Friday, October 31, 2008
Well, with Toni out of the competition, it's getting very interesting and definitely tougher week by week.
Susan and Tony (Mambo): Susan has really impressed me ever since her Tango. Her confidence has heightened and it shows in her dancing. Mambo is all about being sassy and sexy while having quick feet and lot of body rhythms. With that being said, her swivels were fantastic and the speed in her spins was much improved. She did however get lost in the choreography a few times and she also got off time in some areas; even though she did slip up a few times, her sass and sexiness throughout the routine allowed me to look past it and really enjoy her spicy, out of the box Mambo!
Warren and Kym (Rumba): As you know, I am really a big fan of Warren and how graceful and quick he is for his size; however, tonight, I did not see that side of him. I felt that the judges were too easy on him. We are at the halfway point of the competition and he failed to show the true characteristics of the Rumba. Rumba is all about being sexy and soft and having all of his attention towards your partner. He was taking heel leads the whole time and his movements were rough and ridged. It also seemed to me that he blanked a few times in the routine. However, I could tell that he was trying to get into the character and tell a story but for me he was not on in the specific dance - not like I’ve seen in the past.
Cloris and Corky (Cha Cha): Let me start with the fact that Carrie Ann was extremely rude and unprofessional with her comment to Cloris about the fact that we lost Toni for her….how unclassy. I would love to see Carrie Ann get out there and show us what she can do…prove that she understands ballroom dancing since she’s never done it before. Ok, now that I got that off my chest, there isn’t much Cha Cha to comment on with Cloris’s routine; however, her timing was right on for the most part and I liked how Corky incorporated the hat into the story of their dance. She looked so cute chasing him around and did a great trick….again for her age she really does impress me, she deserves a lot of credit. No matter what, she goes out there she smiles and that’s what dancing is about at the end of the day - going out onto the stage and having fun!!
Cody and Julianne (Samba): He is really starting to grow on me and I disagreed with his score. I felt that he deserved higher than a 23. Bruno made a comment about how Samba is free and loose; however, in a way he is right but at the same time it is also about precise movements and accurate lines. I feel that Cody did just that, his feet were great and his leg extensions in his lunges were really impressive as well as his Samba walks. I also noticed a huge improvement with his posture and of course as usual Julianne's choreography matched the music perfectly! Well done Cody, and my thoughts and prayers are with Julianne during her surgery.
Derek and Brooke (Rumba): I was so bummed to hear that Brooke had injured her foot and I had really hoped that it wouldn’t affect her performance in her Rumba and, in my opinion, I really don’t think that it did. I think the judges were tough on her just because they know what she is capable of doing but in comparison to everyone else she did fantastic, especially only having about 3 days to learn it all! Her lines as usual were gorgeous and flawless as well as her feeling and understanding of what type of story the Rumba should tell. She was slightly off balance and her toes can be pointed a little bit more in leg extensions but overall - excellent job.
Maurice and Cheryl (Viennese Waltz): Poor Maurice, he tried so hard tonight but just didn’t cut it. Viennese Waltz should be very whimsical and almost float across the dance floor; however, Maurice failed to do this. The choreography was very piecey and choppy and had no fluidity. He was also behind the music a few times and he just looked like he was trying way too hard, nowhere near as natural as his Rhythm dances. He did, however, have better posture and his frame was decent. It’s very important that as man you should never look at the lady in Smooth when you are in closed frame and he did this the majority of the time. I hope that he improves in this area because as a winner of this show you should be well versed in both styles and right now his Smooth is far behind his Rhythm.
Lance and Lacey (Jive): YES, YES, YES…this is the Lance I was expecting to see from the beginning of the season. He had great confidence and energy the whole routine and his posture and movement were both much improved. The choreography really showcased him, which is how it always should be and the tricks and spins were really entertaining. He sold himself perfectly tonight and I loved every minute of it….job well done!!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Susan and Tony - Hustle: Many of the pros were devastated when they heard about the new dances, but Tony’s time with Fred Astaire proved helpful yet again as he borrowed the popular hustle moves from the Fred Astaire curriculum. Susan demonstrated smooth arm movements and a wonderful array of stylized disco lifts. Her turns were also much better than in previous dances. She could stand to have a bit more energy and she should definitely lose the heel leads.
Warren and Kym - Hustle: I absolutely loved it!! The timing was great, the movement was free and uninhibited, and his interpretation of the hustle was dead on. The lifts were amazing and so classic disco. I can’t imagine how it feels to dance with such a massive and powerful partner, but Kym certainly used to her advantage during this performance.
Cloris and Corky - Salsa: “Hotter than a chili pepper” where does Bruno come up with those quotes? Anyway, as usual, her turns were great. Her timing was pretty good and she did a great job incorporating the skirt into her dance. You absolutely have to admit that Cloris is always wildly entertaining!
Toni and Alec - West Coast Swing: This was a tough week for Toni. I could see that she was trying very hard to perform through her frustrations with the choreography. Unfortunately, in the end it was very stiff and didn’t really demonstrate the laid back, cool style of Western Swing. She needs to concentrate on finishing her lines. One thing that will help that is really getting solidly balanced on her feet and using the pressure on the floor to repair her posture and allow her to fully extend her arms and legs.
Julianne and Cody - Jitterbug: Oh. My. Goodness. I loved it. Amazing personality, long lines, and high kicks. What more could you ask for? The routine was delightfully challenging and maintained an excellent degree of entertainment. It is so fun to see those two being youthful yet still respecting the integrity of the dance and the era which it represents.
Derek and Brooke - Jitterbug: Where has Jitterbug been all my life?! This dance really brought out the best in these two. The choreography was so original and so challenging. I truly enjoyed how artistic it was and how perfectly it captured the feel of that era. Brooke really brings so much to the table with her energy, talent, and enthusiasm for the competition.
Maurice and Cheryl - Salsa: It’s nice to see a male student be able to demonstrate proper hip motion. I would love to see him take more compact steps in these faster dances. His performance was a little crazy, but it was still entertaining. He really had great energy and showed a good understanding of the feeling of Salsa. He did a pretty good job this week.
Lance and Lacey - West Coast Swing: She is pushing the limits with her behavior on this show. DWTS is meant to showcase the celebrity partners, not the pros. Lacey clearly out danced Lance this week and obviously neglected to focus on the fine tuning of the choreography. Lance let his posture slip during the performance and even fell during a slide. Lance is an extremely talented dancer and will often show that with moments of greatness, but this week, Lacey let her ego get the best of her and stood by as Lance gave a sub par performance. I sincerely hope Lance gets to stay another week so he gets a chance to fully redeem himself. He deserves it.
When I did agree with the judges on Monday was regarding Brooke. With a shortened practice and injury, she learned a relatively difficult Rumba routine. But it definitely was not her dance. Yet she still got the 2nd highest score of the night. Again, I think they scored her high either due to her injury or past performances. They were contestants that night who outperformed her and should have scored higher than her. They are competing against each other right? They could have scored her higher due to the injury but there have been 2 other couples plagued by injury and I do not think they added to the score for that. Of course, Michael Flatley did give her a 10 for the way she displayed the emotion of the dance. In traditional Latin and Rhythm dancing there is some basic techniques that differentiate social dancing from competitive dancing. I feel that this is where Brooke is lacking when she dances most Rhythm dances. Her posture, her legs are very far apart and don’t use them enough to give her dancing power. In her defense, she also probably has not had the time to learn it. Her Smooth dancing, and any dances that were more “showy” (i.e. Jitterbug) were great.
I have stated this previously but I wish some of the professionals would teach the ladies some basic hip action when they make them hit a pose or just stand there. It would look less awkward if they could just settle into that hip a little more. For example, Warren had basic hip action in his Rumba. While it wasn’t perfect, it was there! Speaking of Warren, every time he goes out there he has the best expressions and I think he loves performing!
I am a full supporter of our own Fred Astaire Professional, Tony Dovolani, but I am curious to see how Susan does next week. I feel that I have not seen her improve over the past few weeks. It is almost like she freezes up out there. Tony tries to choreograph the dances to showcase her in the correct manner but I still feel something forced about it. She has had some better performances than others but there is something about them that doesn’t seem like she is having fun out there.
I hope everyone enjoyed the Hip Hop routine as much as I did. It was a lot of fun!
Go Grammie Go
By Elita Sohmer Clayman
October 30, 2008
"Go Grammie go, gram-me, gram-me" were the words from my three-year-old number three grandson as I was walking slowly down the steep steps in his town home in Northern, Virginia. He lives there with his dad, my son Jeffrey, his mom Lan and his baby sister Ava. I was walking quite slowly, one step at a time. This from our car accident this past June where we were hit by a man (not a senior, not a teenager) who was texting. There was quite a lot of damage to the car and to our bodies. We are still recuperating four months later.
The thing I miss the most is my ballroom dancing. We are hoping to go back to it in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I shall listen to little three-year-old Ethan and I will go. He meant I should walk a little faster. He was trying to go down the steps behind me and all he saw was his Grammie doing this at a slow pace.
I thought all the way home about his comment. It was cute for sure but I figured I could use it for a new column. Many seniors, not yet seniors or even thirty somethings or forty somethings may think that dancing is not for them because it is too demanding.
If they watch Dancing with the Stars, they may be intrigued about wanting to ballroom dance and they could also feel intimidated. When they see these stars doing a new dance completely different from last week’s dance, they can think that it is too much for them to even attempt. They do not realize that the stars take many hours of coaching every week for many days and that is why they are able to conquer the dance and go out and dance before the public and the judges.
I want them to realize that their learning would not be in the same form as these stars. Their attempt to comprehend the dance will be regulated by their teacher who has experience in teaching dance. Their teacher will analyze the capabilities of the student, his or her’s age and his or her’s ability at this moment in time. Then the teacher will coach the student at this person’s level of understanding of dance. It will be just as if he or she is taking a college course; the learning level will be on that basis.
That is the way it should be with teacher and student. Many years ago, when I was almost thirty-four years of age, I decided to go back and get a college education. The first professor I had for this course of Psychology 101 wrote in my essay booklet test that initial time :“Mrs.Clayman, you can and you will do better.” He gave me a B for the whole course and that was quite satisfactory because I had not been to school for almost seventeen years. During that time, I married and had two children and lost my father. So I was busy running my home, raising my children and helping my Mom to adjust.
That line in my first test essay booklet inspired me and I went on to excel there at the school even though I was the oldest person in the class. I was the ‘old lady’ in the group of eighteen year olds. I showed those teens that an ‘old’ lady can absorb and can learn and did learn. I graduated with honors five years later because it took me five years to do two years of college work going part time and racing home to be there when my children arrived from school. I read a slogan once that said that something was a ‘price above rubies.’ I interpreted that to mean that some things are so worthwhile that the end result is that they are worth more than a precious stone called a ruby.
So it is with learning, whether it is college learning or dancing learning or any learning, the end result will be a price worth more than rubies. Ballroom dancing is almost a necessary tool to enjoy life. Men sometimes think it not valuable or beneficial other than to impress a lady when out on a date. Once they get indoctrinated with the routine, they find it hard to admit they really ‘love’ it. My husband was that way for many, many years. He would never admit that he liked it or enjoyed it because he found it hard. The amazing thing was that he was excellent at it. He had the best lead of any man I danced with other than the professional teachers. He held himself upright and understood the lead and the make up of each step. As he progressed, he found it hard to admit to himself or me that he really enjoyed dancing. He would go grudgingly to the social dances on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and would say to the owner of the studio upon entering that he wanted to go home. She laughed because she knew he really did not feel that way. Several times, I heard him tell his male friends that he really was good at it and they seemed envious.
Once, when I danced at a competition in Kansas City, Missouri, we were supposed to dance as an amateur couple. When we got there and looked at the program, they only had a few couples dancing and they inserted us in a group of young twenty somethings dancing that heat. We were in our forties then and these people were in their early twenties. He decided he would not do it because of the age difference and we never showed up that morning to compete. Interesting thing was that two of the twenty somethings did not show up either and if we had danced, we would have won a trophy because we were more skilled and prepared than the rest of the competitors in that heat.
The owner of the competition, Leroy Walters, and his mom Gerry Walters laughed and when we were leaving to go home, they offered him a trophy because we had come such a distance to dance in their competition. He did not take it because he felt he did not deserve it since he had not entered the heat. When we got home, he took one of my trophies won there with my professional teacher and showed it to the people at our pharmacy and said he had won it. That was alright because he had gone there and he let me dance and have fun and I felt he deserved to show off and they did not know the difference.
However, what that meant was that he really loved dancing and he wanted to brag about himself to others that did not dance and he felt he wanted their admiration because he had in his own mind attempted to do it and got scared because of the age disparity. Many of us are threatened by others who appear to be dancing better than us. It is hard to eliminate that feeling; but as we progress with our lessons and our practicing at social dances, we feel more confident.
As the professor said to me about that first test, you can and you will do better. I have made that my catchword in most everything I attempt in life. Whatever I try - whether it is to go to Weight Watchers to lose some weight or to take a course in something or other at a school or learning a new dance step - I remember that I can and I will do better.
The "can" part of that phrase is the beginning, meaning telling us we are able to start. The "I will do better" is the middle and end result of the doing. Once we set our minds that we can attempt something new, our brains will take on the rest. Ballroom dancing is one of the most excellent hobbies we can start to enhance our brain power.
To someone looking at us dancing, they may not realize what an important part the mind plays in ballroom dancing. They think it is about the feet and maybe the arms. They are not cognizant of the fact of what an accomplishment this undertaking is and as Katherine Anne Porter said: “it is something you seek for pleasure and that you will to occur.”
This will to occur is the outcome of this desire to learn, to achieve and be proud of yourself that you did this at any age. You can be in your early twenties, thirties or even forties like I was when we started. You can be in your seventies or older and still this is important.
When I was down in Miami Beach, Florida many years ago, there was a blind lady who danced in several heats in a competition. Can you believe that no one knew she was blind and when she won her awards, it was announced that she was blind and everyone had tears in their sighted eyes at this amazing senior lady who conquered not only a terrible affliction, she won awards? The judges did not know of this and chose her because of her talent and presentation. At this competition, there also was a young woman named Jill who had one leg shorter than the other. She had a special dance shoe made for her with it raised up and it was quite noticeable but she came out and danced like everything was normal. She did difficult steps, wore a gorgeous outfit and she smiled like she was a professional lady dancing with her student when she was the student. It took chutzpah (nerve) to go out there with this handicap and especially to dance with it where it was so visible. Jill epitomized her valor, her desires and her courage.
Many years later, we went back to this competition and there Jill was again. This time we found out that she had discovered the courage within herself to find an orthopedic doctor who said he could lengthen her to some extent and so some of the shortness was gone and she did not have to wear the dance shoe with such a built up part in it. She still was not perfect with her leg but she was about 80% better. She told me she had the feeling she could help herself and so she went through with the operation. Ernest Hemingway called something like this "grace under pressure." Jill surely got her grace from the ballroom dancing and the professional teacher who encouraged her to dance even though her foot was so out of line, many inches shorter than the other one.
In between the operation or operations, she showed herself that she could do what many thought she could not even try .She decided she wanted to dance, and she did not let her handicap deter her. She was poetry in motion and she proved herself to be the poet who wrote herself a mental note that she could and would bring to fruition her desire.
So to the Jills of this world and to the blind, senior lady and to us, we must remember that we can and we will do better and that we can have grace under pressure and have pride in ourselves. No matter who we are at any age, with any handicap, and at any time in our life, we can accomplish our goals. We are going to transcend every expectation that we crave. "Grammie go" means every one of us should go. Go and dance and be happy doing it because we seek this pleasure and are grateful we are out there with this fulfillment known as ballroom dancing. William Hazlitt said “grace is the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.” That is what ballroom dancing means- harmony of the soul. I cannot wait to go back to my dancing. Then I will have the blending of my heart and soul because once more I will be a ballroom dancer.
My physician’s assistant in my internist’s office told me that we dancers are very special people and I asked him what he meant. He said that we are persons of great strength because we present ourselves on the dance floor to others and they see us showing our talent and being proud and bold in doing it. He said this shows great willpower, courage and tenacity. We ballroom dancers are indeed people of VALOR.
Keep on Dancing
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I really enjoyed this week’s format where 2 dancers were paired against each other doing one of these new dances to the show. I think it was a lot of fun to see the two dances in a row to see which couple out-performed the other. It may have even of helped the judging.
The West Coast Swing:
Well, this was interesting. Seeing this West Coast Swing was a real eye opener when comparing to the way it is danced at studios, competitions and some social events. I really liked the style that Lacey showed us but I agreed with Len that it was too much Lacey and not enough Lance. It is a very hard dance to teach and learn but I think that she could have done more with him. Also there weren’t as many traditional, basic elements. If she had stuck with some of these, the judges would have seen him dancing more and maybe achieved a higher score. I did some searches as to some of the recent West Coast Swing routines performed by professionals. The routines do look like the one they performed. I also noticed that the social style of this dance is very loose and free. There doesn’t seem to be much structure to it and this is why it can sometimes be hard to teach and learn. There are a few basic moves but the rest are an amalgamation of many different elements. The one thing that bothered me a little which I would need clarification on is that I was taught the West Coast Swing is considered a slot dance. A slot dance means that all the moves must stay in a certain line of dance. If you drew a line on the floor you would never have any mores that you would go off of that line. In both routines I did not see the slot characteristic that a West Coast Swing would normally have. I do not know if this is because it was performed as a show dance or if they just were not able to take the contestants and teach them that way.
I also agree with Carrie Ann when she said that this was a dance that is foreign to many professionals. This is true. When attending regional competitions, you do not see many people competing in this dance because many instructors are uncomfortable with the dance themselves and when you are not comfortable with the dance it's even harder to teach it. I also agree when they said that this dance is a feeling. It’s something that eventually clicks: the rhythm, the character and the moves. When I first learned the West Coast Swing, I didn’t understand it at all; I then started dancing it more and with those who gave me the feeling of the dance and then it clicked. For those of you struggling to learn this dance, keep doing it; at some point, it will click for you too.
I think Susan did a great job with the Hustle. There were traditional Hustle moves in the routine and everything was clean. Also, she showed no sign that she was injured. But I felt like the whole dance was in slow motion. I agreed with the judges that there was something cautious and boring about the whole thing. The lifts were exciting and the Hustle can be a lot of fun. I just feel like it lacked that pizazz that you would normally see with a Hustle show.
In comparison, Warren’s Hustle was exciting, fun, and still had the traditional feel of the Hustle. I think it was one of the best dances of the night when you take everything into consideration. My husband was watching the show with me and he said: “Wow, he does pretty good for a guy his size…” and then a few seconds later he said: “No, he really can dance!” And that sums up how I feel about Warren. There is something about him that one would never expect to see from a football player in a dance competition.
I am going to be hard on those who were dancing the Salsa. This was the first partnership dance I learned, and I spent many nights out at Boston clubs dancing as well participating with on a dance team. As always, Corky choreographed Cloris’s performance so that it has more humor and acting than dancing in it. This suits her of course; she goes out and puts on a show. Some of the actual dance moves they performed had more of a Mambo feel than Salsa. The way I separate the two, which are very similar, is that the Salsa is more of a club dance. You will see moves that are smaller and more confined. There are more tricks and fancy turns.
Maurice and Cheryl did great with their Salsa routine. The moves looked like he could perform them out at a club. He had the right character by being a strong leader and showing Cheryl off. The only thing I did not like was when they were doing the basic steps, they were very big. You would not normally do that in a Salsa. If they were in a club they would of stepped on some people. I know they were not dancing in a club that night but again that should be the feel of the dance.
I love this dance! It is so fun and animated. I do not blame the professionals for not knowing it. This is one of those dances you go out to specifically learn for yourself or for a show. This is not usually a part of the Ballroom Dancing curriculum. Don’t think it’s unusual for a dancer or an instructor to do some research on a dance. That is a part of teaching and learning. You have to constantly improve yourself so that you can improve those around you. I think it is much more respectable to get more information on it then to make up something because you do not want to look unknowledgeable.
This is when I have a problem with the judges. In my opinion, Cody and Brooke both came out and gave the same great performance. They both deserved the same scores, and why didn’t they get it? I think that Bruno was the only one who gave a point less. But why? I could see no difference in the performances. I would have to go back and really watch them over and over again to figure out who was the true winner of that match-up. It still makes me think of what I mentioned last week - how they still consider the performances from the week before.
As an end note, maybe I also enjoyed this week because we got to see the professionals out of their element a little bit. Many of them felt frustrated or confused at teaching a dance they did not know, or had never taught before. Most instructors will tell you that they have all had situations such as these in their careers; you get through it and usually you learn something from it. I have a feeling that studios are going to be having some students requesting the Jitterbug in the near future!!
Monday, October 20, 2008
How can I maintain my balance when doing the Waltz? This question came up while I was coaching a student recently.
Because this subject factors in many technical aspects (e.g. posture, leg action footwork, foot pressure, rise and fall), today I will only give details on the footwork and the rise and fall.
The Waltz is characterized by rise and fall used by the feet and felt in the body, which of course involves the legs. When you use the correct rise and fall, you apply foot pressure on the floor; this action helps further your balance.
As an exercise, stand with your feet together with weight on your right foot and your body vertically poised over your feet. Slowly dance a left turning basic doing ¼ turn on the forward half and a ¼ turn on the back half. All the while use your feet as follows: count 1: heel-toe; count 2: toe; count 3: toe-heel; count 4: toe-heel; count 5: toe; count 6: toe-heel.
Repeat the exercise again, this time thinking of your rise and fall as follows: commence to rise at the end of 1; continue to rise on 2 and 3; lower at the end of 3; commence to rise at the end of 4 (no foot rise); continue to rise on 5 and 6; lower at the end of 6.
I suggest that you do these movements before every lesson. Also, check in with your teacher so he/she confirms that you are doing them correctly. After a while, you will experience progress. Your balance will improve and your dancing will benefit from it.
Until next time,
Stanley Mc Calla
Fred Astaire National Dance Board Member & Examiner
Fred Astaire National Smooth Champion
US 10 dance finalist
4 times US representative to World Championships
Former US Latin, Standard, 10 dance Champion
Thursday, October 16, 2008
In Fred Astaire's autobiography, he wrote: "On my list I count it [Broadway Melody of 1940] thoroughly worth while if only for the opportunity of working with Eleanor, who certainly rates as one of the all-time great dancing girls...She really knocks out a tap step in a class by herself."
Elita is a wife, mother of two, grandmother of four and has been dancing socially and competitively since 1977. She has 58 trophies and medals for her dancing. She has been writing dance articles to encourage seniors and non seniors to go out and ballroom dance since 1990. Her articles appear in dance magazines and on websites. She can be reached at email@example.com. Now she is honored to have her articles on the Fred Astaire website. Elita believes that dancing enhances our lives physically and emotionally. She loves dancing so much she even named her little doggie Rumba.
I have been invited to write a column for the Fred Astaire newsletter online. I am honored to do so. I have been writing dance columns since 1990 and in all of them I try to encourage seniors, not yet seniors, and just about everybody to do what I love the most – ballroom dancing.
Of course I love my husband, my two children, a son and a daughter, my son-in-law, my daughter-in-law, my three grandsons and one granddaughter the most and then comes this exciting hobby, sport or whatever you want to call it – ballroom dancing.
To the general, public ballroom dancing is a new phenomenon. It is as if the everyday public has discovered something new that we all were aware of for many decades. Since the television program Dancing With The Stars hit the scene, people are seeing stars dance with their professional teachers. The stars take a lesson lasting about six hours a day for four to five days a week and learn a new dance and all the moves that go with it. They dress up the ladies in the skimpiest outfits with their hair swinging and the men, whether pros or amateurs, keep their shirts open to show off their bare chests.
Some of the routines they learn are quite hard and would be difficult for any student who had taken many lessons for numerous years. This is a show business reality show and is very popular. Many dance studios are reaping the benefit of the community’s interest in dance due to this show. It is not a logical way to learn ballroom dance and the average person will realize that they cannot afford six hours a day for many days and neither could their bodies take on such a strenuous effort.
The proper way is to take one or two lessons a week at a dance studio and go to a social dance on the weekend to practice and socialize. This is the best procedure to continue this sport or hobby and to learn to love it as we all have done. A slower course will reap benefits for the new dancer, and she or he will be able to tolerate the changes in his or her life as this is happening.
Many seniors who take up ballroom dancing are hesitant at first and then they realize that they are capable of learning and absorbing this information in their minds, their souls and their soles (of their feet.) They realize that this new thing called dance in their life will enhance their days to the point that they will crave the moment to come for their next lesson or social dance. A senior in California named Jeanne wrote me that she hesitated at age seventy-nine and a half (her words) to take up ballroom dancing. She read some of my articles of encouragement and finally went to a group lesson at a recreation hall and loved it so much she started private lessons at a studio. In fact, she did so well in a few years, that one day she took several lessons from Ron Montez. She sent me pictures of her lessons with him and she enjoyed taking coaching from such a celebrity teacher who was a champion dancer for many years with his partner Liz Curtis. This lovely senior was now about eighty-three years of age and had the courage to go to a teacher of the caliber of Ron Montez. This was the most demanding and exciting time in her late years. Her husband was in a nursing home and had been for twenty years and her mind was cluttered with despair, sadness and loneliness. Upon dancing and learning and going to Saturday night events at the studio; her life was lighting up with hope, desire and excitement.
Ballroom dancing appeals to so many of us whether we be in our early twenties, our forties, our seventies or older and is like a light shining on our souls and we decided to include this in our every day living. I heard a nice slogan that said something about “a gift of promise” is something to dream about. It meant that we can think about something and promise our self that it is a gift and we promise to accomplish it. That is what dancing is to me – a gift and a promise to do it.
My favorite all time movie that I saw in the theater way back in the late fifties was called “Love is A Many Splendored Thing,” starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones. Many reading this will not know of these two delightful actors but they were quite popular in their time. In the movie, he says to her upon going off to war as a journalist correspondent that if he does not come back – that “you and I have had the many splendored thing.” He meant that even if never seeing one another again, their love story was so splendid and beautiful that they had not missed out.
So when we ballroom dance whether we compete, whether we go to social dances, whether we showcase and dance before our peers at the studio or even if we go to a wedding or anniversary or confirmation party dance and we show off our accomplishments in our performing dancing -then we have not missed the many splendored thing I call dancing.
So the gift of promise we pledge to ourselves when we take up ballroom dancing is one we will give to our person and we will be so much richer because our minds, our bodies and our hearts will not have missed the many splendored thing. We will continue to learn, to love and to be positive in our thinking of what we are. We are special people, young, seniors, not yet seniors and even super seniors who are up in age and we benefit from this achievement, fulfillment and realization that we can accomplish at any age this fantastic and beautiful thing called ballroom dance. We need no television reality show to tell us this; we know it and knew it long before this show came on the scene. The reason being that we were tuned in to the knowledge that dance is for everyone and everyone will be richer for undertaking this delightful event called dance.
When I was a little girl, I loved to watch the movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing. I imagined I was Ginger and when I went to Florida to visit an aunt when I was fourteen, I told the new teens I met that my name was Ginger. Now I feel like a Ginger when I dance or a Cyd Charisse or a floating angel who accomplished this feat of moving my feet and holding out my arms and painting a picture of movement, just as an artist paints a canvas. It is truly an art form and the body is the canvas that was painted upon and the final viewing of it is our dancing for others to see.
So I say to all males and females, ballroom dance, love it, never leave it and you will have had and do have the continuing ‘many splendored thing.’ Your promise to yourself is a gift of love, the love of ballroom dancing. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Art is an instant captured in eternity.” Your dancing is that instant. It is art for sure and you are the artist at that moment.
Keep On Dancing.
During the show this week Len mentioned that the Tango is for the actors, that it is a dance that needs to have the expression and the character portrayed throughout. Interestingly enough, all of the contestants who competed in the Tango are actors! That worked out well for them and for their teacher. It is too bad they do not start with this dance in the first couple of weeks. The footwork to Tango is actually simple and can be learned by using walking steps. The difficulty comes from making the dance sharp and dramatic. Having the professionals teach them a basic routine and teaching them all about the dance and character is the best way to proceed with this dance. Especially for those who have acted before it would be easy to get them in character that is needed for this dance.
The second time I agreed with the judges was when they talked about Warren’s dance. It was entertaining, and I still want to emphasize to the viewers how well he moves around the floor. But, what he did was not a Samba routine; it was a freestyle dance that had maybe two textbook Samba elements. The hip and pulsing action in Samba is one of the hardest to build muscle memory for. Many of the couples were using tricks and entertaining choreography to hide the lack of proper Samba technique. This can work sometimes. In fact, I think it worked better for Maurice than it did Warren. Maurice also put on a performance to make up for the inability to dance the Samba, but his was more convincing.
I did not agree with the judges when they kept saying that it is week 4 and they want to see more refined dancing. OK, I understand that most of the contestants have had 10 weeks of dancing behind them; they should be more comfortable with dancing in general. BUT, all of the contestants still only have 3 to 4 days to learn a new dance. And when I say learn a new dance I mean all that goes along with it: the steps, a routine, the timing, the technique, and the character. That is a lot to learn and to also make it look refined. I do agree that throughout the competition the professionals should be teaching the stars about posture, correct alignment, and making lines with your body. These are universal themes that can be taught for every dance with only slight adjustments between Rhythm and Smooth dances. But to learn Samba hip action and how to perform the dance takes a little bit more than a few days, even if they are devoting 7 hours a day to it. If you do not have the muscle memory of the hip action, then more than likely you won’t do it while performing because there are other things you are thinking about.
I know the judges have to pick an overall winner of the competition and, of course, the judges remember what they have seen before and the progression they have made throughout the weeks. I would hope that if I was dancing in a Rhythm championship and then in a Smooth championship, the judges wouldn’t score me in Smooth based on what they saw in Rhythm. I feel the judges on this show sometimes think about past performances and compare it to a dance that is nothing like the one they are performing that week and then again sometimes they don’t. There is no consistency. This is the controversy in ballroom dancing: it is subjective. Interestingly most ballroom dancing competitions have 5 to 6 judges not just 3.
I am very excited that they are putting in a few new dances next week on the show. I am especially interested to see the West Coast Swing. This can be a fun dance once you get the hang of it. When learning the basic elements, it can be a pain to master! I look forward to seeing what twists the professionals put on the choreography. It will also be interesting for those professionals who have a stronger International style background since this dance is considered American style. Most dancers who have come to the US to work as instructors have never seen it before. Don’t forget the Hustle and Jitterbug will also be making an appearance. This could get interesting!
Susan and Tony (Tango): Wow! This was definitely her best dance so far. Her dramatic character throughout the dance gave it a great Tango feeling, and her passion was excellent as well. Her footwork was fabulous: heel leads on every step and staying low in her knees. Her frame was also great and her head carriage on the promenades really impressed me - great form. She did fantastic tonight. I’m so happy for Tony…hopefully we will see more of this side of Susan next week, too.
Warren and Kym (Samba): Another great dance tonight! I think the judges were a little too rough on him. He had great momentum and fluid movement around the floor. He was even doing arm styling, which is usually difficult for men to do!!! On the down side, he did take heel leads the whole time, which is not what you are supposed to do in a Latin or Rhythm dance ever, so that disappointed me. Overall, the judges were correct that Kym could have made the choreography more challenging for him because he is a great dancer. But great job either way.
Cloris and Corky (Tango): She proved tonight that she CAN dance for real!!!!! Cloris did AMAZING tonight…I was astonished at what I saw. Her footwork was good as well as her emotion and passion with the music. Her legs lines were beautiful; I can’t believe how flexible she is with all those kicks and rondes! She even had correct head carriage and frame. Corky has done such an impressive job with her. She definitely deserved her 22!!!!
Toni and Alec (Samba): I’m really perplexed on why the judges are being so complimentary to Toni. I again found her costume too risqué and it really made her footwork and leg lines stick out in a negative fashion. She was pigeon toed throughout the majority of the dance and her legs never brushed together, which was distracting. She also seemed like she forgot the choreography at one point and the rest of it was sloppy. She did shake it well and her shoulders were down which is an improvement for her. But overall, her musicality was off and the dance was messy.
Cody and Julianne (Tango): I felt that he looked really mature and sophisticated tonight! His fast feet in the promenade, elements and the tricks they did with him on the knee were great. However, his frame was eschew, his shoulders were up, and his head was slightly to the right. They also almost fell in the pivots...eek! But he was very confident, focused and dramatic in his Tango, which covered up some of those mistakes!
Brooke and Derek (Samba): Brooke has obviously been my favorite thus far and still is, but I felt that her Samba was her weakest dance so far. She was just a little robotic in some parts, and not as natural as I’ve seen in the past. But, her feet were pretty the whole time, no awkward moments, and her ronde was great. She had beautiful extension and point! She was sexy, sensual, and had great feeling the whole way through. I think the choreography was cute with Derek being “stripped” the whole time. Fabulous job!!
Rocco and Karina (Samba): Well, I think we have finally come to the week that Rocco is going to go home. He was off time and there was no musicality whatsoever. The costume trick was messy and he had no Samba technique, compared to the others that are dancing. BUT, he came out onto that floor and had fun and had nothing to lose. His energy was up and he was trying to shake his hips. My favorite part of the routine was his knee walks. Those are way harder than they look, so he did a great job with that!
Maurice and Cheryl (Samba): I think the judges were too hard on him tonight as well. I felt he had a great understanding of what the Samba was about: hips, energy, fun, etc. His Samba walks were great and his feet have gotten so much better than the first week…no longer turned in, thank goodness! He also had great musicality and body rhythms the whole time. It could have been a little cleaner and more precise but he was much cleaner than Toni and deserved a much higher score than an 18.
Lance and Lacey (Tango): I’m very confused every time I watch these two dance together. There is something I really don’t like about them, but then there is something that is very unique that I do like. His frame was much better tonight and his pivots really impressed me. He stayed low into his knees and kept his frame pretty still throughout the whole set. The whole routine was creepy but it did match the song “Disturbia” well. He had great character and sharp movements, which is exactly what the Tango is about. But Lacey really distracts me and goes a little too far over the edge. I think a 26 was a little too high for them tonight.
Sarah Donahue - Top Newcomer Female Student
Sharon Frazin - Top Bronze Female Student
Marc Lyerly - Top Bronze Male Student
Tim Duffy - Top Advanced Male Student
Bette Anne Duffy - Top Advanced Female Student
Tim and Bette Anne Duffy - Top Amateur Couple
Paula Mclellan - Top Showcase
Top Male Teachers:
Rouslan - Fifth place
Alex - Fourth place
Aaron - Third place
Stephen - Second place
Chris - First place
Top Female Teachers:
Brittney - Fourth place
Simona - Second place
Jaana - First place
I recently had the chance to talk to mambo champion Fabian Sanchez, who participated in season six of Dancing With The Stars. Although he and his partner Marlee Matlin placed sixth in the competition, they quickly became fan favorites. During our conversation, Fabian told me about how he got involved in the dance world, what it was like teaching a deaf student and what the future holds for him and his career.
HOW DID FABIAN GET HIS START IN BALLROOM DANCING?
Fabian started his dance career when he was twenty years old and waiting tables in Alabama. He was discovered by Alan King, who happened to be the regional owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studios. The owner loved his personality and offered him a job teaching at his school. Although Fabian had only been a social dancer at the time, he jumped at the opportunity. He began taking ballroom lessons as he was teaching and within a year and a half, was competing with his dance partner. During his ballroom training, Fabian got to work with several world-renowned dancers, including Bruno Collins, Charlie Paretella, Linda Dean and Corky Ballas.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING A MALE IN THE DANCE WORLD?
When Fabian got started in the dance world, he was a very shy and only danced for fun at teen clubs. Once he began teaching and getting into competing, he realized it was not only a good way to get over his shyness, but also a way to interact with the opposite sex, since ballroom is all about a man and a woman. He said that he makes sure to teach this to his students and his son as well. He makes sure that the boys ask to dance with the girls and feels that it is a good way for males to learn how to treat a lady.
WHEN DID FABIAN GO PRO AND WHAT TITLES/RANKS DOES HE HOLD?
Since he had gone right into teaching, he was considered a professional right away and never competed in amateur competitions. He mostly competed in American Rhythm, although he was trained in all forms of American and International ballroom dancing. As a competitor, Fabian won several championships, including the Fred Astaire Rhythm Champ four times and the Rising Star US Rhythm Champ. He also was a US Open Finalist and the 2006 World Mambo Champion.
HOW DID FABIAN GET INVOLVED IN DANCING WITH THE STARS?
Fabian considers being on Dancing With The Stars a wonderful opportunity for him and his career. But how did he get chosen to be a part of one of the biggest shows in the country? It all started when Fabian met professional dancer and show favorite Maksim Chmerkovskiy at a charity event three years ago. Maks told him how wonderful the show was and invited him to see it live. Fabian was looking for a challenge and wanted to take his experience to a new level, so he decided to go for it after Maks got him an interview. After several interviews and meetings, Fabian was finally hired for season six of the show, along with good friend and show veteran Tony Dovolani.
DWTS AND A NEW CHALLENGE (AND FRIEND!)
Fabian was paired with Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, who was the first deaf contestant on the show. He initially thought this would be a challenge, but he soon realized that teaching Marlee was not much different than teaching any other student. The biggest difference was that he had to make sure he had eye contact with Marlee at all times, as well as stomping his feet and clapping to make sure she could feel the beats. He also relied on lip reading and communicating through her interpreters, Bill and Jack. However, Marlee did not let being deaf bring her down or keep her from trying her best in the competition. Fabian revealed that she had such determination and talent that he would sometimes forget she couldn’t hear anything. He said that she proved that anything could be accomplished no matter what if you just put your mind to it.
LIFE AFTER DWTS
Since leaving the show, Fabian has been a very busy man. He owns a Fred Astaire Studio with his wife, something he said allows him to not only continue his career, but be a family man as well. He is also putting a show together with Strictly Come Dancing professional Kristina Rihanoff and participating in a traveling tour in October and November. He also plans on participating in the DWTS Winter Tour and possibly more seasons of the show. Either way, he feels blessed because he is living the American Dream.
I want to thank Fabian for taking the time to talk to me and wish him all the luck in the world with his future endeavors. Be sure to look out for the upcoming Dancing With The Stars tours so you can get a chance to see Fabian live!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio was used as a rehearsal site for Misty May Trainor and Maks in August where they worked on their Mambo routine for the show!
Monday, October 13, 2008
The 38th United States Dance Championships went off again like a gem under the direction of Wayne Eng, with the expert help of the best Chairman of Judges in the business, Mr. Brian Puttock, who made sure that the schedule was followed and that all the competitions took place as they were supposed to.
All in all, it was a great weekend. The absence of multitudes of Europeans was once again quite obvious this year, but to tell you the truth those people that I spoke to prefer it this way. Although it is important that the USDC continues to be the most influential competition in the United States, it is also important to remember that it is the United States Dance Championships and as such it should focus and honor the very best that the United States has to offer. I think we did that this year.
When Didio asked me to do the write-up for the US Closed Latin Championship, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. After all, I was one of the judges on that panel and it is difficult enough to judge without thinking about having to write about it. But knowing Didio as long as I know him, it is difficult for me to say no to him…I like him a lot.
To me, the US International Latin has been a continuously moving target for the last few years - couples coming in and out, changing all the time. For someone who only judges about 6 to 8 times per year, by choice, due to my many other responsibilities, this can be a daunting task. Since I am not aware of what the form is in that style, this was even more exciting to Didio and Keith who wanted me to write my comments on my marks regardless of previous results or form.
I must say that the talent in the competition from the semifinal on was outstanding as was the final. What I liked about the final was the difference in styles that were represented on the floor, and I will go through that as I write about the individual couples and their final positions in the final.
In first place and the 2008 US Latin Champions were Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko. This couple was in a class of their own on the floor; if there is a mold for creating male and female Latin dancers, these two are it. They danced with the power, speed and accuracy and grace of cheetahs hunting their prey with every step perfectly placed at precisely the perfect time in the music. Their bodies lunged around the floor in perfect harmony with each other. The space they filled and the music they fulfilled was artistry at its best.
In second place were Eugene Katsevman and Maria Munosova. I watched this couple dance their last Blackpool festival as amateurs and thought that they did not belong there any more. Their dancing was too mature and refined for the Amateur level where everyone dances as fast as they can with little attention put into the art of it all.
Although I liked Maria and Eugene’s dancing a lot, they again left me feeling like I wanted something more from them. I cannot criticize their technique or their skills at all, but I found myself trying to find a spot for them in their first Professional US final and having difficulty doing it. If I was pressed to comment on what I saw or did not see, I would have to say that a lack of connection with the audience and attack would have to be the words I would use; therefore, I did not place them as high as they came in.
Third place was an interesting couple: Pavlo Barsuk and Anna Trebunskaya. I say ‘interesting’ because of how different they are to each other. Anna, the daughter of Irina who is one of my favorite people ever, is what I would call a classic Latin dancer, in the style of Shirley Ballas; she is a solid technician with a very soft and feminine look. Pavlo, on the other hand, dances more like a young kid, all energy and abandonment. Somehow, this contrast of style works for them. If Anna and Pavlo stay together as a couple long enough to find a middle ground from which to further develop their ample talents, they are going to be a force to reckon with for a long time to come.
Vaidotas Skimelis and Jurga Pupelyte came in fourth position on this night, not too far from where I had them which was third. I have always liked this couple. To me, they are the quinsentenial Latin couple - a very strong and masculine man who leads his girl around the floor with the class and elegance that a lady as good as Jurga deserves. I like the way their dancing is presented, not too wild, not too quiet, just right. In my mind, this is what Latin dancing should be - not just two bodies being thrown around the floor to the rhythms of the music, but a controlled symphony of movements that say something and tell a story with each beat and each step.
In fifth place were Delyan Terziev and Boriana Deltcheva. They were my sixth place couple without a doubt. Don’t get me wrong: all the couples in this final were very good. They had to be to make it this far; however, I find Delyan a bit hard and not as flexible and rhythmical as the other guys. I also find myself looking at his feet a lot, somehow they are attracting my eyes and when I look I don’t like what I see. Boriana is another good girl on the floor; I say that because she could be any one of them - good but not special. I do like the attack and commitment this couple displays on the floor, which is the reason they deserved to be in this very good final.
The sixth place couple (Ilya Ifraimov and Nadia Goulina) was a huge shock to me, I know what you are going to say – ‘Armando is just pushing the top Fred Astaire Latin couple.’ Well, maybe a little unconsciously, but here is my argument for why this couple should be so much higher.
First of all, since when did we stop giving great, stable couples, who have been dancing in this final for years, the benefit of the doubt? Not that they needed it because they danced great, but we are marking the flavor of the day so much that we as judges are not necessarily giving enough credit to classic, strong technical dancing with developed partnerships that complete a story from beginning to end with every dance they perform on the floor.
Ilya and Nadia were much higher on my sheets because they displayed all the attributes that make up a great couple, with light, shade, elegance, and emotion. They were there in fantastic shape. They danced hard and they danced great but were not rewarded for their efforts. In my mind, all I can think of is that I must’ve been looking for different qualities than the other judges on that night. I liked what I saw out of their dancing and felt they deserved a much higher placement.
The Latin final was fun and interesting to judge because of all the different styles displayed by all the couples and the different styles displayed even within the couples. We can only hope that it continues to be that good and strong for a long time to come.
My only request is that we don’t forget to award couples who take their art much further than just how many steps or tricks they can fit into a measure of music, and instead are trying to fill that same music with emotion, beauty and personal connections. So long.
West Palm Beach, FL (CNS) - The ABC hit reality show "Dancing with the Stars" has dazzled audiences for several years now with glitz, glamour, celebrities and amazing professional dancers. The show has also managed to make ballroom dancing fashionable and trendy.
Steve Wilkie, manager of the Fred Astaire West Palm Beach Dance Studio in West Palm Beach, Florida, talked with Celebrity News Service about the impact that "Dancing with the Stars" has had on ballroom dancing across the country. "The show has had a wonderfully positive effect because it has shown people that anybody can ballroom dance -- young, old, men and women," he said.
He went on to add that tough football players such as Jason Taylor and Emmitt Smith, who both appeared on the show (Emmitt won season three with professional partner Cheryl Burke), have also helped make ballroom dancing look more masculine. "Strong masculine men dance and have a great time," Wilkie said.
Doreen Scheinpflug, a professional ballroom instructor and high-level competitor, added that the show's behind-the-scenes filming of the dancers practicing for "Dancing with the Stars" has also turned out to be great. "It really shows that this is a sport," she said. "A lot of people like to dance for the fitness aspect of it, and a lot of people thought that ballroom dancing was only for old people."
Scheinpflug said the only downside to the television show is that many people show up for lessons the first time and expect to become great dancers immediately. "They don't realize that on the show the celebrities are practicing eight hours a day," Scheinpflug said, adding that she can't complain, however, because the show has raised awareness about ballroom dancing.
"'Dancing with the Stars' has opened up ballroom dancing to a whole new generation of people," Wilkie said, adding that when his Fred Astaire dance studio had its grand opening Tony Dovolani from "Dancing with the Stars" came and took part in the studio's kick-off. "We had a lot of people here because they were familiar with Tony."
Tony, who started dancing at a Fred Astaire Dance Studio when he was 15, and has gone on to star on "Dancing with the Stars" and appear in the Jennifer Lopez film "Shall We Dance?"
"The show really has brought in a younger generation and shown them that dancing can be fun," Wilkie said.
For more information about Fred Astaire Dance Studios visit their website at www.fredastairewpb.com or call Steve Wilkie or Doreen Scheinpflug at the Fred Astaire West Palm Beach Dance Studio at 561-478-1400.
In the run-up to Team Match, each studio challenged itself to see how much canned and boxed food they could raise to donate to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to help those who are going hungry this fall. With a regional goal of 1000 lbs, Fred Astaire Wisconsin set its goals high, aiming to be dancing stars and giving stars. Not only did we hit our goal, we almost doubled it by collecting 1884 lbs of food -- nearly a ton of canned and boxed goods to help the hungry in Madison.
Friday, October 10, 2008
For Denim Day, staff and students who wore jeans were asked to contribute $5. Our practice session was another chance to give - $15 per person. And managment donated $5 for every lesson bought and paid in full on Thursday, October 2.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetimes. That's a startling statistic. Thanks to Team Upper Montclair for their participation in this important cause, and congratulations to all who participated!!!!
I felt this week was not as exciting of a show for some reason. I don’t know what it was - maybe the whole show had a down vibe due to Misty May’s injury. But there were some great performances. The stars this season are really learning well.
Misty's injury was very surprising to me; yet, at the same time, I wasn’t surprised. I recently earned a Masters Degree in Exercise Science. When I first heard that Misty was going to be participating in Dancing With The Stars, I was surprised since she was just coming back from the Olympics. In fact, Misty started training for the show 2 days after she arrived back from China, which was a week later than the other stars on the show. When seeing how she injured herself, I was even more surprised since it was not on a trick but on a relatively basic Charleston type move.
I had a couple of theories going through my head so I decided to get up and try it myself. First, I wondered if her choice of footwear had something to do with her injury. Misty had been wearing sneakers, which might have caused more stretch to get her foot all the way to the floor. I tried what she had been doing in the heels I was wearing; in heels, my foot had less time and distance to travel to the floor. There was much more of a stretching feeling in my leg with flat shoes on then when I wore heels. I tried the move with a straight leg; this also caused more of a stretch as opposed to being soft in the knees.
The other theory that I had going through my head had to with her training for the Olympics, participating in the competition, and immediately starting to learn ballroom dancing. I did a little research and found this information about Achilles tendons on the Web MD site:
“Achilles tendon problems are most often caused by overuse or repeated movements. These movements can happen during sports, work, or other activities. For example, if you do a lot of pushing off or stop-and-go motions when you play sports, you can get microtears in the tendon. Microtears can also happen with a change in how long, hard, or often you exercise. Microtears in the tendon may not be able to heal quickly or completely. Being out of shape or not warming up before exercising may also cause Achilles tendon problems. So can shoes with poor arch supports or rigid heels. An Achilles rupture is most often caused by a sudden, forceful motion that stresses the calf muscle. This can happen during an intense athletic activity or even during simple running or jumping. Middle-aged adults are especially likely to get this kind of injury.
A rupture most often occurs in sports such as basketball, racket sports (including tennis), soccer, and softball. A tendon already weakened by overstretching, inflammation, or small tears is more likely to rupture.”
So, you can see that there is a good possibility that her Achilles tendon could have been hurt by constant use due to the Olympics or from the intensive dance training she had been receiving over the past month. Learning to dance, performing at a high level (in heels), and participating in a sport that you are not familiar with always has risk for injuries. All of these could have contributed to her injury. Regardless, I am sad to see her go. I would have liked to see how her athletic background would have faired in this competition since many athletes have done well on the show.
There has been a lot of discussion as to whether ballroom dancing is a sport and if it should be considered an Olympic event. Yes, it is a sport and it must be treated like one. Before or after your lessons, try to get in some stretches and if you are not sure what to stretch - ask someone. If you are doing any tricks or lifts in your dancing, definitely take the time to stretch and warm up prior to a lesson. And if you are still thinking of starting ballroom dance or have already done so, please don’t be worried about hurting yourself. Just be aware of your body and how it feels.
Talking of athletes on the show...I wanted to say that Maurice and Cheryl did a great job with their Jive. I feel that here we can make a connection between Maurice’s history as a runner and as a sprinter. Sprinters have to learn to move their legs very quickly and develop muscle fibers that do this. Also, their bodies adapt to moving that quickly, allowing them to work more efficiently. In dancing, that means they have more time to devote to expression, lines, and musicality. I will also compliment Cheryl’s choreography. It really suited Maurice and played to his strengths while looking like they were having a great time together.
I would like to stress again, yes again, that these 2 dances are another 2 difficult ones! OK...I know...when have there been any easy ones? But here’s the difference: the contestants could have danced a Swing instead of a Jive. Debra, you may ask, what is the difference? The difference is the speed, timing and some of the technique involved. Swing is considered an American Style dance. The music is slower and the movements are more like a pendulum with swinging of the hips. In Jive, the movement has a higher lift of the knees and the speed is much faster. So why not teach the Swing instead of the Jive? Well, it wouldn’t be as exciting, right? I can say the same for the Viennese Waltz compared to a Waltz. Both are 3-3 timing, but the Viennese Waltz is danced at a much faster speed and includes harder steps to match that speed. Why not just do a Waltz? Regardless, I am impressed because many of the contestants did a fantastic job with these dances. Even Cloris…because no 82-year-old should be made to do a proper Jive. She put on a show that was hysterically funny and appropriate for her abilities. And Corky played right along with it! This is why she is getting the audience votes. Keep voting! What if she makes it to the finals!
Yet again, this week brought drama and injuries!! I was so saddened when I saw that Misty had to cut from the competition. She was really growing into a favorite of mine. I hope that she is able to come back and performs for us one last time and that her surgery and healing process goes well!!!
DANCES: VIENNESE WALTZ/JIVE
Susan and Tony (Jive): First of all, let me comment on how cute she and Tony looked in their costumes!! Besides that, considering she hurt her ankle earlier in the day, she did a pretty good job doing all of those kicks and hops throughout the dance. She was a little slow and behind the timing. Her sailor shuffles, which is a Jive/Swing element, were rough. The choreography was a great mixture of kicks, flicks and tricks, which really matched the song well!! Her energy was a little low, as well as her confidence, which Bruno commented on. However, overall she did a great job with her injury and all!!
Warren and Kym (V. Waltz): I have loved Warren from the beginning and he made me love him even more after his performance tonight. I am so amazed that a football player of his stature is able to move around the floor with such ease and finesse. His posture and frame were much better and his footwork was very well done with heel leads and all. He really set the mood for this whimsical, romantic dance, and you can’t help but love his “concentration” face! The only thing that bothered me was he was a little “hoppy” in some areas. But, overall I loved it all: the choreography, the costume and his dancing of course!!
Toni and Alec (V. Waltz): I have to be honest: she really has not been one of my favorites thus far, and tonight was no different. Their risk of costumes and overall idea was too much for me and was quite distracting. She was off balance a lot, which I’m assuming the dress did not help with, and her frame was weak and moved a lot throughout the dance. Her footwork was sloppy and I just found the whole thing very odd. 22 was way too high in my opinion.
Cloris and Corky (Jive): All I can say is HILARIOUS!!!!! No matter what Corky comes up with it cracks me up. Her quirky movements and tricks were hysterical and the wig coming off made the dance. She definitely embodies the saying,“the show must go on.” She never gave up or stopped dancing and neither did Corky!!!
Julianne and Cody (Jive): I was excited that he got Jive and not V. Waltz so we could really see his energy and youthfulness let loose, but unfortunately for me he held back tonight. I felt that his timing and rhythm were very good and some of his lines were really nicely demonstrated. BUT… the routine was repetitious, like the judges said, and he did count out loud which is a pet peeve of any dancer or judge. His quick foot movements were nice though, and he kept that smile plastered on his face which made his energy seem consistent. Overall, he needs to use his young age to his advantage and not hold back; if he does that, he can bring a whole new spin to the competition.
Brooke and Derek (V. Waltz): By far the best dance of the evening! Her 28 was well deserved. Through all that fighting and arguing that she and Derek had throughout the week of rehearsals, she came out there and blew the judges, as well as myself, away. She is such a beautiful woman and is so glamorous on the dance floor. She was smooth and everything looked very natural; nothing looked forced or awkward. Her arms and legs were beautiful and her musicality was amazing. I hope to see many more 10s for her in the coming weeks!! Awesome job, Derek!
Rocco and Karina (V. Waltz): Poor Rocco. Again, he tried so hard with the blindfold and all, but just didn’t cut it tonight. His frame was a mess and there was no fluidity to his movement. He needs to slow down his steps. He needs to understand that by lowering into his legs and taking bigger steps, he will actually use more of the music and also move a lot more around the floor. He did improve, but at this stage of the competition, he really needs to step it up!
Maurice and Cheryl (Jive): This guy looked slick in his turquoise jacket and rhinestones, eye-catching for sure. His Jive tonight was great, his posture was much improved, and his foot work was much better as well. The choreography was challenging, yet clean, which surprised me for Cheryl because usually her routines tend to look the same from season to season. It was nothing but pure energy and fun, fun, fun!!!
Lance and Lacey (V. Waltz): Ugh Lance. I really thought that he was going to bring a really cool boy band flavor to the show, but he has been quite a letdown in my eyes. His frame was a mess, his shoulders were up, and his elbows were falling. Not to mention the fact that his footwork was unclear and ploppy. In comparison to everything else, his head carriage was better, which made him look nice and tall in his nice grey suit, but his rise and fall throughout the dance was distracting and hoppy. Although he didn’t totally blow me away, his movement was pretty good and the choreography matched the music well.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
The daughter of Hollywood screen legend Fred Astaire is to visit Wymondham in the UK later this month in the latest Regal Experience film show. Featured film will be The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, a tribute to a Norwich-born dancer who took America by storm and was a great inspiration to a young Astaire who starred in the movie with legendary screen partner Ginger Rogers.
Fred's daughter Ava will be in Wymondham for the show on Sunday, October 19, at 2.30pm at the Wymondham Ex-Services Club (Regal Cinema).
Vernon Castle, whose real surname was Blyth, was born in Mill Hill Road, Norwich, on May 2, 1887 and later attended Norwich Grammar School in The Close. He was brought up in the Great Eastern Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Norwich Nelson Premier Inn.He went to the United States in 1906, and appeared in various plays and review, mainly as a conjuror or eccentric comedian. In 1911, he married an American lady, Irene Foote and for the next five years they took America and Europe by storm with their “modern dancing.”
With Ragtime sweeping the country, the States went dance-mad - and it was the Castles who set the trend. They introduced their adoring public to new dances, starred in silent movies and were leaders of fashion. Feted by top society, they were early 20th century superstars.
By 1916, Vernon was earning over £1,000 a week -a huge amount at the time - but that year he took the patriotic decision to give up his luxurious lifestyle and return to England, where he was commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps. He was posted to France and flew some 150 dangerous reconnaissance and bombing missions over German lines, downing at least two enemy planes in the process. The French awarded him the Croix de Guerre for heroism.
In 1917, he was sent first to Canada then to the United States to train Canadian and American pilots. At an airfield at Benbrook, outside Forth Worth in Texas, he was killed in an airfield accident on February 18, 1918. He was attempting a dangerous manoeuvre to avoid a trainee pilot who had inadvertently taken off in front of him.
The crash site in Benbrook is marked by a concrete pylon with an appropriate plaque and a little biplane on the top. There is also a Vernon Castle Avenue there. Strangely, apart from his name on a roll of honour in the grammar school's chapel, he has received little recognition in Norwich - his native city.
There will be a small exhibition about Vernon Castle's life and a short local interest supporting film, The Horsey Mail, made in 1938, about the floods that year.
Tickets are available from Maureen Dodman by calling 01953 605593 or Michael Armstrong on 01953 603246 and at the Wymondham Heritage Museum. They are priced at £4.50/£3.50 concs.
Vernon Castle was an inspiration to Fred Astaire. In his autobiography, Astaire said that Vernon and Irene Castle were a tremendous influence on his career, and that of his sister Adele. “They were easily the most potent factor in the development of ballroom dancing as a public pastime,” he commented.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
...Let it not be said that one can’t cut a rug on the tile floor of a shopping mall.
As if to prove that point, the Eastwood Mall concourse area between a jewelry store, pretzel shop and women’s apparel store was transformed into a dance arena Saturday.
The five-hour marathon of ballroom dancing in the mall was sponsored by the Youngstown-Warren Chapter 2015 of USA Dance as a part of National Ballroom Week. About 73 couples and groups came out to perform dances such as the waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Viennese waltz, swing, cha-cha, rumba, mambo, salsa and hustle.
George Welch, vice president of USA Dance Youngstown-Warren, said the mall dancing event has been held annually for six years. He said one of the organization’s main goals is to bring ballroom dancing to the masses and a “stage” such as the mall is the perfect place to do that.
“To put on an event like this in an area with such a large public view is just wonderful,” he said. “One of the goals of USA Dance is to get ballroom dancing to be an Olympic sport.”
Welch noted that the group will hold a free dance at 5 p.m. today at the Orthodox Center on North Belle Vista Avenue in Youngstown. He said the mall dancing exhibition usually garners a lot of interest from people who ultimately show up at the free dance.
“We try to coordinate the free dance with this [mall] event because the free dance is usually our biggest dance of the year,” he said. “The two events just remind people that if they want to come out and enjoy something like this, they can. We hope to pique their interest.”
Coming out and watching the dancers take the floor can make spectators take action — at least that was what happened to Cheryl Widomski and Dean Wellendorf of Canfield.
“We have only been dancing ballroom style a little over a year,” said Widomski. “We watched our current instructor out on the dance floor at Avon Oaks and decided that we wanted to dance just like that.”
The couple performed several dances Saturday and dance every Friday at the Avon Oaks Ballroom. Wellendorf said ballroom dancing has proved to be the right step for a couple looking for quality time.
“It’s relaxing and at the same time challenging. It is one of the best things you can do for a relationship. You still get to argue but in a good way,” he said.
Some participating in the dance exhibition have been ballroom dancing a little longer than a few years.
Dustin Jones, owner of Fred Astaire dance studio in Boardman, has been dancing since he was 5 years old and teaching for the last 10 years. He performed 14 dances Saturday and said the thrill for him is in making those watching smile.
Carol Ann Miller, 20, of Poland has been dancing since she was 6 years old and performed three dances in the mall Saturday. She said everything on the dance floor is simply for the love of dance.
“I love this. It’s something I have always wanted to do. I wanted to turn pro and now I am an instructor and pro. I meet people and it’s exercise where you don’t even realize you are exercising,” she said.
Welch said the exercise component is one that any beginning dancer should remember and appreciate.
“All of us who are ballroom dancers believe that this is one of the best thing you can do yourself in terms of physical and mental exercise,” he said.
By Bri Bruce, part-time dance instructor at the Fred Astaire Birmingham Southside studio
Not long ago, I watched two toddlers running circles around the fountain at Five Points South. They were shrieking with glee, arms flailing, feet slapping the sidewalk.
Shrieking toddlers, I must confess, tend to annoy me. Especially in quiet restaurants. I know they’re cute, but I prefer lower-pitched sounds with my dinner.
But I did not scowl at these fountain kids or their parents. I smiled instead. And watched more closely. These little bodies ran in unrestrained motion; they were simply enjoying the movement. It might have been the sun’s glare, but they looked a bit like they were dancing.
Were I to run around the fountain shrieking, arms flailing, I would probably be surrounded by questioning police officers by the 10th lap – if not already arrested. I am an adult; we do not flail around fountains. All unspoken behavioral code prohibits unrestrained motion. Even if I were to perform a choreographed dance around the fountain, a graceful waltz or ballet, I guarantee I’d raise a few eyebrows, with or without police. You can’t dance in public; it makes people nervous.
As it turns out, dancing in more private spaces also makes people nervous. As a ballroom dance teacher some 20 yards from the Southside fountain, I see first-time students walk in nearly every day. Not all are nervous, of course, but many enter suspiciously, their faces wary, eyes fixed on a single spot as if bracing themselves for a lion attack in a field of high grasses. Or their eyes dart in panic between the black and white checked tiling and the mirrors that frame the dance floor; there is nowhere to hide.
The hardest part
Not that I don’t understand: Walking in the door is the hardest part of starting any new venture. But there’s something about dancing in particular that makes even the most courageous squirm. “I can’t dance” they say to me over and over. Of course you can’t. Could you ride a bike before someone taught you how? Read a book before you learned the alphabet? If so, I am impressed; I couldn’t. I wasn’t born riding a bike, reading, or dancing. No one was.
I love teaching dance because it’s a conduit to emancipating our bodies.
I love all types of dance: ballet, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, certainly ballroom and every other form. But perhaps my favorite dance of all time wasn’t performed in a studio or on stage. It wasn’t even “performed.”
A friend and I were in a grocery store parking lot about to load groceries in the trunk of my car.
“You know what?” I said.
My friend knew the tone of my voice well enough to raise an eyebrow. She wasn’t the private dancing type much less the public type, and she was having a terrifically bad day (or month, rather).
She sighed. “What?” Her voice was part frustration and defeat, but fatigue had deflated any inflection.
I grinned. “Let’s dance.” Her reply was immediate: “No.” Capital N. Capital O.
I rolled a shoulder.
“Come on, just a little,” I pleaded, already starting to swing my arms. My hips began to swivel, and then I was into it, the flailing-arms glory that toddlers know, the unabashed joy of liberating the most important tool we’ll ever have – our bodies. She just stared, first at me and then around the parking lot to see who else was witnessing this embarrassing display of public indecency.
“You know you want to,” I teased.
And then it happened. She started to wobble a little, bobbing her head. Soon her shoulders joined in, and then she was free. Two bodies spontaneously turned, twisted – danced – with reckless abandon. I’m sure we looked ridiculous; this was no ballroom dance or ballet. There was nothing remotely Baryshnikovian in our shimmying. When we stopped though, something amazing happened. In spite of the panting, my friend was smiling.
While I don’t teach that type of dance – if you can call it a “type” – I love the similar smiles on students’ faces after a lesson. Many come in after busy days and stressful situations and leave not only relaxed but grinning. Dancing feels good. It feels wonderful to throw off the shackles of social decorum, that rigid posture – “Sit up straight,” my mother used to say – and let go.
Integral part of life
History shows us dancing was an integral part of life: religious rituals, birth and wedding celebrations, even funeral processions. Why have we, with our advanced 21st century civilizations, regressed in this particular area? Why do we choose activities that require sitting still? Are we afraid to use our bodies? Has some kind of puritanical legacy made physical expression wrong? Or are we afraid we’ll look silly? Ridiculous?
I don’t know, but I hope we examine the imaginary bindings that make us so inert.
Isaac Newton claimed it was harder to overcome inertia and get the ball rolling than to keep it rolling. I’m no physicist. And I’m not wild about being ridiculed. But as it turns out, looking ridiculous feels really good. Better even than an expensive massage. And there’s no spa appointment required. It’s free of charge. And freeing. If you don’t believe me, find a dancing 2-year-old; soon you’ll both be smiling.