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Dancing with the Stars: One Dance Expert’s Take on the Upcoming Season

Written by: Trevor Goodyear, Special to CC2K


ImageThere's a reason I don't watch So You Think You Can Dance, and it’s the same reason I do watch Dancing With The Stars. Where the marketing whizzes at Fox are concerned, I should probably be watching the former. Especially for a guy. I mean, I'm sure that there's a faction of guys out there that cannot resist all that tasty, tasty hot partner-dancing waiting for them on Fox (I mean, come on!.) But I'm in a bit of a special category. I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer. My college had a team that would travel around to competitions and, as it turned out, I became a fairly skilled Latin dancer. So you would think that if I were going to choose a show that was packed from minute one to its final second with ballroom, it would be the slick, sexy, admittedly talented yummy biscuits of SYTYCD, not, well, Jerry Springer.

 

 

But the fact is, what I enjoy more than anything is seeing people step out of their comfort zone, try something that puts them off-the-charts out of their depth, and somehow pulling it together. I remember reading an interview with Uma Thurman about her frustration during her training for Kill Bill. She learned all manner of martial arts for the movie, despite never having trained in those skills. She astutely noted that adults, once they reach a certain age, basically stop challenging themselves. They stop trying things that they know are going to make them look like an absolute fool. The frustration of learning an entirely new craft is a special one, a battle of the ego. People who have developed their self esteem around their talents as athletes or chefs or CEOs generally have a hard time having someone tell them, however nicely, that they basically suck.

DWTS (my favorite parts, anyway) is that phenomenon writ large. Season one was especially true, and though seasons since then have had a few ringers here and there (I'm looking at you Stacey Keibler and Mario Lopez), there are always a few people who are truly a delight to watch as they stumble and struggle and learn, until finally – if they make it through the gauntlet of the first few rounds – they become thoroughly watchable, entertaining dancers. These are usually the people for whom the show is the greatest personal revelation. John O'Hurley from Season One was the best example of this. He started off a bumbling oaf, and by season's end was a picture of fiery, debonair dance floor royalty. There is a certain change in the eyes when a contestant realizes that they've turned a corner. When the thought occurs to them that they might be getting a handle on this, and that going before the judges each night might not be an odyssey of pain, that's the moment that keeps me watching the show.

Speaking as someone with a background in ballroom, that moment usually occurs around the time of the tango. That's the dance that actually is the easiest, but doesn't look the easiest. It’s also one of the only slower moving dances that requires some expression, some acting. Men especially gravitate towards the paso doble and the tango, the dances of bullfighters & bulls, and pimps & hookers respectively. They don't require the nimble feet of the latin dance (jive, mambo, cha-cha, and samba (a particular killer)), but the male part doesn't have the airheaded goofiness of the other smooth dances (waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Viennese waltz).

This upcoming season is no different. With the first episode done (there will be a re-broadcast this Sunday on ABC) and no eliminations yet handed out, this seemed to be a good time to offer an assessment of the current crop, as well as a few thoughts about what the season might hold.

Steve-O

Why he might do well:

He's a goof and a showman, which can carry you through the first few rounds (Cloris Leachman, the world's least appropriate geriatric, taught us that). Plus he's got a huge, internet savvy fan-base who might just show up to vote for him, much the same way Master P got strung out on the show long after he should have gone home. He's also a recovering addict, which takes some intestinal fortitude, and one should never underestimate an addict's desire to stave off boredom (I'm serious). Plus he has the right partner to harness his energy in Lacey. She's the ballroom equivalent to the cast of Jackass, trying stuff out just because.

Why he probably won't:

He's a Jackass (I mean that in the nicest way possible). Look for stodgy fundamentals stickler judge Len Goodman to call them out on something. Steve-O's partner Lacey especially bothers him. She's the "meddling kid" to his "get off my well manicured ballroom lawn."

 

Belinda Carlisle

Why she might do well:

Pop stars tend to do well, with their sense of performance and musical interpretation. There's also usually a ground swell for attractive middle-aged women at some point in the season. Her partner Jonathan is easily my favorite male pro. A picture of graciousness.

Why she probably won't:

Unless she had accidentally smeared her upper lip in chloroform before her first dance, she doesn't have the coordination or foot speed. Jonathan is also a ballroom specialist. The latin dances aren't his forte.

 

David Alan Grier

Why he might do well:

A Broadway star (He took over for Whoopi Goldberg who had taken over for Nathan Lane in "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" a few years ago), I'm sure he's picked up a few twinkle-toed pointers here and there. Plus, and this is random, but I remember him having bizarrely good extension when he was on In Living Color. Seriously, every so often, they'd have him do a high kick and his foot would end up above his head. Plus, like Steve-O he's been partnered well. Kym Johnson is a sweet and flirty Aussie who will use his sense of humor well. His height will also useful. Statuesque. He's my sleeper pick for this season.

Why he probably won't:

Don't know if he has the natural fan-base to pull him through the early rounds. If this were the year after In Living Color maybe, but he might be too far down on the D-List to win.

 

Shawn Johnson

Why she might do well:

Olympians have always done well, and she's certainly got the body control to do the moves. Her partner Mark Ballas is an official ballroom badass. Long, lean, and athletic, if they make the finals, their freestyle routine would be an impressive collection of flips and tricks. Probably the odds on favorite to win.

Why she probably won't:

She'll need to loosen up and get the gymnastics out of her system if she wants to win. I also don't know if she can "act" a dance. Gymnasts spend most of their time with that smile plastered on their faces.

 

Lil Kim

Why she might do well:

Another performer, but more athletic than Belinda Carlisle. Her hip-hop style will serve her well in the latin dances, and if she can keep a straight face through the ballroom, her excellent partner Derek Hough should be able to pull her through. Her dedication of her first dance is now and forever the greatest ever: "for my girls in federal penitentiary." Ryker's represent!!!

Why she probably won't:

She looked unpolished in her first dance, and I don't know if she can channel the prim and proper vibe needed for some of the ballroom dances. Plus, her natural fan base – criminals – have to pay exorbitant phone rates to call in and vote for her. Perhaps she can bring a spotlight to this ongoing injustice.

 

Gilles Marini

Why he might do well:

He's dreamy, and seemed reasonably coordinated. My wife said he reminded her of Cristian de la Fuente, another partner of Cheryl Burke's with whom she had success. The fact that women need to be flashier in most dances means that men don't need to improve quite as quickly as women to survive, so he has that going for him.

Why he probably won't:

Lacked polish, definitely. No clear fan base to draw from, unlike, say a playboy playmate

 

Holly Madison

Why she might do well:

A late addition to this season, replacing singer Jewel, this former Playboy Playmate and "Girls Next Door" co-star seemed to have a great attitude, despite limited rehearsal time. If thousands of salivating men can be comfortable watching a show about ballroom dancing, she might be able to slip through to the later rounds.

Why he probably won't:

Looked downright clumsy in her first dance. Don't know if she’s ever been asked to do anything other than look plastic on the pages of a magazine.

 

Ty Murray

Why he might do well:

There is a better than average chance that he will get 100% of the rodeo vote. He seemed like an absolute gentleman, so there might be some sentimental women out there that would like to see him come back for another week.

Why he probably won't:

While he seemed game for anything, he appeared particularly wooden and stiff. I shudder to think what his samba would look like. Plus incurably flirty judge Bruno Tunioli seems to have stuck a spur up his butt this season, and will forgive positively oaken women before he'll let a chance to shred a clumsy man go by.

 

Denise Richards

Why she might do well:

Looks great in the outfits.

Why he probably won't:

Looks bad once she starts to move.

 

Melissa Rycroft

Why she might do well:

The latest of late additions, (Only 48 hours to practice) I was truly wowed by her performance. With a background in ballet and cheerleading, she's the closest this season has to a ringer. Plus, as the jilted lover of the most hated man in America, she has the sympathy of, like, everyone. Rob Van Winkle's wife will be pulling for her. Her partner Tony is a pro, too.

Why she probably won't:

She's really a wild card. Yeah, she has the ballet experience, but so do half the women in America whose mothers could afford lessons. Will she have the foot speed to keep up on the mambo?

 

Lawrence Taylor

Why he might do well:

A bit of a surprise in his first dance. Nowhere near as embarrassing as Evander Holyfield. I guess he always did have quick feet. He's this year's man-sport entrant, which means he comes with an enthusiastic group of people willing to vote for him. And, hey, if Rob Van Winkle is going to vote for anyone, it would be this former NY Giant.

Why he probably won't:

At some point, the judges will get him. His feet may be fast, but he's missing everything else, posture, hold, grace, rhythm, emotional expression. Even if the fans drag him through, eventually the judges will knock him out.

 

Chuck Wicks

Why he might do well:

He's a performer, so musical expression won't be a problem. He's got the cute gentleman thing going on. Plus, his partner, Julianne Hough, has won this competition twice. Oh yeah, he and his partner have got the unspoken communication thing going on, because his partner is his girlfriend. This could be the greatest advantage anyone has every had.

Why he probably won't:

This could be the most awkward, painful disadvantage anyone has ever had. I don't wish it on anyone, but can imagine the awkward drop-out speech. The other thing that gives me pause is that in the first episode he was seen trying to tell her what to do. Pumpkin patch, you're on her turf. You do whatever she tells you.

 

Steve Wozniak

Why he might do well:

Never discount a man who doesn't know exactly how many billions of dollars he has. They aren't used to failing.

Why he probably won't:

Did you see his first dance? Plus, Mac's market share is under 15%. He'd need more people than that to push him over the edge. My pick for first casualty.

 

Enjoy the show!

Author: Trevor Goodyear, Special to CC2K

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