I Big Huge Heart Louis Van Amstel!

Ah, wasn’t he brilliant tonight on Dancing With the Stars! That, ladies and gentlemen, is the greatest Latin ballroom dancer in the world! Excepting Slavik 🙂 Actually, not though – Louis is the best; really years after his retirement from competitive ballroom dancing he is still the world’s greatest I strongly declare. And damn was that a fast cha cha he and Cheryl Burke did to that Barry Manilow song! Kind of a funny thing with this show: they hire a certain singer to perform, the song their choice, and then tell the dancers to dance something to it. Sometimes there really isn’t a ballroom dance that perfectly fits the beat of that particular song, so the dancers really have to be creative. I think Louis and Cheryl could have gone with a Hustle, but they chose to do a crazy fast Cha Cha instead, and wow! That standing ovation was so deserved. Oh, I love him so!

And I thought Jonathan Roberts and his wife Anna Trebunskaya did a beautiful waltz to “Oh Mandy!” What an adorably sweet couple! And, am I a dork for loving that song?

I loved the group Swing number and am glad they showed it again tonight. Christian Perry, the choreographer, actually used to teach at my old studio, Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport. Every Friday night they’d have a social dance party, and beforehand they’d have an all-levels group class. All levels can mean either hideously over your head or ridiculously easy. In his case, it was always the latter, which I appreciated because it became more of an occasion for fun, or to work on improving technique since you weren’t worried about getting the simple steps down. This group number was really sophisticated though, for a bunch of amateurs. I would think that would be so hard, to choreograph a routine that had sufficient amounts of fun, performance-worthy showiness with some good lifts and fast dancing for a group of amateurs of varying abilities. Of course these are all extremely hard-working amateurs. He pulled it off well. Good for Christian!

I also enjoyed their little footage of the amateurs talking about how great it was to connect with each other over ballroom and yet how competitive they were as well. I feel what they all said is so true: you do really bond with each other, especially when you do a performance showcase, and you do really compete with each other when doing a competition. I think that’s why I grew to prefer the former so much more over the latter. Competition makes me so uneasy.

But what a shocker are the results?! Hip hop Cheeta Girl dancer extraordinaire Sabrina Bryan, whom I think everyone fully expected to make it to the finals, was axed tonight unexpectedly, to make a ginormous understatement.

Now I feel badly for criticizing her pro partner, Mark Ballas, earlier… it could have been that people were displeased with him either for the reasons I stated — that he was spending too much time showing off and not properly framing Sabrina (although I thought he did much better on that front with their foxtrot last night — hard to show off in standard ballroom though), or perhaps because people might have felt Sabrina had an unfair advantage getting to work with Mark’s mother, ballroom dame Shirley Ballas. Or, perhaps they thought it was unfair that she already had a good deal of dance experience and the scales were unfairly tipped to begin with? I think the show’s producers do that on purpose though — try to get people of varying levels of ability. I think they want to make sure the audience doesn’t get too bored with too many “bad” people. But they also want to have enough low-level beginners who can grow and improve during the show so the audience can have an underdog to root for. I think here their thinking might have backfired a bit, unfortunately for Sabrina.


  1. Tonya,

    Can you explain to me why they move so “jerkily” in ballroom. They often look like robots on steroids.

    Has this type of dancing always looked the way it does on PBS? Or is this style evolving? And so many of the costumes are so las vagas… what’s the deal with that… Broadway meets the pole dancer. Please give me your wisdom on this.

    I find these dancers very skilled but I also find the aesthetic very off putting.

  2. SanderO, I know you don’t like ballroom! I think there’s great speed in Latin because right now professional ballroom dancing is mainly a sport and speed is one of the most important elements the competitors are judged on. I don’t think anything looks jerky or robotic though. It amazes me that people like Louis can move so fast and still maintain the proper hip, pelvic, and shoulder / back movements. He’s not just flying around the floor at the speed of light, he’s doing perfect technique as well. I learned at Blackpool this year that Latin hasn’t always been danced this fast. It’s become faster over the years and there’s a greater demand now for precision in footwork and lat / hip / pelvis / foot movement. Watching some footage of earlier dancers, they looked almost like they were doing social dance. To me, it looked fun, but not very athletic — kind of like when you watch figure skaters from several decades ago and the things they were doing, the speed with which they were moving pales in comparison to the skaters of today.

  3. It’s not that I don’t like ballroom. It’s certainly not my fav dance genre. I suppose it is more like athletics, or sport seeing that it is mostly done for competition. Or am I wrong again? Do people actually go out and do ballroom dancing for the evening. Or is almost all geared toward these competitions?

    I certainly can appreciate the athleticism of these dancers and they do have great bods. But I’m definitely not thrilled by the typical taste in costumes. Way too many seem to be very tacky? Maybe I miss the whole “look?” Hey don’t ask me what I would do, but I am sorry, some of those costumes are real turn offs.

    I don’t know the history of this genre so I am only basing my opinions on what I see on the occasional PBS presentation. I also notice that there are lots of Russians (dancing as Americans)… what’s with that? Why is Ballroom such a hit with them?

    And finally, since you have lots of dance buds, how is Ballroom “seen” by the ballet people (in general)? Do they like it or what?

    Even figure skaters don’t quite get as tacky costumewise as these ballroom twirlers. No?

  4. I am so in love with Barry Manilow. 🙂

  5. Oh, and I get a little sappy at “Mandy”… it’s such a sweet song. I’m not sure it’s better than “Copacabana”, but it’s close. 🙂

  6. Good, I’m glad I’m not theonly one, Natalia!

    SanderO, yeah, there are definitely a lot of people who take ballroom lessons for the social dancing aspect, so they can go dancing at the Rainbow Room or the Copa or wherever, but the competitive dancing requires a different mindset I think. I’m not really in love with the Latin costumes either to be honest. Occasionally, there will be a beautiful one though. There are tons of Russians in ballroom dance — both in Latin and Standard! It’s amazing — they love it! But I think Russians love all kinds of dance because there are so many in ballet too; they’re just natural dancers. I know a lot of ballet dancers have come to ballroom, either because they like it better, because it’s not as hard on your body, or because you can make a better living teaching ballroom lessons.

  7. Lot’s of people go out ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancers occasionally go out to bars with friends, cause there are not many dancers out there. I love all types of dancing, just I like to be able to dance with someone.

  8. I can’t believe its taken me so long to get over here and talk to you about this, Tonya! Can we tell its been a busy week, lol?! Seeing Louis made me yearn to have him back on the show full time. You know my feelings on Sabrina and Marky, but it wasn’t time for them to go yet. And did you hear about the catty remarks Jane made about Marie and Mel B? Her jive wasn’t all that great, which isn’t a big deal, I can forgive a bad dance, but its harder to forgive a poor sport. The remarks were in the Monday’s behind the scenes stuff at TV guide online, let me know if you need a link, I want your take on this soooo bad. And oh yeah, what did you think of the Dance War stuff? My mom and I were watching the dancers trying to figure out if any of them had auditioned for SYTYCD and gotten far enough to be recognizable, haha!

  9. I was waiting to hear from you, Sharon 🙂 I know, I agree about Sabrina & Mark — even if Mark could be a bit annoying, they weren’t ready to go yet. I’ll miss them. No, I didn’t hear about Jane’s comments — what did she say?? I think the Dance War looks interesting. I was wondering when I first heard about it whether it was limited to ballroom dancers, like on that show, or whether they were going to open it up to all kinds of dancers. It looks like they’re having all kinds, which I’m happy about. Yeah, I bet there are definitely going to be some recognizable faces from SYTYCD! I’m really glad dance is becoming more popular and that there are so many more opportunities out there for professional dancers now.

    Dancer, you’re right about social dancing — it does give you a unique opportunity to connect with others. I’m going to have to start doing it again — I’m starting to miss it now.

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