Monday, December 12, 2011

West Coast Dance Championships 2012

Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios proudly presents the West Coast Dance Championships, January 20-22, 2012 at The Hyatt Regency in the picturesque seaside community of La Jolla, CA.  The Saturday night gala will showcase the winning professional dancers of the weekend’s competition as well as an exhibition performance by five-time World Cabaret Champions, five-time US Champions and Blackpool Invitational Champions, Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian. 

Eric and Georgia, both teach at Fred Astaire Dance Studios/Fort Walton Beach, Florida and have been featured on America’s Ballroom Challenge, Dancing with the Stars, Superstars of Dance and So You Think You Can Dance. Tickets for Saturday evening’s show are $50 and can be purchased at the door or in advance until January 10th through your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cinderella For A Day

~by Nancy Lapierre

Tomorrow, November 19, Upper Montclair FADS teachers Kostadin Bidjourov and Carrie Babcock, as well as their adorable daughter, are definitely looking forward to a good morning, America!

Emi, with dad, Kostadin Bidjourov

We join them in being so excited that their little girl, Emi, is appearing on the ABC television show, Good Morning America, for a Disney promotion! We suggest that you tune in by 7:45 A.M. so you don’t miss her television debut, which is scheduled sometime between 7:50 and 8:15 A.M.

Emi will appear in Times Square with Cinderella, and she will also get to wear a Cinderella costume. We’d like to know which part of the performance our little star of the show likes best of all!

Emi’s casting call came when a close family friend, a director/producer from Disney, phoned to say they needed “a beautiful little girl.” Well, he knew who to call, alright.

So, grab your Saturday-morning cup of coffee, adjust your dial, and enjoy the show!

Fred Astaire Commemorative Postage Stamp Petition

Born Frederick Austerlitz (1899) in Omaha, Nebraska, Astaire was the quintessential American innovator in film and stage, as well as a master dancer, choreographer, actor and singer. His career spanned a total of 76 years, during that time he made 31 musical films, ten of which he made with Ginger Rogers (whose name is practically synonymous with Astaire).

Named as the fifth “Greatest Male Star of All Time” by the American Film Institute, Gene Kelley (another innovator in filmed dance) said that “the history of dance on film begins with Astaire.” Others have acknowledged Astaire’s greatness, including Rudolph Nureyev, Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine.

Astaire has been credited with two important innovations in early film musicals: the use of a semi-stationary camera to film a single shot which allowed the dancers to be in full view at all times, and the seamless integration of song and dance routines into the plotlines of the films.

An Astaire performance was prized for its elegance, grace, originality and precision and drew upon a variety of influences including tap, and classical dance which greatly influenced the American Smooth style of ballroom dance.

Please take a moment to click on the link below and sign the petition.  Thank you.

For these reasons, we believe Astaire should be honored with a commemorative postage stamp.

We wish to petition the U.S. Postal Service and the members of the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee to consider issuing a commemorative postage stamp marking the 115th birthday (2014) of the legendary film great, Fred Astaire.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fred Astaire Tampa Bay Dancing with The Stars

The Tampa Bay edition of the Gulf Coast Business Review recently ran a story on president and CEO of Ambassor Limousine, Ken Lucci and his involvement in this year's Tampa Bay's Dancing with the Stars. The event is a dance competition featuring local celebrities and raises money for area charity organizations including, Hands Across the Bay, Kids Charity of Tampa Bay and Pepin Academies.

Lucci was given dance lessons and paired with Fred Astaire Dance Studio instructor, Tiana Ramirez in preparation for the evening. On October 1st, Ken and Tiana took to the dance floor and wowed the judges with his choice, a tango:

And so how did he do, you might be wondering? Ken Lucci can now add the title of Best Male Dancer to his resume. In an open letter to Fred Astaire Dance Studios, he had this to say about his performance:

"This was very rewarding, the judges were professional dancers and dance coaches and to win that vote was quite a testament to my dancing teacher and partner, Tiana Ramirez. She deserves all the credit because she could swing around stage with a dead body (which I may have felt like at times) and make them look great.

Hats off to Fred Astaire Dance Studios for supporting this event and teaching uncoordinated guys like me to look good on the dance floor. They are the best."

Hats off to you, Ken, for making a difference in your community!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fred Astaire Durham Dancing with the Docs

Ever wonder if doctors’ heed their own advice for living a more healthy and fit lifestyle? Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Durham, North Carolina can attest to it. Duke anesthesiologist, Jennifer Fortney reluctantly attended a ballroom guest party and was instantly “hooked”. This past September she competed in the United States Dance Championships and placed second in the bronze level of the nine-dance championship. Read the full story in The Herald Sun here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I Could Have Danced All Night

Why not host a movie marathon that will inspire your guests to get up and dance? Here's a list of our top ballroom dance movies:

5. Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005) - This charming, star-studded movie (including Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen and Danny Devito) unfolds when grieving widow Frank, fulfills a dying man's wish and attends a ballroom dance class where he was supposed to reunite with an old long, lost love.

4. Mad Hot Ballroom (2005) - Mad Hot Ballroom is an inspiring documentary about a ballroom dance program for fifth graders in the New York City Public School system. Told from the students' perspective, this enlightening film culminates with the children participating at the statewide competition.

3. Shall We Dance (1996) - A successful but unhappy Japanese business man finds passion and a meaningful existence through ballroom dance.

2. Strictly Ballroom (1992) - This wonderfully colorful Australian romantic comedy beckons you to follow your heart and be true to yourself.

1. The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) - This American biographical musical comedy follows the lives of Vernon and Irene Castle who rose to the heights of ballroom dance stardom during the pre-world war one days and stars none other than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

What are your favorite dance-themed movies? Post them here. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fred Astaire Student, Barbara Carroll ‘Insures’ BlueCross Success

When Barbara Carroll walked into the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Plymouth, Massachusetts, for her very first dance lesson on September 27, 2010, it was certainly no accident! She could never have imagined that just one year later, almost to the very day, she’d be starring in a TV commercial for the world-famous BlueCross and Blue Shield insurance association. Carroll is featured with Instructor Mike Winward for the spot, which the Plymouth studio is proudly airing all this week.

“I have a copy of the commercial on DVD that we’re playing constantly in our studio,” says owner Casey Baird. “It is a beautiful spot that showcases Barbara and Mike well.”

The commercial is scheduled to air this week as follows:

Friday, September 30, from 8:15 A.M. to 8:20 A.M. on NECN

Saturday, October 1, from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. on WCVB-TV (ABC), and between 11:00 P.M. and 11:35 P.M. on WHDH (NBC)

Sunday, October 2, from 7:00 A.M. to 8:00 A.M. on WBZ-TV (CBS)

Congratulations and happy anniversary, Barbara!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

NDC Orlando, Oct. 26-30

Fred Astaire Dance Studios invites you to experience the magic of dance at the next 2011 National Dance Championship being held October 26-30 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida.

You will make everlasting memories at this action-packed event filled with competitive dancing and spectacular professional performances. Saturday night’s Gala Banquet will be the highlight of the weekend with its dazzling showcase performed by top-ranked competitors. In addition, you will be just steps away from all of Disney’s most popular attractions.

Mark your calendars now for this extraordinary, unforgettable dance extravaganza!

New Children's Book Pays Homage to Fred Astaire

Can you imagine our pleasure at discovering Fred Astaire’s image (well, sort of) inside a well-loved children’s storybook, My Name Is Not Alexander?

Alexander is a little boy with big dreams. Through a series of conversations with Dad from breakfast to bedtime, Alexander changes his name half a dozen times to match those of heroes he identifies with, including Theodore Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, and wonderfully, Fred Astaire.

“I am FRED,” says Alexander, “the greatest, smoothest dancer who ever was!”

Jennifer Fosberry is the author of My Name Is Not Alexander, and Mike Litwin is the creator of the delightful illustrations. Published by Sourcebooks in 2011, rave reviews indicate that the book charms the young reader in the style of its precursor, My Name Is Not Isabella, an award-winning celebration of great women in history by the same author.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Memoriam: George C. Ballas Sr.

George C. Ballas, Sr., father of ballroom dance champion Mark “Corky” Ballas and grandfather of professional dancer and Dancing With the Stars pro Mark Ballas Jr., passed away on June 25, 2011. He was 85 years old.

George was born in Ruston, Louisiana, in 1926. Upon reaching 17 years-of-age, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF), serving in the Second World War as a bombardier. He would also later serve as an Air Force OSI agent during the Korean War. George married Maria Luisa Marulanda, a well-known Flamenco dancer, in 1952. The couple would go on to have five children together: Michelle, George “Buck” Jr., Maria “Winkie,” Corky, and Lillian.

Most notable of his many accomplishments, George was the inventor of the “Weed Eater,” establishing Weed Eater, Inc., in 1971. In the 1950s he also founded the largest dance studio in the world, Dance City USA, which employed 125 teachers. He also served as President of Fred Astaire Dance Studios from 1960 to 1964. George was a lead developer for the Westchase Hilton Hotel in Houston, Texas, and also authored two books.

Those achievements alone would be enough for most people to consider George’s life a success, but in his entire career he also reportedly founded over 100 other companies.

“He was the best grandpa in the world,” said grandson Mark Ballas in a Houston Chronicle story covering George’s passing. “Patient, understanding, wise, caring and loving – a wonderful man we’re all going to miss.”

George Ballas Sr. led a very full and inspiring life. He leaves behind his wife, Maria, daughters Michelle, Winkie and Lillian, sons George Jr. and Corky, and seven grandchildren.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all his family.

In lieu of flowers, the Ballas family has asked for memorial donations to go to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation ( or the Easter Seals (

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why You Should Get Into Competitive Ballroom Dancing

Over at the Upper Montclair studio's blog, owner Carrie Babcock has a terrific post on why it's important to compete in ballroom dancing.

"We seriously doubt that you decided to pursue ballroom dancing because you needed another activity to fill your dull and boring life," writes Carrie. "Most of us barely have time to watch the Dancing with the Stars episode that we TIVO’d. Competitive dancing is a bonus—an extracurricular activity that will help us enjoy our dancing. It gives us the opportunity to try hard, to practice, to study, and become the kind of dancer we dreamed of being when we started out. If we happen to pick up a blue ribbon in the process, it’s an exciting added bonus."

Carrie finishes her post with a long and impressive list of positives coming from competitive dancing. Check out her story here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Power Ranking – The FADS Edition: Week 10 - The Finals!

This week - the final week of our Season 12 DWTS Power Rankings - we see Chelsea Kane dropping from her #1 spot all the way down to #3, and by no fault of her own other than not having enough fans. Mirror Ball Trophy winner Hines Ward was a consistent #1 finisher throughout the weeks of this competition, and he was never seriously in jeopardy. Kirstie Alley managed to capture 2nd Place thanks entirely to her fan base.


#1 - Hines Ward
Hines danced well all season. As I mentioned above, he was never in serious jeopardy, and Kym knew quite well that his huge fan base meant she could keep him in safe dances that, although oftentimes uninspiring, would nearly always result in him scoring well with the judges, and that in turn would allow the fans to take care of the rest.

#2 - Kirstie Alley
Here's a point that not too many people have bothered to mention: Kirstie Alley made it into the Season 12 Finals almost precisely the same way Bristol Palin made it into the Finals in Season 11 - by way of a huge and loyal fan base voting for her. It certainly wasn't because of her prowess in dancing. But, in the end, DWTS isn't about being the "best" dancer (she's listed below); it's about being the most popular.

#3 - Chelsea Kane
Oh, Cheslea, you performed so well. In a real dance competition you would have won. Alas, just as many predicted, your lack of a fan base eventually did you in.

I was actually pretty surprised at the animosity exhibited towards Chelsea by so many posters over at the DWTS message boards. Many predicted she would win because, after all, she was a Disney/ABC employee and so the ABC show was "setting her up" to win it all. That logic, of course, flew in the face of past DWTS winners (and losers). I think a lot of their dissing had to do with the fact that, deep inside, they knew she was a great dancer and had a great chance to win on her own, so they had to come up with some kind of conspiracy theory to stir the pot, if only to justify their own support for less-talented celebrities.

Oh well, in the end it hardly matters. As Syracuse FADS co-owner Natasha Oreshkina said in her commentary on the Finals show, it's just a show.

Congratulations to Hines Ward and to all of the celebrities who entertained us for the past 10 weeks on Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars.

Season 13 of DWTS is set for September 19, 2011.

See you then!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dancing with the Stars - Week 10 Commentary - The Finals!

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.


WEEK TEN Okay, this past week was the Finals on Dancing with the Stars, and I was a little surprised by the results. That being said, I thought all three couples did well in their dances. On Monday night we had two couples do Sambas (Chelsea & Kirstie) while Hines did a Quickstep. These were Judges Choice dances, and they were followed by the couples' Freestyle dances.

1st Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 + W5:27 + W6:27 + W7:36/G30 + W8:28/26 + W9:30/30 + W10:89 = 417 total) [Overall judge score: 2nd.]
For their Judges Choice dance, Hines and Kym did the Quickstep. This had a bit of Fred Astaire and Ginger as they danced to "Puttin' on the Ritz." I liked Hines's posture and I liked his movement. One thing that I caught, though, was his footwork - he was too flat-footed in his steps for this dance. Anyway, the judges gave them a 10-9-10 for their performance.

For their Freestyle dance, Hines is a strong guy and he was able to flip around Kym very well. Kym had great choreography and the judges scored them 10-10-10 for their dance. On the night, they tied Cheslea and mark with 59 points.

2nd Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 + W5:23 + W6:26 + W7:30/G30 + W:28/25 + W9:27/27 + W:10:84 = 385) [Overall judge score: 3rd.]
I thought Kirstie did a pretty good job with her Samba. She didn't do as good a job with her footwork, however, as she had done with her past dances. Also, a little bit towards the end there was a loss of power. Still, she scored 9-9-9 from the judges for her performance.

With her freestyle dance, Kirstie had to show a lot of lifts - and for her partner, Maks, it probably wasn't so easy. Kirstie is not a small woman - she's a little bit heavy compared to Chelsea and Kym (Hines's pro partner). On this routine, the judges gave her another set of 9s, for a total of 54 points for the night.

3rd Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 + W5:26 + W6:28 + W7:34/G30 + W8:29/26 + W9:28/30 + 15b + W10:89 = 423 total) [Overall judge score: 1st.]
Chelsea and Mark did the Samba for their Judges Choice dance. This dance had great choreography. There was lots of shaking - lots of bouncing and movement that should be in a Samba. Judge Len Goodman was a little critical of her hands and arms, but he said overall the dance was very entertaining. They scored a 10-9-10 from the judges.

Their Freestyle dance was a combination of Hip-Hop and Salsa that was very entertaining. They did a great job with this routine, and the judges scored them well with three 10s, for a total of 59 points for the night.

On Tuesday night, the couples got to perform their favorite dances from the competition. Chelsea and Mark did their dance from the theme of Harry Potter - which I was glad to see because it was my favorite. Kirstie and Maks did the Cha-Cha, and Hines and Kym did the Salsa. The judges were all very generous - giving all of them 10s, which was great.


For the Results, Chelsea and Mark ended up coming in 3rd Place. When that happened, I said "whooops.." because I thought Chelsea was the best dancer. But all three couples did a great job - since the 1st round of the season, they all did great and Kirstie deserved her 2nd Place finish after Hines won the Mirror Ball Trophy. Hines had much more fans (than Cheslea) and that had a lot to do with him winning. Chelsea made a lot of fans through this competition, though, and this is a good experience for her. I'm happy for all of them.

This was a good season for Dancing with the Stars. It wasn't frustrating like it was last season with the Bristol Palin drama - though I could tell Mark Ballas was a little frustrated. But it's a show. And I think it's good that this season we had a gentleman win the Mirror Ball Trophy.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Power Ranking – The FADS Edition: Week 9

Well, this week on DWTS we didn't see any surprises in the contest. As I expected, Ralph Macchio and Kirstie Alley were the two "in jeopardy" celebrities and, thankfully, Chelsea did not join them. There's been a lot of debate on the ABC DWTS message boards about Ralph deserving to stay and how Chelsea (possibly) has the lowest fan votes and so she should have gone, blah, blah, blah and so forth. The truth is, both Ralph and Kirstie were the weakest of the final four, and Ralph had a bad week last week and was unable to redeem himself this week, so off he went.

The Power Rankings this week remain unchanged thanks to Ralph Macchio's loss and Chelsea's winning of the 15 bonus points. Yes, Hines did outscore Chelsea on their two full routines, but Chelsea is riding a wave, now, and I think Hines may well have peaked.

Controversy #2 (controversy #1 being judge Donny Burns's Week 7 phantom "8" vote): This season marked the first time DWTS used the infamous (according to message board posters) "Winner Take All" 15-point bonus dance. The guess here is that the show wanted to avoid the kind of controversy that followed last season's turmoil after Bristol Palin made it all the way to the finals despite some seriously sub-par dancing. Giving the judges a "wildcard" vote would ensure a better dancer got into the finals instead - or so the thinking apparently went. Unfortunately for the producers, this season the sub-par dancers happened to be the very likeable Ralph and Kirstie. And who ended up winning the 15 bonus points? Disney star (and ABC employee) Chelsea Kane. Conspiracy theorists wailed!


#1 - Chelsea Kane
I thought Chelsea did a nice job in both her routines - an Argentine Tango and a Rumba. It's come to the point, now, though, that I'm so used to Chelsea not screwing up that I don't even look for it. According to judges Carrie Ann and Len Goodman, as well as FADS pro Natasha Oreshkina, she did mess up her footwork in the first dance. Bruno Tonioli, on the other hand, thought Chelsea did fine. Go figure.

Next week it probably won't matter how well Chelsea dances. She will either have enough fan votes to take home the Mirror Ball trophy or not.

#2 - Hines Ward
Hines captured two perfect scores (30) in both his dances (Argentine Tango and Salsa). There's really no point in commenting on his performances these days. The judges have long been smitten by the always-smiling Hines and they continued with that affection on Monday night. I think of all of the contenders this season, he has been the least controversial and also the least interesting. Yes, he dances very well, but he also dances very safe. And I guess that's all he really needs to do.

#3 - Kirstie Alley
Kirstie did a nice job with both her Viennese Waltz and her Paso Doble. I was surprised that none of the judges thought to gift her with a 10, but maybe they figured she didn't need it to beat out Ralph.

#4 - Ralph Macchio
Poor Ralph. All he did was try hard and all the judges did was roast him over the coals. Bruno was especially brutal to him after his second dance, a Salsa, that had the Karate Kid wearing fanny padding. For whatever reason, it was take-down time for Ralph - who didn't appear to dance nearly as bad as the scores he got, but not well enough, just the same.


After Ralph Macchio was eliminated from the show, he walked over to be interviewed by hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke. He thanked everyone rooting for him in the audience and everyone on the show - all except, that is, the three judges. He never even looked their way. Sour grapes or just deserts?

So now we've come down to the Finals, which means there is only one FADS Power Ranking left after this one. Chelsea Kane, by rights, should win this contest. But instead, I'm thinking Hines Ward will take it all, with possibly Kirstie Alley taking 2nd place based on the audience vote, which looks to be huge.

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Dancing with the Stars - Week 9 Commentary

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.



[Natasha]This week we had four couples performing three dances - a ballroom dance, a Latin dance and a "Winner Take All" 15-point Cha-cha dance. The celebrities all tried to do their best, but there were three dances to practice and there was too much nerves, so there were some mistakes.

1st Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 + W5:26 + W6:28 + W7:34/G30 + W8:29/26 + W9:28/30 + 15b = 334 total) [Overall position: 1st.]
Chelsea and Mark first danced the Argentine Tango. They showed good character in the dance, and it was good choreography. I agree with judges Carrie Ann and Len, though, that Chelsea wasn't so good with her leg movements on this dance. They scored a 9-9-10 with that dance. With their second dance, a Rumba, they definitely did a much better job. Their costumes were very beautiful and the dance was elegant and romantic. On this one they scored 10-10-10, for a combined total of 28 points.

2nd Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 + W5:27 + W6:27 + W7:36/G30 + W8:28/26 + W9:30/30 = 328 total) [Overall position: 2nd.]
Hines and Kym danced the Argentine Tango first, and it was full of passion and had some interesting moves in it. Their second dance, a Salsa, was a lot of fun. Hines nailed all his moves and was very successful. After their first dance, it looked like Kym was still hurting from the fall she took the previous week during practice (when she had to be taken to the hospital). They scored all 10s on both their dances, which gave them a combined total of 60 points.

3rd Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 + W5:23 + W6:26 + W7:30/G30 + W:28/25 + W9:27/27 = 301) [Overall position: 3rd.]
Kirstie and Maks danced a Viennese Waltz first. Kirstie showed good posture, movement and good footwork in the dance. She looked beautiful and did great, scoring 9-9-9 from the judges. On her second dance, a Paso Doble, she again showed good footwork, and the dance had good character to it. Great choreography, too. They scored 9-9-9 on that dance, for a combined total of 54 points.

4th Place - Ralph Macchio/Karina Smirnoff (W1:24 + W2:21 + W3:21 + W4:25 + W5:22 + W6:24 + W7:36/G30 + W8:25/21 + W9:25/23 = 297) [Overall position: 4th.]
Ralph and Karina first danced the Argentine Tango. It was sharp and the footwork was good, but Ralph didn't show good enough emotion for the Tango. They scored a 8-9-8 from the judges. As for the second dance, a Salsa, it was just not a good week for Ralph. There wasn't any rhythm to the dance, and I think Len was right, there were too many wild movements. On this one they only scored 8-7-8, for a combined total of 48 points.


Everyone's third dance was a Cha-Cha for a "Winner Take All" 15 bonus points. Hines and Ralph went up against each other first, with Hines winning. They were followed by Chelsea and Kirstie, with Chelsea winning that matchup. Finally, then, it was Chelsea versus Hines. Chelsea's cha-cha was very technically clean and fun to watch, and she was able to beat out Hines to get the 15 points from the judges.

So next week is the Finals show. It should be a very good competition between Hines and Chelsea, and I think Chelsea will win it, with Hines coming in 2nd and Kirstie coming in 3rd.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Power Ranking – The FADS Edition: Week 8

As I mentioned in last week's Power Rankings, Romeo held on in Week 7 only due to Kendra's presence and subsequent elimination. With her out of the way, Romeo was the next weakest link in the DWTS competitive chain.

Something told me, even as I watched the drama of the "in jeopardy" showdown between Romeo and Ralph Macchio, that Romeo's time had come. Ralph's fan base, I'm beginning to think, is much larger than we might have first imagined it to be when the season first began. His combination of personal charm and dancing prowess has obviously won over hundreds of thousands of admirers as the competition has gone on.

That being said, could next week bring an end to Ralph's challenge for the much-prized Mirror Ball trophy?


#1 - Chelsea Kane
Chelsea Kane finally steals 1st Place from Hines Ward after several weeks of having to look at his back. She would have (should have) been here sooner if not for Hines's huge and imposing fan base. This week the couples again had to dance two dances - one a rehearsed dance and the other an "Instant Dance" where the couples learned of the song they were to perform to only 30 minutes before having to do it. Both of Chelsea's Week 8 dances were again exceptional (though the first, rehearsed dance much more so). Her pro partner, Mark Ballas, must be beside himself at having been paired with such a terrific talent this season. The only possible spoiler in this fairy tale coupling could be Chelsea's fan base, which is probably much smaller at this point than either Hines Ward's or Kirstie Alley's.

#2 - Hines Ward
Hines Ward's smile is his biggest asset in this competition. DWTS judge Bruno Tonioli gave him a "10" for his rehearsed Foxtrot this week, which I thought was a bit of a reach. Regardless, Hines continues with his charmed life in front of the judging panel - all of whom, in my opinion, have consistently over-graded him throughout the course of the season. He is destined for the Final Three - his fan base alone will get him there at this point in the competition.

#3 - Kirstie Alley
Kirstie did a really good job with her Argentine Tango in Week 8. Her follow-up "Instant Dance" (a Salsa) was less inspiring, but still garnered her 25 points. I see next week as a contest between her and Ralph Macchio possibly getting the boot. That being said, though, her loyal fan base could very throw everything completely out of whack.

#4 - Ralph Macchio
Courage, Ralph. Courage. That's just what he showed this week after battling a ruptured cyst behind his knee that made even the simplest of movements very painful for him. Back in Week 6, the dashing Ralph came to his pro partner, Karina Smirnoff's, rescue. In Week 8, Karina returned the favor by quick-coaching Ralph (the couple only had about 9 hours of practice time due to Ralph's injury) to a 25-point Vienna Waltz and a survivable 21 points for their "Instant Dance" Cha-Cha. Both dances brought grimaces of pain from Ralph, but he finished them anyway. He noticeably limped, though, as he stepped over to the judges panel. Ralph's fan base made his last-place finish on Monday night irrelevant as he was able to beat out Romeo on Tuesday's Results show. But with his injury a lingering factor, could next week be Ralph's final curtain call on DWTS?

#5 Romeo
Well, it's the last spot on the DWTS Power Rankings, and that means it's Romeo's turn to say farewell. In what is looking to be somewhat of a trend on this season's DWTS, Romeo had one of his finest performances on Monday night before being ousted by the voters on Tuesday. The young rapper-movie star looked sharp and really focused in his Tango with pro partner Cheslie Hightower. It was a routine worthy of the triple 9s he received from the judges. (I actually thought he danced better than Hines Ward, who received a 10 to go along with a pair of 9s.)

Romeo was a perfect gentleman in defeat. He thanked everyone, from his fans and his pro partner, Cheslie, to the DWTS judges. He said DWTS helped him overcome his life-long fear of dancing and that he had the best time of his life on the show.

"This show has changed my life forever," the upbeat Romeo said to host Tom Bergeron. "I think I showed kids anything is possible if you try."

Well said, Romeo. And well done!


So now it's down to four couples competing to take home the Mirror Ball trophy. Last week I figured Kirstie would be one the final three "in jeopardy" celebrities, but instead Chelsea once again found herself there - although this time it was only by default: because there were only five couples to begin with, after Kirstie and Hines were declared safe earlier in the show, that left only three couples remaining.

Next week, look for Hines to once again be declared safe (ugh). If the judges scores happen to somewhat even out the fan scoring, then, we should see either Ralph or Kirstie going home. It would be a shame, though, to see Chelsea walk before it comes down to the Final Three.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Dancing with the Stars - Week 8 Commentary

[NOTE: This is a re-posting of a post published last week that was evidently removed from Blogger.]

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.



[Natasha] This week was "Instant Dance" week on Dancing with the Stars. Each couple had to dance a rehearsed routine plus a second routine where they didn't know the music until 30 minutes before they had to perform.

1st Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 + W5:26 + W6:28 + W7:34/G30 + W8:29/26 = 261 total) [Overall position: 2nd.]
Chelsea and Mark performed the Slow Walz for their first dance. This was a great performance and the first time a couple received two 10s this season. It was very elegant, very flowing. The past few weeks they've been doing a really great job.

Their second dance was the Salsa. The judges were surprised Chelsea and Mark were able to do such a good job in such a short amount of time. Like Carrie Ann, though, I felt the dance didn't connect to the music.

2nd Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 + W5:27 + W6:27 + W7:36/G30 + W8:28/26 = 268 total) [Overall position: 1st.]
Hines and Kym performed the Foxtrot for their first dance. They have a really good connection with each other. It was elegant and fun to watch. Hines's footwork was not so good this time, though, which is surprising because he's usually good.

For their second dance they performed the Jive. The Jive is not an easy dance to do. You need to move your legs and really pick up your feet. Hines didn't do a good job with that.

3rd Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 + W5:23 + W6:26 + W7:30/G30 + W:28/25 = 247) [Overall position: 5th.]
Kirstie and Maks did the Argentine Tango first. This was a very hot and very passionate performance. When you watch Kirstie dance you can see her footwork was very good and she looked like she was dancing very well.

For their Instant Dance, they did the Salsa. Kirstie showed good movement, and, as usual, did a good job with her footwork and also showed good hip action.

T-5th Place - Romeo/Chelsie Hightower (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:20 + W4:23 + W5:26 + W6:28 + W7:30/G30 + W:27/25 = 251) [Overall position: 3rd.]
Romeo and Chelsie performed the Tango for their first dance. You can see that Romeo has really improved a lot and has a lot of confidence. He was a little stiff in this dance, however, and the footwork was a little off.

This couple performed the Salsa for the second dance. not much to say about this routine. It was fun, but I could tell it was nothing special.

T-1st Place - Ralph Macchio/Karina Smirnoff (W1:24 + W2:21 + W3:21 + W4:25 + W5:22 + W6:24 + W7:36/G30 + W8:25/21 = 249) [Overall position: 4th.]
Drama, drama, drama! Ralph had a knee injury during the week and so he and Karina only had about nine hours to practice. Ralph's footwork for their Viennese Waltz was not good, but he did well with the upper body movement. He seemed a bit stiff - probably because of the pain he was in from his knee.

Ralph and Karina's second dance was the Cha-Cha. You could see he was very uncomfortable and he looked stiff, with no hip action. Again, though, his knee injury was obviously affecting him.


Okay, so this week we saw Romeo get voted off of the show. If we had gone by last week's (Week 7) performance, then he should have gone home. But this week, I'm not so sure. As for Ralph Macchio, I think next week he will be eliminated if he can't show his leg doesn't bother him so much.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Power Ranking – The FADS Edition: Week 7

It took Kendra Wilkinson 6 weeks to get excited about competing on Dancing With The Stars. On Week 7, she was voted off.

The outcome that so many have been waiting to see has finally happened. On Tuesday night, at the end of Week 7 of Dancing With The Stars, Kendra Wilkinson's name was the last one called out by host Tom Bergeron - and on DWTS, that meant the competition was over for her.

A lot of people (myself included) were beginning to wonder if she was going to be this year's Bristol Palin - a bad dancer, but with a fan base large enough to boost her into the Finals. That turned out to not be the case, as the spunky - yet oddly unenthusiastic - former Playboy bunny was ousted on the heels of what was ironically one of her better performances (albeit still wanting).

I have to admit it, though: Kendra was really starting to get on my nerves. I don't think she took the competition seriously until it was too late for her to catch up. Even then, her sass talk was a turn-off for me. She was the anti-Petra Nemcova on the show - and that's probably what kept her in the competition longer than the adorable Czech supermodel: Sass beats sweetness in the ratings game (and apparently the voting booth) every time.

Oh well. The last of the really bad dancers has departed DWTS, and so now we have only the most popular and most talented celebrities remaining.


#1 - Hines Ward
Hines has been ranked #1 since the FADS Power Rankings began in Week 4. I think as long as he doesn't take a fall or do something terrible in a routine, he's probably a lock for the Final Three. His combination of consistency and high judges scores, plus his large following of Steelers fans, makes him a formidable competitor unlikely to lose out until perhaps the very end. (Oddly, Hines is also the most "under the radar" contestant remaining. Even as the likes of Kirstie, Ralph, Kendra and even Cheslea have grabbed the lions' share of the gossip headlines, Hines has gone through the season with barely a mention.)

#2 - Chelsea Kane
Even though Chelsea did find herself "in jeopardy" this past week, I think that was just part of the ruse to heighten the drama of the moment. It didn't really work for me, though, as there was no way Kendra was going to be out either Chelsea or Kirstie Alley. Chelsea's dancing prowess is remarkable, and I honestly believe she's won over thousands of fans who previously had never heard of her before (myself included). Will that translate into her making it into the Final Three grouping? I certainly hope it will. But there is one potential fly in the ointment for her: Pro partner Mark Ballas. Mark has repeatedly placed Chelsea in an unfriendly light before the judges with his "youthful" choreography. In his defense, Mark has been amazed at Chelsea's dancing ability and is seeking to capitalize on that talent by crafting admittedly risky routines that he feels will best show off her skills - which he knows she can handle. But the judges - particularly Len Goodman - have had issues with his creative license on some of the more traditional dances. This past week was a prime example of that dislike after Len told Chelsea that he thought she was "too aggressive" in her Paso Doble. (My reaction to that remark was identical to Mark's own shocked response.) Was that an honest critique of Chelsea's dance by Len, or was he just searching for a problem where there was none because he didn't like the choreography?

#3 Ralph Macchio
A huge performance by Ralph in Week 7. After pro partner Karina Smirnoff's fall last week, he really needed this dance to make things right again. Ralph's body (particularly his knees) are beginning to wear down on him, but once he hits the dance floor he always seems to find the energy to get the job done. At this point in the competition, Ralph's fan base may even be bigger than - dare I say? - Kirstie Alley's.

#4 - Kirstie Alley
This was not one of Kirstie's better performances - although, oddly enough, guest judge Donnie Burns gave her a 9 (what was with that?). Kirstie did manage to out-dance Romeo this week, though, so she captures the #4 spot in the Power Rankings. As a side note, I honestly did not know what to make of her purple ballet tutu outfit.

#5 - Romeo
Romeo survived Week 7 only because Kendra was there to stop his fall. The young star seemed convinced he was on his way out as he hurriedly plugged his new album during an interview segment on the show. His dance in Week 7 was part "good" and part "wooden." As FADS pro dancer Natasha Oreshkina noted in her commentary this week, Romeo seemed to get lost midway through the routine as his pro partner, Cheslie Hightower, danced all around him. Another weak performance like this one and Romeo may find himself with plenty of free time to plug his album. As an aside, Romeo's fawning over Chelsie is becoming more and more noticeable as the weeks go by - and it's not just when they're on the stage: In "behind the stage" video clips he's also been constantly hugging her and draping his arm around her. Maybe they are an item, and maybe not. But Cheslie herself doesn't appear to be reciprocating his advances - kind of more like she enduring them.

#6 - Kenrda Wilkinson
And so the "late blooming flower" has left the celebraquarium for the final time. Kendra's stay on the show was a bit long - there was no way she was a better dancer than either Petra Nemcova or Chris Jericho. But I guess that's why they have viewer voting, aye? In the end, though, even that wasn't enough to save the Playboy bunny and reality show star.


Week 7 of Dancing With The Stars brought us this season's first judging controversy after guest judge Donnie Burns inexplicably held up his "8" paddle and called out "Eight!" for a performance by Romeo and Chelsie Hightower - only to have us learn just afterwards that he actually marked down a "7" as his official score. Whaaat? He sheepishly held up a "7" paddle and apologized for his gaffe. Cheslie was not amused.

Next week the show will be down to five couples who will again have to dance twice (sorry, Ralph). Last week I was only off by one person in my final three "in jeopardy" predictions (Cheslea replaced my predicted Romeo), and so for my Week 8 predictions I see, once again, Romeo and Kirstie, joined by Ralph Macchio. If, however, Cheslea Kane is again in this mix, I believe it may sadly be her time to go.

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Dancing with the Stars - Week 7 Commentary & Scores

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.



[Natasha] This week the couples were separated into two groups to perform team dances (the cha cha for both teams) before each celebrity performed their own individual dances. We also saw guest judge Donnie Burns added to the field of Bruno, Len and Carrie Ann to bring the total possible individual high score to 40.

The teams competing on Monday consisted of Chelsea Kane, Ralph Macchio and Romeo on one side and Kirstie Alley, Hines Ward and Kendra Wilkinson on the other. Team Chelsea danced to a Lady Gaga song ("Born This Way"). I thought it was a hot dance routine, very high energy, and everybody put in their best effort. I liked this one a little bit more than Team Hines's routine, which represented the older group of celebrities - although Team Hines also tried hard to dance well as a team. Both teams scored 30 out of 40 with the judges, and so each celebrity got to add 30 points to their individual scores.

T-1st Place - Ralph Macchio/Karina Smirnoff (W1:24 + W2:21 + W3:21 + W4:25 + W5:22 + W6:24 + W7:36/G30 = 203) [Overall position: 3rd.]
Ralph and Karina danced the Quickstep this week. Ralph had a lot of fun with this dance, and the people in the audience really liked his performance, too. Very energetic and a good job. He got the highest score of the night with a 36.

T-1st Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 + W5:27 + W6:27 + W7:36/G30 = 214 total) [Overall position: 1st.]
Hines and Kym danced the Tango. This was a very sharp and romantic dance, and it seemed like the judges really liked it, too. He tied Ralph for the highest score of the night with another 36.

3rd Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 + W5:26 + W6:28 + W7:34/G30 = 206 total) [Overall position: 2nd.]
Chelsea and Mark performed the Paso Doble this week, scoring a 34. That was some interesting choreography that Mark came up with. It was a good dance and I liked what they did - Mark puts a lot of creativity into his choreography, which sometimes the judges don't like. Len Goodman is very conservative and likes to see traditional routines, but I like to see different interpretations, so I think it's good that Mark puts them in.

4th Place - Kendra Wilkinson/Louis van Amstel (W1:18 + W2:19 + W3:23 + W4:18 + W5:22 + W6:25 + W7:31/G30 = 186) [Overall position: 6th.]
Kendra and Louis danced the Tango. I thought this wasn't her best dance. She was stiff and she seemed frustrated after the routine. Even so, she got a 31, which wasn't the lowest score of the week. This would be her last dance on the show, however, as she was eliminated on Tuesday.

T-5th Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 + W5:23 + W6:26 + W7:30/G30 = 194) [Overall position: 5th.]
Kirstie and Maks danced the Jive. It seemed like they worked very hard for this dance. Kirstie again showed good footwork and it was very entertaining, but she only scored a 30.

T-5th Place - Romeo/Chelsie Hightower (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:20 + W4:23 + W5:26 + W6:28 + W7:30/G30 = 199) [Overall position: 4th.]
Romeo and Cheslie performed the Samba. I thought his dance was good - very high energy, but he seemed to get lost along the way and the judges ended up giving him only a 30, matching Kirstie Alley's score.


Okay, so now Kendra is out of the competition - I was not surprised to see that happen. Next week we'll have two dances again, with one of them being an "Instant Dance" where the celebrities won't know the music they're dancing to until 30 minutes before they have to perform it.

See you next week!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Power Ranking – The FADS Edition: Week 6

What is it with the pros this season? First Maksim Chmerkovskiy has a muscle pull and drops Kirstie Alley, and now Karina Smirnoff trips over partner Ralph Macchio's coat tails. Mak's mishap didn't appear to cost Kirstie any points (perhaps because it was injury-related?), but Karina's spill probably dropped Ralph's score by a couple of points, at least. Let's get it together, pros!

On with this week's Power Ranking...


#1 Hines Ward:
Hines didn't get to shake it up as much as he has in earlier dances, but he still did a respectable job with his Viennese Waltz. Hines provided a very good example of what careful execution and a relaxed mindset can achieve. Celebrities should be enjoying their dances, not rehearsing them in their heads as they're performing them (something that Chris Jericho seemed to be doing this week). That being said, I thought triple-9s for Hines was a bit of a reach considering the routine.

#2 Chelsea Kane:
Chelsea and Mark's Quickstep was definitely their nerdiest performance together this season - complete with prep school costumes, dark-rimmed glasses and prudish facial expressions. They carried it off really well, too. Judge Bruno Tonioli said he noticed a bit of a wobble towards the end from Chelsea, but judge Carrie Anna Inaba disagreed and ended up scoring her a 10 accordingly. Chelsea continues to impress me with her dancing prowess. Mark mentioned in his USA Today blog that he discovered early on how talented Chelsea was (after studying her jive performance in Week 2) and decided then and there "to drastically raise my expectations of her." The only reason this couple isn't in the #1 position at this point is because I think Hines's fan base is much higher than Chelsea's.

#3 Romeo:
I said last week if Romeo continues to impress he'll eventually climb into a top-three position in the FADS Power Rankings. He managed to do just that this week, with an assist from Chris Jericho, who slipped in the rankings himself this week. I thought Romeo's 10 by judge Carrie Ann was a bit high - he still seemed to be getting led around by pro partner Chelsie Hightower - but even so, he did very well.

#4 Kirstie Alley:
Kirstie climbs from #6 to #4 this week. She had a strong performance with no major slip-ups - though it looked as if she had to hustle to catch up to Maks at their rendezvous point at the top of the stage after she flirted with the audience a few seconds too long. I'm not sure the two 9s she received from Len and Bruno were deserved - was she really one point away from a perfect dance in their eyes? (Come on, Len, be as demanding with Kirstie as you have been with Chris!)

#5 Ralph Macchio:
This was a fast-paced and well executed dance for Ralph. Unfortunately for him, pro partner Karina Smirnoff tripped over his coattails about 30 seconds into the routine, basically crushing any hope of a high-end score. Karina seemed pretty shaken up emotionally after the fall, but Ralph was very quick to pick her up - I thought he performed excellent damage control. I'm not really comfortable with the three 8s that Ralph received from the judges, though. His dance, minus Karina's trip, was better than Hines's in my opinion. I thought his performance warranted at least one 9. (The judges should be judging his dancing performance, not his pro partner's.)

#6 Kendra Wilkinson:
Kendra looked sexy and exotic as she danced her Samba. She also looked genuinely happy to be on the dance floor - and emotion missing in many of her past performances. She also didn't have to worry about being "elegant" again for the second straight week, which surely must have relaxed her even more. Stepping onto the judges' table and shaking it up for Len Goodman on his birthday was an added plus.

#7 Chris Jericho:
Alas, it's time to say goodbye to Chris Jericho. Chris appeared a bit rigid in his Tango (even for a Tango) this past week. He seemed to be concentrating too much on the moves of the dance rather than just performing it. The judges were mostly unforgiving (although, oddly enough, the usually frugal Len Goodman gave Chris an 8 for the second week in a row). Carrie Ann said she felt the pressure might have gotten to him this week, and she may have been right. Len said it "lacked a bit of intensity," and it certainly did. Chris was not the worst of the remaining dancers - he simply had a bad week. Unfortunately, though, that's all it's going to take as the field whittles down each week.


So the field of competitors is now down to six. Of the six, the only weak dancer is Kendra Wilkinson, whose fans have managed to keep her on the show despite some pretty disappointing performances. Like pro dancer Natasha Oreshkina mentioned in her commentary this week, Kendra is turning out to be this season's Bristol Palin - the poor dancer who keeps staying alive because of a loyal (and actively voting) fan base. We'll see if that will be enough to keep her in the competition in the following weeks, but don't be surprised if she makes it all the way to the Finals. (There, I said it! )

Next week's predicted "in jeopardy" threesome: Kendra Wilkinson, Romeo, and Kirstie Alley.

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Dancing with the Stars - Week 6 Commentary

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.



[Natasha] Well, once again there's still no clear leader in the competition this week. It's so interesting this season that so many couples are having good weeks. Romeo and Chelsea scored 28s, and Ralph Macchio should be on top except for Karina's fall.

Even though we don't have a consistent leader yet, we do know who's the worst. I think Kendra is a lot like Bristol Palin was last season. Bristol wasn't a good dancer, but she had a lot of votes so she made it to the finals.

Okay, then. Let's go over tonight's scores.

T-1st Place - Romeo/Chelsie Hightower (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:20 + W4:23 + W5:26 + W6:28 = 139) [Overall position: 3rd.]
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower did the Waltz this week. It was a good dance, very romantic - one of his best performances. He's getting better each week. It was very nice.

T-1st Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 + W5:26 W6:28 = 142 total) [Overall position: 2nd.]
Chelsea and Mark did the Quickstep. Each time I watch Chelsea I see more and more. It was a very light and breezy dance, high-energy and a lot of moving around. She did a good job.

3rd Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 + W5:27 + W6:27 = 148 total) [Overall position: 1st.]
Hines and Kym performed the Viennese Waltz this week. I liked their movements across the dance floor, I like his lines. He did very good - well, not bad [laughs].

4th Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 + W5:23 + W6:26 = 134) [Overall position: T-5th.]
Kirstie and Maks did the Samba this week. I think she dances Latin better than Standard ballroom. She showed good footwork and good rhythm. Very strong legs and feet and she moved around well.

5th Place - Kendra Wilkinson/Louis van Amstel (W1:18 + W2:19 + W3:23 + W4:18 + W5:22 + W6:25 = 125) [Overall position: 7th.]
Kendra and Louis also danced the Samba this week. You know, she's not one of my favorite dancers. This week was better than last week, and she had a lot of shaking [her stuff]. She's just not consistent, though - sometimes she does a good job, then sometimes a very bad job.

6th Place - Ralph Macchio/Karina Smirnoff (W1:24 + W2:21 + W3:21 + W4:25 + W5:22 + W6:24 = 137) [Overall position: 4th.]
Ralph and Karina performed the Paso Doble. I think the reason they came in 6th tonight was because of Karina's fall. I don't know what it is, but it seems like this season the pros are on the floor a lot. Usually with pros that doesn't happen.

7th Place - Chris Jericho/Cheryl Burke (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:21 + W4:23 + W5:26 W6:22 = 134) [Overall position: T-5th.]
Chris and Cheryl danced the Tango this week and they were eliminated on Tuesday. Maybe this wasn't his best dance... it wasn't my cup of tea. Chris looked nervous to me. I would still say he's a better dancer than Kendra, but not this week, and he's also not consistent.


I still think Kendra should be out of the competition - I say that every week. But I don't think the worst dancers should keep getting the "Safes" over the better ones. So maybe this coming week, we'll see. Usually I can predict who's in the lead at this point, but the competition is very good this year and the top couple keeps changing. I think the three couples who might be in jeopardy next Tuesday will be Kendra (as always), Hines Ward (perhaps), and Ralph Macchio.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fred Astaire "Shadow Dance" Finds Place in Herzog Film

In his latest film-making endeavor, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, German director Werner Herzog takes us back to the early Paleolithic era as he examines cave paintings and engravings found in the famed Chauvet Cave, located in France, which were first discovered in 1994. Herzog brings his unique talent of direction to a new level with this production as he delivers a 3-D presentation that draws the audience into the cave itself, there to see the artwork as its creators first intended so many tens of thousands of years ago.

What makes Herzog’s documentary really so special to Fred Astaire enthusiasts, though, was his use of Fred Astaire dancing footage from 1936’s Swing Time. Herzog wanted to show the audience what the prehistoric artists themselves would have seen as they created their works in the ancient cave.

"Arguably, for for me, the greatest single sequence in all of film history [is] Fred Astaire dancing with his own shadows,” said Herzog in a recent interview on National Public Radio. “And all of a sudden he stops and the shadows become independent and dance without him and he has to catch up with them. It's [such a] quintessential movie. It can't get more beautiful. It's actually from Swing Time. And when you look at the [Chauvet] cave and certain panels, there's evidence of some fires on the ground. They're not for cooking. They were used for illumination. You have to step in front of these fires to look at the images, and when you move, you must see your own shadow. And immediately, Fred Astaire comes to mind — who did something 32,000 years later which is essentially what we can imagine for early Paleolithic people."

Read the NPR story here.

See a clip of Fred dancing with his shadows in Swing Time here.

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Dancing With The Stars Power Ranking – The FADS Edition: Week 5

Well, wasn't Week 5 of DWTS an interesting one for everyone? We all got to listen to some patriotic songs and watch our favorite celebrities do their thing on the dance floor as best they could. Some of the dances fit in pretty well with their accompanying tunes, while others seemed a bit out of place. Regardless, there were some really good scores on Monday all the way around, with no one dipping below 22 points this week.

Unfortunately, while last week we saw the show lose its soul, if you will, with Sugar Ray Leonard's elimination, this week we watched it lose its heart as Czech darling Petra Nemcova was sent packing by the voters (or, more correctly, a lack thereof). Even though her judges' points were higher than fellow-contender Kendra Wilkinson (106 to 100, respectively), she just couldn't match Kendra's fan support. And so we bid farewell to perhaps the most pleasant and good-spirited contestant DWTS has had on its show in years.

On with the Power Rankings.

By sheer coincidence, this week's power rankings are identical to the week's scoring ranks. I didn't mean for that to happen, but that's the way things turned out. (The "Power Couple" doesn't necessarily have to be the highest scoring couple for that week, as was evidenced in last week's Power Ranking.)


#1 Hines Ward:
Hines scored triple-nines from the judges in Week 5, but honestly, I'm just not seeing what they're marveling at. Yes, he did a great job. But did he really do better than Cheslea Kane? I don't think so. It looked to me like he did a whole lot of following around while pro partner Kym Johnson carried the dance. Even so, judge Carrie Ann Inaba seems positively smitten by the football star. Remember last week when I mentioned how worried I was that the judges were going to hand the Mirror Ball trophy to Kirstie Alley (that is, before the "incidents")? Well, I'm starting to get that feeling again with Hines.

#2 Chelsea Kane:
It's almost a given each week that pro partner Mark Ballas is going to dream up some kind of choreography that will highlight his own dancing skills (I think he's just as earnest in his pursuit of the show's "Design a Dance" competition, where two pros are selected to do a dance, as he is with getting his celebrity partner the MB trophy). But even so, he's very lucky in having the best dancer of the competition as his partner in Season 12. Chelsea Kane compliments Mark's moves like no other celebrity in Season 12 has been able to do with their own pro partners. While others are for the most part being led around the floor by their pros, Chelsea appears to easily keep up with Mark's choreographed antics. How she only ended up with an "8" from judge Len Goodman while Hines Ward snared a "9" from him is a mystery to me. But I'm beginning to wonder if Len isn't shaving a point off of her performance just to spite Ballas, who he's had issues with this season.

#3 Chris Jericho:
I thought Chris's dance this week was very flowing and well-balanced, if a bit flat-footed (as judge Len Goodman and our own Natasha Oreshkina mentioned). This week saw the second time Chris was placed in "jeopardy" and had to sweat out the final moments of the show. That's not really fair - he's clearly a superior dancer, and I would think that with the WWE's support (they promote his appearance on DWTS online), he'd be safe more often than not. So far, however, that hasn't been the case. But I think Chris is beginning to show the DWTS viewers that he's more than just a big bag of muscles, and as the field narrows and the choices become fewer, we'll hopefully see people making the right decisions with their votes.

#4 Ralph Macchio:
Oh, Ralph, gain some consistency, will you, please? Ralph's a great guy with a large fan base, but, sheesh, he just can't seem to put two solid weeks together. I've got him at #4 this week, which is a tumble from last week's #2 spot, but he can still go even lower as the upstart Romeo seems to be making a mid-season charge.

#5 Romeo:
Romeo goes from #6 last week to #5 this week, and with another good showing in upcoming Week 6, he could very well vault himself into the Top Three. Romeo got high praise from the judges this week, but, similar to Hines Ward, I saw a whole lot of being led around by his pro partner, Chelsie Hightower. I think the best highlight of the week from this couple, in fact, came on Tuesday's Results Show, during Mike Catherwood's "DWTS Exposed!" segment when a clip showed Cheslie's "wardrobe malfunction" as the couple practiced their routine. Funny stuff!

#6 Kirstie Alley:
I'm not really clear on why Kirstie persists in wearing those belly-revealing outfits, but this makes two weeks in a row. That being said, it may shock some of you to know that I think Kirstie's performance this week was more entertaining than Hines Ward's effort. In the end, though, she's clearly not the talented dancer many of her fans hoped she'd be early on in the competition.

#7 Kendra Wilkinson:
The former Playboy bunny had the distinction of dancing DWTS's 1,000 dance this week, and I have to say she made the most out of it. After a disastrous Week 4, she actually did pretty good this week - earning a respectable 22 points from the judges. She smiled a lot and got to dance to a fun "Yankee Doodle" song, something more in line with her "unelegant" personality.

#8 Petra Nemcova:
Sigh. The Queen of Nice on DWTS Season 12 has passed into the night. Unfortunately, we got more of the usual from Petra on the dance floor in Week 5, and it just wasn't enough. Dance pro Natasha Oreshkina said in her critique that Petra as never able to fix her posture (which Natasha blamed largely on her pro partner, Dmitri Chaplin, for not fixing). Even so, she was a better dancer than Kendra Wilkinson. Just not as popular with the viewers, I guess.


Next week we'll have a narrowed-down field of seven couples to choose from. Out of the seven, Kendra Wilkinson is clearly the weakest dancer. But is she the weakest in viewer popularity? Possibly not. Look for next week's celebrity "in jeopardy" lineup to include: Kendra Wilkinson (always my first choice), Ralph Macchio and Chelsea Kane.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dancing with the Stars - Week 5 Commentary

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.



[Natasha] This week was all about celebrating America, so the couples danced to songs with American themes. We had three couples tied at 22 for last place this week. As I mentioned before, because everyone goes up and down the leaderboard, we haven't really seen a clear leader for this season's competition.

Tonight's Scores:

1st Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 +W5:27 = 121 total) [Overall position: 1st.]
This week Hines and Kym did the Rumba. It was a very romantic dance. His technique was good and he did a solid job. As [DWTS judge] Carrie Ann mentioned on the show, he showed lots of hip action. So it was very good.

T-2nd Place - Chris Jericho/Cheryl Burke (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:21 + W4:23 +W:26 = 112) [Overall position: 4th.]
Chris and Cheryl did the Viennese Waltz. I'm definitely seeing improvement in Chris. Their dance was very smooth and strong. Chris was a little flat-footed (as DWTS judge Len Goodman mentioned). We should see a foot-rise in the Viennese Waltz, and Chris looked like he was skating.

T-2nd Place - Romeo/Chelsie Hightower (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:20 + W4:23 +W4:26 = 111) [Overall position: 5th.]
Romeo and Cheslie did the Foxtrot to New York, New York - one of my favorite songs. It's a powerful song and Romeo showed lots of energy dancing to it. It was one of his best dances.

T-2nd Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 +W5:26 = 114 total) [Overall position: 2nd.]
Chelsea and Mark did the Samba this week. This couple, I liked what they did. They were confident and showed good technique. I think this couple can be the leaders. I like Chelsea's technique, her personality and her confidence. I think she's ready to compete for the top spot.

5th Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 + W5:23 = 108) [Overall position: 6th.]
Kirstie and Maks did the Foxtrot, and I don't think this was the best dance they did [this season]. I think Maks should concentrate on helping his partner look good on the dance floor. He should pay more attention to Kirstie and not so much on himself. But they both had good attitudes and presentation in the dance.

T-6th Place - Ralph Macchio/Karina Smirnoff (W1:24 + W2:21 + W3:21 + W4:25 + W5:22 = 113) [Overall position: 3rd.]
Ralph and Karina did the Samba this week. It's very interesting this season how the leaders keep changing - one week they have a good week, the next week, not so much. This week Ralph's dance was too loose - he didn't look so well-controlled. He's just not consistent in his dances week-to-week.

T-6th Place - Petra Nemcova/Dmitry Chaplin (W1:18 + W2:18 + W3:25 + W4:23 + W5:22 = 106) [Overall position: 7th.]
Petra and Dmitry danced the Quickstep. This would be their last dance before being voted off on Tuesday. For once, I'm surprised by the elimination because two weeks ago Petra was at the top of the leaderboard. But I just didn't see any improvement in her posture at all. She doesn't look graceful and doesn't look correct, which probably gives her problems with her balance. She also made several mis-steps in this week's dance.

You know, I think if Petra danced with someone else she might have done better. Petra is a beautiful woman, and when she danced on her own she was nice. But when she and Dmitry danced together, her position was terrible. The pro should be fixing her problems with position and posture, but she had the same problem every week.

T-6th Place - Kendra Wilkinson/Louis van Amstel (W1:18 + W2:19 + W3:23 + W4:18 + W5:22 = 100) [Overall position: 8th.]
Kendra and Louis danced the Foxtrot to Yankee Doodle. I think this couple should have been the one eliminated before Petra. But the judges votes are only a part of it,and Petra doesn't have as many fans as Kendra.

Kendra's not the strongest dancer, and this week she was still a little weak. Last week was terrible, though, so it was better. I thought her dance was entertaining and it was fun music, but she was a little stiff in her movements.


So now we're halfway through the season and we still don't have a strong leader. My prediction for next week, though, is that Kendra should be the one eliminated and Chelsea should be on top.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dancing with the Stars - Week 4 Commentary

Season 12 of Dancing with the Stars is finally upon us. Each week Syracuse, NY FADS co-owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Natasha Oreshkina will be sharing her thoughts on the competition and giving us her take on which celebrities had the best week on the dance floor and which ones should be getting ready to pack their bags.



[Natasha] This week was Classic Music night, and I thought there were some very nice songs and nice dances, mostly the Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble and slow Waltz. It's very interesting because each week the leaders are changing as couples improve and switching positions on their scores.

Tonight's Scores:

1st Place - Chelsea Kane/Mark Ballas (W1:21 + W2:18 + W3:23 + W4:26 = 88 total)
Chelsea and Mark danced the Viennese Waltz. I was really impressed - it was very, very nice. They chose the Harry Potter theme, and their technique was incredible. For a moment I thought Mark was dancing with a professional partner. Chelsea wants to be pushed, she said, because she's tired of coming in third place. It was really good choreography, beautiful costumes, and they had a good connection. I'm really glad for Chelsea and Mark.

T-2nd Place - Hines Ward/Kym Johnson (W1:21 + W2:23 + W3:25 + W4:25 = 94 total)
Hines and Kym did the Paso Doble this week. Hines felt like he was challenged this week. he said he didn't understand Classical music. But the dance was strong and aggressive and he did a good job.

T-2nd Place - Ralph Macchio/Karina Smirnoff (W1:24 + W2:21 + W3:21 + W4:25 = 91)
Ralph and Karina did the slow Waltz. That was a very difficult dance - and it was to Romeo and Juliet, my favorite song. The choreography was nice. They're still in a higher place with their overall score, and I think their ready to compete with the other top couples.

T-4th Place - Romeo/Chelsie Hightower (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:20 + W4:23 = 85)
Romeo and Chelsie danced the Paso Doble. He's definitely improved his footwork. You could tell he was excited and he loved the dance. He did a good job. They did very well.

T-4th Place - Chris Jericho/Cheryl Burke (W1:19 + W2:23 + W3:21 + W4:23 = 86)
Chris and Cheryl also did the Paso Doble. Chris has his wrestling [acting] skills and he used them well in the dance. Cheryl used very good choreography for them.

T-4th Place - Petra Nemcova/Dmitry Chaplin (W1:18 + W2:18 + W3:25 + W4:23 = 84)
Petra and Dmitry performed the Paso Doble. She wore red, which was the character of the dance. Each week I say the same thing: she's a beautiful lady but sometimes her movements look so stiff. She should look aggressive - that's the Paso - but still should have smooth movements.

7th Place - Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (W1:23 + W2:20 + W3:21 + W4:21 = 85)
Kirstie and Maks did the Viennese Waltz. I though their dance was very elegant. [laughs] I think her score now with Maks is 1-to-1 with her shoes falling off. She did manage to get the shoe back on and continue with the dance, but I hope everything with the costumes and such goes better for them so they can just concentrate on dancing.

8th Place - Sugar Ray Leonard/Anna Trebunsakaya (W1:17 + W2:17 + W3:20 + W4:21 = 81)
Sugar Ray and Anna danced the Viennese Waltz to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers. I loved the song - a traditional Russian piece. Unfortunately, this is the couple that was eliminated this week, so we've seen the last of them performing. Sugar Ray seemed a little nervous. He's the oldest guy in the competition, but he seemed like he really enjoyed being on the show. He talked about how much he liked tha dancing and how much the show inspired him, but unfortunately there were much stronger couples.

9th Place - Kendra Wilkinson/Louis van Amstel (W1:18 + W2:19 + W3:23 + W4:18 = 78)
Kendra and Louis did the Viennese Waltz, sung by guest soprano Katherine Jenkins. Kendra was very disappointed in her dance. She made some mistakes and she was nervous. You could see how she messed up the choreography. She knew was was making mistakes and that threw her off even more.


So we have eight couples remaining for next week's competition, and we'll see what happens with them.

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