Ballroom Challenge Week One, and Head Shot Hell!

Sorry it took me so long to get this post up — last two days were stupidly busy, partly because of my ridiculous obsession with my face — but more about that in a minute…

Anyway, so Wednesday night was American Smooth, which I have to confess is my least favorite competition event, at least until J.T. Thomas and Tomas Mielnicki began dancing about a year ago. So, I’m obviously very happy they won. And I thought their showcase routine was lovely — actually, I recognized it from the RHYTHM OF LOVE show that I saw in Connecticut; it was the “At the Ballet” number where they feigned performing on a stage for the show’s main characters, their dancing leading to the boy’s obsession with learning to dance himself. It reminded me of something one of my favorite Standard couples — Victor Fung and Anna Mikhed — would do; a traditional ballroom dance but with some lovely lifts and a little storyline to elevate it to something more than just a group routine. I loved it.

This, to me, is in contrast to Eddie Stutts and Valentina, whom co-host Ron Montez was going nuts over. I didn’t think much of their showcase though. Their routine was just basic ballroom, something they could have done during the group dances, albeit without the very few lifts they threw in; a showdance needs to be more than that — that’s why it’s called a showdance. JT and Tomas’s had character, passion — they acted.

Oh and I loved Steven Doughtery and Eulia Baranovky’s tribute to Fred and Ginger (pictured above, image taken from ABC website). I’ve liked this couple, who unfortunately are retiring this year, for a while now, and am sorry the judges haven’t. They never seem to place them very high. That’s how it goes with ballroom though … sometimes you just can’t make sense of the judges. So I was beyond thrilled to see them win the showdance. That routine was full of class and sass and loads of character; I loved everything from how they held their arms, to their little tap-dancing hops (reminding me of Rita Hayworth when she would dance with Astaire), to her gorgeous dress. They really were like Fred and Ginger brought back to life. I’ll miss them, but what a perfect showdance to end your competitive career on.

The rest of the showdances I wasn’t tremendously impressed with. I thought Tony Scheppler and Tonja Martin’s hip hop routine was interesting, combining as it did two starkly different dances (Latin and hip hop wouldn’t have been such a contrast). I thought the judges should have scored them higher, both for the originality and for doing pretty well with both styles. I don’t understand why the judges liked Mazen Hamza and Irina Sarukhanyan. Their routines are often odd, but unlike last year’s martial arts-inspired number, this leopard-clad animalistic thing didn’t make much sense nor did it involve anything very difficult.

Unfortunately I couldn’t see much of the group heats. The camera caught the dancers from very odd angles, often getting way too much of the audience in the shot, cutting off our view of the dancers’ legs — kind of important in dance… The group comps never come across that well on film; you kind of need to be there to experience its unique thrill. But I still think the camera person could do better. There’s nothing like sitting near the dance floor and watching the dancers twirl by you. I would like to see what that would look like on film: just having the camera person sitting at the edge of the floor and capturing whatever happens to fly by.

Next week is a most raucous event: American Rhythm. Showdown time!! (I’ll post more when it gets nearer)

Okay, on to other dance-TV matters. Well, I am extremely excited to announce that I will be writing about the thriving TV dance scene for The Huffington Post! As soon as my blog is up in their Entertainment Section, I’ll be posting about the TV shows there, and of course everytime I post there, I’ll put a link to it here.

Which brings me to my face obsession. My future editor needed a little picture to accompany the column, and not being a pro dancer or actor or anything, I don’t have a real head shot. So I had to do the homemade version, which I’m more comfortable with than having them professionally done anyway — I can be in control of myself. Of course it took me all night Wednesday night, trying to attain: the perfect background, the perfect camera angle, the perfect distance of the lens from my face, the perfect tilt of the head, the perfect smile (not too much so as to look like a goof but not too little so as to look like I have a rod up my backside), the perfect degree of widened eyes — seriously, I either looked like I was on some serious Speed or had just smoked a load of Pot. I would finally get a decent shot only to discover my bra strap was clearly visible. I guess these would be the reasons for having a professional… Yesterday, I forced myself to decide on a few. I downloaded them to the computer, obsessed over which one looked the best both in large and small (the headshots on the site are TINY, but still, I needed to send the picture in its original size so they could downsize it and crop it up however they liked and couldn’t bear to send regular-sized photo in which I looked hideous). I finally chose one and was about to send it off when I did a test run first and sent it to myself. I clicked on the attachment, hit open, and was faced with the biggest flipping representation of my face I’d ever come into contact with. I scrolled this way and that, viewing my face in all its various parts. When I scrolled down to my mouth area, I was shocked to find: MOUSTACHE!!!! Plain as day, there it was. I honestly never knew I had it. And it was dark — jet black. I sprinted to the bathroom, searched the cabinet for tweezers and began plucking around, feeling nothing, seeing nothing.

Later I met Ariel for a celebratory pig-fest at Magnolia Bakery (she just landed a most excellent gig covering the upcoming Fashion Week for an online magazine — go Ariel!). But we had to find another place in the area since blasted Magnolia STILL doesn’t have their sit-down area ready! What is up with them?! Who gets take-out cupcakes??? The whole point of having a dining establishment in NY is for people to dine there! It’s the dead of winter; who can take their cupcake outside and eat it on the bench or at the Lincoln Center fountain?! Have the owners no sense????? Anyway, we found a nice cozy little cafe called The Muffins Cafe just down the street, and substituted our cupcakes for chocolate croissants.

As soon as she got herself situated at the table, I spit out, “Okay, be honest. Am I in denial? Do I have a moustache? Be honest!”

“What? No,” she giggled.

“I can’t see it at all; can’t even feel it, but according to my camera it’s there!”

“Oh you mean when you downloaded and viewed it full-size on the screen,” she laughed. “Yeah, that magnifies everything. Don’t do that, especially with a portrait!”


“Everyone has weird flaws!” she laughed shaking her head like I was a goof for not knowing this, which I guess I did; I just don’t obsess over anyone else’s. She told just to downsize it before sending it, at least a little.

“But then, can’t the editor blow it back to its original? I blabbered.

“Er, I don’t think he has time for that,” she said.


Anyway, I am really excited to write about dance for such a large audience, most of which may not have much exposure. As I said, I’ll link to the blog column when it’s up and running! For now, here’s an article I wrote for Explore Dance about the various TV shows (at least the ones on network TV).


  1. Congratulations on the new writing gig–that sounds so exciting! I’m sure that your headshot will end up looking just lovely on the Web site.

    I’ve never been to the Magnolia near Lincoln Center but the one on Bleeker is takeout only. The line is usually so long that there would never be room to seat people in their tiny space anyway though. The new one sounds like it’ll be nicer once the seating area is open. 🙂

  2. I already told you before, but CONGRATS! Haha, I didn’t mean to sound so mean when we were chatting! 🙁

  3. Thanks, Ariel – and YOU TOO! Hehehe, no, you didn’t sound corny, you were RIGHT! You made me feel better 🙂

  4. Hello,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little bit and really enjoy it. I love all sorts of dance and I’m just getting into some of the great dance blogs that are out on the net. This is one of the great ones and congratulations on your new gig with the Huffington Post. 🙂

    About ABC and Eddie Stutts and Valentina…

    OMG, I’m so glad someone agrees with me on Stuts and Valentina’s showdance. I didn’t think it was that great at all. I mean it was good, but I didn’t get why Montez thought it was so wonderful. I thought maybe I just wasn’t getting “it”- whatever “it” was.

    Anyways, I too thought J.T. Thomas and Tomas Mielnicki’s showdance was beautiful. And, while I liked the hip-hop routine, I was sort of scared watching it in the beginning. I thought Tony Scheppler was sort of mocking hip-hop at the start of the routine and that wasn’t really cool with me. But, then they got to dancing and the routine was okay.

    Alright, I’ve written way too much here so I’m gonna stop. Anyways, you have a great blog and congrats on your new column.

  5. Thanks for commenting, Reese. And thank you for the nice compliments on my blog 🙂

  6. Tonya,

    Congrats on the HuffPo gig. Why don’t you get a bud to help you with the head shot? Do something non traditional anyway… blurring is movement.. ainit?

  7. Congrats on your new assignment! I’ve been waiting for your post about the ballroom competition. I watched it based on your recommendation and enjoyed it a lot. I’m so glad that JT and Tomas won – I always tend toward the more balletic movement and it was nice to see that the judges appreciated that too.

  8. Ooh! Congrats on the new writing gig. That’s so awesome!

  9. I loved Irina and Mazen . I think they are great! They are very talented. They always come up with the most creative and interesting showdance ideas. I loved the Martial Art last year. And the leopard dance was great! They perfor mance showed not only their talent and how profesional they are in what they are doing but also the dance included the logic. It DID make sense! And it was amazing!!!!!!!!!

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