Thursday, May 28, 2009

DWTS Stars Are Coming To Pensacola, Florida

From Santa Rosa's Press Gazette:

Pensacola, FL – Cast members from the hit television show Dancing with the Stars are coming to Pensacola Monday, June 15 for the Life’s a Dance event, which will benefit Covenant Hospice. Tony Dovolani, Elena Grinenko, Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Fabian Sanchez, Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian from the hit television show will be dancing for the Pensacola crowd, as well as local celebrities who will be paired with Fred Astaire Dance Studio dancers to include local studio owners, Victor Luna and Dawn Westberry. The event kicks off at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 15 at the Saenger Theatre in downtown Pensacola. Local dance celebrities competing in the event include Roy Jones Jr., Greg Litton, Teri Levin, Sue Straughn, Malcolm Ballinger, Leslie Ingram, Dan Brask and Anita Ingram.

Tickets for Life’s a Dance go on sale Tuesday, May 19 and are $75 per person, with VIP tickets available at $150, which include prominent seating at the event and cast party following the event at Jackson’s restaurant. Proceeds from the event will benefit the under-funded and non-reimbursed programs offered by Covenant Hospice. Tickets can be purchased through Ticket Master or at the Saenger Theatre box office. For more information about Life’s a Dance or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Leah Harrison at 208-7122 or Covenant Hospice is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive, compassionate services to patients and loved ones during times of life-limiting illnesses.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

87-year-old Woman Can Dance Circles Around Us

From New Haven, CT register (

Add Fioretta Masler to your list of inspirational people. At 87, this Hamden woman and cancer survivor can swing, samba and salsa, disco and dip with the best of them.The folks at Harborside Healthcare Arden House in Hamden saw her swoop mere inches from the floor when the folks from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio entertained during National Nursing Home Week recently.

“She’s an inspiration, a role model,” for Arden House clients, said Recreation Director Cynthia Raffone.

“They’re just amazed when she’s dancing,” Raffone said after the May 14 performance, which included the tango, bolero, fox trot and Viennese waltz.

“We try to shock them,” quipped her instructor and sometimes dance partner, Steven Powell.

Steven said that Fioretta does “a lot of great stuff” when she’s dancing, but occasionally he pushes her out of her “comfort zone. She says ‘no.’ I say ‘yes.’ She says ‘no.’ I say ‘yes.’ I win.”

Steven pulled the trump card at Arden House when he held her right arm and left leg and spun her around in the air and close to the floor to stunned applause.“I thought that was crazy,” added Fioretta.

I had met Fioretta and Steven a few years ago when they were getting ready for a dance competition. Naturally, they’ve won many awards. Photographs on the wall of the Dixwell Avenue studio show ballroom dancers in glittery gowns, and Fioretta is among the mix in various poses, even a split. You’d think she was much younger.

Fioretta’s dancing went into full swing more than a decade ago, when someone suggested she take up ballroom dancing to beat the blues after her husband died. She’s never stopped. Except for December 2005, when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. (Fioretta had already survived breast cancer in 1973.)

She had no symptoms after returning from a competition in Orlando, Fla., but had postponed a mammogram and a colonoscopy. She had the tests, and her doctor immediately scheduled her for surgery on Dec. 8.“I thought it was the end of my life. I was bawling. This was Christmastime and my daughters were coming in. The tumor was so large the surgeon told me he had to open my tummy. I told him he couldn’t go above my belly button because of my gowns. Now, the incision is only about this long,” Fioretta said, holding up her fingers about 5 inches apart.

She started chemotherapy in February 2006 with your oncologist and mine, Dr. Johanna LaSala. “She’s doing great. She’s grateful she can still perform. She’s really delightful. She’s a superstar,” LaSala said.

Since the surgery, Fioretta says she doesn’t dance as well, but mere two-left-feet mortals such as myself could only pray to be one-24th as good as her on the dance floor. Yet, she is positive. “Faith and attitude brought me back.”

Steven says that Fioretta is a very determined individual whose got tremendous drive. She loves to perform and does a great job, he said.“She won’t let anything stop her, and if something does stop her, she steps right over it and keeps on going. Whether it’s breast cancer, colon cancer, knee aches or hip pain; it doesn’t matter. She loads up on Motrin and away she goes,” he said.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teaching Etiquette & Self Respect To Students Through Ballroom Dance

From (Flint, Michigan):

Unique programs teach etiquette, self-respect to students in Flint Schools of Choice

Posted by Kristin Longley The Flint Journal May 20, 2009 16:29 PM

FLINT, Michigan -- Elegant in a floor-length purple gown, 19-year-old Chinanna Brown spins around the makeshift ballroom floor, her hand held gently by 15-year-old Joshua Odums.
Chandelier earrings dangle down her neck, and she giggles delicately as they practice the box step minutes before their upcoming performance Wednesday.

"The most important thing is to lead the lady, but you also have to be the lady," instructs Joshua, his seriousness belying his youth. "You have to be the soft gentleman she wants you to be."

Ballroom dance lessons aren't a usual occurrence for Flint Schools of Choice students. But these teens belong to two unique programs designed to teach etiquette and self-respect. The young women are part of the DIVAS class -- Developing Inner Values to Achieve Success -- which is offered through the school's teen pregnancy Continuation Program. The male students belong to Men of Standard, an at-risk teen mentoring program.
The students in the two programs came together Wednesday for a formal tea and dance demonstration at St. Michael Catholic Church.

The programs teach the teens how to interact positively and treat each other with respect. The young women also learn life skills that will help them support their families.

"This program is awesome," said LaQuinta Boone, 17, dressed for the occasion in a long violet gown. "People treat us differently sometimes just because we're Schools of Choice and we have kids. Yeah, we have kids, but we have standards as well."

The ballroom dance lessons taught student Cameron Watkins, president of Men of Standard, how to be "smooth," he said as he executed a slide across the dance floor.

"Some women say 'Just because you put on a suit doesn't make you a gentleman,'" he said. "But after being in the program, you can't say that no more because I'm a gentleman all the way. I know how to treat a lady."
The women in the program are primarily taught by Yaisha Lockett-McCants, known as "Mama Ya" by her students. Her main goal is to help them be independent and successful.

Part of the lessons include telephone etiquette, dining etiquette and business know-how.

"A lot of people look down on young parents so we teach them self-esteem," she said. "We're telling them 'Believe in yourself. These are tools that nobody can take away from you.'"

What's Next For Tony Dovolani?

Dancing With The Stars professional dancer Tony Dovolani has signed on to appear as a bodybuilder in an independent movie, Pumping Up. According to People Magazine, he has to start hitting the gym. “I have to gain 15 pounds of muscle,” he said.

So You Think You Can Dance Premieres Tonight!

Reality show 'Dance' puts best foot forward
By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff May 21, 2009
Granted, the title is awful. "So You Think You Can Dance" evokes images of stumbles and pratfalls, delusional people trying to get their ballroom on. The truth is, once we get to the finals of this reality contest, everyone can dance - better than many "American Idol" contestants can sing, better than many "Project Runway" contestants can sew, better than any "Survivor" contestants can do anything.
That's the main reason this "Idol" spinoff, which premieres its fifth season tonight at 8 on Fox, is TV's most satisfying reality competition, the one that manages the most potent mix of entertainment and bona fide artistry. The fact that it will be on the airwaves for months (Fox announced this week that it will launch a sixth season in the fall, shortly after this one ends) is welcome news. Imagine: real art on fall network TV.
What, you say? You know about dance because you watch "Dancing With the Stars"? Well, not quite. There is, indeed, some overlap: Three former "SYTYCD" contestants have gone on to be staff dancers on the popular ABC contest, teaching tango to the likes of Steve-o, the guy from "Jackass." They do an admirable job with their often-uncoordinated charges. But they're slumming, and they know it.
"Dancing With the Stars" is pure Velveeta, a cheery Vegas show awash in sequins and lamé. "So You Think You Can Dance" is the real competition. These dancers aren't learning how to hold their arms or trying to extend careers in reality TV; they're all trained, at least to some extent, with admirable technique and commitment to the craft. The choreography, complex and demanding, ranges from standard ballroom fare - the quickstep, the Viennese waltz - to hip-hop and modern dance.
The dances are often stories. Last season, we saw a hip-hop number about a workaholic and his suffering wife, a modern routine that had its dancers leaping on a mattress, another that made use of a freestanding doorframe and a swinging door. They're always provocative; one of last summer's winning routines was a pas de deux with barely clothed dancers. On "Dancing With the Stars," sexy is defined by the size of a bikini top. On "SYTYCD," the movement itself is erotic. How it has managed to air, consistently, on a network show remains one of TV's great and happy mysteries.
For quality control, meanwhile, we can thank executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, a former "American Idol" bigwig who left that show this season to concentrate on his international "SYTYCD" empire. He's a veteran hoofer himself; last season, he revealed that he had danced with Cyd Charisse. And as an on-air judge - the requisite British voice - he's Simon Cowell with value added. He doesn't mince words, but he harps on technique, and he's never afraid to laugh at himself.
He also makes sure to give credit to the choreographers. This show lionizes them, as it should, making household names out of the likes of modern choreographer Mia Michaels (who created the mattress routine) and a hip-hop duo named Tabitha and Napoleon (who channeled the workaholic). And since a different choreographer joins Lythgoe and ballroom veteran Mary Murphy every week, the judging, unlike on Lythgoe's former show, doesn't descend into monotony.
In former British model Cat Deely, meanwhile, the show has a surprisingly likable host: She wears dresses better than Heidi Klum and doesn't hesitate to kneel in her miniskirt to fix a dancer's shoestrap. And "SYTYCD" has managed to find a reasonable solution to the question of audience power. Unlike in "Idol," the judges here have a voice: Call-in votes place some contestants in a bottom group, but the judges determine who has to go home (after watching a series of often riveting solo dances).
No, "SYTYCD" isn't perfect. Murphy, the show's airy answer to Paula Abdul, still insists on YELLING HALF HER COMMENTS. But her camera time is brief. The star is always the dancing, and the dancers themselves.
Indeed, the worst thing about "SYTYCD" is what happens when the show is done: Most of the contestants quickly fade into obscurity. The where-are-they-now updates in the gossip mags reveal that most of them wind up in background roles, writhing around pop stars in music videos, dancing in the choruses of "High School Musical" films. They claim to be happy just dancing, and that might be true. But for entertaining us so deeply, they deserve center stage.

Dancing With The Stars, Season 8 Finale

A Teacher's Perspective

By Debra Stroiney

I would have been happy with any of these three dancers winning the whole thing. They were strong dancers and performers throughout the season but they also learned and improved as the season went on.

The Paso Doble:
This dance where they competed against each other was very good. It was good to see them all side by side. It was good to see them try this dance again because it is a dance where the styling and emotion need to come out. The footwork is mostly marching. Gille was definitely the strongest. I agree with the judges regarding Shawn’s head and some of her posture. Melissa was just a little off, and it was more obvious when you put her next to someone who dances like the Paso Doble as Gilles does.

Other than the votes (barely), the deciding factor of Season 8 was the Freestyle. Shawn’s Freestyle was amazing; it had the tricks and the dancing, plus the entertainment factor. They did the perfect mix of all these and were able to make it flow. I agree, for once, wholeheartedly with the judges. Melissa and Gilles did not have routines that showed off their natural dance ability. I liked a lot of Melissa’s routine but I agree that it needed more transitions. I like the song Gilles chose. I mean it was a little out of the ordinary but fun! Again, I feel there could have been a higher level of dancing. Gilles could handle it and still put on a show. I know he was limited with the amount of lifts he could do because of his shoulder but that doesn’t matter if you do other things to make it entertaining.

Dance of their Choice:
All three had perfect scores for their encore routines! But with these three someone really had to mess up for them not to have received perfect scores. I was watching so intently to see if something was off or if someone would slip - nope! Three strong, perfect performances. In fact, Shawn’s score on her Cha-Cha improved since the first time she performed it.

Gilles and Shawn were tied and it really came down to the votes and even then only by very little. I wish we could have called this one a tie somehow. Less than 1% of a difference between the two! That’s incredible. Shawn may have been more well known or perhaps they liked her performances more. Who knows… since it wasn’t by much. I will say that Shawn and Mark really pushed to the end of this competition. She has always done well with technique but I feel that she improved her performance and expressions over the last few weeks. I am glad that Carrie Ann said they underestimated her in the beginning of the show. Plus Shawn got to learn how to have fun while performing! Remember, no expressions are allowed in gymnastics. I think Gilles also deserved to win too. He picked up this skill so quickly and made it look good! Gilles and Melissa have gained skills they will never forget and, I am sure, some great opportunities after being seen on this show.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios In Wisconsin Bring Stage to Life - Ballroom Style!

Local students and professionals from Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Wisconsin will be performing a high energy, intense, variety-styled show at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on Friday, June 12th and Saturday, June 13th.

Students from all walks of life, ages and professions will join together to entertain and wow the crowd with their dancing performances. The show will encompass comedy routines, theatrical numbers as well as Dancing with the Stars style performances.

Professionals and students alike have been rehearsing for months to perfect their routines. The highlight of each night will be the Fred Astaire professional show performed to the music of the Tony Award winning show In the Heights. The professional show has been choreographed by nationally recognized choreographer Steven Knight and World Latin Dance Champion Eduard Apolonov.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Wisconsin promises a night to remember.

Tickets are available online at

For more information contact Sherry Strehlow at Dance Works of Wisconsin 262-691-9121

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TOP Ten Moments of Dancing With The Stars, Season 8

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 5


"So You Think You Can Dance"
Thursday night at 8 p.m. on Fox/5, starting on May 21
Now that "Dancing With the Stars" is history, attention shifts to the fifth-season premiere of this popular competition featuring regular folks with plenty of talent and passion.
"Nothing really," host Cat Deeley told zap2it. "It's just bigger and better. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. We have the format, and the dancers know what they are doing."Although judge Mary Murphy - she of the eardrum-busting laugh - said one unnamed candidate really got to her. "For the very first time, somebody really brought me to tears without any backstory whatsoever - just hard-core dancing," she told TV Guide.
"Prepare your audition and be great at what you do and have confidence," she told the Los Angeles Times. "They have to bring their personality. Dance is the narrative that runs through the show, but the audience connects with the human element: They want to know people's stories and trials and tribulations. That's what people really identify with. If you're a funny guy, bring your humor. If you've got an incredibly courageous story, tell us about it. Don't hold back. We want to know everything about you."
Yes - and you won't have to wait so long. The sixth season is scheduled to air this fall, marking the first time that two seasons of the show will be on in one year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

10 Tips for Ballroom Success


By Alex Berger

I’ll be the first one to admit that my approach to dancing is a bit different than a lot of people’s. When I started the program at ASU in the fall of my sophomore year I took the Level I Ballroom/Latin/Swing class and was hooked. However, unlike most of the others in the class I didn’t pursue one of the two chief choices: stopping there or moving on to Level II. Instead I re-took the Level I class. I continued to learn and laid down the foundation for what has become one of my favorite, educational and most rewarding pastimes. By my third semester in the dance program, I finally decided to move into the Level II B/L/S class. I learned a lot, improved my dancing exponentially and enjoyed the class, but still found myself attending the Level I classes. By the time my third semester in dance wound down to a close I did the unthinkable. Instead of repeating Level II or moving up to Level III, I returned exclusively to Level I and that’s where I stayed for the remainder of my 4 years at ASU.

To be clear, it wasn’t that I couldn’t go on. I could have quite easily and was pressured fairly heavily to do so. Which isn’t to say I started out as a good dancer. Quite the opposite. In fact, I take a certain level of pride in just how horrible I was when I started. Clumsy, petrified of the girls I was forced into close proximity with, unable to hear the beat, unable to count out the steps - I was a complete dance disaster. About the only thing I had going for me was an awkward sort of charm and perseverance.

Over the last 4 years my dancing has come a long way. In fact, as a person I have changed a lot - and in no small part due to dance. My confidence has skyrocketed. Girls are now relegated to only being marginally scary (downgraded from petrifying). I can hear the beat about 95% of the time. I still can’t count, but I’ve figured out the rhythms. I haven’t dropped a girl and, through it all - somehow - I’ve been accused of moving smoothly and gracefully. I still have a long way to go but the transition from ugly duckling to swan has been an interesting and enlightening one.

I’ve had the opportunity to dance with and to get to know a lot of the incredible dancers that have come out of ASU. In the 3 years I spent in the program, and the year I’ve spent on it’s fringes since I graduated, I’m constantly amazed at the talent and thrilled to see the program grow. It’s truly amazing how things have changed in the last 4 years. When I started Ballroom was still taboo - something for “girls and queers”. Somewhere between the '60s and '70s it had fallen out of favor. That dead period has finally come to an end. Our generation is once again embracing dance and that is a really fun and exciting thing.

For those of you just getting into it or considering picking it up, I’m offering these suggestions as food for thought based on my experiences, approach, and what I’ve seen.

Dance is fundamentally about having fun. I’ve seen a lot of people get into it, push through the classes, and memorize routines with an all consuming focus on competing. For a lot of these people the drive to be the best comes at the cost of actually enjoying what they’re doing. Fundamentally, dance is about enjoying yourself and making sure your partner does the same. If you lose sight of this, none of the medals or fancy moves mean squat.

Men - Beyond fancy turns or quick spins, focus on your ability to lead. If the girl can’t follow you, you aren’t doing your job.
Girls - Work on your ability to follow. Don’t cling to him, listen to his suggestions, and let his body lead you.

Find the music. This one is more difficult for some of us than others. As someone who to this day fights with the beat in some dances, I can’t over emphasize the importance of listening to the music in your spare time and figuring out a system that works for you. Mix it up. The way they told you to count it may not be the best for you. I had major issues with Salsa until I started matching up “Quick, Quick, Slow” to the music in my head. No numbers, no this on that beat. Just a simple rhythm I could match and follow. To this day it’s what I use and it’s allowed me to break away from the standard Salsa formats and embrace a more South American/natural style.

Be humble. It’s easy to get cocky. It’s also really easy to get frustrated when dancing with someone at a totally different skill level. The reality is, you sucked once. Not only did you suck once, but you’re probably a lot less skilled right now, at this moment, than you think you are. You just won’t realize it until you reach the next skill level. Always make time to dance with a beginner, take the time to be patient, teach them the basics, offer a tip, and be supportive. Guys - in the long run, I promise a smile and a little support will leave the girl feeling like you were a much better dancer than a horribly executed Level III move designed to show her how good you are.
Be careful who you turn down. To this day there are girls I won’t dance with because they were rude. There are others that I won’t dance with because of the way they treated my friends. Also, girls - quite often the guys who have the roughest time at the start end up being some of the best and most prolific dancers. Likewise - guys, it takes a lot of courage for a girl to ask you to dance. If you have the energy, go for it. Even if they intimidate you or you really don’t have any desire to dance with the person. One of my biggest goofs was turning down a phenomenal dancer who approached me about partnering with her on ASU’s competition team. In my shyness, I was intimidated by her and felt severely outclassed skillwise. That combined with my policy at the time not to compete (and frankly my lack of interest in competing) led to a hasty no. That no wasn’t delivered with nearly enough grace or consideration and is something I’d take back in a heartbeat given the opportunity.

If you’re just starting, don’t let the skill of the dancers you see keep you off the dance floor. Anyone who’s going to judge you isn’t worth your time to begin with. Also, it took me about a year to figure it out - but the better dancers typically don’t tend to dance in the more visible locations. So, it’s probable that the dancers dancing along the edge of the dance floor right at the entrance, etc. are probably some of the best dancers at the club. Just push on in to the middle or find a quiet corner where you’re comfortable and have fun.

Don’t stop. Even if you totally blow it and get lost - just push through and have fun with it. Crack a joke, make a funny face, and keep going. Remember, you’re out there to dance. Not to be a robot carrying out pre-programmed moves. Besides, how do you think some of the best moves were created?

Dancing With The Stars - Season Finale



Lady Gaga Performs; Professional Dancer Competition Winner is Revealed; All Ten of the Previous Stars from This Season Return; Comedian and Season 7 Competitor Jeffery Ross Returns to Roast the Finalists

“Episode 811 & 811A” - After ten weeks of entertaining drama, surprises and dazzling performances, Shawn Johnson, Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft have broken away from the pack and earned the right for a chance to be crowned champion of “Dancing with the Stars.” The three finalists will have their last opportunity to impress the judges and viewers on two nights of final competition, beginning MONDAY, MAY 18 (8:00-9:02 p.m., ET), and concluding on the Season Finale, TUESDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

In the final performance show on Monday, the couples will face off against one another in a “Paso Punch Out” in which they each dance the paso doble to an extended version of the same song. Each couple will take a turn in a section of the song before stepping aside for the next team to showcase their routine — giving judges and viewers a chance to compare the couples alongside each other. In addition, Shawn, Gilles and Melissa will show us what they’ve got in the ever popular Freestyle routine - a fan favorite.

In Tuesday’s two-hour Finale, all three finalists will perform their third and final dance-one of their favorite past routines from the season - to be scored by the judges. The judges’ scores for Tuesday’s dances will be combined with the judges’ scores and viewers’ votes from Monday’s performances to determine the victor of the coveted “Dancing with the Stars” mirror ball trophy. Throughout the two-hour Finale, the previously eliminated couples will return to perform their final dances of the season and comedian Jeffrey Ross, a.k.a. the “Roastmaster General,” from “Dancing with the Stars” Season 7, returns to roast the three finalists.

Grammy ® Award-nominated singer-songwriter Lady Gaga transforms the “Dancing with the Stars” stage with two spectacular performances. Performing her third single, “LoveGame,” from her debut album, “The Fame,” Lady Gaga takes the stage by storm with her own dancers. She will then take to the stage with her Grammy ® Award-nominated and chart topping No. 1 single, “Just Dance.” Currently wrapping up her first concert tour entitled “The Fame Ball Tour” for her debut album, “The Fame,” Lady Gaga has released three singles and been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales in excess of one million copies in the United States.

The first “Dancing with the Stars” professional dancer competition will come to a close with the announcement of the professional dancer chosen to be a part of next season’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Last week the final two contestants, Mayo Alanen and Anna Demidova, danced with “Dancing with the Stars” professional dancers Kym Johnson and Maksim Chmerkovsiy, respectively, for viewers’ votes and the chance to be paired with a celebrity in Season Nine.

All the excitement and frenzy will lead up to the moment we’ve all been waiting for - who among the three finalists will win reign as champions of “Dancing with the Stars” and take home the coveted mirror ball trophy?
Viewers may cast their votes for their favorite teams via phone on Monday night during and up to 30 minutes after the “Dancing with the Stars” performance shows. AT&T subscribers may also text message their votes by texting the word “VOTE” and entering the number that corresponds to the team they want to support (standard text message rates apply). Viewers may also vote online at starting from the opening of each episode on the East Coast and until 12:00 Noon, ET the following day.

Hosted by Tom Bergeron (”America’s Funniest Home Videos”) and Samantha Harris (”The Insider”), the celebrities will perform choreographed dance routines which will be judged by renowned Ballroom judge Len Goodman and dancer/choreographers Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.

My Golden Dancers

Ginger and Fred and Football Galore

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Fifty years ago, last December, the then Baltimore Colts football team played the New York Giants in New York. My boyfriend then, now for 48 years husband, decided to go to that game via bus with a friend rather than spend that Sunday with me. I could not understand why a guy falling in love with a gorgeous girl like me would rather go to that or any football game. He went and has been talking about it ever since because it turned out to be the most fabulous and exciting game in all of football.

So I was glad he went and that I had not deterred him from going. I would never have heard the end of that and possibly he would have been so sad about not going, he would have broken up with me. Where would I be now? I would not have my two children by him, my four grandchildren, my home and especially my ballroom dancing as part of my life.

I might have missed out on ballroom dancing because if I had married someone else, he may not have been interested in it. However, though my husband always stated he did not like to dance, I knew in his heart that he somehow really did enjoy it. I heard him bragging often to friends that he was an accomplished dancer and went every Sunday to a social dance. Sometimes, men do not profess to care about dance because it may not seem too manly. Most men, when they really learn to dance well, are also proud of this accomplishment.

When we were younger and Disco was the rage, we went several times a week to a Disco club here in our city called 'Gerards.' We discoed for hours, rarely sitting down except to eat a light dinner since he had come from work and we had not had time to eat. In between songs, we would eat small portions and then get up and dance the hours away. The music was non-stop so you could stop and start at any time. We were probably very good at it, and it was fun and tiring.

Of course, Disco passed on to the world of dance deaths and though some is done now, it is not the way it was done then in the '70s when we danced for hours. I never really liked it as much as I did a Waltz or Foxtrot or Rumba. It was the thing to do and know, and we were still young then and felt ‘with it’ because we could do ‘it.’

We even named our second dog 'Rhumba' because she moved her hips (do dogs have hips?) like she was doing the Rumba. Note that we spelled her name the old fashion way of Rhumba.When we would go down to the family room and practice the steps we had learned that night in dance class, Rhumba would hide under the sofa. She thought to herself, “What the heck are they doing?”

Our lives changed after that first dance lesson way back on November 2, 1977. Everything we considered to do was based around our two lessons per week and his work schedule. Anytime we went to a party or event, we got up and danced and showed off like we were Fred and Ginger. I often felt like Fred and Ginger because I loved to dance and still do. When you dance, all your troubles slip away for those few hours and you are someone else doing something else. It is a good couple of hours of recreation, exercise and mind soothing.

When Mom was sick for a whole year, I would run off to a lesson and forget for sixty minutes how sad I was feeling for her. Dance is a catharsis for the soul and heart. We get so wrapped up in it when we are at the studio, we are in another world, a world with no sadness, no grief, and no worries. We worry all the time about this and that and that and this, and if you are a consummate worrier like I am, you need the time out of some ballroom dancing.

I wish that all the public and private schools would give at least one hour a week to teach ballroom dance to the high school kids. This would give the kids some social skills and exercise; it would also enhance their egos. They would learn to share time with different people they might never even talk to and to act kindly and politely to other kids in their class. They would get to know more about each other and possibly find another new friend they would never have been involved with. They would eventually enjoy it and admit to themselves that this was truly fun - mixing the brain power needed to ballroom dance with the exercise that would be better than being in gym class.

I guess some day it will be incorporated in some schools. A school teacher I knew did talk about the history of ballroom dance in her high school social classes. She was a dancer and she showed the kids her enthusiasm; they could not believe that she was a dancer. She brought in pictures of herself dancing and then they believed her and kind of had lots of respect for her. Many clamored to get into her class so they could see what all the talk was about Ms. L being a dancer. They became very respectful of her when they realized she was truly a ballroom dancer and this was twenty years before Dancing With The Stars became popular.

Dancing teaches respect for one another, coordination of arms and legs and brain power and most of all it enhances one’s respect for him or her self.

When I was in Florida as a fourteen-year-old teenager in 1948 visiting my step aunt for a month, I would go on the bus to the beach to meet teens my age because Aunt Eve did not know how to entertain me in the afternoons. She was a stepmother to my first cousins who were both five and ten years older than me.

So I made friends (my, I was brave for a 1948 teenager!) When they asked my name, I said it was Ginger because I loved dancing and Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. I never told them my real name and so it was a precursor to my current dancing career. I was way ahead of my own time it seems.

When we were in Paris in 1972, the people on our tour went with us to the Lido Night Club, and these older folks got up and danced the night away. I told my husband when we came back to the states that we were taking ballroom dance lessons. He said, "No way." We did and the rest is history for the past 31 years - a history of fun, excitement, competitions, showcases, new friends, writing dance articles, and most of all besides great exercise, a spark was ignited in our life of delight and joy.

Joy to the heart and soul and the toes and soles and as Shakespeare said in sonnet 53 “What is your true essence, what are you made of that there should be millions of reflections of you?” Reflections of wisdom in learning to ballroom dance and reflections of happiness in the mirror when looking at ourselves. We realize that we are special people, young persons, almost seniors, now seniors and even teenagers who want to learn to really dance and to dance well.

UCLA Division of Geriatrics reports that ballroom dancing helps ward off dementia. The article states that staying physically and mentally active protects you from getting the illness. They say that physical activity inhibits the development of plaques-a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. They are protein deposits that build up in the spaces between nerve cells and interfere with their ability to communicate with each other. Physical activity mitigates the effects of free radicals, naturally occurring molecules that harm cells, or it may be due to the fact that activity improves vascular flow and helps control blood pressure, cholesterol and decreases abdominal fat. Dr. Randall Espinoza, MD, who is an associate professor psychiatry at UCLA, relates all this in his report.

So Elita who was Ginger now dances with Jerry and we are now Ginger and Fred. That is the way I think of us and believe me it is indeed a beautiful reflection. As John Milton said, “Reflection is wisdom’s best nurse.” We will need no nurses to care for us because we have cared for ourselves by excelling in dance at whatever age we started doing this glorious, awesome, unbelievable and astonishing thing called DANCE. Ballroom dancing surely shows our wisdom and then our wonderment in what we have accomplished.

Now we are all disciples of Ginger and Fred. We are wise folks who willingly accomplish this pursuit of our passion and find it beautifully rewarding to our minds and emotions.

Always Keep On Dancing.

"Spontaneous" Dancing Breaks Up The Daily Routine

Dancing With The Stars - And Then There Were 3

Watch this slideshow of the final 3 contestants of Dancing With The Stars:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ballroom Dancing - It's Not Just Social, It's Business


It was the start of my Sophomore year of college. I’d just returned from Europe and was open to trying new things and conquering my fears. I’d always aspired to the ideal of the classical Renaissance man and felt the need to learn how to dance, but was always afraid of looking like a fool. In a
bolder moment I signed up for a Ballroom/Latin/Swing hybrid class. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had just made one of the most important business and social decisions of my college career.

It is only common sense that no matter who you are ballroom dance classes are good for you. It’s great physical exercise, it’s social, and it’s definitely not going to hurt your dating life. In the last year or two the public’s opinion and passion for ballroom has exploded with movies like Take the Lead and shows like Dancing with the Stars drawing large crowds. This increase in popularity is great, but not ultimately important to what I want to share with you. I want to talk to you about how dance is going to make you a more capable and better connected business professional.

It’s no secret that for the average American public speaking is terrifying. It also shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that being a successful, well connected, and competent business person requires the ability to socialize and be competent in social settings. To this day universities teach public speaking classes, clubs like the Toastmasters have become popular and hundreds of business self-help books have become best sellers. While these all have merit none of them are fun or, for that matter, all that efficient. Classes don’t provide for any significant amount of practice, speech clubs are great but can be intimidating and hard work and books take time and may tell you what to do but still don’t provide a place to do it in. Thus, the power and benefit of Ballroom Dancing.

At its very core, Ballroom Dancing is all about relationships and presentation. While it might be possible, it’s pretty difficult to Waltz or Salsa without a partner. Add to that, Ballroom Dancing has been used as the primary social mixer at formal social events for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Ballroom Dancing is a must for the aspiring business professional for the following reasons:

Physical Presence – Your posture and presence says a lot about you. Ballroom will not only improve your posture, it will increase your balance and physical presence while making you more aware of how your body
looks and moves. A strong handshake is good but ultimately worthless if you lack the presence to back it up.

The first 30 Seconds – In most situations people decide a lot about you in the first 30 seconds. This is unfortunate because the first 30 seconds is also typically when we are at our worst. Social dance classes and dance clubs provide the opportunity for individuals to interact with a large number of friendly faces in a relatively short time. This increases your comfort and first contact competency in general – not just when meeting or talking to potential dance partners.

The Confidence to Approach – It’s incredibly difficult to approach someone you are not familiar with and then to try and strike up a conversation regardless of the audience or location. Ballroom revolves around just this type of behavior. Every time you approach an individual for a dance you are building your competency and confidence. The added bonus is that in a dance environment most people actively want to be approached. There is nothing like positive reinforcement to build competence.

Be the flame, not the moth – Most formal events typically have several standard components. A nice meal, a live band or a DJ and a space set aside to serve as a dance floor. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite night club or a black tie event, the same rules apply. The dance floor will stay empty until one or two couples break the ice. By the time three couples take the floor a wave of people will follow. But, guess who gets noticed? The first two couples. Also, consider – what message did you send by not only taking the dance floor when everyone else was afraid to, but by actually knowing what you were doing. You now have the world’s best ice breaker for the rest of the evening. Not only that, but if you’re a young intern or new hire at a company you have now set yourself apart from the other new bloods and distinguished yourself in the veteran’s eyes. In that one action not only do you distinguish yourself, but exhibit confidence and culture - something that in any other situation would take a lot of work and be difficult to do.

Dance is ALWAYS a relevant topic – While you might find the occasional exception, it’s been my experience that almost all adults fall into one of three categories. They know how to dance, they love watching dance, or they have always wanted to learn how to dance. For that reason dance can serve as an incredible fallback/icebreaker in almost any situation. It’s a magical topic that can be used to build familiarity and add uniqueness to any initial interaction.

Social Network – Life is about meeting people. Any successful socialite or business person is constantly looking for ways to meet the right type of people. Unlike bars, clubs, and other similar social settings, dance is
all about meeting and interacting in a friendly and conversational setting. When you’re at a dance club it’s about dancing and having fun first and foremost. As a result it’s actually much easier to meet business contacts or make valuable social connections because people typically don’t have their guard up. The dance scene also tends to attract people from more affluent backgrounds. Consider: what type of social class/group places a heavy emphasis on the ability to dance? What social classes have the money to spend on pricey dance lessons? Just remember above all else – when it comes to dancing, being the best isn’t about skill. It’s about enjoying
and enriching yourself, meeting people, and learning. So, perhaps in the future you will consider joining me for a drink and a cigar after a night at the club.

"Hope, Love, and Fancy Footwork"

From (Birmingham, Michigan):

Dancers move for a good cause
Fred Astaire Dance Studio and Variety FAR have a dance partnership built on hope, love and fancy footwork.

This moves into the spotlight May 17 when nine of the Variety FAR dancers — including those with Down syndrome, Williams syndrome and autism — take to the Music Hall Center stage to show off their moves in their annual best-of-the-best showcase.

The dancers, ages 8 to 21, are performing a complicated five-dance number to music from Madagascar 2 with steps from the merengue, swing, foxtrot and hip hop.

Variety FAR Conservatory of Therapeutic and Performing Arts is a private, nonprofit organization in Birmingham that provides creative arts therapy and recreation services for children and adults with mental, physical and/or emotional impairments. The Bloomfield Township-based Fred Astaire Dance Studio is the only Fred Astaire franchise in Michigan.

Variety FAR and Fred Astaire Dance Studio worked together for several years but, at first, the whole concept of teaching children with disabilities complicated ballroom and Latin dances was challenging to embrace, said Variety FAR executive director Arlene Kass.

“At first we were skeptical,” Kass said. “We teach dance therapy and we know how hard it is for some of the children to learn the coordination, plus no one at Fred Astaire had ever worked with special needs kids.”
But when the children came to Fred Astaire, what happened next was “magic,” Kass said.

“Lada (Reschikova, the Fred Astaire Dance Studio co-owner) did amazing things with them, I think because she expects amazing things from them,” Kass said. “They learn coordination and self-esteem. This carries over into other aspects of their life.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dancing With The Stars - Week 8

A Teacher's Perspective

By Debra Stroiney

I really loved her Quickstep - the dress, the song, the routine. She carried herself well throughout the dance. Maybe there wasn’t as much going on with the facial expressions as we have seen from others but there isn’t all that much more you can do while you are in a frame at her level of training. That is the difference between a professional dancer and a student who has been dancing for a shorter amount of time. It’s learning to put the emotion and spunk into the dance even if it is a dance that is more conservative such as the Quickstep. I too was disappointed with her Cha-Cha. There was something off throughout the dance. They had a great song, great costume, some fun tricks but the attitude wasn’t there. I wanted to see the attitude that Shawn and Gilles brought to the Cha-Cha when they danced it. That’s the best I can define what was lacking.

She really is coming along as a dancer but the most important part is that she is learning to portray the dances through emotion which can be hard in ballroom dancers who are that young. Sometimes you are displaying emotions you have never felt before at that age and it can be hard to get right. I was watching her Jive thinking the judges could go either way with this… either they will praise her for putting so much personality into the dance or they will criticize her for not having enough Jive patterns. You never know with the judges: one week, they like a showy routine and the next time they like you to stick to the book. I think Shawn’s two dances last night reflect where she has improved throughout the season. Shawn now knows how to go out there and put on a show without adding fancy flips!

We all knew that he would not match up to the others in this semi-final but it was great to see someone who has improved so much be rewarded by staying around for another week. Honestly though, his Samba is probably the best Rhythm dance (not counting the Lindy Hop) that he has ever done. He has improved because the Samba would have been a total disaster for him in the first month of the show but now it was kind of fun to watch. He did a good job against the competition he has and Len was correct: Chelsea has been a great teacher. That is a huge factor that you forget when watching this show. Having a teacher who knows how to teach you the way you need and create choreography that looks good for you can be more important than natural talent.

Well, now, here is a case of natural talent. I don’t know what else to say. I am glad we are seeing the Gilles that we were first exposed to in the beginning of the season. These two dances definitely highlighted his strengths again but they also stepped it up for the semi-final. He is going to be very tough to beat with scores alone and we don’t really know who is the most popular with the voters.

I could be very wrong again but I don't think that Ty will make it to the final. But who knows? Melissa, Shawn and Gilles need to be there. If that is the case then it will be a very tough final for all involved.

Fred Astaire is Care free!

Not only was Fred Astaire a superb dancer, he was also an excellent golf player! Just watch his form in this number from his 1938 movie, Carefree.
Note: It was rumored that all the golf balls landed no more than six feet away from each other!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dance Among The Stars 2009

Join the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Manhattan for their very own Dance Among the Stars event where the stars are the students and the choreography is as exciting as ever. This year's event will benefit the High School for Arts, Imagination, and Inquiry.

Event Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2009. Doors Open at 7:30 p.m. Show Starts at 8:15 p.m.
Event Location: High School for Arts, Imagination & Inquiry, located at 122 Amsterdam Avenue (entrance on 66th Street), NY, NY.
Ticket Prices: $25 in advance & $30 at the door. Ticket prices include two free half-hour lessons at the Fred Astaire West Side Dance Studio.

For more information, contact the Fred Astaire West Side Studio at 212-595-3200.

Deborah Gibson Hoping To Join ‘Dancing With The Stars’


Deborah Gibson has been a teen pop queen and a Broadway star and now she’s hoping to go “Dancing.”

The “Electric Youth” singer hit her Twitter page earlier this week to express her interest in joining the celeb-reality show, and it appears her fans are championing her. On Friday, Deborah posted a Tweet, thanking her fans for starting a petition to get the singer on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“To Ashley who started DWTS petition! Thank u!” the “Only In My Dreams” singer wrote. “Let’s get crrrazy 1s of peeps to sign and then I’ll make them aware : )”

Dancing With The Stars Chattanooga

Event Date: Saturday, June 20, 2009
Event Location: Loose Cannon - 1800 Rossville Ave.
Event Time: 7:00PM

Six local celebrity dancers will be paired with professional Fred Astaire instructors to perform rehearsed routines in a Dance-Off at Loose Cannon Gallery on Saturday, June 20th. Dancers include: Alison Lebovitz, Jason Taylor, Carolyn Thompson, George Quick, Renee LaSalle, and Linda Mosley. Special guests Tony Dovolani and his partner Elena Grinenko will perform exhibition dances throughout the evening. Tony and Elena are National and World Champion ballroom dancers. Tony has appeared on every season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My Golden Dancers

A Day Not Lost, View Thy Hand

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Many years ago, I was going to the studio for my own dance lesson. It was located in an old building and the elevator was so small, it held only four people at a time. Every time you went in it, you prayed it would make it to the 3rd floor where the studio was located. I was leaving and was on the elevator when it stopped between floors two and three. I saw no phone there to call, which I think is mandatory now, and I started hollering. The owner of the studio heard me and asked, “Where are you?” I hollered in utter panic, "In between the second and third floors." Somehow, he juggled it from above and I made it down to the bottom level...

After that, I hardly ever rode an elevator alone. To this day, I always wait to ride up with someone in there with me. My husband always asks me why, and I tell him that at least I have someone to talk to in an emergency. The other day, I was late for a dentist appointment and could not wait until someone came to ride with me. The door started to close when an elderly lady got on with me. My first question was, "What floor are you going to?" She replied, "Two." I explained that I disliked to ride along since that long ago day, but I would do fine. She said she would ride the extra floor with me. I replied, "God bless you." She laughed and said that she was stuck in an elevator in her own home.

"Your own home has an elevator?" I asked with great surprise.

She said that she was a nun, and the elevator was in the convent. Of course, the convent is her home, so she was telling the truth. I thought it ironic that I said 'God bless you,' not knowing that she was a lady of religion.

Home as they say is where the heart is. Home, to this nun, is the convent; to me, it is my own house. Sometimes, I think that my second home is a dance studio. I feel at home in the studio as if it is my second place of living. I have spent lots of hours in different studios throughout the years, either taking dance lessons or dancing there. I have always felt peaceful and have lost any problems of the day right before opening the door to my dance activity.

Many years ago, a politician here in Maryland ran on a slogan that said, “Your home is your castle.” He lost the election because voters thought he was talking about segregation. He was only trying to distinguish people’s feelings about their residences and that they should pick their politician by his or her helping them to keep their neighborhoods safe and sound, etc.

The first night that we walked into the dance studio for a 10 lesson course was November 2, 1977. We came to take lessons, so we would be experts at an upcoming dinner and dance we were having for our son. Of course, we stayed all these 29 years, and they have all been happy ones except a few times when we argued too much over some dance item. I always say that you have a really good marriage if it can withstand taking ballroom dance lessons with one another. I look forward to my lessons or my Sunday tea dance with great anticipation because it is like a rainbow in the sky. There is so much beauty in dance that envisioning it before it happens is almost as great as it ensues.

There is a saying that goes like this:

Count that day lost
When low descending sun
Views from thy hand
No deed of kindness done

I wrote a rhyming poem to a new ophthalmologist, a female one who had been so kind and caring to me when I was having an exam. I had never had a female eye doctor, and she was so sweet, loving and truly interested in me as a person and not just as a patient.

She wrote me a thank you note for the poem saying how she had shared it with her husband and parents and it gave everyone great joy. She said she could tell that Elita lives by this philosophy of doing kind things. She wrote the saying quoted above to me in her thank you note. I had never heard it but loved the adage and her too instantly.

You can count a day lost if you do not do something worthwhile or if you are too busy working and running your home or whatever you do for that day without at least for a few moments realizing that a day is never considered lost. It is not lost because we are living it at this moment and doing everything that particular day to not only survive obstacles but to be rewarded with happiness in everyday mundane activities. The day is not lost but saved because we are doing our best to have the sun shine on us with warmth and delight.

No doubt that sometime during that day we have done a kindness as the poem states. Even if that means only thanking someone for something they did for us or said to us, saying something pleasant to someone we work with or to our elderly parents, or saying hello to a neighbor that we really do not know much about.

When we ballroom dance, there is much opportunity to count that day preserved and saved. We are taking about one hour to set aside everyday opportunities, and we now engage in this activity to learn something new or to practice what we absorbed previously. We go out on the dance floor and swing and sway with our bodies, no matter what size that body is. We perform for the most important person there and that is ourselves. By doing that, we are showing the world that we are engaging in a daring and beautiful vivacity that makes us feel full of energy. The energy revives us if we are tired from a day on the job or in the home doing work. Our mind is quick to realize that it is being stimulated and electrified and we have the necessary fuel to sparkle.

So to the nun riding the elevator one extra floor (you could say a bit closer to God) and to the female doctor who wrote me the poem: We can all be kind to one another either by verbal expressions or written notes. We as ballroom dancers can encourage anyone we know who may be slightly interested in dancing that they can accomplish it regardless of their age or health.

Ballroom dancing is a soothing outlet for our emotions and many times will even calm our state of mind if we have problems. We become more peaceful and happy when we dance.

The day is not lost; we have lived, worked, possibly danced a bit and rewarded our minds and bodies with the wealth we have amassed by stimulating our thoughts. Shakespeare said, "Thoughts are dreams with effects we try." Try we do when we decide to ballroom dance for the sheer delight it will afford us. We are richer for the experience. The day will be viewed from thy hand with love.

You can email me at

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Prize Pupils Ascend Astaire Way To Heaven


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The main ballroom at the Sheraton Convention Center in Atlantic City provided an ideal backdrop for the Fred Dance Sport Championships, where students from 16 Fred Astaire Dance Studios in New York and New Jersey competed in a host of American and International Ballroom Dance categories. And since contestants included Staten Islanders, we thought we'd give you a look at the results.

Topping the list of male amateur dancers was Al Slipstein, former president of A & B Glass, Concord, who exhibited great style as he danced with instructor Marisa Calabrese. Al took a total of 14 First Place Awards in the Intermediate Bronze Division, with foxtrot, waltz, tango, rhumba, salsa, merengue and East Coast swing -- and was a second-place winner in the Advanced Bronze foxtrot and rhumba competitions.

Other local competitors included Stephan Mazzone and Gary Burkhardt.
Stephan, a 9-year-old pupil at Staten Island Academy, Dongan Hills, nabbed a first-place award in the Young Men's Juvenile Age category as he danced with teacher Marisa Calabrese for first-place rankings in the foxtrot, waltz, tango, rhumba, merengue, cha-cha, salsa and East Coast Swing. However, Stephan's amateur dancing partner was 12-year old Francesca Costanza, a seventh-grade student at Holy Rosary School, South Beach. The pre-teen couple no doubt wowed a panel of judges -- members of the Fred Astaire National Dance Board -- since they garnered first-place awards in American-style cha-cha, merengue, salsa and East Coast swing. Francesca also showcased her dance skills in the Professional/Amateur Dance Category with teacher Oscar Salazar -- taking first placements in cha-cha, merengue, salsa and East Coast swing.

Meanwhile, Ana Patricia Cosentino and Gary Burkhardt -- who study with Marisa and Jeff Shelley -- both delivered fine performances for their inaugural ballroom dance competition. The couple received a First Place Award with an exceptional ranking of 93.3 in the Showcase Exhibition Category -- performing as part of the Fox Trot quartet with Marisa and Jeff to Nat King Cole's rendition of "More," an ensemble number choreographed by Jeff. Ana and Gary were presented with awards in both the Beginners and Social Bronze Rhythm Dance category. What's more, partnering with Jeff, Ana received a First Place Award in the Bronze Proficiency division for rhumba, merengue, East Coast swing and salsa. Gary and Marisa took first-place awards in merengue, rhumba and East Coast swing in the same dance division.

As if that wasn't enough to write home about, Dr. Baruch Kodsi and his wife, Murielle, won first place awards in the International Quickstep and Cha-Cha division for the amateur category. Students of Jeff Shelley, the couple also danced American-style rhumba, foxtrot, merengue and bolero -- again taking all first-place awards. Murielle and Jeff strutted their stuff in American Smooth foxtrot, waltz and tango and in the rhythm division, cha-cha, salsa and rhumba.

During the gala and awards banquet, Dr. and Mrs. Kodsi were presented with the Over-All Top Amateur Couple Trophy -- and Marisa was distinguished with an award as one of the top female teachers in the Over-All competition by organizers Armando Martin and Charles Panatello.
An impressed Kelly Gilmore, director of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Grasmere, shouted praises for the superb performances by students and teachers.

Wedding Dance Lessons


May 6, 2009
I live in Riverside County CA Where can my fiance and I take ballroom dance classes for our Wedding?

Where can we take ballroom dance lessons for our first dance, and possible regular dancing? Fred Astaire offers wedding packages. You get a dance (of your choice) to you choice of song, choreographed for your first dance. They also have private lessons and group classes for couples as well. It's a blast!

Dancing With The Stars Shocker

A Teacher's Perspective on Last Night's Elimination

By Debra Stroiney

I know that I said I would be happy if Lil' Kim left but I didn't think it would happen! Ty must have gotten so many viewers to vote him. He is a likable guy; apparently America enjoys seeing how hard he is trying and how he has taken on so many things about ballroom dancing that you would never think a bull rider would do! This is what makes the show interesting because the viewers are involved. Now if Ty makes it to the final that will be an even greater shock. It will be fun to see Ty come back for one more week and know that there is someone out there who America wants instead of it only coming down to dancing. But now that it's the semi-finals, it has to come back to the dancing.

Dancing With The Stars - Week 7

A Teacher's Perspective

By Debra Stroiney

It is too bad that she was marked down for her Quickstep; otherwise I think Melissa and she would have been tied for 1st this week. Her Quickstep was excellent, and everything fell into place. I liked her Paso Doble, and I think what it was lacking was a good song. She really has a skill with learning technique and body mechanics, which we have seen with many of the athletes on the show.

Ty has such a great attitude about this competition. He could have been horrified by some of things in the ballroom world but he has taken it in stride and has tried to improve each week. He is definitely the most improved. He encompasses what a ballroom student would look like at any studio in the U.S. who comes in with no dance experience. His determination to learn has gotten him this far. This also gives more evidence to what Fred Astaire once said which is: anyone can learn to dance with the right method. I could be completely wrong but he will probably be eliminated this week. Since this may happen, I am really glad he did his sexy walk up to Jewel and gave her a kiss! She has been there every week watching and supporting him. Although he won’t be a match for the others in dance ability, I would rather see him in the semi-final than Lil Kim.

Lil Kim:
She has done some good performances throughout the show. She has had solid dances and added her own flavor to it, which made them stand out. But I do not think she is as good as some of the others on the show. There was something lacking this week. I was watching her feet and technique in the Waltz. Her dance hold look uncomfortable and she never did a heel lead. The true essence of ballroom dancing was not there but again she performed well, making up for what was lacking. I felt her Salsa was also lacking. It wasn’t a great choreography; she was using too much of her ability to shake it, and some of her Salsa combinations didn’t have the technique it should have. She will probably make it to the semi-final but I don’t think she belongs in the final.

I feel that he has not performed as well as he had in the first half of the season. I think the dances that he has to perform are harder for him and therefore we are not seeing the same success. He has a natural talent for the Latin dances. He has not had enough time to perfect his Ballroom dances and spend the time on them that he needs. If you don’t connect with Ballroom dancing at first, it does take a while to make it click. You really are good at one or the other in the beginning, and it doesn’t always mean that is the one you continue to have success with. I liked his Foxtrot. It was not an exciting song so he really had to be a lot smoother with it, and that is why Len commented on his technique. His Rumba was very good but, as they said, you could see he was trying too hard. Still, it was probably one of the best Rumbas by a non-professional because he actually used his hips correctly!

Although her Viennese Waltz was very light and fluid, I found it slightly boring; again, I feel this was because of the song. The music really does dictate the dance. I agreed with Carrie Ann when she said it was lacking, not only because of the music. The body and arm extensions were also not there. Again, she is similar to Gilles; there hasn’t been enough time for her to learn some of the things that would make even a boring song look great. Her Samba was great; it had a lot of the elements it needed to have. I believe she is the first non-professional who did Samba rolls that didn't make me cringe!! I still felt there was something lacking to this performance, just not bouncy enough or something. But it was similar to Shawn’s the week before who also received 10s.

I already said I think Ty will be eliminated this week; regardless of who makes it to the semi-finals, I think the finals in 2 weeks will be what it comes down to. I would really like to see Melissa, Gilles, and Shawn. They have been solid through the whole season. They are the 3 best dancers on the show. And it will be a very exciting finale!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Minnelli, Rush & Cumming Announce 2009 Astaire Award Nominations


Patricia Watt and Ron Glucksman, Producers of the 2009 Astaire Awards, have announced that this year's Nominating Committee will announce this year's nominees for the best of Broadway and film performances and choreography this season on Monday, May 4 at 7:00pm at Elaine's Restaurant (1703 2nd Avenue at 88th Street). The Astaire Awards recognize excellence in dance on stage and in film.

The 2009 Astaire Awards Ceremony, hosted by Alan Cumming, is scheduled for June 1 at The Haft Auditorium at Fashion Institute of Technology (7th Avenue at West 27th Street). In addition to the Awards Ceremony, the night will include performances of some of the best Broadway and Hollywood dance numbers, alongside stars of the stage and screen. Liza Minnelli will present American film director and choreographer, hailed as "the King of the Hollywood musicals," Stanley Donen (Singin' In The Rain, On the Town) with the 2009 Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. Other scheduled presenters include Tony Danza, Bebe Neuwirth and Geoffrey Rush.

The Astaire Awards, established 26 years ago by the Anglo-American Contemporary Dance Foundation, recognize outstanding achievement in dance on Broadway each season. The awards were established with the cooperation of Fred Astaire to honor him and his sister, Adele, who starred with her brother in 10 Broadway musicals between 1917 and 1931. In 2008 the Awards were expanded to include dance in choreography for film as this was the métier that brought Fred Astaire to international fame and a permanent slot on every list of the top movie stars of the century.

During their years together, the brother & sister duo delighted Broadway audiences in Over the Top, The Passing Show of 1918, Apple Blossoms, Love Letter, For Goodness Sake, The Bunch & Judy, Lady Be Good, Funny Face, Smiles and The Band Wagon. Fred Astaire starred on Broadway without sister Adele in one more show, The Gay Divorcee.

After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to the West Coast. Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady before starting work on RKO's Flying Down to Rio. In the latter film, he began his highly successful partnership with Ginger Rogers with whom he danced in 10 motion pictures. Their 17 year collaboration resulted in such classics as The Barkleys of Broadway, Carefree, Follow the Fleet, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Shall We Dance, The Story of Vern and Irene Castle, Swing Time and the quintessentially elegant Top Hat.

During these years, he was also active in recording and radio. On film, Astaire later appeared opposite a number of partners through various studios. After a temporary retirement in 1945-7, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire returned to film to star in more musicals. He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV. In addition to starring in the film Funny Face in 1957, he also starred in the original 1927 Broadway version of the George & Ira Gershwin musical Funny Face.

Always one of the most glamorous and eagerly anticipated events on the theatrical calendar, the Awards have paid homage to the brightest lights in the world of dance. Previous winners of awards for dance performance include: Debbie Allen, Hinton Battle, Charlotte D'Amboise, Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Natalia Makarova, Donna McKechnie, Ann Miller, Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking and Chita Rivera.

Previous winners of awards for choreography are such legends as George Balanchine, Michael Bennett, Patricia Birch, Wayne Cilento, Graciela Daniele, Bob Fosse, Peter Martins, Ann Reinking, Jerome Robbins, Susan Stroman, and Tommy Tune.

Last year's honorees included Spencer Liff - Best Male Dancer on Broadway for his dancing in Cry-Baby; Karen Olivo - Best Female Dancer on Broadway for her dancing in In The Heights; Rob Ashford - Best Choreography on Broadway for his work in Cry-Baby; and Dave Scott - Best Choreography in Film for his work in the film Step up 2: The Streets as well as presenting nine-time Tony Award & two-time Astaire Award-winner Tommy Tune with the first Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award.

All proceeds from the event benefit The Auditory Oral School of New York, a non-profit organization which specializes in teaching deaf and hard of hearing children to listen, talk, think and socialize in a full and barrier free environment.

The Awards for the 2009 Astaire Awards will be designed by Donna Distefano.

For more information, or to inquire about tickets or sponsorships, please contact Patricia Watt at 212-595-0924 or

Dancing With The Stars - Week 6

A Teacher's Perspective

By Debra Stroiney

This was such an interesting week on the show. I love how everyone did a different dance we had not seen them perform yet. It shows even those who have a bad couple of weeks still have dances they can dance well.

The next few weeks of this show are going to be tough. Everyone is improving so much and this week all of the scores were within points of each other. It will be interesting to see how things play out from here. I suspect it will come down to luck and which dances they perform. For instance, we know Ty is much better at the Ballroom/Smooth dances; if he has to dance more Rhythm/Latin dances, his scores will be lower. The same with Chuck and Lawrence; they also have dances that are better than others. Since there are so many great dancers on the show this season, I think the judges may start being a little harder on the celebrities. They are looking for the celebrities to bring everything out onto the dance floor. This week, I thought Lil' Kim performed a solid Rumba yet the judges told her to bring back her spunk that makes her who she is. o basically the message is: make sure the dance is technically perfect and also wow the judges with the entertainment.

I was watching Gilles this week trying to figure out why he has come out every week and has done so well. I saw it this week: CONFIDENCE. Gentleman dancers out there… that is the key. His body completely says confidence. The way he held his head in frame, the arm movements, even when he was not so sure of them, he made us think he was! Confidence is a very important factor when you first start competing. If you go out onto that dance floor and you are scared of people watching you, and of judges scoring you then it shows. It doesn’t matter how technically perfect you are because the lack of confidence will affect your posture, how far you extend your arm, smiling and connecting with your partner. This is what Gilles has and this what we need to teach to ballroom students.

The group dance was great! Why? The whole group was in sync with each other. Again, these stars do have talent out there and it shows while performing a group dance such as this. If you remember last season there were some dancers that struggled through the group dance, weren’t on time, and just looked out of place on the floor. This group dance was completely different and was fun to watch.

Hmm…. I have been so good at predicting whose been getting the boot these past few weeks. I have to say Lawrence will probably go but who knows?