W H O A


I am a little weirded out right now on a few different levels. Okay, for one thing, I loved Paulina and am very disappointed she’s off (Dancing With the Stars of course — I’ll get to the relevance of the above pic in a minute). I was too busy to blog last night but if I would have I would have said how much I enjoy watching her dance because, ridiculous as it sounds since she is (or was anyway) a huge supermodel, I totally identified with her. Latin is so unbelievably hard if you weren’t raised with it. It’s so hard to get the Cuban motion just right, and, in order to make up for initially being unable to connect your back muscles to your abdominals and those to your hips, you tend to just bounce about, in Paulina’s case, or wiggle your butt and shake your shoulders, in Heather’s. And cute as it is, it’s just that — cute, which Latin shouldn’t be! But it’s still a lot of fun! And cute is … cute! It’s also nice, as a student anyway, to be able to identify with someone else’s limitations and their struggle to overcome them. And now she won’t have a chance. And I’m not sure why she was booted since she definitely was far from the worst and her personality was so sweet. She was so warm and funny and entertaining, and even humorously self-deprecating, which, as Jolene I think it was, pointed out in her comment in my post from last week, is such an unexpected surprise in a supermodel! She certainly had a better personality than some of the others. Oh well, at least Heather’s still in. Some of my co-workers today were expressing their dislike of her. I heard the word “golddigger” a couple times. I have to confess I don’t keep up with the gossip mags, so I know she was once married to Paul McCartney but don’t know much else. Anyway, I like her personality as revealed on the show. I think my favorite overall right now is Laila. I also like Joey.

Anyway, reason number two that I’m disappointed is that, with six hours now under its belt, we can see where the show’s going to go this season. They pumped tonight as showcasing great professional talent, and, I’m sorry, but who was that? It was just all the pros already on the show. Where are Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski? Where are Bryan Watson and Carmen? Even bring Van Amstel back and let him dance with Smirnoff for cry eye, but don’t limit it to the pros on the show — they’re not top class (excepting the aforesaid Karina, but, since ballroom takes two, you can’t see what she’s made of unless you see her dance with a great pro partner). (How much do I LOVE, by the way, that there’s a Wikipedia entry on Louis?!) For Standard, we have a top world couple right here in the U.S. Is it that hard to fly Jonathan Wilkins and Katusha Demidova from NY to LA for one night? The pros on the show are fine for dancing with the celebs but if you’re going to tout the first results / all pro show as showcasing great professional talent, bring in the best.

But what really weirded me out the most about tonight was, after being upset that Paulina was voted off (the first time, I must confess, that I’ve ever been annoyed about anyone on the show getting the boot), I visited the DWTS message board to see if anyone perhaps had a chance to say anything yet. I figured I’d be WAY too early. Wow, was I ever wrong. I logged on at 10:02 — 2 minutes after the show ended and maybe 5 or 6 after Paulina was announced first off. In that time, there were nine threads. The top one, posted less than 60 seconds before I logged on, had already received 1,113 views. THAT’S 1,113 VIEWS IN LESS THAN 60 SECONDS. I’m sorry but when I post a message on the Winger message board I’m lucky if it gets 10 views in a whole day — and that’s the most popular website in existence on ballet. Doug Fox of Great Dance, an extremely popular dance website centered around using internet technology to promote concert dance, recently revealed his stats on his page views and I think he got that many in an entire day on the whole site. I feel like I’m beginning to understand where Terry Teachout’s annoyance is coming from. I had no idea there was this degree of difference between a popular TV show and ballet. I no longer think that the internet is the be-all and end-all right now, the best way to reach out to people and gain new audiences. If the internet is the future I don’t think it’s the present. The present is still the good old fashioned TV. Obviously the internet is a good aid for promoting dance, through the blogs and message boards, but there needs to be more ballet on TV. I don’t know how — commercials maybe? A full-length ballet once in a while like the Met Opera is doing. Except it needs to be on a basic network and during prime time. When I was watching Leeza and Tony do their foxtrot to “Strangers in the Night,” I of course thought of Marcelo :) (okay, AND Baryshnikov!) Tharp’s ballets are so modern, so fun, and so relatable. Certainly the same audience who gets so into ballroom would be into her, right?! Or, Alvin Ailey’s The River or Pas de Duke, or Revelations even — they all contain some elements of Samba and Jive, etc. Anyone who takes any interest in DWTS would simply be blown away by those dancers and choreographies.

Also, reading the show’s message boards made me a bit nauseated. This was hardly Ballet Talk. People were talking on such a low level. Though many were, happily for me, disagreeing with Paulina’s being booted, most were saying things like ‘so and so sucks,’ ‘so and so is horrible,’ ‘no, that’s idiotic, it’s so and so who needs to be put out of his misery’… etc. etc. with nothing more, no specifics about their technique. But maybe viewing the greatest dancers in the world do Tharp’s version of “ballroom” would start to elevate the level of popular discussion of dance, and, hence, better promote it? I dunno, I’m tired and annoyed and just a bit disappointed in ‘my peeps’ right now!!!

13 Comments

  1. Hi Tonya,

    One reason so many were on the internet is that it is the easiest way to vote for your favorite dancers, plus all votes have to be in within 1 or 2 hours after the end of the show. You can even vote before the show ends, too, on the internet or phone. By using different email accounts one can vote several times over (up 7 times per account) for any dancer. I have 4 different email accounts, and I used them all last season to vote; if you have 1 or more phones you can do the same thing. It is how I ended up voting when I was staying at a hotel for several weeks last year. I don’t have television no so I watch no tv at all. I don’t even miss DWTS like I thought I would.

  2. Hi Tonya,

    This is excellent, thought-provoking post – you bring-up a lot of important issues about dance – I’ll follow-up soon on my blog.

  3. Tonya,

    Have you ever considered that maybe television is for the masses as it is affordable and convenient? Not all great performances of ballet and opera are always available on BASIC television like Dancing w/ the Stars. It’s a television show that is marketed for EVERYONE around the country and not just those that can afford season tickets or live in a sophisticated metropolitan area of the world. Dancing w/ the Stars is more popular because it allows for the EVERY MAN to relate to dancing and connect w/ it. From what you’ve written about your experiences on WINGER they can be kind of snooty and potentially intimidating to someone who doesn’t have the experience/knowledge of dance you do. It’s a show that’s managed to make dancing popular among football players of all people. The dance pieces you discuss on your site and the WINGER itself are a bit more elitist in the dancing culture they promote. Dancing w the Stars markets itself to a larger audience therefore it will always have more #’s to show on viewership and on blogging.

  4. Well that’s why I was suggesting that the other stuff be put on TV too, so that everyone could see it. Oh and I didn’t mean to portray anyone at the Winger as being snobby — if I somehow did, I didn’t mean to :)Â They just like ballet and modern there, and that in and of itself isn’t elitist — or shouldn’t be seen to be that way anyway.
    And thanks, Doug!

  5. Tonya,

    You are absolutely correct – there is no way that Paulina should have been voted off that show. Despite her flaws, she was still better than several of the “celebrities” who still remain in contention. But that is exactly my problem with the show – when you leave these decisions to the masses out there in TV land, you are going to have decisions made not on the basis of dancing talent or accomplishment but rather on the basis of who is a popular athlete or who is funny or whom the audience “likes” or “feels sorry for.” (In the past, several contestants who were severely criticized by the judges then proceeded to receive tremendous audience support – the “sympathy vote” factor.) This is why I stopped watching the show last season. But let’s face it – what other dancing do we have on network television? Surely no major network will ever have a series revolving around ballet dancers. If it weren’t for PBS, we would never see ballet on TV. So why I am back watching again this season? Because with all its many faults, the program does at least give us some kind of dancing to watch – in effect, to use an old chiche, it’s better than nothing. But why, oh why, do we have to be subjected to so many horrendous commercials? As for the contestants this season, I continue to be impressed by Laila Ali and Apolo Anton Ohno and I thought that Heather Mills (like her or not) improved greatly over the first week. And to get back to your original question – why did Paulina get booted off? Because, I think, she was a supermodel whom the audience could not relate to and whose day has passed – most of the people watching the show probably don’t remember her and probably never could relate to her in the first place. But just for the record, I did cast a vote for her and I am very sorry that she is gone while the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, Clyde Drexler and John RAtzenberger (good sports though they are) still remain.

  6. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m not really all that interested in the contestants that start out dancing well from the very beginning. I mean, they will improve, of course. But for me, their progress feels very static.

    I get much more engaged when I watch someone who gets progressively better from week to week, or someone where there is still enough dramatic tension as to whether or not they will be able to pull off a good performance. It just makes me so much more genuinely happy when they are able to nail it. I watch because I enjoy the personal development, though the dancing is good too.

    I have to work so hard to improve even incrementally as a dancer. Watching someone just waltz in (excuse the pun) and be fabulous is just not emotionally engaging. I want to feel inspired. I want to watch all the goofy falling-down, messing-up rehersals, so I can fantasize about someday watching all of my own blood, sweat, and tears pay off too. I’m guessing that even non-dancers who watch also relate quite viscerally to that hard-work-paying-off story that the show is telling.

  7. i know! I was so sad she was voted out, if not anything to get to see more of her personality on tv.

    you’re a fan of heather mills? my coworker’s dance teacher is jonathan roberts, her partner! he is so handsome. ^^

  8. Jolene, that’s so funny. I used to see him all the time at the ballroom competitions around here — he and his wife, Anna Trebunskaya, must have moved to California to be closer to the show! I know, he’s really good-looking, and seems really nice. I bet he is a great teacher!

    Natalia, I’m like you — that’s why I liked Paulina and Heather, because I personally related to their weaknesses and wanted to see them progress throughout the show because I think seeing them progress would make me feel like I could too! But, viewing those crazy message boards (which I don’t think I’m going to do anymore), I think Bob is right about how most people vote, if they’re any indication anyway. People were saying so and so is so ugly I can’t stand to see her ugly face anymore, so and so just sucks so royally she should be put out of her misery… really nasty things! I feel like it is more of a popularity contest and those with the best fan base from the start end up doing the best — at least with the people who are posting on the boards anyway. I’d like to believe that people are watching it because they can identify with the struggle to overcome obstacles and through hard work actually excel at something — that’s why we dance anyway :)

  9. You know, it’s funny, I move in some very small circles on the internet: The dance, knitting, and gardening blog communities, and a couple of special-topic message boards. In those small communities, most people I interact with are smart, articulate, and interesting.

    Whenever I leave my little bubble, and venture into more broadly-based internet communities, like tv show forums, MySpace, etc… I am quite painfully reminded that most of the internet is a cesspool of stupid. I don’t know if it’s because most people are stupid, or because when you get large groups together, the level of discourse goes into a death spiral of people encouraging each other to be mean and cruel. Maybe it’s analogous to a mob mentality.

    But anyway, I suspect that internet message boards are not actually representative of the larger viewing audience. I think of my coworkers as “average people”, they’re not dancers or anything, and none of them are saying things like, “ugh, she’s so ugly” or “I hate so-and-so’s face”

  10. Full length ballets used to appear on network television, as did operas and full length plays. What happened? Viewing habits changed. Things like ballet are considered specialty programing and would get very low ratings and tv is, at heart, a business and it cannot cater to a narrow audience which is what a ballet viewing audience is.

    Ballets are sometimes shown on cable and PBS and those are really the only fiscally viable broadcasting options for them. Ovation (a cable network) reguarly shows ballets as well as documentaries about dancers.

  11. I will also miss Paulina but, like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars is only partly about the dancing, it’s also a popularity contest and she did not ahve enough of a fanbase to keep her on the show.

  12. There used to be ballet on TV. Ballet in the late 70's and 80's was actually pretty popular. The PBS show Great Performances once showed ballet pretty often, now we are lucky if The Nutcracker shows up now and then. It's sad to think that Baryshnikov might been the last truly famous ballet dancer.

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