Monday, August 31, 2009

Dancing Tips: Connection in Latin and Ballroom Dancing!

By Stanley McCalla, Fred Astaire Dance Board Member and Examiner.

Hello there! I hope that you all are enjoying a wonderful summer dancing and otherwise.
After many years of experience performing, teaching, and coaching, I’d like to share with you today a subject that I sometimes cover in some of my lectures.
"What creates a great performance, and what creates a dynamite couple?"
There are many parts to this answer, but one of them is connection.

Touch Connection
• The push and pull technique (body weight forward, toward one another with a left and right hand connection or double hand hold). It is a bracing action first and then a release.
• Centrifugal connection (with a left to right hand connection or double hand hold and counterbalancing each other by pulling the core of the body away).
Visual connection
• Consciousness and awareness of each other’s minute movements, including partner’s body weight.
• Being able to use this awareness to the couple’s advantage and responding to each other in this fashion (kind of a question and answer session).
Emotional connection
• Whether in Closed or Open position, each party of the partnership is completely emotionally open to communicate their sense of movement and music. It is a high form of communication where usually the man initiates this emotion and the woman responds by first embracing that feeling, then, in a harmonious fashion, expresses it even further by adding her own colorful passion.
• When this type of emotional union is coupled with rhythmical connection, the couple will experience a dynamite performance and will surely touch their audience in so many positive ways.
All the types of connections mentioned above can be achieved. First, it takes understanding and knowledge, and then practice, practice and more practice.
Make sure to practice these exercises with or without the supervision of your teacher.
Until next time, happy dancing! §

"I Am Going To Dance For The Rest Of My Life"

From the Groton Times (CT):

To the Editor:

I started dancing a little over a year ago, and honestly I don’t know where I would be today without it. It changed my life in many different ways—my posture has improved, my breathing is deeper, my gait is more graceful, and my general outlook is brighter.

I’ve danced many other styles of dance, and I would have to say out of all the different types of dancing, ballroom would have to be my favorite. Dancing works every single part of your body, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Ballroom dancing also combines many different styles of dancing. It’s critical, strict, on point. You have to be on time, with the music and with your partner.

Within ballroom dancing there are many different genres, so there are many opportunities to try a variety of dance styles. I can almost guarantee that if you try it, you will find at least one that you will like. I wish that more people, especially younger kids like me, would just give it a chance. It may look boring, but you will be very surprised how ballroom challenges you and keeps you coming back for more.

Timing is especially important when it comes to dancing, because the slightest bit that you are off from the music makes a huge difference. Being in sync with your partner and the rhythm is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of ballroom dancing. I take pride in being a ballroom dancer because it is so uncommon, especially for teenager, and it’s so beneficial in all aspect of my life.

Competing is also very thrilling. Last November I entered my first dance competition, the Tri Regional Ballroom Dance Competition. There are contestants from various different dance schools and more than 300 entries. My partner and I danced in 16 heats in the rhythm division dancing to the cha-cha and swing. We placed first in all 16 heats. I was completely shocked and had no idea that this good news was coming our way. I was not expecting to hear our names be called time after time.

If it wasn’t for my supportive family and my wonderful instructor Olga Golubko at the Fred Astaire dance studio in Mystic, I would not be the person that I am today. I am going to dance for the rest of my life.

Olivia Pentell

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Rules On This Season of DWTS


The medical bills at Dancing With the Stars may not be as high this upcoming season as they have been in the past.

Producers of the hit reality-competition show have finally implemented safety measures that they hope will reduce the number of injuries that have plagued many of their celebrity contestants.

"There's a rule now that we're not allowed to train for more than five hours a day for the first two weeks," professional hoofer Cheryl Burke told me last night at the Anna Faris-hosted Malibu-Reef Check event in Beverly Hills.
And there's more…

"After every two hours, you have to have a 30-minute break," Burke said. "And we have to have one full day off a week."

If you remember last season, things over at DWTS started to look more like an emergency room rather than a fun-loving reality show. Among the bruised and battered were singer Jewel, who dropped out when doctors diagnosed her with fractured tibia in both legs. The singer was replaced by E! reality star Holly Madison.

Access Hollywood host Nancy O'Dell also left before the competition began because of a torn meniscus that required surgery. Jilted Bachelor star Melissa Rycroft took her place.

Sex and the City star Gilles Marini first hurt his groin and then ended up under the knife for a shoulder injury. Apple computer guru Steve Wozniak found himself wobbling around in a cast because of a foot fracture.
Even Steve-O, who made a career of torturing and mutilating his body in Jackass, waltzed away with nerve damage in his back.

The list could go on and on and on...

Burke praised the producers for the changes, but thinks the five hour daily limit at the onset of training doesn't go far enough.

"I think it should be a four hours," she said. "Your body still needs to get into it."

Training for season nine, which premieres Sept. 21 on ABC, begins in less than two weeks.

Tony Dovolani Lands Another Movie Role


DWTS pro and Fred Astaire Champion Dancer Tony Dovolani will appear in Stock's Eye and Angel Light Pictures upcoming Sci-Fi/Thriller, "Blood Cauldron," an independent film to be shot late this year in Granby, Massachusetts.

The story revolves around six diverse scientists that are given the chance of a lifetime – 1 million dollars for 6 months in a secret underground research facility dubbed "The Cauldron." Dovolani would portray Dr. Martin Toldani, one of the top genetic researchers who has a love interest with one of the female scientists in the lab.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Who Is Favored To Win Next Season's DWTS?


Who is the Favorite on Dancing With The Stars?
By Sophie Eager

Aug 22, 2009

ABC just released the new line up for this season of the network reality TV hit show. Who is the Favorite on Dancing With The Stars? Pop star Aaron Carter has been tabbed the favorite to win the new season of Dancing With The Stars before the show has even started.'s odds for who will win see Carter with odds of 3:1, with singers Mya, Macy Gray and Donny Osmond coming just behind. However, actress Debi Mazar and reality star Kelly Osbourne are at the lower end of the scale. with odds of 19:2 and 20:1 respectively, with Tom DeLay being the least favourite with odds of 25:1.

From Dancing With The Stars to Dancing On Wheels

Brian Fortuna, a former professional dancer on both the US and UK versions of Dancing With The Stars, will be part of a new BBC show, airing in January 2010. The upcoming show is called Dancing on Wheels and Brian will be the lead choreographer. Competitors will be put through intense training to compete for a chance to represent the United Kingdom at the Wheelchair Dance Sport European Championships. Brian is an American DanceWheels Foundation 2006 graduate and a certified American DanceWheels Foundation teacher.

My Golden Dancers

From the book of Psalms

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Weeping may remain in the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. What a lovely phrase, line, saying or whatever you want to name it. I heard this on my soap opera the other day and say what you may about soap operas, they come up with some excellent expressions among the provocative story lines. This is from the Book of Psalms.

How can we as mortals explain this saying? I think of it this way. Many times we have sadness and it seems to escalate in the evening hours. Sometimes in the early morning when we awaken and are refreshed from our sleep, we take time out to rejoice in our blessings.

Many people on their answering machines will end their message to the caller with, “Have a blessed day.” That sentiment is particularly relevant in this rush-rush society we live in. Times are tough now for many people without jobs or losing their homes, etc. So we who are blessed with having these things can look upon ourselves as being particularly favored and fortunate in our good happenings.

I myself some days wake up and think, “This will be a special day.” I sit down at my office desk in my home where I write these articles for magazines and online websites and blogs and write a list of my blessed things that we all take for granted. I also write down what pleasant things I wish to happen today. Pleasant could mean receiving a package I have waited for or going to get my hair done. It can mean writing a new and inspiring article. It can mean getting a good report about a test I may have taken for medical reasons. It can mean thinking about going back to my ballroom dancing and maybe competing next year with my professional coach. It could mean going to see my grandchildren or taking my two older grandsons to dinner. Lists can be important in making the day happy and anticipating a good many hours.

So if there is weeping in the night, then certainly we shall rejoice in the a.m. hours when we count our blessings and anticipate our good happenings for that day. Good friends and delightful family members are what we have to rejoice about and if we can feel the happiness and celebrate and revel in these moments then we are surely having a blessed day. That day will be remembered when maybe something goes wrong on another day.

Dear friends of mine via the email and reading my dance columns in dance magazines made me two glass paintings. They painted on thick glass with acrylic-type paint pictures of dancers dancing the Waltz and the Samba and shipped them to me along with special hooks to hang them. They appear in a place of honor on my living room wall and every week when I dust them off during cleaning time, I rejoice in their friendship.

So peace and tranquility and rejoicing can be had in many ways. Another thing we do that gives us pleasure and joy is our ballroom dancing that we have done since November 2, 1977, which is almost thirty-two years now. The happiness I derive from competing with my coach, to doing showcases in the studio, to keeping my mind active and functioning and to just plain social dancing is certainly a plus for happiness. Ballroom dancing gives me a boost and makes life interesting and happy. I could not imagine my life without it now.

Weeping may remain in the night, but rejoicing surely comes in the morning and, may I so boldly add, it comes in all day long too.

Elita Sohmer Clayman

Baltimore, Maryland August 1, 2009

Dancing With The Stars Fall 2009 - Full Partners Revealed

Aaron Carter & Karina Smirnoff
Natalie Coughlin & Alec Mazo
Mark Dacascos & Lacey Schwimmer
Tom DeLay & Cheryl Burke.
Macy Gray & Jonathan Roberts
Ashley Hamilton & Edyta Sliwinska.
Melissa Joan Hart & Mark Ballas
Kathy Ireland & Tony Dovolani
Michael Irvin & Anna Demidova
Joanna Krupa & Derek Hough
Chuck Liddell & Anna Trebunskaya
Debi Mazar & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Mýa & Dmitry Chaplin
Kelly Osbourne & Louis van Amstel
Donny Osmond & Kym Johnson
Louie Vito & Chelsie Hightower

Dance Has No Age Requirement!

From The Connecticut Post:

Trumbull woman still stepping lively at 89
89-year-old winning dance competitions right and left
By Noelle Frampton, Staff Writer
Updated: 08/24/2009

TRUMBULL -- Kathleen Wander is a prodigy, but not in the usual sense. In fact, she flips the typical concept on its proverbial ear. Then she twirls it, dips it and waltzes off with it.

Embodying grace in motion, Wander has won first place in her bracket at all but five of 44 separate ballroom dance contests and placed second in a regional tournament earlier this month.

But the town resident had been dancing only two years. And she's 89.
In the embrace of a waltz, she glides across the polished wood floor at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Trumbull, her eyes shining, her head held high, her feet twinkling in silver dancing heels. She laughs when she messes up and tells a reporter with a slight English accent, "Look away, dear," then goes right back to work.

Her sparkling blue eyes are wide with mirth, fun and zest for living as she says she's in love with her 28-year-old dance instructor, Kristofer Speer, "who refuses to marry me."

"Everybody knows I'm crazy about Kris, and he says he's waiting for me to grow up," she said during her lesson Thursday.

Wander wasn't always so comfortable at the White Plains Road studio, however. After spotting an ad and recalling how she'd always wanted to learn ballroom dancing, she tried calling four times before she got the courage to come in.

"I thought they'd think I was too old to start dancing," she said.
Speer said initially he was careful not to do anything too fancy or "let her go" in a twirl. But soon, he said, he found Wander strong and up for a challenge -- combining true enjoyment with patience and persistence.

"I push. I might as well have a bullwhip, but she sticks with it," he said. "She's beaten people who are in their 60s at tournaments." Turning to Wander, he told her that she exudes the gliding grace of a bygone time: "The grace of a woman from the golden era of movies."

"I love Kathleen," Speer added. "She puts smiles on people's faces when she walks through the door. People naturally want to walk over and talk to her. She has a certain magnetism."

Wander has competed in three regional Fred Astaire-sponsored competitions and another national contest in Florida. Her performances include dances such as the cha cha, fox trot, rumba, swing, tango and Viennese waltz with Speer.

At the most recent competition in Mystic, over the first weekend in August, she danced all weekend and was awarded 39 firsts in her age bracket of 76 and up, four seconds and one third, she said.

An avid skier until age 84, Wander won first in one tournament, where the age bracket widens to include 61 and up, and second in two others. Even in the national arena, she took several firsts, Speer said, adding that most competitors have been dancing longer than Wander.

Already looking forward to her next competition in November, also in Mystic, Wander plans to keep dancing "till my legs give out." Wander, a widow of four years, finds the competitions to be good social outlets.
"One of the nicest things about being old is that you can flirt like hell and nobody cares," she chuckled. "I've never flirted before in my life -- I'm having a ball. Nobody gets fresh with anyone else. They're there for the pure joy of dancing " and loving every minute of it. It's the most marvelous thing in the world that you could do. It's exhilarating, the music is beautiful. If you're fit, I don't think age matters. I want to be the best I can."
For all her spunkiness, Wander said, she's "amazed" each time she is awarded first place.

She was interested in writing and art in her younger years, but dropped out of high school in England at 16 to care for her sick mother, went to business school at night and became a secretary out of necessity.

Later in America, she looked after her ailing husband, who passed away after 40 years of happy marriage.

When the woman who has spent most of her life caring for others thought of how healthy and strong her body is, she shook her head.

"I am really blessed," she said. "I don't know anybody my age who's as lucky as I am. I don't know why God is so good to me, but he is. I think he likes to watch me dance."

They Seem To Find The Happiness They Seek

From The New York Times:

August 16, 2009


When people fall in love, they opt for an experience that others have had before. Very often that’s what they have in mind: they would like to share some of what happened to Romeo and Juliet, or Lizzy and Darcy or maybe just their parents. One of those archetypes of romance was born 75 years ago, with the release of “The Gay Divorcee,” starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

The cinema has had many classic couples: several, in fact, in 1934, the year of “It Happened One Night,” “Twentieth Century” and “The Thin Man.” But it has never had another couple who enshrined romantic love so definitively in terms of dance.

Dancing together, Astaire and Rogers expressed many of love’s moods: courtship and seduction, repartee and responsiveness, teasing and challenge, the surprise of newfound harmony, the happy recapture of bygone romance, the giddy exhilaration of high spirits and intense mutual accord, the sense of a perfect balance of power, the tragedy of parting and, not least, the sense of love as role playing. It’s startling how many of those shades are already present in “Night and Day,” their first romantic duet together, in “The Gay Divorcee.”

The story has often been told. Astaire (1899-1987), after years of partnering his sister, Adele, broke through to a new romantic seriousness in 1932, when partnering Claire Luce onstage in London in Cole Porter’s “Gay Divorce,” particularly in the number “Night and Day.” He went to Hollywood as a fully grown star in 1933. When he and Rogers (1911-95) were given fifth and fourth star billing in RKO’s “Flying Down to Rio” that year, their brief fling in the “Carioca” number became its biggest sensation.
“The Gay Divorce” was promptly adapted for the screen as “The Gay Divorcee” for the new star team. Astaire and Rogers went on to make seven more RKO movies together in the 1930s. Astaire choreographed, and the specifications he made for how the camera should follow him set unsurpassed standards: Film the dancers full-frame, without close-up; keep reaction shots to a minimum; run the dance in as few takes as possible, preferably just one.

He went on to partner many other women. (Astaire aficionados like to debate who, after Ginger, complemented him best. Rita Hayworth? Cyd Charisse? Eleanor Powell? Gracie Allen?) But though he developed the artistry of his solos in the 1940s, his screen chemistry with Rogers has never been matched.

Watching “Night and Day” as danced by Astaire and Rogers in “The Gay Divorcee,” we can’t tell how much Astaire adapted it since performing it with Luce, and Rogers is not yet as supple and skilled a dancer as she would be two years later. Yet we see the Astaire-Rogers alchemy in full force. Much of it has to do with Rogers’s multifaceted reactions to Astaire.
Her face is riveting because it has such restraint. Among the breathtaking aspects of her performance are her sudden stops to address him (as if acknowledging the force field between them); the suggestions that at one point she is helplessly sleepwalking but that, at another, having great fun; the very sweet way she implies that love (and dancing with a partner) is something she is happily learning as she goes along; the ripples that pass at different moments through her spine and pelvis; the huge, determined strides she takes to break away from him at one juncture, and then, when he stops her, the mysteriously fluent near-slap she gives him (and the soft way she watches him as he reels back across the room). Astaire leads throughout and is compelling. But her responses, from face to foot, give this duet its depth.

Two years after the “Gay Divorcee” Rogers reached her apogee in “Swing Time” (1936). By now she has a dancer’s body as beautiful as any the screen has ever seen. The glimpses of her legs in their “Pick Yourself Up” number (her calf-length skirts fly as they tap) are enough to make you gasp. Her spine can now arch and bend in many ways, all apparently full of feeling; the slenderness of her waist is always ravishing.

Yet she never looks rarefied or trained. For that matter, she doesn’t behave like a great beauty and isn’t presented as one. Her ordinariness and spontaneity (just watch her arms and hands) are central to her attractiveness. While she always retains these qualities, there are parts of “Swing Time” (and other Astaire-Rogers movies of their prime) in which she and Astaire become divinities and, together, epitomize glamour, love and dance.

Perhaps the high of highs is the “Waltz in Swing Time,” filmed in one take. Astaire is in black tie, Rogers in full-length white. This dance is a novelty number, like several others in their films (“The Carioca,” “The Continental,” “The Piccolino,” the tap dance on roller skates, “The Yam”) and probably the most miraculous in terms of pure dance. They’re moving fast and percussively, yet the impression is of an unbroken slow-traveling legato flow. They’re combining swing and waltz rhythms (it feels like riding two horses at once), yet the impression isn’t of rhythmic virtuosity so much as of impulsive rapture.

It’s my impression that Astaire and Rogers have become even more classic than ever. Now that ballroom dance has been repopularized by “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Astaire-Rogers image is often invoked. (“Burn the Floor,” the skillfully repellent stage musical currently on Broadway, which features 16 stars of “So You Think,” has an episode in which one couple and then another appear dressed as Astaire and Rogers, with the music quoting their “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” number from the 1936 “Follow the Fleet.”)

Only in the 1960s did the Astaire-Rogers duets first receive serious critical attention as great choreography. In 1965 Arlene Croce, who until then had been best known as a film critic, founded Ballet Review magazine (which flourishes still), and one of her two remarkable contributions to the first issue was the essay “Notes on La Belle, La Perfectly Swell, Romance.” (It was republished in 2008 in Robert Gottlieb’s “Reading Dance” anthology.)
In 1972 Ms. Croce followed this with one of the best-loved works in dance literature, “The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book.” In prose that perfectly rises to the thrill of these classics, she herself produced a classic. It has been quoted and cited in innumerable books on Astaire and Rogers, on Astaire, on film musicals and on romantic comedy. It’s out of print now, but since it has been reissued in the past, it’s fair to hope it will be reissued again.

In the 1960s and ’70s you had to wait for Astaire-Rogers movies on television or in revival houses. In the case of “Roberta” (1935) you often had to wait years. Ms. Croce rightly calls this “their most ebullient film.” But MGM (which remade it in 1952 as “Lovely to Look At”) tried to bury it for decades. Now you can get a DVD boxed set of all 10 Astaire-Rogers movies and watch “Roberta” to your heart’s content. The “Swing Time” DVD can be watched with a commentary by John Mueller, whose 440-page study “Astaire Dancing” (1986) is as indispensable to Astaire studies as Ms. Croce’s book.

Ms. Croce’s taste and eminently quotable prose and Mr. Mueller’s detailed analysis hang over two recent books, Hannah Hyam’s “Fred & Ginger” (Pen Press Publishers) and Joseph Epstein’s “Fred Astaire” (Yale University Press). These are, however, diametrically opposite writers. Mr. Epstein casually remarks, “I cannot remember whether I’ve watched ‘Top Hat’ five or six times, but I continue to find new little things in it,” whereas Ms. Hyam, no less casually, says about the “Waltz in Swing Time” that “it is necessary to watch it at least a dozen times before we can even begin to grasp the wealth of detail in which it abounds.”

I don’t need to read 191 pages on Astaire by someone who has watched “Top Hat” only six times at most (“dull as the script is,” Mr. Epstein writes of it) and relies heavily on references and quotations from the writing of others. At one point Mr. Epstein tells us that “Astaire probably overrehearsed,” at another why he needed to rehearse so much.

After quoting from Edwin Denby, Ms. Croce, Mr. Mueller and Charles (Honi) Coles, he gives us this aperçu of his own about “Top Hat”: “You have this pretty girl and this far from handsome yet smoothly attractive guy, and the two of them join together to dance like nobody else, before or since, and some terrific music is playing much of the time, so what the hell, but wouldn’t it be great if life had more such moments: glamorous, romantic, elegant, yes, and uncomplicatedly happy.” By the way, “Top Hat” seems to be the Astaire film Mr. Epstein has watched the most.

Ms. Hyam, by contrast, is an Astaire-Rogers nerd. She has little sense of context outside their movies, she scarcely attends to the music, and too much of her writing consists of plodding exposition. Some of the best points occur in the notes at the back. (In the main text she finds the script for “Top Hat” to be “clever, witty.” You have to turn to the notes to see how she points to the symmetry with which Astaire says, “If I ever forgot myself with that girl, I’d like to remember it,” and Rogers, 20 minutes later, says, “I’ll make him remember me in a manner he’ll never forget.”)

But her book is as knowledgeable as it is loving. When she disagrees, seldom, with Ms. Croce (in “Top Hat,” for example, she finds Ms. Croce misses the point of the “several dreamy backbends” — Ms. Croce’s phrase — in “Cheek to Cheek”), she makes you see why. (This spectacular duet probably isn’t as moving as it should be, not, I think, because of the choreography but simply because this is their least spontaneous performance. Its filming was notoriously complicated by the way Rogers’s stunning dress kept shedding feathers all over the set; even after revisions and multiple takes, a few feathers are still falling on screen.)

As Ms. Hyam proceeds, she makes points that send you back to watch the films again. Of the “Waltz in Swing Time” she quotes both Ms. Croce and Mr. Mueller to good effect before adding, “One astonishing sequence among the so many: when Rogers, facing Astaire, joyfully curves her body for him to vault over it, twice, and a third time presents her slightly inclined back for him to repeat this most intimate maneuver — just before they both rush headlong, in each other’s arms, into the final stage of the dance.” When you check it out, you find that you love the number even more as a result.

Neither book refers to another classic, James Harvey’s “Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: From Lubitsch to Sturges,” which perceptively sets Astaire and Rogers in full film context and gives us much more to see and consider. And neither reflects on the baroque intricacy of the numerous shows within films and dramas within dramas with which these movies abound.
The sense that Fred and Ginger keep playing roles (roles within their roles) ought to make them in these films more artificial, more tongue in cheek; but instead it gives them — and the different aspects of love they express — depth and complexity. Often when they’re doing a dance scene that (the plot tells us) they have rehearsed and that they are performing for an audience (which applauds) they turn out to be at their most spontaneous and piercing, and their love seems at its most real. Ms. Hyam is right: We need to keep returning to these movies. Hilarious and entrancing as they often are, they endlessly repay close study.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Dancing With The Stars Partners

Tom DeLay with Cheryl Burke
Aaron Carter with Karina Smirnoff

Dancing With The Stars Partners!

Although the full list of names will be revealed Friday, some of the dancing couples for the next season of "Dancing With the Stars" have been revealed.
"Entourage" star Debi Mazar will be paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Donny Osmond is rumored to be paired with Kym Johnson. The pair have reportedly already started rehearsing together.

Ashley Hamilton's dad, actor George Hamilton, revealed that his son will be dancing with Edyta Sliwinska, whom George danced with when he competed on the show.

The final dance partnership that has been revealed is the pairing of swimmer Natalie Coughlin and dancer Alec Mazo.

The remaining dance partners will be announced later this week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Dancing With The Stars Cast Revealed

Season 9 celebrities have just been announced:

Aaron Carter - Teen pop sensation and the little brother of Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys
Natalie Coughlin - Olympic Gold medalist - swimming
Mark Dacascos - The "Chairman" of Iron Chef America
Tom DeLay - Politician and former Majority Leader of the Republican Party
Macy Gray - Soul singer
Ashley Hamilton - Actor and the son of Season 2 contestant George Hamilton
Melissa Joan Hart - Actress best known for hit show "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch"
Kathy Ireland - Former model and current CEO of a billion dollar design empire
Michael Irvin - ESPN radio host and former Dallas Cowboy
Joanna Krupa - Model and one of Maxim Magazine's "Most Sexiest Women In The World"
Chuck Liddell - Mixed Martial Artist and Ultimate Fighting Champion
Debi Mazar - Actor currently starring in Entourage
Mya - Sultry singer
Donny Osmond - 70s teen idol singing sensation and brother of Season 5 contestant Marie Osmond
Kelly Osbourne - Reality TV show star and daughter of famed rocker Ozzy Osbourne
Louie Vito - Professional snowboarder

Who will YOU be rooting for this season?

Crumpler Uses Dance To Improve Game

Tight end displays nimbleness on feet

By Jim Wyatt

Alge Crumpler might look a little heavier these days, but the Titans tight end has never been lighter on his feet.

If you don't believe it, then you haven't seen him do the Cha-Cha, the Salsa, the Swing or the Sexy Rumba.

Michael Hosale, owner of the Fred Astaire dance studio in Brentwood, worked with Crumpler and his wife this offseason. He was impressed with the big man's footwork even before he saw Crumpler toeing the sideline after making a catch against the Bills last Sunday night.

"He moves extremely well,'' Hosale said with a smile as dance music played in the background. "Give me 10 guys like that, big football players, and not every one of them is going to move like Alge. Some of my students who've been dancing with me longer were amazed at how well he moved across the floor.

"I told Alge, 'If Dancing with the Stars ever asks you to be on, you should definitely do it.' … And watching him (Sunday), I think some of those dancing steps he learned paid off. He got a couple extra yards.''

Crumpler had predicted Hosale might take some credit for "my nimbleness at such a hefty size.'' The fact of the matter is the ninth-year pro has displayed nifty footwork for years.

He couldn't help but chuckle when he realized his dancing secret was about to spread. So when the subject of his weight came up, well, he danced around it like Fred Astaire.

"I don't want to get into a weight battle,'' said Crumpler, who's listed at 262 pounds but admitted he's nowhere close to that. "I won't give up my weight. Talk to LenDale (White) about his; he'll talk about it, but I won't. And I don't want to make an issue out of it either.

"As long as I am doing everything I am supposed to do — and I am — the production speaks for itself. … That's the bottom line.''

On Monday, Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said he'd like to see Crumpler get back to last season's weight but complimented his mobility.

Chances are Fisher doesn't pay much attention to the football benefits of dancing, though General Manager Mike Reinfeldt might. He's also taken lessons with Hosale.

Beefy blocker

Crumpler had three catches for 32 yards in just two series against the Bills. Teammates rave about his agility, even though he doesn't get the opportunity to run routes like he used to.

"He's smooth, fluid,'' fullback Ahmard Hall said. "It's impressive, really, at his size.''

In seven seasons with the Falcons, Crumpler caught 316 passes and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. Last season, his first with the Titans, he had a career low 24 receptions.

But he also developed into a better blocker, and with pass-catching tight ends Bo Scaife and Jared Cook also on the roster, blocking is expected to be Crumpler's primary role again this fall.

And that's where his added weight — whatever it is — has worked to his advantage.

"Every tight end wants to catch the football,'' Crumpler said. "But if I am asked to do something and I am good at it I am going to do the best I can. And as long as I am holding up at the point of attack and making the plays that are there, that is my main concern. …

"The blocking part, right now it is a thousand times easier than it has ever been in my career. When I make contact, guys are moving — that I'll tell you. And that is pleasing to me. But, yes, I still want to drop a few pounds.''

Guessing game

So just how much heavier is Crumpler this season than last season, when he was also listed at 262 pounds?

Well, that's anyone's guess. He weighed 275 pounds as a blocking tight end in college, and admitted he was flabbergasted when the Falcons assigned him a weight of 260 as a rookie. He hasn't hit that number his entire career, he said.

This week his teammates had fun with "Guess Crumpler's Weight," almost as if they worked at a county fair.

"He is mad at himself because he said he gained 10 more pounds,'' Hall said. "I'd say he's about 285.''

Rookie Jared Cook went higher, as if he had inside information. He introduced his parents to Crumpler at the Hall of Fame game.

"And when he walked away I was like, 'I can't believe that man is 300 pounds running like that,' '' Cook said. "Once people find out how much he really weighs, they're surprised.''

Linebacker Keith Bulluck wouldn't offer a number: "He probably ate a few more cheeseburgers than he did last offseason. And maybe a few extra dips of ranch dressing, too.''

Others refused to weigh in on the subject.

"We don't go there,'' tight ends coach John Zernheldt said. "He don't go there, and I don't go there."

Dropping pounds

Crumpler said he would keep working to lose weight.

"I'm not as heavy as I've ever been, but I have been at this weight longer than I anticipated,'' he said. "I have been this heavy before, I just dropped it a lot faster.''

Crumpler's size is helping him at the line of scrimmage as a blocker, but Zernheldt said there are limits.

"Optimum weight is how big you can be and still maintain the speed to play that position. Obviously we don't want him too big,'' Zernheldt said. "So he deals with that, and his knees are getting a little older. So he has to watch his weight for more obvious reasons, health reasons too.''

Crumpler would probably concede that, just like he admitted Hosale might be on to something — all those dance lessons, 15-20 in all, could help him on the football field.

"Anything you do from a movement standpoint helps your game,'' Crumpler said. "Because you can only do so many squats and cleans and sprints. There were some turns and dips … different things that I did that might've helped, I don't know for sure.

"But I know it was all in fun and my wife and I enjoyed it."

Dance Studio Held Dance-A-Thon For Charity

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan participated in a Dance-A-Thon last weekend, starting at noon on Friday and ending on noon on Saturday. There were lessons in Latin dances such as the Salsa, Merengue or Samba and also Country line dancing, Belly dancing, Swing, Jive, Charleston, Hip hop and even Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

All proceeds went to the Variety FAR Conservatory for the Therapeutic and Performing Arts, a non-profit organization that provides creative arts therapy and recreation services for children and adults with mental, physical and/or emotional impairments.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring joy to people who need it,” said Arlene Kass, executive director of FAR, which stands for Fun, Arts and Recreation.

FAR had been using money from grants from foundations to take about 15 students to get social dance lessons in Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield for the past three years, but this year they lost some grants because of the economy.

So Evan Mountain, owner of the Fred Astaire studio, said: “No way we’re going to stop doing this … we’re going to find a way to get the money.”

That’s when they decided to hold this dance-a-thon, and use the money raised to send students to take dance lessons.

“It’s our way of helping them,” said Lada Reschikova, co-owner of the Astaire studio.

Kass said raising $2,000 will send 15 students for a semester, and $4,000 will send them for a year. Kass said they can only fit 15 students for an hour in the dance studio.

“When we tell them we can only take 15 children, the phone starts ringing — they love going,” she said. “If you see our kids dancing with their professionals, it’s really something. The students seem to sense that these teachers know they can do it.”

FADS is a national franchise with studios in many states, but the one in Bloomfield Hills is the only studio in Michigan. Reschikova said they do private lessons, groups lessons and dance parties.

The dance-a-thon last weekend was the first time this studio did something like this, Reschikova said.

So You Think You Can Dance Honors The Art Of Dance

From The Washington Post:

'Dance' Has All The Right Moves

By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Melissa had the nano-dress, the spiked heels, the hiccupping rhythm. Even so, something was wrong with her cha-cha.

The judges on "So You Think You Can Dance" knew where the fault lay. Melissa is, by training, a ballet dancer, and those polite hips and her tea-at-the-Ritz posture had gotten in her way. No amount of sequins or daringly exposed skin could make up for the fact that her cha-cha needed a mojito. More heft, more hips, more Havana.

Her feet were "sliding all over the place." One judge said her legs were turned out too much; another said her feet turned in too far. Even her lips came under fire: They were too pursed.

"When you try and be sexy, you don't have to go over the top," cautioned Nigel Lythgoe, one of the regular judges and the show's executive producer. (Imagine, someone trying to tone down the sex on Fox TV.)

Melissa Sandvig was cut the next night, and rightly so. She had stumbled in the twin tests of technique and expression, getting it wrong -- albeit by the slimmest of degrees -- exactly where this show, episode after episode, so often gets it right.

With its fifth-season finale starting Wednesday and wrapping up Thursday, Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" is more of a runaway hit than ever. For the first time in its brief history, it will also air in the fall, returning Sept. 9, so fans won't have to wait until next summer to see more young hopefuls tackle two-minute duets in a range of dance styles as they vie for the title "America's Favorite Dancer." Fox is clearly looking for a knockout when it goes toe-to-toe against ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

I wish Fox all the best, because "SYTYCD" is the superior dance show. It honors the art of dance much more than it gets credit for doing. For all its TV-land glitz -- the skimpy frocks, the shirtless men, the sappy pop tunes -- there is a certain honesty about this show. It stems from the primacy of the dancer's work ethic.

Focusing on the efforts of trained dancers rather than those of sorta-celebrities and adventurous athletes, "SYTYCD" offers an education, teaching viewers that the dance profession is not about pampered divadom, nor does it rest on achieving a look or aping a style. While "Dancing With the Stars" is about faking it -- which nondancer can best acquire the look of a dancer without having paid a dancer's dues -- "SYTYCD" is about the real thing.

Which is why Jeanine Mason, a raven-haired jazz and hip-hop dancer sporting purple tail feathers and just a soupcon of a top, was in for some finger-wagging on a recent episode when she failed to achieve that rolling, deep-in-the-hips quality of the samba.

"You're going to have to be hot not only with the way that you look, but with the way that you dance," counseled sharp-eyed judge Mary Murphy, a former ballroom champion who can be counted on for the most astute observations about style, substance and the art of dancing.

Art -- on TV? On Fox? The show's popularity in a mass medium and on a network that hyped celebrity boxing makes it tempting to dismiss "SYTYCD" as mere dance candy, dipped in shallow camera-glam and thick with wow-factor to please a nation that's been on a ballroom bender for the past few years. But the TV screen is a natural frame for dancing. As the most visual of the performing arts, dance is ideally suited to television. PBS discovered this in the three decades during which, on its "Dance in America" and "Great Performances" series, it regularly broadcast the best in concert dance -- the big ballet companies, the most experimental modern dance, choreographers such as George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp and Katherine Dunham.

But with diminished corporate sponsorship and a priorities shift to more mass-market fare (pop concerts, travelogues and no end to self-improvement shows), the days of elite dance over the airwaves are all but over. Dance on PBS has dwindled to an annual "Nutcracker" broadcast and little else.

Televised dance has now come full circle, returning to the commercial realm that gave it a boost back in the 1960s, when NBC's "Bell Telephone Hour" gave Balanchine's New York City Ballet a Friday night audience far eclipsing its live-performance subscribers.

Even such a snob as Balanchine might not be so shocked at the turn broadcast dance has taken. He loved flamboyance and sexiness as much as the next guy; yards of leg, crotch-centric poses and body-baring outfits weren't exactly unknown in his ballets at Lincoln Center. Nor was firecracker technique. The kind of physical bravado you see throughout the duets and solos on "SYTYCD" is part of a deeply rooted trend in the world of ballet. The culturati may find a difference between a ballet star's corkscrewing leaps and the TV dancers who backflip as if they've been shot out of a cannon or jump like jack-in-the-boxes, but they're all part of the same tradition in dance. You can trace it back to noble origins, starting with the galvanizing athleticism on view in the first U.S. tours of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet in the late 1950s.

And consider this stunner at the end of "SYTYCD'S" hour-long results show Thursday: Lythgoe worked in a lament for the dance world's loss of "the great avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham," who had died a few days before, on July 26. Cunningham, a giant among 20th century artists, is revered by connoisseurs the world over, but coming from the niche world of modern dance, his is hardly a name you hear on network TV. I thought I'd fall over when Lythgoe saluted him.

Yet perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised. More and more, the art-world of dance and the reality-TV-disco-ball-world of dance are merging on "SYTYCD." True, there's an abundance of hard sell here, a few too many aggressively splayed-out, punched-up dance routines that rocket from pose to pose, instead of unspooling a cohesive, subtler dynamic statement. But frequently I've been captivated by artistry in both the choreography and the dancing.

Take Broadway-style dancer Evan Kasprzak, one of the four finalists: Small in stature, he can devour space when he moves and his rubbery face is full of theatrical expression. He's also musical and can toss off miracles of gravity-daring balances. As guest judge Debbie Allen once gushed at him, he can "handle a big woman" (many of his partners have towered over him) -- and he looks like a shoo-in for a musical theater career.

And then there's Kayla Radomski, a tall jazz and contemporary dancer whose world-class cheekbones and long, quick legs amplify her glamour quotient. She dances big, arcing from corner to corner and giving her disco bumps the same silky conviction as her reverse turns in the Viennese waltz.

What's fascinating about "SYTYCD" is how it spotlights old-fashioned dance values: discipline, following orders, teamwork and perfecting an aesthetic through a mix of hard work, innate ability and imagination.

Sandvig, the ballet dancer, moved with unusual clarity, each step etched in space. Her duet with Ade Obayomi (who was also cut after last week's call-in voting) in choreographer Tyce Diorio's jewel of a piece about a woman battling breast cancer was especially poignant, expressing courage, despair, support and resolve.

But in the end, Sandvig didn't possess the versatility the show demands, with contestants judged in such disparate styles as hip-hop, bollywood, disco, ballroom and Latin dance. Ballet dancers are trained to tuck their buttocks under and to pull up out of their hips and abdomen. For them, swinging the pelvis in the cha-cha or dropping their weight into the floor in hip-hop is like asking a soprano to growl the blues. Similarly, hip-hop dancers often struggle with the intricate footwork of the quickstep, or with any dance style that benefits from softness in the upper body (as most of the social dances do).

"SYTYCD" asks for an extreme version of versatile, but it is an authentic asset. Versatility is the buzzword in the dance world today -- the major dance companies, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and so on, are all looking for dancers who can dive into a varied repertoire. "SYTYCD" kicks it up a notch. The diversity of styles these dancers are asked to master -- if only for a few minutes at a time -- is unheard of in the professional world.

Versatility doesn't come from mimicking steps -- each dance form has its own vocabulary and its own aesthetic. In hip-hop, for example, attitude matters, a defiance that enhances raw, weighty physical power. Obayomi found it in on one episode, impressing the experts of the form: "You have a real dirty kind of groove about yourself," raved Lil C, a krumper on the judges' panel that night. "This time you just sat in it."

The point he was making is absolutely valid: In moves from the urban alleyways as much as in the waltz, doing it right means being able to express the proper emotional tone, the core human intention.

The show could improve, however. The music for the routines is mediocre at best, drawn from "American Idol" winners and the pulpiest hitmakers. The special guests who drag out the Thursday results show are frequently not so special. Why no one in power cried out "for God's sake, no!" when Katie Holmes was booked to lip-sync and preen in a "tribute" to Judy Garland on the show's 100th episode is beyond justification. I suppose L.A. was fresh out of real dancers with star power?

Last season saw an artistic high point when several Alvin Ailey dancers performed an electrifying excerpt from the group's signature crowd-pleaser "Revelations." "SYTYCD" should do this routinely -- use its visibility to promote quality professional performances, and by doing so, it might lead viewers to seek out the art form on the live stage as well as on the dial. That would only broaden "SYTYCD's" base.

In many ways, the mass media are losing sight of the masses by pushing at the limits of their own idioms. Special effects threaten to overwhelm the movies. Television aims lower and lower -- and reality TV has yet to meet a low to which it can't sink. But despite its flaws, to its great credit "SYTYCD" has managed to stay personal and human-scale.

With the loss of Cunningham, Balanchine and other visionaries who have defined the world of concert dance, it remains to be seen how meaningfully the art form will be included in 21st century highbrow culture. But with the rise of popular dancing on TV -- and thanks to Lythgoe, Murphy and their colleagues -- dance's place in pop culture seems secure, at least for now.

And by the way, my money's on Kayla.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Could We Do It Just One More Time?

Eleanor Powell salutes Fred Astaire in this American Film Institute tribute taped April 10, 1981:

Tony Dovolani Starring In New Movie

Dancing With The Stars champion dancer and longtime Fred Astaire Dance Studios associate Tony Dovolani is starring in a new movie called "Pumping Up." This comedic film is produced by Angel Light Pictures and written by Peter Papageorgiou. It is about three Italian-American childhood friends who work out at a gym in Queens , NY. Every year is the annual Mr. Hercules weightlifting contest. The story focuses on how the contest affects their lives and relationship. Dovolani has signed up to play one of the major roles.

Dancing With The Stars, Season 9

ABC's Dancing With The Stars, Season 9, will premiere on September 21, 2009 at 8/7c. Rumors are flying about which celebrities will be competing this season. Some of the rumors include:
  • Lou Ferrigno, actor and body builder.
  • Sherri Shepherd, co-host of "The View"
  • Kurt Angle, Olympic gold medalist and WWF professional wrestler
  • Debi Mazar, actress
The cast will be revealed on Monday, August 17 on Good Morning America.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Not Your Grandmother's Cha-Cha

From the LA

By Patrick Pacheco
August 2, 2009
Reporting from New York — At a recent rehearsal of "Burn the Floor" at the Longacre Theatre, Jeremy Garner and Sarah Hives sultrily moved through their paces, the heat amped up by their youthful beauty and personal chemistry.

When associate producer Peta Roby, sitting in the theater's orchestra, was asked what is the dance, she replied, "It's a cha-cha. It's traditionally an afternoon dance, not like the rumba or tango, which are more sensual evening dances. It's the kind that a young man could dance with his mother or auntie."

Really? Regarding the smoldering couple onstage, she smiled and added, "Oh, that? That's the edge Jason brings to it."

"Jason" is Jason Gilkison, the 43-year-old Australian director and choreographer of "Burn the Floor." And the "edge" is how the creators of this company of 20 dancers, two singers and four musicians intend to reinvent the world of ballroom for the Broadway production, which opens tonight. The emphasis is on youth (the median age is around 23), physical beauty and a rawness and grit that is distinctly Australian. Although the company is international (including some Americans, Europeans and New Zealanders), the majority are Australian as are the creative team and the producer, Harley Medcalf."

We wanted to make it more theatrical, to get away from the fake tans, stiff hair, and the costumes full of feathers and rhinestones," said Gilkison, a one-time international ballroom dance champion with his longtime partner Roby. "It's like finding a piece of your grandmother's jewelry, taking out the stone and putting it in a very contemporary setting. It captures the essence of the dances but with today's attitudes and expressions."

"Burn the Floor" arrives at a propitious time. Reality dance shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance?" and "Dancing With the Stars" have erased the musty stigma associated with ballroom dance and made terms such as paso doble a part of pop discourse. And the addition of Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff of "Dancing With the Stars" to the Broadway cast may seem like a marketing gimmick to take advantage of the popular program. A judge on that show, Carrie Ann Inaba, has also been recruited as one of the Broadway producers. But it was Chmerkovskiy who proposed the couple's involvement for the three weeks they are on hiatus from the TV show.

"It's everybody's dream to end up on Broadway, and they had come to me because they were looking for a really hot female dancer," said the Ukrainian-born dancer who met Gilkison and Roby at a Miami dance competition in 1990 shortly after his arrival in this country. "But Jason's vision for the show is so cool, so fast-paced and high energy that I said, 'Why not me and Karina?' " Even though Chmerkovskiy is a choreographer, he said he had no problem turning over the reins to Gilkison. "We put our two cents in but it's his vision."

Gilkison's vision for "Burn the Floor" has been honed from -- and is an informal tribute to -- his family's dance heritage. He was being literal when he compared ballroom dance to a piece of his "grandmother's jewelry." His maternal grandparents founded the Gilkison Dance Studio in Perth, Australia, in 1931, and his parents -- his mother a dancer, his father an actor -- continued the tradition. (The studio is still in the family, run by a cousin.) At age 7, Gilkison began his 36-year-partnership with Roby in that studio, which doubled as a club in the evening. In the late '80s and early '90s, the couple went on to become world ballroom champions in the amateur division (the first non-Europeans to do so) and to place third at the professional level. In fact, said Gilkison, the couple were interviewed extensively and were offered the lead roles when Australian film and stage director Baz Luhrmann began to develop the project that would become "Strictly Ballroom," the popular 1992 romantic film comedy. "Peta and I were so immersed in competition at the time that we wanted to stay on that path," Gilkison said.

Not surprisingly, Gilkison and Roby were among the first whom Harley Medcalf contacted when "Burn the Floor" started germinating 12 years ago after the producer saw how a short ballroom dance piece, presented as entertainment at Elton John's 50th birthday extravaganza, captivated the crowd. Medcalf thought that he might be onto something if he could capture that excitement in theatrical and film formats. (Later, two versions of "Burn the Floor" made it onto celluloid -- in 1999 and 2005.) Gilkison and Roby, who by that time had retired from competition, signed on, with Gilkison sharing co-choreographer credit with Anthony Van Laast ("Mamma Mia!") until a year later, he took over directing and choreographing entirely, apparently with the veteran choreographer's blessing.

Conceived initially as a stadium spectacular á la "Riverdance," "Burn the Floor" proceeded in fits and starts, beginning in 1998. "Ballroom dance was then confined to dusty hidden halls," Harley recalled. "All my contemporaries thought I was insane and they were right." Nonetheless, "Burn the Floor" played in 29 countries over the next decade with varying degrees of success. This is in fact the 10th time "BTF" has played the United States in one version or another. (A national tour of the Broadway show planned for next year would include a stop in Los Angeles.)But the previous tours (at one time growing to a caravan of seven semi-trucks and 80 personnel) did not always go smoothly. A 2000 U.S. tour was cut short by six weeks because of poor sales and high overhead. And the following year -- "with exquisite timing," Harley said -- they returned to Denver with a scheduled opening on Sept. 11, 2001. They opened the next night to an enthusiastic crowd, he said.

But, the producer said his "eureka moment" came when, in the middle of an arena tour, the production was booked into Boston's 3,600-seat Wang Theatre. While the seven semis idled outside, the show had to be considerably scaled down. "The more stripped back it was, the more it became about the dancers, the better it was," Harley said. "It was what had attracted me to the project in the first place, the dancers, that energy, that commitment, even that rebelliousness you find in the younger generation.'

Gilkison and Roby went back to the drawing board to corral that rebelliousness in a lengthy workshop in Perth in 2005 that is the basis for the current incarnation. Further refinement took place in an engagement at San Francisco's 600-seat Post Theatre in January. It was a six-week run that extended into 15 weeks, at the end of which the decision was made to go to Broadway. "We weren't getting the recognition and credibility that Broadway can confer," Harley said. "If we could get it right in a theater the size of the Post, we might be able to realize our full potential."

Joe Watson, the lead American producer, who booked the show into the Post and who has been general manager on such shows as "Tango Argentino," "Stomp" and "Swing," said the show has taken on "more heart and intimacy" for Broadway since the San Francisco run.

"It comes from Jason and the legacy that his family represents," he said. "He's captured that up close and personal feeling."Gilkison said there's no direct reference to that pedigree in the show and the audience may not necessarily even make the connection. But " 'Burn the Floor' is totally influenced by the vivid memories of that studio and that life," he said. "Peta and I grew up there. It was a place where people came to socialize, to have fun, to romance," then -- perhaps thinking of the more torrid dances that are a part of 'Burn the Floor" -- he added, "and more!"