Category ►►► Dancin' Fool
September 20, 2011
I cannot in good conscience support my favorite "pro" from Dancing With the Stars, Lacey Schwimmer, because her "am" partner is Chastity Bono, daughter of Sonny and Cher -- but now with whisps of hair on her chinny-chin-chin!
Why don't I want to watch Chastity and Lacey form a chickwich every week?
- I find Bono repugnant in the extreme.
- She is also delusional, thinking she is a man.
- Finally, the entire setup is offensive: In ballroom dancing, women dance with men, not with other women. At best, a parody; at worst, a travesty.
Abraham "Stretch" Lincoln once asked, "If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" The correct answer is four, of course, "because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
So I ask, If you call sexual mutilation surgery a "gender transformation," then how many testicles does Chastity Bono have?
Further, proponent sayeth not.
December 3, 2009
More Dancin' Diatribes
This time, for "the other dance show" -- So You Think You Can
SYTYCD is really for the younger set; my sister and my brother's wife both love this show, but neither watches Dancing With the Stars.
In this dance competition, twenty dancers (ten each) are selected from literally thousands of auditioners. They're paired up, then each week, every couple draws a dance style randomly; the styles range from hip hop (too much hip hop, in my opinion), to ballroom, jazz, Broadway, contemporary (basically modern ballet), and more exotic dance styles (Bollywood, Lindy Hop, Russian folk dance, etc.).
Professional choreographers design the dances, which the couples perform, competing against each other. Each week, viewers get to vote: For the first half of each season, they vote for couples; for the last half, for individuals.
On the "results" show, dancers wind up in the "bottom three" or "bottom two" based on viewer votes. Then one guy and one gal are cut, based upon the judges' decision (first half) or viewer votes (second half). In the end, "there can be only one."
For any of youse who watch SYTYCD, you might imagine that my favorite male dance contestant would be the brilliant ballroom dancer, Ryan Di Lello. Not so! He was my favorite, up until a couple of weeks ago; but now my favorite is the contemporary dancer Jakob Karr.
(My favorite female dance contestant was and still is Ashleigh Di Lello, Ryan's wife; I do hope Ryan hangs on long enough to get paired with his wife one week... and I hope they get a ballroom number!)
Jakob is simply astonishing -- a cross between season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer and hall of famer Ray Bolger (the guy who played the Scarecrow in the 1939 version of the Wizard of Oz). He has never been in the bottom three, nor was he in the bottom two tonight. Although he's a contemporary dancer, he seems able to master nearly every dance style they throw at him... though of course Ryan is better at ballroom. (But Jakob does a better ballroom than Ryan does contemporary.)
Most interesting to me is his physical flexibility, hence my otherwise cryptic remark above about Ray Bolger: Jakob can move his body in ways that no human male can possibly move, leading to my conclusion that he's a double-jointed alien.
To me, he is clearly the -- best -- dancer on this season of the show, male or female... possibly the best dancer ever on any season. So that's my prediction: Jakob Karr will win this season of SYTYCD.
...Just etching it in stone to be the first (among those blogs I read) to make such a bold prediction. As Detective Inspector Grim (David Haig) said on the Rowan Atkinson series the Thin Blue Line, "My butt's hanging way out over the line, and I don't want any cock-up!"
November 24, 2009
One pitfall -- or do I mean pratfall? -- into which a disturbing large percent of conservatives fall -- including Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and a rasher of conservative columnists -- is to pooh-pooh such supposedly "elitist" pastimes as dance, serious music, and art. I suspect that if you scratch many self-proclaimed conservatives, you will hit populism without having to drill too deeply; populists (in the socialist sense) eschew putative "highbrow" entertainment in favor of the manly pursuits of the masses... hence the snorting rejection of "feminized" entertainments such as the TV show Dancing With the Stars.
Here is how DWTS works; hat tip to Wikipedia:
The show pairs a number of celebrities with professional ballroom dancers, who each week compete by performing [ballroom and Latin ballroom] dances. These are then given scores by a panel of judges. Viewers are given a certain amount of time to place votes on their favorite dancers, either by telephone or (in some countries) by the Internet. The couple with the lowest combined score (judges plus viewers) is eliminated. [Wash, rinse, repeat until one couple is declared the winner.]
They award the winner a trophy that the senior host, Tom Bergeron (of America's Funniest Home Videos fame) calls a "mirror-ball trophy," after the perennial prop in a 1970s disco... though to me, the trophy looks more like a giant, gold-plated golf ball.
The show is a miracle of wholesome entertainment -- and it should be exactly what real conservatives like: People entertaining the audience without resorting to explicit sex, sadistic violence, rejection and mockery of traditional American values, anti-religious hysteria, or Republican/conservative-bashing, which are all staples of most fiction television and TV (so-called) "news" shows. Other than a Mussolini-like obsession with being a "regular guy," I cannot fathom why so many conservatives go out of their way to spit upon DWTS and anybody who participates in the show.
Tom DeLay was a contestant in this season's DWTS; he actually did reasonably well, but he had to drop out due to a foot injury (a pair of them, actually). He certainly did not disgrace himself, as Hewitt and Medved and other conservatives (neocon in Medved's case) confidently and derisively asserted he would.
In any event, Sachi and I just watched the finale of DWTS; all three finalists performed three dances each: One assigned dance (e.g., Argentine Tango or the Cha-Cha-Cha), a group dance, and a "freestyle" dance wherein anything went.
Those of you who have been watching this season know that the three finalists are Kelly Osbourne (daughter of Ozzy Osbourne, former lead singer for Black Sabbath), singer/songwriter Mýa Marie Harrison, and entertainer Donny Osmond. At the end of the finale, based on the judges' scores (half the final score, the other part being supplied by the TV audience's vote), Mýa led with 87 points out of a possible 90; Donny was next with 85; and Kelly brought up the rear with 76, I believe.
As half the score comes from viewer votes, either Mýa Harrison or Donny Osmond could win; Kelly Osbourne is quite far behind Mýa and likely cannot catch up on viewer votes.
This season was fairly lackluster, though Donny Osmond stood out as the pre-eminent entertainer of, in my opinion, the entire show, all seasons. Mýa is a pretty good dancer, but I believe the judges have been overscoring her for some time now. Kelly started as a whiny cry-baby with the attention-span of a horsefly; but she blossomed (no better word) into a confident and adept dancer, not in the same league as most of the other dancers -- certainly not in technical merit -- but endlessly engaging.
Anyway, the point of this dreary and sordid post is simply this: I want to go on record predicting that, regardless of the fact that Mýa Harrison currently leads the pack, I predict that the winner tonight (Tuesday night) will be Donny Osmond: Last week, he ended up in last place on the "leader board" (counting only judges' scores), following an entirely uncalled for, and in my opinion unprofessional, set of scores for his first dance; yet despite being in last place, his fan base saved him by voting overwhelmingly. Osmond did not even end up in the bottom two, I don't believe.
I take it that he likely has the most numerous and enthusiastic fans of any of the contestants. Since he is only two points behind Mýa on the judge's scoreboard, I predict he will prevail. While Mýa may have a large following -- I have no idea -- I doubt they would be big fans of DWTS; contrariwise, fans of Donny Osmond are exactly the sort of folks who would watch a dance-contest television show.
In fact, Donny Osmond is the conservative that folks should have been watching all during this season; Tom DeLay was just a distraction. I have nothing against the former House Majority Leader; in fact, I firmly believe he is being railroaded by Travis County District Attorney and diehard Democrat Ronnie Earle, who indicted him on what I believe to be knowingly false charges, the purpose of which was to force him from public office. Even so, Donny Osmond is more interesting to me, because he has forged a successful career in the music industry, in movies, and on the stage... all while being openly and unapologetically conservative.
Osmond is not a political activist (though he did support California's Proposition 8, overturning the Cal Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage); he lives his conservatism in real life, his honesty, decency, and rectitude unquestioned. Not even D.A. Earle at his vilest could have found a hook to hang an indictment of Donny Osmond.
He is, however, a Mormon; and I suspect that there is a certain animus against Osmond on that basis, just as there is against Mitt Romney. I also detect the traditional sneering by hyperintellectuals directed against instinctual conservatives like Walt Disney, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, George Murphy -- and Donny Osmond (as well as against his sister Marie). Add in the populist problem, and I suspect that if Donny Osmond were ever to run for office, he would receive the "Palin business" from a large chunk of the conservative high-verbals.
(I trust Walt Disney more than the chattering class, and he was on the side of the Osmond Brothers; they got their first real break performing at Disneyland in 1958, while Uncle Walt was still alive and running the whole Disney empire.)
I make a secondary prediction: If Donny Osmond wins, he will still be utterly ignored by "movement" conservatives, despite the great potential for spreading the conservative memes using folks like Osmond. Thus the head severs itself from the body.
So sad; I see this rejection by Donny's natural constituents as another sign of the terrible and perhaps unbridgeable rift between the conservative "intellectual" (most aren't very) elite and the rank and file conservatives and Republicans. Nowhere is that rift more obvious than here in California, where the Cal GOP appears to have made a deal with the devil: They pledge not to try to expand their numbers from abysmal up to rotten, ceding the permanent majority to the Democrats... in exchange for the latter's assurance that they will allow the current Republican incumbants to serve out their wretched and meaningles careers without any serious Democratic opposition.
Thus have the elites thwarted the will and desire of the Republican electorate. So it goes.
May 7, 2008
Young Jazz Singer on Dancing With the Stars Goes Out With True Style
21 year old Jazz singer Mario -- né Mario Dewar Barrett -- was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars last night.
Mario and professional partner Karina Smirnoff on Dancing With the Stars
Too bad; I rather liked him; he was always upbeat, took criticism well and tried to incorporate it into the next week's dances, and showed a lot of class. But we knew he was in trouble when he came in second on the judges' leader board one week... yet was in the bottom two after the voting. Clearly, his many fans were not watching the show in large enough numbers to keep him in the competition.
But when Mario left, he did something nobody else on the show has ever done; and it was so patriotic, so moving, that I was near taken aback. Mario began by thanking head judge Len Goodman for the criticism he had given Mario, which he said made him a better ballroom dancer. Then he added this, completely unexpectedly:
And the comment about me being brave and being an inspiration, you know, for young people, I want to say that the real brave ones are the young men and women fighting for our country overseas. And I want to, you know, really shed light on that and tell you thanks for that. And I really appreciate it, and I've had a ball. Thank you very much!
Mario said nothing political, but that very fact speaks volumes. Barack Obama could not have resisted the temptation to use our soldiers and Marines to make some political point, nor could have Hillary Clinton. But Mario only wanted to thank and praise the troops... so that is all he did.
A classy exit for a very classy guy. And I couldn't care less about his politics... whatever they are.
August 21, 2007
The Lizardy Hop
Sachi and I have been taking ballroom and swing dance lessons for a couple of months now; we're always looking for different ways to exercise (I also fence -- also badly).
The most recent swing dance we've been learning is the Lindy Hop. This is a black jazz dance (all the best jazz dances originated in the black community) that started in the 1920s, according to Wikipedia (and if you can't believe that impeccable source, who can you believe?) Although Lindy Hop is technically a branch of swing dancing, Lindy is to regular East Coast Swing what Little Richard is to Pat Boone.
It was originally performed with both dancers keeping all four footsies on the floor, à la "Shorty" George Snowden, one of the originators in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem; but in the 1930s, dancers such as Frankie "Musclehead" Manning introduced what I call the aerials, or what is properly called the "air step," where one or both dancers leap into the air -- the girl often flipping or being spun around by her male partner.
Here is probably the best swing dance ever fillmed, from the movie Hellzapoppin' (a 1941 Ole Olsen and Chick Johnson vehicle); this is the long (5:03) version, which includes the boogie-woogie music bit at the beginning before the Lindy Hopping begins... work-safe, unless your boss doesn't like you to be wasting your time watching sixty-year old dance routines. The dancers are the Harlem Congaroos, assembled and chroeographed by Frankie Manning:
The unverified story of the name of the dance is that "Shorty" George and "Big" Bea were dancing it in 1926 at the Savoy, and a reporter asked Shorty what it was called. That being the day Charles "Lucky Lindy" Lindbergh landed in Paris, the newspapers carried the banner headline "Lindy Hops the Atlantic." So Snowden answered -- ad-libbing a name -- "I'm dancing the Lindy Hop." Make of it what you will.
The Lindy is an 8-count dance, meaning a full count of one complete cycle of the basic step is eight beats: one, two, three-and-four, five, six, seven-and-eight, where the single numbers are single steps and the hyphenated numbers are triple-steps... so it's left, right, left-right-left, right, left, right-left-right, and you're ready to begin again (each triple-step takes the same time as one single step).
Other than just tapping your feet in that rhythm, the most basic Lindy step is the throwout. Starting with partners facing each other, the man's left hand holding the woman's right, the man leads her in; the woman motivates very quickly to the man, turning clockwise somewhat; the man catches the woman, then he spins around (also clockwise), flinging her back out. He lets go his right-hand hold from her shoulder but maintains the left-hand grip, and they're back where they started. This takes one Lindy cycle.
In the video above (and below), you can see the dancers doing the pull-in and throwout to establish a base dance rhythm and sort of rev themselves up for the more extreme tricks -- which I'd love to be able to tell you Sachi and I do, but, ahem, truth in advertising. Maybe someday...
Here's the Lindy scene from the extended (about eleven minutes) all-black dance routine (plus Harpo) in the 1937 Marx Brothers move A Day at the Races (one of the Brothers' best movies, by the way, with the "tootsie frootsie ice-a cream" horse-betting routine and many others). I've always loved the way many mainstream, white movie stars would open their movies to phenomenal black musicians and dancers who otherwise were stuck in black cinema; this is probably the widest audience these singers and dancers ever had in their careers.
The dancers here are from the troupe Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, the first Lindy Hopping ensemble, organized in 1935 by Herbert White from the "Kat's Korner" of the Savoy Ballroom -- a piece of floor reserved for the best swingers -- and chroeographed by Frankie Manning himself. The clip is 2:04 long, and the Lindy starts about 30 seconds in:
Sadly, the dance died out in the 1950s, as rock'n'roll "dancing" took over the dance floors. Rock dances like the Twist or the Mashed Potato require no skill except the ability to more or less keep the beat -- hence were more universal.
During the seventies, disco ruled; disco is at least an interesting dance genre, which can be as blah as the Ronco TV advert for the Hustle -- or as spectacular as some of the wild disco dances in Saturday Night Fever or on So You Think You Can Dance. But right around the peak of disco in 1980, somebody unearthed the Lindy Hop from movies like Hellzapoppin' and A Day at the Races, and the race to deconstruct and reconstruct it was on.
Imagine if all you had to work with was a pair of movies with true experts dancing the dance at the breakneck speed you see above. Fortunately, some of the original Lindy Hoppers from the twenties and thirties were still sucking air half a century later, including Frankie Manning, and the dance was successfully revived.
In fact, Manning is still alive today at age 93, probably because he dances swing. He even won a Tony for best choreographer -- in 1989, when he was 75; he collaborated with, among others, Faynard Nicholas... who, with his brother Harold, formed the famous Nicholas Brothers dance team.
Notice in both the preceding clips the classic "headcutting" style common in a lot of black dance, singing, and rap competitions: Each contestant or pair of contestants comes out on the floor and has 15 seconds or so to wow the audience (and judges); then they vacate the floor and let the next pair hop in. After a while, contestants can cycle back.
There is no long wait between dances, as in the later stages of ballroom competitions, where one couple dances a single choreographed dance all the way through; then everything is on hold while the judges confer... then the next pair get their chance. The dynamic is totally different.
To see how successful the Lindy Hop reconstruction is, check this 7:22 clip from the 2006 finals of one of the many competitions. You'll see many of the exact, same moves from the movies of 60-70 years ago:
Notice that this competition retains the headcutting aspect (others might not; I don't know)... but now the Lindy has become a dance more associated with white swing dancers than black jitterbuggers, back in the days of Cab Calloway. Still, B-Boying is a natural evolution of Lindy Hopping (headcutting and all), though it still needs partnering to become as interesting as the older dances. But I'll bet anyone who is a good breaker can learn to do the Lindy or the Balboa.
Even middle-aged Celtic and Japanese Americans can learn to dance it... well, a considerably slower and more sedate version; there are Lindy clubs all over the world. It's great exercise, it gets you out of the house, it's something you can do with your spouse -- and it's a heck of a lot of fun. (Google is your friend.)
Give it a whirl... literally!
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