Monday, June 29, 2009

The couple that sways together, stays together

From the Daily Mail Online (UK):

Vanessa Lloyd Platt, the TV divorce lawyer whose own divorce proceedings culminated in her arrest, has taken a break from advising couples in her £325-an-hour legal sessions to share with troubled couples her theories on saving their marriages.

In a move that can surely only mean a smart drop off in business for Ms Lloyd Platt, she is recommending that her clients try ballroom dancing lessons before insisting on going ahead with costly and painful marriage break-ups.

'Dancing is a lot cheaper than coming to me,' she said. 'Dance lessons are about £50 an hour; my fee is £285 plus VAT.'

Ms Lloyd Platt, 54, a regular on the GMTV sofa offering marriage advice, has learned to ballroom dance since the breakdown of her marriage, and claims the hobby has changed her life.

While her marriage was falling apart, the divorcee was filming a documentary, London Tango, which premieres at the Notting Hill Film Festival next month.

In the film, Ms Lloyd Platt learns to foxtrot and waltz alongside Strictly Come Dancing star Ian Waite.

'This film is about what dance can do to totally change your life. If people going through divorce or relationship breakdown learned to dance, I believe this country could completely turn around,' she counsels.

'I have actually said to my clients if there is any possibility of a resolution with your partner, why don't you attempt to resurrect the relationship by dancing?'

Lloyd Platt would have done well to heed her own advice last year when she divorced from husband of 16 years, accountant Daniel Lloyd Platt.

Despite encouraging her clients to pursue amicable conclusions to their splits, Lloyd Platt's own marriage ended acrimoniously, with Ms Lloyd Platt arrested for attempting to pervert the course of justice, although she was never charged and allegations were dropped.

Amid further allegations that her estranged husband was variously trying to poison her or had tampered with her brakes, Ms Lloyd Platt's divorce became a vituperative battle.

'I have suddenly found myself through dance in the middle of all this furore,' said Ms Lloyd Platt.

And while she may not practise what she preaches in the divorce court, when it comes to her new relationship, she is certainly behind her own theory that couples who sway together, stay together.

Since the divorce, Ms Lloyd Platt has got herself a new partner, entrepreneur Stewart Moss, 58, with whom she regularly takes dance classes.

'Stewart appears in the film dancing with me. We need to take more lessons together,' she confessed.

'Our goal is to go to Argentina and learn the tango out there.'

This idea really amused me. Years ago when my husband and I were still boyfriend / girlfriend, and in the days when I actually still paid attention to silly people like this woman, I persuaded my other half to go to a ballroom dancing class with me at university. Within fifteen minutes he was accusing me of being clumsy and having no co-ordination; I was snapping back at him for doing everything wrong; and we ended up having a massive argument, storming out and very nearly split up over it. Needless to say we never went again. Since we've now been together 18 years and are very happy, there was no harm done. But ballroom dancing is, ironically, the very last thing I would recommend to anyone on the verge of splitting up!

FAT to fit: Not so tiny dancer

From wickedlocal.com (Hanover, MA):

By Dana Forsythe

This week, I had my first dance lesson ever.

But first, a little background. In 6th grade, we had a school dance. I vividly remember sitting on a heater along the outskirts of the cafeteria floor. As couples congregated towards the center of the floor in pairs, dancing to such hits as "Jump Around," "Whoomp! There It Is" and "Rump Shaker" I held close to the sidelines.

Since then I've danced only a handful of times. At weddings, I avoid dancing like it's my job. Even at clubs or bars, I've never been a fan of getting up and showing off my moves. Side note: my moves consist of swaying, doing a horrible running man and nodding my head.

This has always made me feel incredibly self-conscious and enormously aware of my lack of rhythm. Truthfully, when I get out on the dance floor it’s like Donkey Kong trying to dance. I'm not talking about Super Nintendo Donkey Kong either; we're talking 8-bit, throwing-barrels-at-Mario Donkey Kong. You know that back and forth, awkward stomp.

In a move to remedy that, I headed over to Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Hanover last week. Douglas and Christine Banks, the owners of the studio, were nice enough to accommodate me this week as I brought my own brand of dancing into their lives. Christine even played the part of my dance partner.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing the foxtrot or meringue anytime soon, since I was tripping over my own feet half of the time, but it was really cool to learn something new and get out of my own head.

Both Mary Beth, one my instructors, and Doug laughed at me for wearing flip-flops on Friday. Despite telling me specifically to wear some sort of shoe, I went ahead and forgot all that and showed up with the worst footwear you could bring to a dance class.

As I’ve mentioned before, dancing holds a certain stigma for me. But, during the class, I just let go. For the instructors and the Banks,’ they see this kind of thing all the time.

“We get it all the time,” Doug Banks said. “People are very nervous when they see a room full of people dancing, and they immediately say ‘I can’t do that, I’m going to be the worst student you’ve ever had’.”

One thing they did say stuck out to me.

When I asked them what they liked about dancing, Doug replied that it allows him to enjoy and express what he loves about music.

“When you get to a club, or just hear anything you like you can get up and dance instead of just swaying back and forth,” he said.

On Saturday night, I got to put that idea into practice.

Although I attended the American Craft Beer Fest this weekend, I think I may have burned off all the calories I took in with just one night of dancing. Yes, I said dancing.

The band was Rubblebucket, and they absolutely ruined the stage at Harper’s Ferry in Boston. (That means they played great)

By chance a friend of mine had proposed going to the show after the beer fest and since I had nothing to do afterward, I said I might tag along. We got there around 10 p.m., just in time to see the Jamaica Plain-based band set up. Within five minutes, with saxophone, trumpet and trombone blaring, they erupted on the stage.

The best I can describe the music was manically happy and tribal. It had hints of electronic music like Bjork and Portishead, but the overall roots were in afro beat and funk. Along with my former Mission Hill roommate, several of the neighborhood peoples were at the Rubblebucket show.

While I’d like to think I danced my rear off this weekend, I know it wasn’t anywhere near how hard my friends danced. But, it’s not how good you are or how silly you look when you get out there.

I was reminded of that this weekend. It’s about how much fun you’re having and how the music makes you feel.

This kid I used to know, Andrew Fleming, was a roommate of mine when I was living in New Hampshire many winters ago. Fleming is a special dude. He has the uncanny ability to see any situation for the potential fun that can be had.

No matter how many people he knew or didn’t know, he would enter any social situation and immediately be the spark to start the fire.

A year before we lived in New Hampshire, he was at a party in Manchester.
As the night went on a few friends began noticing him dancing, and there was also a steady stream of young women trying to join him.

“He was literally boxing these girls,” I remembered fellow friend Josh Drumm saying the day after. Apparently, Fleming feeling a bit tipsy and just enjoying the music, was doing his best Sugar Ray Leonard impression, shadow boxing his dance partners.

He never once hit anyone, but the facial impressions on his would-be dancing partners were priceless. After a minute of trying to dance with Fleming, their faces would turn from a ‘this guy is pretty funny’ smile to a ‘is this guy serious?’ nervous tick.

The whole point though, is he was oblivious to all of it. He was having fun, just enjoying the music and being Fleming.

It’s something I remember anytime I feel the need to get up and dance.
To let go, accept your faults and just do something outside of your comfort zone is the only way to tackle things like this. It was clear I was going to mess up a bunch and most likely look like a stiff taking dancing lessons and then again on Saturday night, but at least I finally got off that heating vent.

On Wednesday, June 24, of this week, Driton "Tony" Dovolani will be at Fred Astaire’s to teach private lessons and hold an introduction to ballroom dancing class. Dovolani, came in third this year with scorned bachelorette Melissa Rycroft.

Football to ballroom: Boys can dance too

From the jakartapost.com:

Girls learning to dance is common, but not so for boys, who often prefer a muddy game of football or a few martial arts bruises to the sequins and glitz of the ballroom.

And that sentiment is found even among current world champions. Despite now being world-class dancers, Azerbaijan's Eldgar Dzhafarov, and Siberian-born Hong Kong representative Alexander "hated dance" as boys.
"We had extra subjects at school. I was 12 years old at the time. We had a choice of karate or dance. Of course I preferred karate so I joined that club. Only problem was I kept getting beaten up. In the end, my school advised my parents to place me in the dancing club," says world-class amateur dancer Dzhafarov.

"I hated dancing and I didn't like the partner they first gave me. But there was one girl I really liked in the club. I made a deal - if they gave me that girl I would stay and learn to dance. So I began just to get the girl," laughs Dzhafarov, who has made a career of high kicks over karate.

For Slovenia's Domen Krapez it was Patrick Swayze and the opening up of his country's post-USSR breakup that opened the window to dance.

"I started dance at eight years of age as an extracurricular activity at school. A film about dance had been made in Slovenia and the dance school was involved in the film," said Krapez.

"That was the time Dirty Dancing came out in Slovenia and everyone wanted to learn. Dirty Dancing was really big and also we had Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films on television twice a week."

For Siberian-born Alexander who represents Hong Kong, football was his preference, but his physique was that of a dancer.

"My dad wanted me to be a ballet dancer. I hated dance - I wanted to play football - well anything other than dance would have been fine with me," he said.

"I didn't like dancing with girls at all. But I was tall and slim, so my dad thought I would be good at ballet. There was a dance studio nearby and I had to wait to get into ballet. The dance school said they had a girl needing a partner so I should try ballroom first."

Ballroom paid off and despite his early loathing of dance, Alexander today is a world-class professional and second-place Blackpool professional Rising Star. He will represent Hong Kong in the Professional World Cup in China next month.

And for 18-year-olds Ghaith Mustofa and Wafer Hussein - young Iraqi refugees waiting in Indonesia for a country to accept them - dance has given them a reason to get up in the morning.

"As refugees we are not allowed to work, to study, to do anything. Learning to dance has given us a reason to get up each day," said Wafer, who like Ghaith grew up during decades of war with interrupted access to formal education.

Dance could end up offering these young refugees, like the world-class dancers who inspire them, unexpected career choices in a future currently on hold.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

We were sad to learn news of Michael Jackson's untimely death. Fred Astaire and Michael were long time fans of one another. In fact, Michael Jackson dedicated his autobiography "Moon Walk" to Fred Astaire.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Golden Dancers

Joy, Hope and Faith

By Elita Clayman

My dad many years ago, before I was born had some money. He bought some stock with a name on it that appealed to him emotionally. He let it sit in the safety deposit box and when I married Jerry, he told Jerry he still had the paper all these many years later. We checked it out and it had changed names and through the years had multiplied and was worth in the 1960’s about sixty thousand dollars. Dad had probably paid about several hundred dollars for it because he liked the name of the company.

So when it was finally cashed in about 1960, he had passed away and Mom had some extra security that she had only become aware of then. Names mean different things to various people. Parents name their children a name that they like. Many children do not like their given name and ask mom and dad, why did you name me that?

I have an unusual first name and I disliked it until I was eighteen. Then a magical thing occurred and all of a sudden I loved it. I could call up on the phone and say this is Elita, not even giving a last name. I could sign a register at an office and say Elita and no last name. I vowed that I would name my children regular names as I called them. So I did.

Jewish people name their newborns the name of a deceased loved one. If you had a grandmother named Sarah and you had a baby girl, you could name it Sarah or Sharon or Sophie or Sally. The reason behind it was to have the deceased finally rest in peace because they were remembered. We also give the child a Hebrew name which was the deceased’s name. For instance, Sarah in Hebrew would be Sura, so the child is Sarah in English and Sura in Hebrew. The Hebrew name is used for certain occasions like birth, confirmation, marriage and death. Then the Hebrew name along with the English name is recited etc.

Now days, the young folks will name their child Sura in Hebrew but in English they will name her Ashley or Courtney or Madeleine. They do not stick with the same initial as they did in my time. So names change and customs change and attitudes change. However, the meaning is the same, still naming after a beloved and deceased person. You hope that the new baby will be the same kind of person as was named for, good, dear and smart. You would never name the child after a relative or friend that you detested.

My mother’s brother and his wife had a baby girl and the day before she was born, my uncle lost his sister. So the daughter was named after the father’s sister who had died the day before. Her name was Elizabeth and so the baby girl became Elizabeth but they tacked on the name of a relative who had lived to be ninety as the second name- Lois. The reason being that the first Elizabeth, the sister had died at an early age of thirty-eight and the new parents wanted to insure that their Elizabeth lived the long life of the second relative Lois.

When we ballroom dance, we learn the names of the dances. Some of the dances have sweet names and other dances have stronger names. The Paso Doble really sounds quite Spanish and elicits the feeling in you that you are in Spain and you are performing before the crowds and though there is no bull there, one can conjure up the bull’s photo in their mind. The Rumba signifies the romance of this Latin time and makes one feel a bit sexy.
The Bolero sounds like a piece of clothing, but it is not. The Bolero is a form of the Rumba and it also can be very sexy. The Waltz is something that one thinks of as doing at a wedding as a first dance. Ballroom dancers know that waltzes are a really neat and lovely dance to do especially with someone you care about. The Swing makes one feel young again especially if your age is seniordom. The Cha Cha evokes memories of having fun and movement and exercise. TheTango is known as a dance of love and controlled movement and very theatrical. My husband and I way back in the early eighties were advocates of the Hustle. We would go to the Hustle night spots and dance all evening non stop and only sitting down for a light dinner or a drink. I wonder how we lasted dancing non stop though of course we were forty years younger at that time.

Did you ever wonder if the dance steps in the Hustle had been called the Waltz, how we would react to a dance called that with the energetic steps of the Hustle? Suppose the Cha Cha had been called the Foxtrot, how our bodies would be moving at that pace. If the Foxtrot had been called the Paso, would it have been as fiery?
So names evoke, stimulate, arouse and waken thoughts in our minds and bodies. Girls with male names (which are somewhat popular now) must have a hard time trying to be feminine. Girls named Sydney stir up masculine thoughts in my mind. I knew a man named Sydney in my working days and he was a wimp and or a nerd. He was nice and polite but if I meet a girl named Sydney, I see him. Of course, that is silly, but true. Doctors cannot have wimpy names because the patient will react negatively to him.
A doctor I knew many years ago had a rhyming name. His mom thought it funny to give him a name like Terry Rerry. His name was called over the intercom at the hospital, patients and medical personnel always smiled. He was a great doctor but his name created fun and snickers. I had an endodontist, a dentist specializing in root canals and his name was Dr. Brave. A nice name for him because people are not feeling too brave when attempting a procedure like root canal work.

Names can affect how we dress. If we have a masculine name and we are female, perhaps we think of our self as not so girly or womanly. If we have a meek name, we may appear in our mind as meek when we really are strong. The same thing happens when we dance. If our teacher, by chance says ‘today you are really dancing like Ginger’ we all of a sudden become Ginger and our shoulders react and our feet fall into place and we float off and down the floor. If our teacher says ‘today, you are really dancing like a wallflower’ then we become that wallflower.

The cardiologist getting ready to examine my heart and lungs and etc, said “come on over here beautiful.” At that moment I became beautiful because he had said it. Of course, I am, but so what? The significance of that remark fired into my mind a minute of beauty. Even if I had not looked good that day, I would have thought I looked good. All because a semi stranger, a medical person who himself is quite good looking said that word.

So names and words can beautify our lives whether we are seniors, children, young adults or really elderly. Words electrify and have been known to start wars. We should all learn to use our vocabulary to instill sweetness, goodness, happiness and joy. Whatever our given names are, we do not have to like it but we can make it a word of happiness. My firstborn’s middle name is Joy. That to us she has always been. If her second name had been Faith or Hope, that she would have been. If her name had been something other, I am sure she would have still been Joy. So always remember that someone’s name may evoke something in you and even if it is not lovely, still look at the person as if their name was Faith or Hope or Joy. Then it will be ours because we will have in our heart-faith, hope, joy and goodness.

The new singing sensation from England Susan Boyle was thought to be quite plain and frumpy by the judges as she came out on the stage for the talent contest there recently. They even kind of sneered at her until she opened her mouth and the most melodious and beautiful voice came out. Their sneers turned to admiration as to her talent and she placed second in the final days of the contest. A good lesson to learn from that is not to judge people by their clothes, hair, nails or even if they have a turkey neck. Judge them by their deeds and accomplishments. Susan Boyle is a wonderful example of feelings we should have in relationship to people’s looks and to give them a chance to show us their delightful achievement.

When I was about seventeen I went to audition to become a teenage model for a part time job in a very nice department store. When I got there, I thought lo and behold I will never win the coveted place because I saw there a girl from my high school who I always thought had the cutest nose. So right away I thought she would win even though my ‘figure’ was as slim as hers. Neither of us won but a few months later I became a teenage fashion model for another store and modeled clothing every Saturday morning for many months. I would go on Thursdays on the bus from high school downtown to the store called Stewarts and try on the clothes for the coming Saturday’s show. I never saw the girl with the cute nose there ever. I was chosen so her cute nose meant nothing. To me at the time it symbolized that I would lose. Lose I did not, I was a winner. We can all be winners if we have hope.

Keep on dancing and be Ginger and Fred and be filled with the joy that dancing gives to us and always have faith that we can continue dancing for many more years and hope that they will be filled with good health. Goodness will be our silent and loving and invisible name too. Joy will be ours forever and ever because we have the faith and the eternal hope. Cute noses do not matter, what matters is that we believe we have the power and the fortitude to accomplish wonderful things no matter what age we are.

Hope and Faith are really girls’ names now; we can adopt them as our ‘imaginary’ name to encourage our constant attempts to go forward. Forward and positive are other ‘imaginary’ names. As I mentioned in another article, little almost four year old Ethan, my number three grandson keeps on saying “go grammie go” when he sees me attempting the steep steps of his home when we visit. Yes, Ethan, Grammie is going and more going through her senior years and continuing on going like the Energizer bunny.

Grammie and all her senior ballroom dancers know that to keep on going is to keep on living the good and healthy life. That also applies to not yet seniors and almost seniors. We are adamant in maintaining and sustaining our time. Cicero said history is the witness of time. We are the witness in our own lives and we are determined to do so with gust and happiness.

Ballroom dancing and having fun and learning and keeping our minds active are what we are all about now at this time. No matter what age you are, you can always attempt something new and always have the hope and faith that it will all work out and be a fine activity. So as Cicero said our history of living is a good witness of the time we spend doing worthwhile activities.

Have joy, faith and hope and everything will be moving onward in your life.

Keep on dancing.

You can email me at elitajerrydancing@verizon.net

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dancing With A Star

From the newsherald.com: (Panama City, Florida)

By JON MILTIMORE / News Herald Writer
June 17, 2009 - 6:46AM
PANAMA CITY - Tony Dovolani is used to dancing with stars. He seems to forget he has become one.
The Kosovar-American world champion dancer of the hit ABC show "Dancing with The Stars" was in Panama City on Tuesday giving instruction at Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

"He is so good looking," said Shonie McCall, who had a 7:15 p.m. session with Dovolani. McCall began taking weekly dance lessons about a year ago after her husband died.

Dovolani, whose partners on the show have included actress Jane Seymour and country singer Sara Evans, does not appear distracted by his own rise to fame. He continues to instruct around the country at Fred Astaire Studios, which he joined at age 14, shortly after moving to the United States in 1989.
He has never looked back.

"I am living my dream in America," Dovolani said, who said he grew up watching stars such as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. "When I moved to here, I was surprised how few people ballroom danced. I get to bring something beautiful to people and that brings me great joy."

Brian Price, who founded Fred Astaire studios in Panama City 11 years ago, said other stars of "Dancing" have visited the studio, including Jonathan Roberts and Elena Grineko. Price, who began dancing 24 years ago, said the stars are an attraction to the studio, but the sport is becoming increasingly popular in its own right.

"People are seeing it is a great way to meet people," Price said. "It is a great alternative to (meeting people, in addition to) bars and church."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Life's A Dance!

From pnj.com (Pensacola, Florida):
Local celebs find rhythm for Covenant Hospice fundraiser


The rhythm is irresistible.

As music thumps through the Fred Astaire Dance Studio on Bayou Blvd., Teri Levin, co-owner of Levin-Rinke Resort Realty, is swept off her feet. Dance partner Victor Luna lifts Levin over his head, and spins her in the air.

Nearby dancers applaud, then get back to the sweaty business of rehearsing for Life's a Dance.

The dance extravaganza, taking place from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Saenger Theatre, will feature an all-star cast of national and local celebrities. Proceeds will benefit Covenant Hospice.

Luna, an award-winning dancer who runs the Pensacola studio with partner Dawn Westberry, described it as "an amazing evening of dance."

The event is divided into two parts — a dance competition with local notables such as Levin, Roy Jones Jr. and WEAR- Channel 3 TV anchor Sue Straughn — and a showcase featuring performers from the hit TV series "Dancing with the Stars," including Tony Dovolani, Elena Grinenko, Fabian Sanchez and Mark Ballas.

"Pensacola has never seen anything like this," Luna said. "These are some of the best dancers in the world coming to entertain us."

Tony Dovolani, who is friends with Luna, said that he loved visiting the Pensacola area.

"Some places are made by the people," the Connecticut-based dancer said. "Everyone here has a smile on their face."

Dovolani will not only perform during "Life's a Dance," but help judge the local competitors.

"I will be looking for the passion," he said. "That's very important."

Levin, who won top honors at Ballet Pensacola's "Dancing with the Stars" showcase in April, is ready to strut her stuff.

"I never had formal dance lessons growing up, but I've discovered a real love for it," said Levin, who will partner with Luna for a slinky tango. "And this event benefits such a wonderful cause. I couldn't say no."

Leah Harrison is a development manager with Covenant Hospice, a nonprofit organization which provides services to patients and their families during times of life-limiting illnesses.

She hopes that "Life's a Dance" will be a roaring success.

"It's a great way for us to raise money for our underfunded programs," Harrison said. "But it also shines a light on a healthy, mood-lifting activity that we endorse."

Luna, a top rated dance instructor, said that the evening should serve as inspiration to the community.

"Everyone loves to dance, and anyone can learn," he said. "Left feet, no feet, no rhythm, whatever. I can teach just about anyone."

Sue Straughn, who will perform a waltz with Luna during the competition, didn't share her partner's confidence, but is set to do her best. Whatever that may be.

"I'll get out there and do whatever it is I'm going to do, but it may not be a waltz," she said, laughing. "It will be something to see, though."

Additional Facts - Want to go?

- WHAT: Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Pensacola presents "Life's a Dance," benefitting Covenant Hospice.- WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday.
- WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox Place.
- DANCERS: Performers from the TV series, "Dancing with the Stars": Tony Dovolani, Elena Grinenko, Georgia Ambarian, Eric Luna, Fabian Sanchez, Derek Hough and Mark Ballas. Local celebrity dancers: Sue Straughn, Teri Levin, Greg Litton, Roy Jones Jr., Leslie Ingram, Anita Ingram, Dan Brask and Malcolm Ballinger.
- COST: Tickets are $75, general admission; $150, VIP (includes entrance to post-show party). Available at the Saenger box office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 434-7444.- DETAILS: 208-7122.

Let's Dance!

From tvsquad.com:

Because you can never get enough of celebrities dancing, ABC has picked up Let's Dance, which they're calling a comedic reality show. It's based on a format that found success as part of the UK's Comic Relief programming. Rather than having celebrities commit to a full season to learn a variety of ballroom styles, a la Dancing with the Stars, this new show only requires a one-week commitment with the possibility of a "finale" return. And all they have to master is an already well-known dance.I guess this is where the "comedy" comes in?

The celebs will be asked to re-enact famous dance routines such as in Dirty Dancing, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or even music video classics like Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Which is... funny, I guess? I love the picture that went with the story. No explanation but big red noses. So funny Maybe they dance with those? At any rate, funny or not the idea is to slot a short run, as in five episodes of Let's Dance between seasons of Dancing with the Stars. So what do you think? Is it too much dance, or are you on board?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dancing Tips - The Thrill Of Competition

By Stanley McCalla

Judging a (New York, Fred Astaire Dance Studios) competition last August, I was pleasantly surprised by a senior Pro-Am male student who was jubilant on the dance floor. He was competing in a Bronze competition against three other male students. Watching him dance brought a nice grin to my face. Was it his technique…? His musicality…? His expression…? The latter was his prominent suit; in fact, his display of joy while performing was infectious. I don’t remember how he fared against his opponents but I think he did quite well.
Later that evening, having coffee with one of my colleagues, I noticed the gentleman in question sitting at the next table talking to some of his friends. Taking this opportunity, I went over, introduced myself and congratulated him on his performance.

"Thank you Mr. McCalla," he said, "I love every moment of it."

He went on: "Dancing has saved my life. It was either going to a shrink or going dancing, so I chose the latter. This is my first competition and I will do more of those because I realized that while on the dance floor I feel liberated from my problems and happy at the same time."

"Interesting," I said, "More people should know about your story."

He came back with, "Oh, yeah, I was rich once… my wife left me… my money is all tied up in a court dispute… needless to say, I have a lot of reasons to be depressed right now but I am not. Thanks to Fred Astaire Dance Studios, I found some new joy and happiness."

I chatted with J. for a few minutes before moving to my next judging session of the evening. I left with a nice feeling of satisfaction. His happiness at that time was genuine, and I felt there was a message there for all of us.

How many of you, like J., feels free on the dance floor? Perhaps you have taken lessons for a while, but have yet to experience this freedom that comes from performing. Maybe it is time for you to test the water and experience the thrill of competition.

I urge all of you who are reading this today to join us at AAC, our next National Competition to be held in Chicago this coming July. It is going to be fantastic, exciting, liberating and fun. Yes, we are experiencing a recession, but dancing amongst friends will keep you mentally and physically healthy.

Students, go to your teachers and ask them to sign you up. I hope to see you there. Until then, happy dancing.

Stanley is a Fred Astaire Dance Board Member & Examiner. He is available for coaching, judging, and examinations.

Review of So You Think You Can Dance



Finally! The part of the season we've been waiting for has arrived, so let's get right to it. The first of the top 20 dancers to perform were Jeanine Mason and Phillip Chbeeb, who did a hip-hop number choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo.

They were a couple trying to get to sleep who couldn't until they had resolved an argument. I enjoyed the piece, but didn't quite feel as in love with it as the judges did. Maybe I was rusty, or maybe the camera angles on the dance put me off (when will the show learn that quick cuts and zooms only take away from the performances instead of enhancing them?)
I think in general Tabitha and Napoleon's routine felt like something they had done before, and it's hard for me to feel very excited about a dance like that until I've gotten to know the dancers and their personalities a little bit. So I liked it, but I didn't think it deserved Mary Murphy's oh-so-predictable fake-out scream.

Next, Asuka Kondoh and Vitolio Jeune danced in Broadway style as choreographed by Tyce Diorio. With visions of Joshua Allen and Katee Shean's "Godspell" dance from last season, I anticipated a really fun, snappy dance, but the performance fell a little flat for me, partially because — with a fake old-timey camera propped up onstage — they seemed unclear about who they were performing to, and because in general it didn't feel as lively and zany as I expected. The judges agreed that they were left wanting more.

Karla Garcia and Jonathan Platero then tackled a Tony Meredith cha-cha-cha, which also wasn't quite as sharp and hot as I would have wanted, although Mary liked it enough to yell about it. I was worried at this point: Was I being too judgmental? Was I just nostalgic for last season? What was missing?

I quit worrying when Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak danced a Tyce Diorio number that was sexy yet happy, romantic without being sappy or over the top. It was especially impressive considering neither dancer does jazz, and Evan and Randi had to pretend to be in love even though Randi is very married. The judges adored it and the two were deemed the Adorable Short Couple of the season (last season it was Courtney Galliano and Gev Manoukian). Mary was so taken by the dance that she shouted in Nigel's ear and then tried to break up Randi's marriage by talking about how hot she and Evan are together. By the way, Evan and Ryan have another brother. His name is the Other Brother, as detailed on his T-shirt.

I wrote last week about my uncertainty over Tony Bellissimo. I think he's adorable and charming, but I'm not sure if his dancing ability is equal to his personality. He performed a Tabitha and Napoleon hip-hop dance with Paris Torres. It was cool-looking, but guest judge Adam Shankman was right when he said that the dancers needed more snap and rebound when attacking their moves. Mary wasn't sure whether the number would be memorable. I think I enjoyed the performance a bit more than the judges did, but it certainly wasn't as good as the dances that preceded and followed it.

Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover performed a Bollywood dance set to "Jai Ho" from the "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack as choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan, who is one of my favorite "SYTYCD" choreographers already even though we've seen his work only once before on the show. Look, you'd have to be dead inside not to enjoy Bollywood dancing. In fact, as I watched, I was amazed that there isn't a Bollywood dance class being offered at my gym as we speak. It just looks so cool and fun, and Caitlin in particular looked lovely and happy. I liked how she danced with her feet while she was doing a handstand. The judges, understandably, loved the whole thing.

And it just got better from there! Janette Manrara and Brandon "Lil C and Mia Michaels hate me" Bryant performed a Louis van Amstel fox-trot, looking debonair as could be. The turns and lifts at the end were lovely, and the judges loved it so much that somehow Mary was forced to confess that she's had too much Botox to appropriately express how much she liked the dance. That's a relief to me, because I was thinking that thus far this season that Mary's looking a little more tweaked than usual — but I was too nice a person to say anything. I hate it when Mary screams and I hate it when she pretends as if she's going to say something mean AND TOTALLY DOESN'T!!!! But this did make me like her more.

I think I've picked my favorite couple so far of the season, and it's Ashley Valerio and Kupono Aweau. Part of it may just be that they lucked out with their pick: a Wade Robson jazz dance about two crash-test dummies. As Adam said, you either love or hate Robson dances and I liked it a lot, including the odd makeup and Goldfrapp music. Allison in particular shined in the piece as the EVE to Kupono's WALL-E. I even loved the little crash-test doggie that scooted across the stage, even though it was a little bit distracting. The judges enjoyed the routine and Mary put the pup on the hot tamale train.

I have mixed feelings so far about ballerina Melissa Sandvig. On the one hand, I'm sick of the "naughty ballerina" finger in the mouth move she's been doing so much. On the other hand, at 29 she is nearly as old as I am and we old ladies need to stick together. She and Ade Obayomi performed a lovely Mandy Moore contemporary dance and Melissa's moves and grace were out of this world, thanks to her experience as a ballerina, naughty or not. Adam found it utterly special, and the other judges also loved it.
We closed out with Kayla Radomski and Max Kapitannikov who performed a Louis van Amstel samba. I could tell from the first move that it was going to be a fun, sexy performance, but the main story was how taken the judges were with Kayla, who had never danced ballroom before. Adam swore that Kayla made him believe in God. And with our last dance of the night, Mary finally put a human on the hot tamale train and knocked the protective headphones off Nigel's head.

Though the night took a little bit to really get started for me, I do think, cliched as it sounds, that this season could be even better than last, and I really enjoyed last season. Those dancers who didn't blow the judges away tonight will have to step up immediately (in 3-D or otherwise: That's an Adam Shankman joke, in case you didn't know).

Dancing With The Stars Dancer Visits Fred Astaire Dance Studios

From the newsherald.com:

June 10, 2009 - 9:04AM
PANAMA CITY, Florida - Professional ballroom dancer Tony Dovolani of ABC's hit series "Dancing with the Stars" is coming to Panama City next week.
A group dancing class with Dovolani will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 16 at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, 2401 Ruth Hentz Ave., off St. Andrews Boulevard and West 23rd Street. The cost is $35 per person, and space is limited. For more information, call 873-6269.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Watch Fred Astaire Professional Dancers "Work It Out"

At the Cross Country Dance Championships 2009, Fred Astaire Dance Studios national competition, Fred Astaire dancers entertained the crowd - Beatles' style!
http://www.fredastaire.com/interviews/studentinterview.html

Monday, June 08, 2009

See the Stars At Fred Astaire National Competition

Fred Astaire Dance Studios is proud to announce that professional dancers and celebrities from the hit TV show Dancing With The Stars will appear and perform at the Astaire Awards Championships in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday, July 11, 2009. The stars scheduled to appear include:

Shawn Johnson - Winner of this season's DWTS and Olympic Gold medalist gymnast.
Mark Ballas - Shawn Johnson's dance partner and singer/songwriter/musician for the group Ballas Hough Band.
Tony Dovolani - Fred Astaire champion dancer and DWTS professional for seven seasons.
Fabian Sanchez - Former Mambo Champion and owner of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Birmingham, Alabama. Fabian was also a professional dancer on DWTS Season 6.
Jesse DeSoto - Fred Astaire champion dancer and DWTS professional on DWTS Season 3. Jesse runs the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
Corky Ballas - Champion dancer. Corky partnered with Cloris Leachman on DWTS Season 7.

Spectator tickets ($50 each) will be sold at the door. Make plans to see the stars at this exciting Fred Astaire competition. For more information, contact your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

Star Dancers Come To Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Ohio

Dancers Cher Rutherford, Georgia Ambarian, and Eric Luna taught classes for members of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Canal Winchester, Ohio on Saturday, June 6. Ambarian and Luna are 10-time National Fred Astaire Theatrical Champions and World Cabaret Champions. Rutherford is a former US American Style Open Champion and US Theatrical Ballroom Champion. They have performed twice on "Dancing With The Stars" and also represented the US on "Superstars of Dance."

It was a wonderful opportunity for Fred Astaire Dance students to get personal dance instruction from such high caliber coaches.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Healing Power Of Dance

A Fred Astaire Dance Studio owner in Crestview, Florida reflects on the dance business...

By J. David Colon, Crestview, Florida studio owner

"Our business is unlike any other" is a statement often used in the dancing business. I was enchanted by this business a few years ago and my wife Erika and I opened our very own studio in Crestview, Florida on December 2007. We have had the opportunity to impact people’s lives in amazing ways, but nothing has compared to the story I’m about to share.

Madilyn Lopez is eight years old; she is full of energy and loves to smile. Her mom, Michelle, enrolled her in our Kids’ class in September of last year. A few months later, Madi, as we like to call her, partnered with Lucas (also from the Kids’ class) as an Amateur couple. Michelle and her husband, Burt Lopez, made it a priority to bring Madi to the studio since Madi loved dancing so much. On April 21, the Lopez family and several of our students joined us at a local restaurant to watch Georgia Ambarian and Eric Luna perform on Dancing With The Stars. That following Saturday, tragedy struck.

On April 25, Burt Lopez, Deputy Sheriff for Okaloosa County, was shot and killed in the line of duty. This tragedy shook our whole county, and our main concern at that moment was the well-being of Madi. Madi’s next lesson with Lucas was scheduled for the following Monday but we had decided not to bother the family with any phone calls about lessons. To our surprise, Madi showed up for her lesson. Her head was down, her face was sad, and her eyes were red from so much crying. She hugged her instructor for a second and then turned to her partner, Lucas, to dance a Hustle. The moment she grabbed his hands, something amazing happened; her eyes lit up and her smile brightened the room. While Madi was dancing, her stepsister, who had brought her in for her lesson, explained that Madi had requested to come to our studio because she did not want to cry anymore and she wanted to be around happy people. We were the happy people, the ones that for a few minutes that day allowed her to be a kid again, away from a reality that only brought pain and sadness.

None of us at the studio had expected any of this to happen. We were even more surprised to find out that the funeral had been moved from Friday of that week to Thursday so Madi could compete at a Newcomer’s competition held at the Fort Walton Beach studio. Over 20 family members showed up to watch Madi compete. A week later, she danced at our first showcase.

Madi has been an inspiration to her family and has given them the strength to move forward. For us, she is proof that our business goes beyond dance steps, fancy dresses, and shoes. What we do taps into the very deepest emotions of the human heart; what we do not only provides comfort, IT HEALS. Our business is truly unlike any other.

My Golden Dancers

HASHKAFA AND ETHAN SMILED AT ME
By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Ethan smiled at me for the first time in his lifetime and in my lifetime. Ethan was twelve weeks old when this happened. He lives in Northern Virginia with his parents, my son, and my daughter-in-law. We already had two older grandsons when Ethan was born. Having a young baby in your life when your other two grandchildren are 13 and 10 is a new and fabulous reality. There was a ten year span between grandson #2 and Ethan as grandson #3.

Learning to ballroom dance at a later age is kind of similar to age differences in children or grandchildren. It is a new experience in your older years. It is a fantastic happening in your older years. To learn to dance or to have new and younger grandchildren is being awakened to new thoughts and experiences in your life.

We learned to dance in our early 40s for me (four years older for my husband). When we look back now, as super seniors, we think it was young then. Of course, it was not as young as learning in our 20s. But learning in your 40s is not quite as challenging as learning later on in life. I have readers who write me that they started in their 60s and 70s. They are to be commended and applauded and emulated by others.

Learning to handle a new baby when you are in your senior years is quite a task - a wonderful task, by all standards, but still hard. Even picking up a new baby when your fingers may be starting to be arthritic or your back is acting up is sometimes difficult. Watching the baby for a few hours, that can be daunting too. Of course, you do not want to say no to your son or daughter, so you say yes. You pray the baby will sleep and you will only have to change the diaper or give him a bottle. So, in dancing you pray sometimes too. In the beginning, when you go to a social dance and you may be alone without a partner that night, you pray that someone will ask you to dance and then you may pray that someone will not ask you to dance.

You are critical of your own dancing abilities and you would rather hide a bit in your seat instead of going up on the dance floor and actually dancing.
When we first started to go to Saturday night dances at the studio, we were quite intimidated by a woman named Jean S. She would holler out the type of dance they were playing on the tape recorder because she knew we could not figure out if it was a Foxtrot or a Rumba, etc. It is a wonder that we did not quit dancing at that time because she was an embarrassing figure to have at our table. We persevered and we would never do that to any fellow dancers because intimidation is not the route to quality or enjoyable ballroom dance activities.

Encouragement is the road to being happy in your dance journey. I learned a new word recently. It is a funny looking word. It is hashkafa and is Hebrew for perspective. Now the true meaning of perspective is "Point of view, position, outlook, or frame of reference." We can alter our perspective when we want to learn how to dance at an advanced age. We can say to ourselves that learning something new gives us a new expectation. In addition, we are still growing and able and still desire to achieve even though we are seniors in every sense of the word. I heard a comment on a show that I watch on television. It stated that in this special room of the house, we will always find there peace. When we dance, at least, when I dance and many others have written me to say the same thing, we find peace. Peace in our mind, in our heart, and maybe only for the hours that we are there, wherever there is and that makes us happy. The peaceful room is the dance floor, the surroundings, and the people who all have gathered to do one thing - to spend a few hours dancing and enjoying this moment in time.

Zachary in California wrote to me that he has a dance partner who is not physically well. She still loves to go and dress up and sit at a dance; even though she is unable to dance more than a few dances, she loves to watch and feels that this is her peaceful room, a room away from her health problems at home. At the dance, she becomes someone else. She is healthy, she is able, and she is happy and becomes unaware of her health problems. Zachary brings her, knowing that she will only dance once or twice, if at all, but her attitude is glorious and she is happy and that is what counts. When she returns home, she still has the same problems but they may seem a little lighter because she has been out and socializing.

Hashkafa can be a stimulant to our thinking. When we are stumbling around and not knowing how we want to continue at this late period in our lives, we can change our outlook and go forward to attain new things in our lives. We can get off our couches and we can go and be seen in public. We can dance, we can talk, we can even sit and sit in a new environment.

My neighborhood was all young couples when we bought our first and only home 41 years ago. Everyone had children, some of us were pregnant with our second or first child, and the neighborhood was a melodious sounding place of children laughing and having a good time night or day. Now, the children have grown up and have children of their own and the young homeowners are old homeowners living the rest of their lives in their same house. A new phenomenon has occurred. Young families are moving in with their young children and again there is the melodious sound of youngsters playing and laughing. Therefore, the revitalization has taken over and the old folks are being revived with young people in the neighborhood.

Now Ethan finished his first year at preschool in Northern Virginia. He went two days a week and loved it. At the final day of school, the parents brought some food and watched the children play and have a good time. The teacher told my daughter-in-law that Ethan was the smartest and youngest child in the class and he is destined to really be outstanding during the rest of his life. Of course, we, as grandparents, already knew this because we are prejudiced. Voltaire would say that is opinion without judgment but Voltaire would be wrong. We have good judgment as did the preschool teacher because we know the person and we appreciate our own wisdom. Because we acknowledge our own common sense, we know it is a true and valid opinion.

Ethan will go far because he is smart, talented, and kind. We all hope that for our children and grandchildren. We also hope that our opinion of our delight and happiness in ballroom dancing awakens in us a spark that helps us go forward and conquer any fears we have about dancing. The dancing that we are attempting will benefit not only our social skills but our health physically and mentally. So our opinion and judgment will come through for us.

So it is with ballroom dancing. Those of us who were young when we started to learn to do it are now the older folks. We still dance and the younger people who start to dance now look at us and think how nice it is that us older folks still dance and enjoy ourselves doing the activity. They see that we dance really well and that we take pride in doing the dance scene and that we are really Sensational Seniors. We live and we prosper and even though we may have many aches and pains, we love our ballroom dancing and are proud that we continued and find peace in doing it. Our life is full of Hashkafa. Our perspective on our dancing is that we will attain happiness doing it and our perspective on the future of our grandsons and granddaughters is that they will prosper and be successful.

So having a grandchild now who is four and his sister Ava is almost two gives us great perspective on life. The two older grandsons are now almost 17 and 13 and they prospered in everything they tried so far. Of course, the Hashkafa on them was the same for me. I knew they would do excellent in everything they tried.

Also, I knew that ballroom dancing would become a vital source of comfort, happiness, and peace in my life. I had the good thoughts perspective-Hashkafa way - before I learned the word and now that I know it, it
sparks the contemplation process in my mind. It is a funny sounding word if you try to pronounce it but it is really a soul connecting word in meaning. Perspective is a panorama and outlook and meaning in life. So here is to Hashkafa in all our lives, including our beloved dancing.
Keep on Dancing.

Monday, June 01, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance, Audition Dates For Season 6

Get ready for Season 6! Open casting calls for the next season are already underway! Go the audition dates listed below and check the FOX website for more information:

SYTYCD Audition Locations/Dates:
BOSTON: May 28 at the Hyatt Regency
ATLANTA: June 1 at the Woodruff Art Center
LOS ANGELES: June 12 at the Orpheum Theater
SALT LAKE CITY: July 24

Ballroom On Broadway

From the Sidney Morning Herald:

Burning ambition to have a ballroom on Broadway
Caroline Marcus
May 31, 2009

THEY'VE wowed Australia. Now the cast of hit dance show Burn The Floor are preparing to set Broadway alight.

The ballroom dancing spectacular has had a four-year run in Australia, impressing Broadway producers so much, that they signed up the local production for an open-ended run starting in July.

Choreographer Jason Gilkison, who has appeared on the Australian and US versions of So You Think You Can Dance, said it was a dream come true for the 10-year-old company.

All involved in the local production, including 20 dancers, will perform on Broadway.

"I still have to pinch myself," Gilkison said. "If I died tomorrow, I would be a happy man."

The production recently returned from a five-month run in San Francisco, where it won fans including such stars as Liza Minnelli and Shirley MacLaine, he said.

"Normally, people like that would come to a show and their minders will whisk them out through a back door afterwards, but they were all insisting they come backstage and talk to the performers," he said.

Ballroom dancing had had a revival in popularity after such shows as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars, Gilkison said.
"Now people know the difference between a tango and a waltz, and they didn't 10 years ago," he said. "Anything on Broadway lasts from two hours to two years. They think the market is there for ballroom dancing."

The group will tour Australia one last time before heading to Broadway's Longacre Theatre, with shows in Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Gold Coast and Perth from June 3.