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Dancing With The Stars

by Wendy Goldberg
March 19, 2009
Dancing With The Stars web site
Dancing With The Stars is a reality show with just enough grit, glitz and glamour to make it appealing to the Broadway, Las Vegas, and hip hop crowd. Like American Idol, it has a loyal following of tens of millions of Americans who avidly watch and get to vote each week. It is a testament to the power and beauty of ballroom dance and the endless American respect for the ballot.

The show started out with thirteen contestants, ranging in careers from rock stars to bull riders, who are randomly paired with professional dancers, whom the audience gets to know, cheer and vote for. A poll conducted by ABC, the host of the show, pointed out that most viewers tune in to watch their favorite pro, whom they have come to 'know' over the years.

The fact that the show moves at breakneck speed, racing between two minute performances, witty quips from the moderators, snappy quotes from the judges, instant reaction from the stars and pros, and live musical numbers from such luminaries as Jewel, adds spice to our ever increasing need to splice quick bits of life together. The only time we get to get off the roller coaster, and watch feelings unfurl is during studio practice. This is when the pros put their pupils through their paces, emotions run high, and the drama dominates.

So far this year, pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy, raw and rough around the edges, who moves like a tiger, has brought tears to his partner, Denise Richards, model and Bond film girl, pressing her a bit too hard. After comforting her, duly chastened, Maks has leashed his inner beast, using a gentler tone, and reacting with an 'it wasn't me' innocent look.

The first week of the show, Denise and Maks did a cha cha, whose hot tempo and hip action led to their heated interchange. This week, they did a quickstep to the Grease song "We Go Together…" where Maks, the perfect gentleman, led Denise, who glowed with a Grace Kelly quality, into some beautifully executed turns, with precisely pointed toes.

Karina Smirnoff, a petite, spitfire of a dancer, was first to perform with Steve Woznick, whose big smile was not enough to endear him to the judges. Next came Lacey Schwimmer, hip hop queen of the show, and Steve O who suffered a back injury during dress rehearsal and was rushed to the hospital. The judges, apparently short on sympathy, doled out the low marks medicine.

Next up was Chelsea Highflower, a new pro, with Ty Murray, the laconic bull rider. He maintained a strong A frame throughout, as Chelsea whipped around him with dazzling turns. Then came Belinda Carlisle, with pro Jonathan Roberts, who is always gentle and supportive to his partners. Last week they did a waltz, which the judges found stilted, and this time they did the Salsa. Although Belinda tried to sway her hips smoothly, the judges were not swayed.

Lawrence Taylor, a tall, heavyset pro golfer, was turned around the floor in a quickstep, by Edyta Silwinska, an exceptionally graceful dancer, whose leg extensions, and back bends take the breath away. The judges took exception to Lawrence's big footed awkwardness, and dished out the low grades.

Then came cheerful David Ala Grier, coached by pro Kym Johnson. Last week they did a Waltz with Kym in a lovely emerald green gown, choreographing to David's strengths topped by a Salsa this week with Kym turning around David, as if he were a Maypole. Holly Madison, a Barbie look alike, was up next, with pro Dmitry Chaplin, new to the show. They did a quick step, Holly in purple and diamonds, while Dmitry, cute and acrobatic, added a Gene Kelly athleticism to his ballroom step.

Maks and Denise were up next followed by Julianne Hough, with Chuck Wicks, good looking and personable. Last week they did a Waltz, Chuck looked charming in a Tux, and Julianne glided gracefully across the floor like a dewy eyed Bride. This week, they did a Salsa, with Julianne spinning faster than a top, her orange and saffron yellow costume twirling like a pair of twizzle sticks.

Next up were sassy Lil Kim and Derek Hough, who flys around the dance floor like Peter Pan. Lil Kim, in a fire red dress, drenched in diamonds, shook her way into the audience's hearts, if not the judges. Following them were Mark Ballas, and Shawn Johnson, the Olympic gymnist. Last week they regaled the crowd with a Waltz danced to the song: "It Is You I Have Loved All Along" from Shrek. Mark choreographed a beautiful ending with Shawn's leg high in the air. This time they did a Salsa, which showed off Shawn's strong legs in a series of quick, sharp turns.

Saving the two best couples for last, (yes ratings matter) we were first treated to Tony Dovolani who took Melissa Rycroft, the jilted bachelorette, and put her back in the spotlight. Last week, they regaled the audience with a gorgeous Waltz to "Moon River" where Melissa's background in ballet pushed her towards the front, into the number two spot. Melissa's long, supple back stretched, which brought appreciative gasps from the wooed crowd. This week was a sensual Salsa, where Melissa carved the air with great, unraveling turns and an effortless backbend which sent the judges into a swoon.

Last were Cheryl Burke, a two time champion and Gilles Marini, a French film star. They did a sharp quickstep to "Kryptonite" with Gilles dressed as an elegant Clark Kent with glasses, ending with a swooshing slide on the floor, as he ripped open his jacket to reveal that special S. The choreography was smart, intricate, and showed off the handsome Gilles to his best. The crowd swooned; so did the judges.

Of course, this is a competition, so with a sense of excitement and trepidation, we root for our favorites, and cast our vote. This episode, there was a dance off between the two lowest scorers, and Belinda and Jonathan were eliminated. Sorry to see them go, but looking forward to next week, the other couples will sparkle under their shimmering shafts of light. We too wonder who will be transformed from Pygmalian into princess, or frog into prince. Who will ride high, as the ferris wheel keeps turning, its blinking lights a miniature version of the star pins holding up the midnight tent sky.
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