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.
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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!