find out what they listened to? This brings you back to your roots.’”

But older locals seem to have a more philosophical view of the decline of their polka traditions, citing the same reason over and over, in much the same way.

“It’s our generation’s fault,” said Darlene Kliment, 68, who owns the Starlite with her husband, Ron. “When we were growing up, our parents would take us to the dances. We’d fall asleep on the side of the stage, or in the booths. But then when our generation grew up, we got baby sitters.”

For the full text of this article, written by Ben Ratliff from the New York Times, click here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

DWTS cast named to ‘Sexiest Men Alive’ list

Throughout season five, the men of “Dancing With the Stars” kept female fans’ hearts hammering. Now, People Magazine has recognized five of these dynamic dancers in its Sexiest Man Alive 2007 edition.

Click here to read more about Maks and Cameron, Tony Dovolani and Derek. Not to mention this season’s winner, Helio Castroneves!

Friday, November 30, 2007

‘Funny Face’ celebrates 50th anniversary

Just in time for the holidays, Paramount Home Video has released a special 50th anniversary edition of “Funny Face” on DVD.

The Special Features section includes:
* "The Fashion Designer and His Muse." a documentary about Audrey Hepburn and her professional collaboration with Hubert Givenchy* "Parisian Dreams"* "Paramount In The ‘50s: Retrospective" (already used in previous DVDs)* Photo Gallery* Trailers

“Funny Face” is a musical released in 1957 with assorted songs by George and Ira Gershwin. The film was written by Leonard Gershe and directed by Stanley Donen. It stars Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, and Kay Thompson.

The plot for the film version is quite different from that of the Broadway musical, and only four of the songs remain. Astaire also starred in the stage version alongside his sister, Adele Astaire.

Fred Astaire was 30 years older than Hepburn when the film was made. At 58, he was approaching the end of his musical film career, in this, the second in a consecutive series of three French-themed musicals he made in the 1950s. He performs a song and dance solo with umbrella and cape to Gershwin's "Let's Kiss and Make Up." According to Hepburn, she insisted on Astaire as a precondition for her participation.

Pick up a copy of the “Funny Face” 50th anniversary DVD for your favorite Fred Astaire fan.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Helio quicksteps his way to victory

IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves and his professional partner Julianne Hough were crowned “Dancing with the Stars” fifth-season ballroom champions during last night's live finale results show broadcast on ABC.

"I want to thank, obviously first of all, my (IndyCar) team for letting me do this," said Helio. "Secondly, obviously my family, the fans, and this special person here (Julianne)."
After 10 weeks of competition, Helio and Julianne defeated Spice Girl Melanie Brown and her professional partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who finished second, and entertainer Marie Osmond and her professional partner Jonathan Roberts to take home the coveted mirror ball trophy .

Like Helio - a two-time, back-to-back Indianapolis 500 champion who won the IndyCar race in 2001 and 2002 - Julianne is now a two-time, back-to-back champion in her profession. Last season, the “Dancing with the Stars” professional claimed the show's fourth season title with celebrity partner Apolo Anton Ohno.

Julianne joins Cheryl Burke - who won “Dancing with the Stars'” second-season title with Drew Lachey and the third-season crown with Emmitt Smith - as the only professional partner to have two mirror ball trophies to their credit.
For the full text of the article, click on

Dancer shimmies his way across Golden Gate Bridge

A foghorn sounded on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, followed by the sounds of the big band tune "Hey Big Spender!"

A red and white Capezio tap shoe emerged from the fog, and out popped 75-year-old Michael Grbich of Oakland, Calif., who tap-danced his way across the landmark bridge - just because he could.

Followed by an entourage of confetti-tossing grandchildren, neighbors and a friend with an iPod boom box, Grbich spent 20 minutes dancing the 1.7-mile span, grinning, blowing kisses and striking poses for curious tourists.

He threw in some Rockette kicks, whirled a jump rope over his head like a helicopter, and grabbed the rails to "shimmy shimmy coco pop" toward the traffic like a man too sexy for his shirt, which read: "Celebrating 75 trips around the sun."

Friends who ran ahead to photograph Grbich said this was in perfect sync with his personality. Grbich is a mixed media artist, weightlifter and tightrope walker whose motto is "I risk, therefore I am."

"Whether you are 75 or 25, life is all about taking risks," Grbich said. "That's when you're truly alive - like playing tennis or making love or dancing - you forget everything and lose your self consciousness."

For the full text of the article, click on

Chinatown seniors follow cowboys' steps

It’s a Saturday, and techno music is blaring in the gym of the Lincoln Square Recreation Center in Chinatown. No, it is not a continuation of an early-morning rave.

Since July, the popular neighborhood center has been offering beginning line dance classes on Saturday mornings, where more than 125 — mostly Chinese-American seniors — have enrolled.

"Line dancing is very good," said instructor Alice Lo, decked out in a turquoise velour shirt, blue jeans and spiffy red and black dance shoes. "You don't need a partner. You don't have to dress up. It's good exercise."

Densely populated areas such as Chinatown are in need of recreational programs like this. Many families live in cramped quarters, often having to share precious space. Even the streets and restaurants often are overcrowded.

Lo, who is in her 50s, promptly begins the Saturday class at 9 a.m. More and more students trickle in soon after she demonstrates the lindy shuffle, then the twist, until the gym is packed.

"Twist to the left, " she instructs through her headset in English, punctuated with occasional phrases in Cantonese. "One, two, three, four, twist to the right!"

Line dancing is often associated with country music. But Lo, who is originally from Hong Kong and lives in Castro Valley, teaches steps borrowed from the hustle, cha-cha, rumba, waltz, swing and twist, among others — and uses all genres of music.

"The goal of my class is that I would like more opportunities for the community to get out of the house, exercise, meet friends and socialize," Lo said.

For the full text of this article, click on

Dancing With the Stars - The Finals

Dancing With the Stars – The Final Show

By Armando Martin
Former U.S. Champion and National FADS Dance Director

This year’s “Dancing With the Stars” finals began on Monday, Nov. 27 with the buildup and fanfare that is normal for every show that entertains and charms audiences of all ages. While the buildup was effective, in my opinion, the actual show fell short of what it could have been for the first time in DWTS history.

Mel and Maks were the first to dance, choosing a Cha-Cha. Mel came out looking incredible in a red-hot Latin dress that said, “Here I am, ready to win this competition.” Unfortunately the material she had to work with was not worthy of the finals. Her dancing was technically strong but the overall performance was weak. Maks is a purist Latin dancer and he can make this kind of material look great when he dances it with a professional partner. But I am afraid he does not build enough excitement into the choreography to make you say, “Wow.”

Their second dance was even less effective in my mind - hip-hop and Mel work well together, but Maks looked uncommitted and uncomfortable with this number. Overall they both seemed awkward and the choreography looked very foreign to them. After this performance I very much doubted they would be crowned champions. Combined score, 55

Marie and Jonathan repeated their Samba, and even though technically they were very weak, somehow they are more entertaining than the first couple. They seemed to put the right combination of steps together to create a performance that entertains, despite the fact that it’s lacking in content and technique.

Then, after having said that about their Samba, they come out with a very bad imitation of the ballet “Coppelia,” and they did not pull it off at all. Shame on Marie and Jonathan for turning this night into an advertisement for her doll collection. After that performance, “Dancing with the Stars” producers might be trying to figure out a new way to score the show to ensure better dance quality and more excitement in future finales. After the first five dances it came down to who was the best out of the worse performances of the season. Combined score, 46

Helio and Julianne then danced the Jive. I was looking forward to their dance since I had not seen anything exciting thus far, but was disappointed when he messed up the beginning of the dance so badly that knowledgeable onlookers felt uncomfortable and grimaced at their attempt. Toward the end he did get it together and finished strong.

Finally, Helio came out with his freestyle routine and rocked the house. Although he looked a bit awkward with some of the steps, the overall idea, along with the flashy and catchy choreography, made Helio and Julianne the couple to beat for the trophy. I again have to give this young lady kudos. Her imagination and choreographic abilities are way beyond her years and experience. I have to wonder how much help she is getting. Combined score, 54

The final show on Tuesday night was about one hour too long, since they made us watch the people that went home weeks ago dance all over again. A small wake-up call to the producers of the show: They went home a long time ago for a good reason. We didn’t want to see them dance anymore. Please don’t make us watch them again!

But seeing Sabrina and Mark, the fabulous professional dancers (especially Tony and Karina), and Celine Dion was a great treat. I do hope that next season America will do a better job keeping the talented stars in the show than we did this time. But then again without Marie and about five million Mormons voting for her and Jonathan, we may get a more fair result.

As in all competitions, the best person left on their feet won the crown. I believe that Helio was the best of all worlds - a superb combination of technique, hard work, perseverance, smart choices and great charisma. The only other person more deserving than him was sent home three weeks too soon - Sabrina Bryan.

All in all, another great season of “Dancing with the Stars” is over and we will all be looking for something to watch on Monday and Tuesday nights. Chances are we will not find anything as fun, entertaining, exciting and good for the whole family as DWTS.

So long,

Monday, November 26, 2007

'Dancing With the Stars' Prepares for Finale

Brassy Marie Osmond, sultry Melanie Brown and revved-up Helio Castroneves will face the music once more tonight as "Dancing with the Stars" wraps up another winning season.

How hot is the contest that sends grade-B celebrities whirling across the floor into the arms of patient dance pros? So scorching that A-lister Celine Dion, who performs on Tuesday's results show, longs to do more than sing for it.

"I hope they invite me to dance. I'd love to," Dion said last week after taping her appearance.

Whether the finale can top last May's match-up remains to be seen: Nearly 23 million viewers saw Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno best 'N Sync crooner Joey Fatone and boxer Laila Ali, who was voted off midway through the final episode.

This time, the third-place contestant will be announced at the start of Tuesday's show, and the remaining pairs will perform two last dances, which will help determine the winner.

The ABC show averaged about 20 million weekly viewers for each of its twice-weekly episodes in the 2006-07 season, eclipsed only by Fox powerhouse "American Idol." "Dancing" is still on its toes, with nearly 22 million viewers making it last week's No. 1 show.

For the full text of this article, click on

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

‘Rhythm of Love’ takes the stage Dec. 21

The popularity of ballroom dance has reached new heights with television hits such as “Dancing with Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” Now, the Stamford Center for the Arts (Stamford, Conn.) will bring together the best of ballroom and the best of Broadway with “Rhythm of Love,” a live stage spectacle that highlights classic and cutting-edge rhythm, Latin, smooth and standard dances.

Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Palace Theatre in downtown Stamford, Conn.

Benito Garcia, a well-known dancer who began his career as a Fred Astaire Dance Studio teacher, assumes the new role of dramatic lead. Garcia, a World Mambo finalist, stars in this timeless tale of boy meets girl, boy misses getting the girl because he’s so focused on learning how to dance, to finally, boy dances with the girl of his dreams.

Other performers include Russian partners Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis; U.S. Mambo champions and U.S. Rhythm finalists Felipe Telona, Jr. and Carolina Orlovsky-Telona;
U.S. Classic Showdance champions Garry and Rita Gekhman; reigning U.S. and World Smooth champions JT Thomas and Tomasz Mielnicki, and Jose DeCamps and Joanna Zacharewicz, who recently captured the U.S. Rhythm and U.S. Mambo Championships. In addition, they just won the World Rhythm Championship at the Ohio Star Ball, American’s largest ballroom competition.

Taliat Tarsinov, world-renowned choreographer, Fred Astaire studio executive and veteran champion of ballroom competitions and Russian theater, is the show’s choreographer.

Rick Lake is the creator and producer of “Rhythm of Love.” As an avid pro/am ballroom dancer, he has won many competition honors and was recently a guest performer at the prestigious Kremlin Cup in Moscow, as well as the WDC World Pro-Am Championship in Buenos Aires. Lake began his ballroom journey at Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

Members of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio family will receive extra special treatment with each ticket order to “Rhythm of Love,” including VIP seating and access to the Founders Room at the theatre before, during and after the show.

Tickets for Rhythm of Love are $42, $45 and $48. For an additional $50, patrons are invited to a post-performance VIP Pro Party with the dancers and creators (available to “Rhythm of Love” ticket buyers only) on Saturday, Dec. 22. Pro VIP Party tickets are limited, so patrons are advised to buy early.

Tickets to either “Rhythm of Love” only or “Rhythm of Love” and the VIP Pro Party are available at the box office by calling (203) 325-4466 or online at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dancing with the Stars – The Finals

Dancing with the Stars – The Finals

By Armando Martin
Former U.S. Champion and National Dance Director

The semi-finals started this week with some very big surprises on who is left in the competition. Gone are some of the worst dancers we’ve seen on this program - Wayne Newton and Floyd Mayweather Jr. - but also gone are some of the best this show has ever seen, Sabrina Bryan and Jane Seymour. I am really surprised to be writing about Marie Osmond and Jennie Garth this late in the show. America sent some great dancers home and left us to watch the rest, but here we are. So let’s see what they can bring to the floor this week.

Marie and Jonathan started the night with a very smartly choreographed Quickstep that was a pleasure to watch, although technically she was very weak. Her posture was suspect, she was sticking her rear end out and there was no body contact to speak of throughout the dance. But you have to give her credit; she has lost a lot of weight and always gives a great performance.

Marie’s second dance was the Mambo. Wearing a Carmen Miranda-type dress, she came out ready to shock. And shock she did with an incredibly entertaining dance. This girl is truly crazy and fun, as you could see, since the judges only spoke about her energy and personality. That’s because there were a lot of mistakes in her dance and, like me, they didn’t know where to start. So, like them, I won’t. Score after two dances, 56

Dancing in the second position this week were Maks and Mel. Their interpretation of the Viennese Waltz was terrific. They truly covered the floor with great movement. I did not enjoy the splits that they did across the floor; they were heavy looking and brought a lot of attention to her shoulders, which tend to be too high anyway. But overall it was a good performance.

In the Paso Doble I very much disagree with the judges. I think that having done the dance so well last week they took a real chance repeating it. I don’t think it was as good as before. They did, however, do a great job overall and they are the best dancers left in the competition. Score after two dances, 60

Jennie and Derek danced a very strong, determined and positive Tango this week. The problem is that Derek really can’t do the Tango very well, so while the dance might look good to the layman’s eye, if you know dancing, you can see how forced and physical it was. For me it was too much too late, but I am sure that people out there liked it a lot.

Jennie’s Cha Cha this week was the best technical performance of the night. The fact that she looked hot in her dress didn’t hurt either. She put all her emotions and sex appeal on the floor and she made it work. Score after two dances, 58

After becoming one of the favorites this season, Helio the racecar driver has been able to stay ahead of the competition by using some supercharged steps and choreography that continue to make him a crowed pleaser. This week he danced a Foxtrot that had class, musicality and charisma. The only thing Helio needs to work on are his lines, which he tends to hit too hard.

His second dance this week was the Cha Cha, and what a great dance it was. The choreography was so entertaining and clever that I am not sure if I was watching Helio or Julianne or the material they are dancing. But whatever the case, it works, and they bring it on every time. Score after two dances, 60

I must say that this season has been full of great dancing and characters. I would bet that Jennie is going home this week and that the last two standing for the title will be Helio and Mel. So I will be back next week to see if I was right.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Magazine recommends ‘Dancing Through Life

Want to combine your love of dance with your love of books this winter? “Dance Spirit” magazine recommends picking up “Dancing Through Life,” written by Antoinette Benevento, co-owner and national dance trainer for Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

According to the magazine, Benevento’s ballroom dance career began when her college roommate’s boyfriend suggested she be his partner in an instructors’ training program at a local Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

Through her book, Benevento reflects on dance as an empowering metaphor for living life to the fullest.

“Filled with inspiring maxims to help you cope with your inner critic and fuel your dance drive, this book is the perfect remedy for handling a variety of life’s struggles, from a tough day of classes to a fight with you beau,” wrote Cherilyn Watts, of “Dance Spirit” magazine, in the December 2007 edition.

To purchase Benevento’s book, visit

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Inaba, Tonioli prepare for ‘War’

Once this season’s “Dancing With the Stars” crowns a champion, judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli will begin presiding over a different dance floor.

For several months, ABC has been working on a “Dancing With the Stars” spin-off called "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann."

In addition to Inaba and Tonioli, the new show also includes second-season “Dancing With the Stars” champion Drew Lachey, who will serve as host.

During September and October, auditions were held in several U.S. cities. Inaba recently told the New York Post that the schedule has been tough, especially for Tonioli.

"Bruno is actually working on three shows," she said in the article. "He's also been flying to England to appear on 'Strictly Come Ballroom,'" the British series that was the "DWTS" predecessor.

"Dancing War" will pit teams of six amateur dancers and singers against each other. One team will be coached and choreographed by Inaba, the other by Tonioli.

The new show - which will run for just six weeks in its first season - is a cross between "So You Think You Can Dance" and "The Apprentice."

‘Fever’ rising in Tallahassee

Mike Dill, franchise owner of the Tallahassee, Fla. Fred Astaire Dance Studio, said his students and staff perform twice a year at the local high school. This fall’s show was based on the 1970s smash hit “Saturday Night Fever.”

“We do it as a benefit for the high school drama department, but it really works out well for both parties,” said Dill.

Drawing 500 to 600 people to each show, Dill said the studio’s bi-annual performances have become very popular with instructors, students and the community at large.

“Last year we did ‘Moulin Rouge,’” he said. “Those who participate have to choose music from the movie for their performances. We didn’t used to do it that way – choose one movie or theme for the show. But we found that we liked the way it came across. Having that theme really tied everything together and made it more like a show and less like a recital.”

The show consists mostly of pro-am dancers, with several group numbers as well as production numbers. Dill said each show includes approximately 25 students and instructors from the studio.

Backstage with the ‘Stars’

Cheryl Burke, two-time Dancing with the Stars champ, has some advice for any star who wants to take on this dance marathon: "Give up your day job!"

Her point is well taken, given how exhausted the contestants are each week. All the couples seem to be feeling it — making mistakes, forgetting steps, and dancing with frozen smiles that barely cover the panic.

"In dress rehearsals, I just blanked," Spice Girl Mel B. said recently, who continues to impress the judges in spite of a rehearsal schedule that would put anyone else in the hospital. Scary Spice — who has a newborn daughter at home — is running full tilt in preparation for the Spice Girls' world reunion tour, which kicks off Dec. 2, just days after the Dancing finale. She's putting in 12-hour days as a Spice Girl, then trying to learn two ballroom dances on the side.

Her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, shakes his head. "Her schedule is ridiculous," he says. "Don't forget, the baby gets her up at two o'clock in the morning, four o'clock in the morning. She's getting no sleep. Her schedule is an impossibility."

Still, in spite of the pressure, no one is phoning it in. Unlike past seasons, where clear front-runners had emerged by Week 6 (Drew Lachey and Stacy Keibler, Mario Lopez and Emmitt Smith, Joey Fatone and Apolo Anton Ohno), this time all of the remaining contestants believe they have a good shot at that hideous disco-ball trophy.

For the full text of the article, click on

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

'Dancing' waltzes through writers’ strike

'Dancing' waltzes through writers’ strike

Here's a "Dancing with the Stars" pop quiz: Which of the following performance critiques was delivered by effusive judge Bruno Tonioli before the Hollywood writers strike, and which came after? Quote A: "That's what I like to see! The boy from Brazil is going bananas!" Quote B: "That was a cliffhanger, riding the fine line between love and hate!"

If you picked the alliterative "bananas" line as writer-scripted, well, sorry, you're not moving on to round two. That's a post-strike quote, while the less snappy one predates it — and Tonioli devised both.

It seems his comments, along with those of fellow judges Len Goodman and Carrie Ann Inaba and the wry quips of host Tom Bergeron, have been largely spontaneous all along.

ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" is one reality show that's real, or as real as any sequin-studded Hollywood production can be. Who knew — until the Writers Guild of America's job action pulled back the curtain and revealed the show had a single union scribe.

That's allowed one of TV's top shows to waltz through the walkout.

"Oh, I wish!" Tonioli responded when asked if his lines were fed to him. "Even if you wanted to (prepare), it's a live performance. Anything can happen."

Sometimes a script doctor would help. But even they might be hard-pressed to craft the true drama that has shadowed this season: Jane Seymour lost her 92-year-old mother, then Seymour's Malibu house was imperiled by a wildfire. Osmond fainted on camera; two weeks later, her father died at age 90.

Tears and heartache abound but the show goes on. In recent weeks, it's been near the top of the TV ratings, with more than 21 million viewers at its peak.

David Boone, the show's WGA member who walked off the job along with thousands of other movie and TV writers in Los Angeles and New York, was scripting material including introductions and descriptions of upcoming episodes, a task Bergeron said now is handled by producers.

Bergeron used to lean heavily on canned patter until realizing, early in season two, that the approach wasn't working.

"You can see I'd walk on after a dance and have a line ready to go," Bergeron told The AP. "Sometimes it was a very good line, but it wasn't organic to what was happening. ... We don't do that anymore. Now, I'm watching the dance and responding to it and what I felt about it."

He enjoys playing ball with the excitable Tonioli.

The judge's "right arm sweeps over his left shoulder and I know he's about to let loose with an extremely clever or pained metaphor," Bergeron said, comparing himself to a batter "waiting for a good pitch."

For the full text of the article, click on

Spain frets over future of flamenco

A decade ago, Madrid boasted 20 flamenco taverns featuring this unique kind of entertainment - the furious, rhythmic tapping of a dancer's heels, the thundering chords of a classical guitar, a singer's soulful lament, all that contagious hand-clapping. Now only four or five remain, all packed with tourists and too expensive for the average Spaniard.

Silvia Calado, a critic for the Web site said flamenco is not quite in a state of crisis. But while it has built up great prestige abroad, here in Spain it is low on creativity and has failed to reach out to new audiences.

"Flamenco is distancing itself from young people and they are the ones who can keep it alive," Calado said.

For the full text of the article, click on

Friday, November 09, 2007

Minds in Motion Stay Sharp

At 87, Katie Johnson is convinced she has a surefire way to ward off Alzheimer's: The foxtrot.
The retired schoolteacher spends every other Friday fox-trotting the night away.
She also swims five days a week. She teaches piano at a local senior center. She attends Bible study classes. She plays Scrabble and bridge.

And she tools around Indianapolis in a red Corvette.

Research suggests those nights spent whirling around the dance floor and days motoring around town in her snappy car are probably increasing Johnson's chances of avoiding the dreaded disease of debilitating memory loss.

The best Alzheimer's prevention might be this simple: Go have fun.

Researchers are now finding the best activities are those that challenge the brain, are done with other people and might even involve a good workout, such as a fast spin around the dance floor.
"Retirement is no excuse for an idle brain," says Murali Doraiswamy, an Alzheimer's expert at Duke University. "If you're not active, then you're more susceptible to the onslaught of Alzheimer's."

No book club or dance step has the power of vanquishing Alzheimer's, a disease caused partly by genetic factors, doctors say. Still, research suggests that complex leisure activities could offer seniors, even those at high risk for the disease, a better shot at delaying its onset.
For the full text of this article, written by Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY, log onto

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Last dance for Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour, 56, was eliminated from “Dancing with the Stars” on Tuesday, putting an end to a run on the show that included two absences (one due to the death of her mother) and an in-house battle over what constitutes a lift.

Seymour said her success on the show was due to her partner and teacher, Tony Dovolani.

"He's a terrific teacher and it meant a great deal. He really worked me hard. I think a lot of people saw that. But I had a wonderful time," she said on Good Morning America after the elimination.

"I mean this was just an extraordinary gift," said Seymour. "First of all, no woman my age - or remotely my age - has ever done it. Secondly, I don't think anyone, including myself, expected to get through more than the first dance, and I did nine dances."

She told Good Morning America that her stint on the show also re-ignited a love she had forgotten.

"I now know that I have a passion for dance - that dance is in my soul. And that I cannot live without dance for the rest of my life," Seymour said. "I wanted to be a dancer when I was a little girl and I have not danced at all since I was 16 years old. And now I realize that I need to dance."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

‘Dancing With the Stars’ kicks off tour Dec. 18

Sabrina Bryan, Cheryl Burke, Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Joey Lawrence and Marie Osmond are just a few of the performers that will be featured on the nationwide “Dancing With the Stars” tour, which begins Dec. 18 in Seattle.

And don’t forget about the “Dancing With the Stars” Soft Scrub® Dance Challenge. The dance challenge features several lucky couples that live in your city - normal everyday people of all ages, not professional dancers.

The action begins immediately before the show starts - the local dancers will begin the evening by competing in groups to the same song. Alec Mazo, the winner from the first season and official judge, will review their performances and execute the first round of the elimination.

The remaining semi-finalists will return to perform again in groups during the second song, and again will be eliminated down to four finalists. The two very lucky couples will perform later in the live show, dancing the Tango or the Cha-Cha in front of the sold-out audience.

After each couple dances, they will receive scores via Audience Applause Meters, which will determine the ultimate Dancing With The Stars Soft Scrub® Challenge Champion. The winner will receive a trophy and will be escorted back to their victory seats to enjoy the remainder of the show.

For more information on the dance challenge, or to view tour dates, log on to

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dancing with the Champions

By Babette Brown
Fred Astaire Dance Studio Jupiter
Scottish Professional Champion

As you all know, “Dancing with the Stars” is back in full force, and I am enjoying what has turned into a very exciting season. Here in Jupiter (Fla.) we all cheer for Tony Dovolani and Jane Seymour, as he is member of our Fred Astaire family and we are all extremely proud to see him out there doing his very best.

That brings me right to my point - dancing with champions. What is it like? What do these celebrities have to go through in order to perform on such a high level in such a short amount of time? If you are someone who sits in front of the TV thinking, “I would love to be able to do that” or even, “I would love to be able to social dance just for fun,” this is how it works.

Learning to dance is a little bit like learning to play an instrument or learning a new language - it takes some time and you have to learn in stages of layering. First you learn the notes or the words, then you put simple melodies or sentences together and after a little while you can play a whole variety of songs or can talk to people in your new language. After you’ve mastered the basics you go to more complex songs and sentences – you read books and make conversation to improve and fine-tune your new skill. You will be able to use your new skills for many different reasons and will be able to apply them to different life situations.

This is also what it takes to learn to dance. There is a big difference between learning choreography and learning how to dance. The performances you see on TV are absolutely breathtaking and I personally admire the celebrities for all they achieve. But will they come out of it knowing HOW to dance? Most likely not, since they spend all their time mastering a certain choreography, which is, of course, the purpose of the show.

So what is the solution for those people who would love to perform like the stars and master a choreography dancing with a champion? Join the showcase at your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio. A showcase is a performance where every participant has prepared a special choreography to a special song. You can dance with a champion dancer or simply with your own partner, if you prefer. The process is exactly like “Dancing with the Stars.” You pick the music, learn the choreography and dance your heart out.

Now who can do this? Anyone? Or do you need a special dance background and to be fit and in top shape? Absolutely not. We hold showcases in our studio twice a year and we have participants of all ages, from 15 to 80 years old and from all backgrounds. So what are you waiting for? Check out your local Fred Astaire dance studio and enter the next Showcase to dance like the stars… or just for fun.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Instructors Take First Place in Viva La Salsa

Two instructors from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Willoughby, Ohio took first place in the fifth annual Viva La Salsa competition at the IX Center on Saturday, Oct. 6. It was the second time in two weeks that the studio had won dance awards.

Raymond Cedeño, 20, and Katie Bronshteyn, 23, danced their way through three rounds of competition to take home the trophy. Cedeño was the reigning Viva La Salsa champion from last year.

Viva La Salsa is an evening devoted to Latin music and culture. Esperanza, a non-profit organization that promotes educational and economic opportunities for Hispanic Americans, organized the celebration.

On Sept. 30, the Willoughby studio also won Top Studio in the Fred Astaire Ohio Regional Team Match. Team Match pits the five northern Ohio Fred Astaire schools – Willoughby, Northfield Center, Warren, Canton and Youngstown – against the seven southern Ohio schools located in the greater Columbus and Cincinnati areas.

More than 100 students competed in dances including Tango, Cha-Cha, Salsa, Rumba, Foxtrot and Swing. The 22 Willoughby students accumulated the most high scores, winning Top Studio.

Florida High School Students Can Major in Dance

They spin. They shake. They're high school students, and they're ready to do the Hustle.Building upon the success of dance courses offered last year, New Dimensions High School in Poinciana, Fla. now allows students to pick a major where they can learn ballet, ethnic dances, and music from the disco era.The state Legislature passed a bill last year that requires students to pick a major, making this the first time students have to choose a track of study. The state has approved more than 400 majors, including biotechnology, marketing and carpentry.

Under the direction of professional dancer Nicole Acquilano, students can enroll in ethnic dance and technique classes this semester.The classes meet four times a week for 90 minutes and for an hour on Wednesdays."Confidence in high school, it changes from day to day," said Acquilano, who has been dancing for nearly 30 years. "Sometimes, they feel they're going to be on Broadway. Sometimes, they feel like they can't do it." Jessica Remarais, 17, now uses words such as rond de jambe, plie and pique turns - all movements she has learned while practicing ballet in her Technique I class."You can never sit down in that class because you are always moving," said Jessica, a senior who may major in dance in college. "You'll never be bored."
For the full text of this article, log on to,0,1903947.story.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


By Armando Martin
Former US Champion and National Dance Director

As Week Six begins it is very apparent that the competition is getting tighter. There are no throwaways given the seven stars left. Marie and Helio are the weakest, but they have a lot of fans out there, especially Marie. So from here on, anything goes when it comes to which stars are going home. I made the right call last week when I said that Mark Cuban would go home. Let’s see how I do this week.

Sabrina started out the night with a fabulous Foxtrot. Her use of body shapes and musical interpretation was very good. She throws herself into every dance with absolute commitment and no inhibitions at all. Her feet can be a little heavy at times and she is very aggressive, but you can tell that she takes whatever Mark tells her to do and she does it 200 percent. She’ll be in the final three for sure.
Score - a low 25.

Jennie and Derek danced a hot, fast Mambo this week. Jennie seemed to have come out ready to dance and have a good time. She received great comments from Bruno and Len, which were well deserved, but I can’t understand how they were so nice to her and negative with Sabrina. Regardless, Jennie did her best dance so far this season. Her dancing is steppe and a bit heavy but she is definitely improving.
Score 27

Coming back from the bottom two last week were Jane and Tony. They danced the jive, which Tony choreographed to perfection for Jane. Unfortunately Jane did not step up to the plate with this dance. She was too high in her body and her legs, her posture was too upright and her knees too erect to allow her to get the right bounce and foot speed that is required in the jive.
Score 22

Cameron’s Samba was technically very good. He showed a lot of determination and passion in this dance. His footwork was correct but a little heavy. His arms and elbows were left behind him most of the time, which prevented his weight from getting forward enough to give him the right look and make him light enough on his feet to make his Samba the best dance of the evening.
Score 25

Mel B. danced a Rumba tonight that was so good it would have won a Rising Star competition in many U.S. cities. Mel’s sexuality came through from the very first basic open brake that she danced all the way through the passionate embraces she and Maks had throughout the dance. She is my favorite dancer in this competition because she has more depth than anyone else. She is technically very sound but she is also a real woman with a great face and curves and all that it takes to make dancing look good.
Score 30

Walking the Paso Doble tonight were Marie and Jonathan. Notice that I wrote walking and not dancing, because that’s exactly what she did. Marie needs to smile and bring her charm to every performance because her dancing alone will not keep her around much longer. Jonathan needs to find a way to bring the best out of Marie in every dance by creating fun and comedic moments that she can relate to.
Score - a very, very high 23.

Helio and Julieanne danced a funky Cha-Cha that impressed the judges and the audience. Helio was fun to watch and as always Julieanne did a great job of choreographing the perfect material for him, which is so important sometimes. If you are smart about how you show off your star, you can hang around the competition longer as a dancer. And Julianne does just that.
Score 28

The evening closed with a group number that was so much fun - half West Side Story, half Hairspray. The dancers did a great job as did the choreographer. The number showed how much fun it can be to dance as a group and not have to compete against anyone else. I am afraid that this week’s elimination show will send home one of my two favorite personalities - Marie or Jane - although Helio is close behind.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jane Seymour - In her own words

“It’s week 5 and Tony has diligently been trying to teach me the Rumba and I've devotedly been trying to learn it! The Rumba is all about passion and heat, it's a very sexy dance, but let me tell you, it's not as easy as it looks. I thought the Rumba would be simpler to learn as it's slower and the movements are more dramatic. I was mistaken. Although I have to admit, the Kitty Cat in me is really liking this dance.”

Jane Seymour keeps her fans updated about her progress on “Dancing With the Stars,” as well as on other topics related to her life and career, through her blog at

On her blog, Jane provides photos, answers to fans’ questions and comments about her dance experience.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Through the years: A look back at the art of dance

Dancing as a leisure activity was forced underground by the dominant Protestant culture that declared dancing socially unacceptable and linked it with drinking and lewdness. Even when European immigrants brought traditional dances to America during the nineteenth century, they were limited to celebrations at ethnic social halls.

Dancing became more mainstream after the turn of the century, when music and more organized bands earned enthusiastic followings. The advent of prohibition in 1920 separated dancing and drinking to a certain extent, and made dancing more socially respectable. Many commercial dance palaces were set up during this period, and in New York City alone, dance halls had revenues of $8 million in 1920.

A combination of social, economic, and demographic factors contributed to the decline of ballroom dancing and the dance school industry in the 1950s and 1960s. Fewer extravagant, romantic movie musicals were filmed. The advent of counter-culture rock-and-roll music was accompanied by alcohol use, transferring much social dancing into another industrial category. Moreover, the mass exodus to suburbia during this period resulted in a decreasing number of couples visiting urban dance halls. During the 1960s and 1970s, improvised singles dancing grew increasingly popular, and organized couples dancing became reserved for weddings and other special occasions.

Ballroom dancing regained popularity in the 1980s, spurred by a modest revival of music from the first half of the century. As the decade of conspicuous consumption progressed, ballroom dancing provided an outlet for prosperous men and women to dress up and spend money. Dance studios and halls also benefited from the fitness craze, as people danced for exercise and to relieve tension. The return of traditional formal weddings also contributed to this industry's growth in the 1980s. Dance teachers also credited the Public Broadcasting Service, which carried major ballroom dance competitions beginning in 1981, for promoting the activity. Dance studios began to coordinate more competitions, which encouraged students to take more lessons in preparation for competition.

The International DanceSport Federation (IDSF, formerly the International Council of Amateur Dancers) spent the latter half of the twentieth century working toward the acceptance of ballroom dancing as an Olympic event. In 1987, IDSF designated the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association as the sole governing body for amateur ballroom dancing in the United States. Ten years later, the International Olympic Committee gave full recognition to the IDSF and its affiliates.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cruising: Cruise ship hosts spend their days on the dance floor

For older men who know the difference between a Waltz and a Foxtrot, being a cruise ship host offers evenings in the dance floor spotlight and days in the ocean sunlight traveling to places they would have never seen otherwise.
"I've done well over 100 (cruises), including two 100-day world cruises, and I've visited 116 countries," says host David Larsen, a 64-year-old retired engineer from Florida.
It's not just singles (older and younger) that are looking for a whirl around the dance floor. Some married women with non-dancing husbands are as eager for a dance as anyone. Hosts have to be willing to dance with all interested ladies, regardless of skill level, age or marital status.

Thanks to the popularity of television shows like "Dancing With the Stars" and the number of older single or widowed women who find cruise ships an enjoyable getaway, the need for male dance hosts doesn't appear likely to wane any time soon. Some sailings have as many as eight hosts on board to take care of 20 or more single ladies.

"On a Europe cruise I had asked a lady to dance. She hesitated, then agreed and hobbled onto the dance floor holding on to my arm," remembers Ed Champy, a 71-year-old from New Hampshire who's been on more than 75 cruises. "We danced gently in place. She told me she was a stroke victim and said that I had given her a new outlook on life and that she wouldn't let her problem stand in her way ever again."

For the full text of this article, click on

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dancing With the Stars Week 5

By Armando Martin
Former U.S. Champion
FADS National Dance Director

Marie and Jonathan danced the Samba tonight to a great piece of music. Marie has unbelievable charisma and a fantastic smile. Her dancing is very easy to watch, but her feet and use of legs are definitely not the best in the competition. However, considering her great fan base, she could go a long way. Marie fainted right after her performance, which shows you how winded you can get when you dance. Thankfully she was OK. Score 21

Tony and Jane danced the Rumba tonight, Jane looked fantastic in her red Latin dress. Her performance was a little careful but her use of arms and legs was so classy and elegant that it looked like she has been doing it for a long time. I think that as Jane gets further in this competition, with her talent and Tony’s teaching experience, she will be there at the end.
Score 26

Dancing the Samba tonight was Mark and Kim, which was not a good dance for them. Mark got a lot of criticism from the judges, and rightly so. His dancing this week was geeky and unnatural with a lack of rhythm and feeling. Maybe next week he’ll get a dance that suits him better.
Score 21

Sabrina and Mark danced the Rumba. Mark received a surprise when during practice his mom, the one and only Shirley Ballas, the best woman to ever grace the Latin dance floor, showed up to help. Unfortunately, I don’t think it helped. This was Sabrina’s worst dance so far. The rumba is not a dance that you can fake and make look good with tricks and speed. Rumba needs true understanding and technique, and Sabrina did not have it.
Score 28

The Samba is not an easy dance because it needs bounce, Cuban motion, shaking and lots traveling around the floor. Jennie did a fine job with Derek this week. She is a very solid and balanced dancer. She never loses her balance and her feet look like they are glued to the ground, which is good. I agree with Bruno that Jennie needs to look up off the floor and have more fun; she shouldn’t look like she’s thinking while she dances.
Score 25

Helio and Julianne danced a very nice Rumba this week. His lines were good and the routine was well put together. But Helio really struggled with the music. He was too fast and did not pull off this dance. Rumba may be the slowest dance, but it is the hardest one to do because it requires true command of technique. Better luck next week.
Score 23

Mel and Maks showed us why she is a force to be reckoned with. I just realized this week that she has very long legs and that they are set into her hips perfectly for a Latin dancer. That’s why she looks so natural when she dances. Her Samba was by far the best technical dance and the best performance of the night.
Score 29

Cameron and Edyta danced the Rumba this week, and they certainly set the right mood on the floor - two great looking people dancing a very sexy Rumba. Cameron did a great job; his posture and emotion were truly exceptional. He is getting better every week and you can see that his natural talent is coming through.
Score 26

The competition is getting stronger and tougher every week. The talented dancers are getting better a little faster than the others, and now is when you see the gaps getting bigger even if you don’t see it in the judges’ scores, I will not be available to comments on the results show, but I think is easy to see that Mark Cuban will go home this week. I’ll be in touch again next week.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jane and Tony Are Ready To Rumba

Ready to Rumba

Entertainment Tonight spent some time in the rehearsal studio with Jane Seymour and Tony Dovolani this week as they prepare to perform the Rumba on tonight’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

To view a video clip from their rehearsal, available on ET Online, click

Fred Astaire studio participates in Habitat for Humanity benefit

RANDOLPH, Mass. – Instructors from the Hanover (Mass.) Fred Astaire Dance Studio participated in the first ever “Dancing With the Realtors” to benefit Habitat for Humanity on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The event was produced by the Plymouth and South Shore Association of Realtors.‘‘I have always enjoyed dancing,’’ Claire Shields, a broker for Grand Gables Real Estate in Scituate, said before taking the floor with her professional partner, Kalin Mitov, 32, of Rockland.Shields, a great-grandmother, was among 22 real estate agents who competed in the event.Inspired by the popular TV show ‘‘Dancing with the Stars,’’ the fund-raiser was the brainchild of Linda Covino of the Eastern Middlesex Association of Realtors. Covino came up with the idea after taking ballroom dance lessons in her spare time.Covino’s organization raised more than $21,000 for the Greater Boston Habitat for Humanity earlier this year.

For the full text of the article, click on

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fred Astaire is focus of English conference

According to the Web site, a conference on the life and work of Fred Astaire will take place June 21 to 24 at Oriel College, Oxford University, Oxford, England.

Special guests at the conference include Ava Astaire McKenzie and her husband Richard McKenzie. John Mueller, Ken Barnes, Larry Billman and Peter Levinson, among other Astaire experts, will also be on hand to make presentations.

To request a registration form, please e-mail

Dance Competition in Connecticut

The first weekend in November there will be a regional competition held at the Mystic Marriott. All the Fred Astaire studios are excited to show off their talents and expect to have a great weekend with friends and family. If you're interested in joining this event please contact the studio for further ticket information.

As everyone knows, when a competition comes around there has to be a dress rehearsal, too! So mark your calendars for Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Everyone will perform during that time. Come and support your Fred Astaire community and enjoy a fun night with the studio! Visit the South Windsor (Conn.) Fred Astaire Dance Studio blog at

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dancing with the Stars Week 4 Recap

Dancing with the Stars Week 4
By Armando Martin
Former U.S. Champion
FADS National Dance Director

The best show on TV kicked off this week with Mark and Kim – not the best couple – who danced an elegant Viennese Waltz. Although he is not the worse dancer in the competition, Mark is hanging on by a thread. His work ethic and motivation are evident with every little step he takes, but he needs a little luck to stay around long enough to see all that hard work pay off and become a more natural-looking dancer. I like Mark and I would like to see him stay around for a couple of more weeks to see if he can get better. My bet is that he can.
Score 22

Mark and Sabrina danced the Paso Doble this week, and what a dance they pulled off. They were powerful, fast, and totally in sync with each other. When you put all that together you end up with a great performance that brings the audience to the edge of its seat. However, as much as I enjoyed it, I think a perfect 30 was not warranted when you put her dance up against Jane’s. Jane has a better look, especially for a lady, and better feet, legs and posture. I guess it’s whatever you prefer - entertainment value or absolute beauty.

Tony and Jane danced an unbelievably beautiful Viennese Waltz. This week Jane made herself the one to beat in the competition. Her softness and top line were almost at a professional level. When she danced on her own away from Tony, it was like watching a ballerina move across the floor. This lady is class and beauty in motion and, as always, Tony brings the best out of all his partners.
Score 26

Floyd and Karina danced the Paso tonight and they received good reviews from the judges, who I think were very intimidated by Floyd’s comments after last week’s performance. That is the only reason they would be so nice, because his dancing was horrid. He did try very hard but that only made it scarier to watch. His posture was terrible and he looked like he was mad at the floor the way he was stepping on it.
Score 23

Mel. B and Maks danced the Viennese Waltz tonight and I can say without a doubt it was her weakest dance so far. Normally I like her dancing very much, but tonight she was steppy and bumpy. Her top line looked heavy and out of place. Mel has to do better to be a threat to Jane and Sabrina.
Score 26

Superman was the theme for Cameron and Edyta this week, and they pulled it off very well. Their dancing was strong, well choreographed and very effective. It is hard to do Paso Doble to the song from Superman but they did it very nicely. Cameron is the only guy that can actually stick around to see the semifinals.
Score 27

Marie and Jonathan danced a very nice but boring Viennese Waltz. I am afraid that without her charm, she actually has no chance in this competition. She moved very lightly and with good posture, but she lacked anything special or impressive this week. Better luck next week.
Score - A very high 26

Jennie and Derek danced a fabulous Paso Doble. The improvement in this lady is unbelievable. She is getting better and better every week as she loosens up and becomes one with the music and her partner. On Monday she was powerful, strong and passionate. Great job. Her score should have been closer to 10 and not the 8s she received.
Score 27

Dancing the Viennese Waltz tonight was Julianne and Helio. This guy’s dancing is contagious and great to watch. Even though technically this was not his best performance, his smile and energy pulled him through. His top line, which is usually great, was high and tight. He will have to be better next week because Cameron is coming to get him.
Score 27

The results show gave us Mel B. in the bottom two, which is incredible. This girl is truly talented and can win the whole thing if given a chance. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was sent packing tonight, and that was absolutely the right choice.

I’ll be back next week with more comments and insight on the dancers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dance With Your Own Stars

For many, their love of ballroom dancing - and its health benefits - was firmly entrenched before shows like “Dancing With the Stars” became a cultural phenomenon.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Hermes Ilarraza, of the National Institute of Cardiology in Mexico, ballroom dancing can give as good an aerobic workout as more conventional forms of exercise.

Ilarazza followed a group of 40 heart disease patients, all of whom committed to 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week, for five weeks. Half of the study’s participants got their exercise from a dance routine choreographed by a professional dancer, while the others exercised on stationary bicycles. Ilarraza found that the dance group’s exercise capacity increased by 28 percent, almost as much as the 31 percent increase for the cycling group.
A 140-pound person can burn an average of 350 calories in an hour of fast dancing such as swing, quickstep and salsa, and can burn about 200 calories with slower styles like the tango or traditional ballroom (cha-cha, foxtrot and waltz). Plus, in addition to toning your leg muscles, dancing contributes to good posture and body alignment, it works your core and upper body, encourages gentle stretching, increases your flexibility and stamina, builds up healthy bones and develops your balance.

Setting the physical benefits aside, dancing can also be life changing. It can lift your spirit in a way most other exercise routines cannot. If you are suffering from depression or experiencing a difficult time in your life, heading to the dance studio is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Not only does your body begin to pump massive amounts of the feel-good hormone serotonin with each movement, the music can ease an aching soul. Dancing also reawakens a nearly forgotten sense of chivalry and graciousness that we all still secretly yearn for from time to time.
Ballroom dancing is not only ideal for the single, lonely or overweight. It can also re-ignite passion within even the longest and mundane of relationships. Just imagine, both you and your mate feeling fit, energized and a whole lot sexier… together. Now that’s worth celebrating.

Excerpt from “Dance with your Own Stars,” an article by Nancy Christie that ran in the Fall 2007 edition of HealthSmart Today

Changing One Life At a Time

On June 21, 2006, Kitty walked through the door of the Chicago North Fred Astaire Dance Studio with nothing more than a gift certificate for five lessons and a huge amount of fear.

As she waited for an instructor to come forward and begin her first lesson, the fear grew; there was a whirlwind of activity around her in the studio - people introducing themselves, good dancers gliding across the floor, music going strong.

All she could think was that she had to make it through the five lessons and then she never had to come back – ever. No one wanted to see a girl in the worst shape of her life – approximately 160 pounds overweight - shake her groove thing.

But over the next year, Kitty discovered something amazing. Not only did she fall in love with ballroom dancing, her body – and her self-esteem – have reaped the benefits.

“Ballroom/Latin Dancing is one of the greatest things I have ever done,” she said. “I've changed my perspective, lost weight, and found what it means to be truly happy in life.”

For more on Kitty’s amazing ballroom journey, visit her blog at

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mr. Las Vegas Exits Stage Left

Danke schoen for being here. But for now, auf Wiedersehen.

Wayne Newton was eliminated from Dancing with the Stars on Tuesday, the third celebrity to heel-toe his way off the floor this season.

Although the 65-year-old entertainer was praised, as always, for his showmanship, even a tango-ready mustache and ponytail couldn't lift Mr. Las Vegas' Latin-dance score out of the dumps.

I think it's important to live life, not just exist in it," Newton said, adding that he may have been uncomfortable at times, but that stepping out of one's comfort zone is key. "Not trying is failing to me."

Partner Cheryl Burke, the two-time Dancing champ who helped Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith bring home the disco ball, said that working with Newton had been "one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life."

For the full text, click on

Dancing With the Stars Week 3 Recap


By Armando Martin

Week two on dancing with the stars already showed what a popularity contest this show really is. Sending Albert Reed home after a very good performance was a real shame. He had lots of potential and a great personality, but c’est la vie.

Week three started with a bang with Mark and Sabrina dancing a Jive that could have won any professional Rising Star competition in the U.S. This girl is an absolute dynamo. She picks up the character of every dance like she’s been doing it for years. The only negative thing was her feet were a little messy, but as a couple they are unbeatable so far.
Score 27

Cameron and Edyta danced a piece of music that just wasn’t very good. Cameron did a great job - good form, great top line and balance. If he continues to improve at this rate he will be around for a long time in this competition. He will have to work on the characteristic of each dance to look complete.
Score 23

I give Mark Cuban a lot of credit for all the work he is doing to be in this show, but I think that if you give him center stage anywhere, he will do his best to stay there as long as possible. His dancing is a little awkward; his feet and his arms don’t quite connect, but like him anyway because of his exuberance and energy. He will not last too long, but he’s enjoying every minute of it.
Score 18

The next couple was Jennie and Derek. Their Tango was superb. Their strong movement and sharp actions made this one of tonight’s best numbers, and a great departure from last week’s quickstep. It is nice to see the improvement in her dancing and especially her performance level tonight.
Score 26

Mel B. came out ready to make sure Sabrina doesn’t run away with this competition. Although Mel has a very different quality than Sabrina, she is still a big threat. Mel is softer and more feminine and has better feet, legs and shoulder line. It will be very interesting to see how she continues to improve in the next few weeks.
Score 27

Wayne and Cheryl danced the Tango tonight - a far better performance than last week. I was not crazy about the mustache and the ponytail - I think that he looked like a caricature. But the dancing was better. All his fans from all those years in Vegas better call a lot because his dancing alone won’t keep him in the competition for too long.
Score 18

The boxer came out strong this week. Floyd did a good Jive with lots of energy and natural rhythm. While his interpretation was good and energetic, it was interesting for me to see that a guy who makes a living on his toes was incredibly flat-footed in the Jive, which is a dance that requires one to be on his toes at all times and to bounce all during the number.
Score 21

After losing her mother last week, Jane Seymour came on to the floor sad but well composed, looking beautiful as always and in complete character for the Tango. Her top line was impeccable and so was her dancing. Tony showcased her talents beautifully in this dance with a combination of slow and quick movements that truly spelled Tango through out their performance.
Score 27

Helio and Julianne came out with an absolutely fantastic Jive. Helio is either the most natural and quickest learner in the world or he has danced before. He looks so at home on the floor, and his technique is very good for a supposedly new dancer. I would like to see where this couple is going to go. I feel that the judges were very critical about Helio’s performance without reason; he was great.
Score 24

Marie came out again this week looking good and ever so cute. I was surprised last week at her very flirtatious performance, but that’s her personality. Tonight her Tango was absolutely charming and very good. Her top line was great as was her movement. She used her natural comedic talents to bring a little extra to the floor and it worked like a charm. Marie can’t win this competition with her dancing but she will make it interesting with her other talents.
Score 26

The results show on Tuesday night was packed with great performances. Seal performed a beautiful song while Eddie Stuts and Valentina, a fairly new partnership and already U.S. finalists, danced a breathtaking Viennese Waltz. We also saw the return of the self-proclaimed hillbilly Billy Ray Cirus, who performed with his daughter while Karina and Maks danced a great Rumba. There is something about live music and great dancing that is irreplaceable. What a fantastic show it was.

The bottom two this week were no surprise. Wayne Newton and Floyd Mayweather were the obvious choices to go home, Wayne just did not bring enough to this competition and was voted off by America. Although his dancing was not great, his graciousness and class will be missed in the coming weeks.

I will be back next week with more comments on your favorite DWTS contestants.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Top 10 Favorite Dance Scenes

What is your favorite “couples” dance scene of all time?
Did Baby and Johnny merengue their way into history? Or do you prefer the grace and style of Fred and Ginger? And what about those kids in “Mad Hot Ballroom?”

Here are numbers five through 10 on Moviephone’s Best Movie Dance Scenes list:

10. Mad Hot Ballroom
9. Save the Last Dance
8. Dance With Me
7. Scent of a Woman
6. Strictly Ballroom
5. Swing Time

Want to know if your favorite dance movie made the cut? Can’t wait to find out which movie secured the top spot? Click on to see how the scenes stack up. You can view some of the more memorable dance scenes through this Web site, and purchase most of the movies included on the list.