old – DWTS 9-20-10

First night of a new season and since I knew little about the celebs except Jennifer Grey and Brandy I wondered if there were any “natural” dancers among them. It will be interesting to see who goes home first and if DWTS will continue to be a popularity contest or a more balanced dance show.

Audrina & Tony. Cha cha. My mark 6. She took a chance and went with it, which I thought brave of her. I noticed that she holds her upper body and saw some awkwardness with the use of her feet. A lot of her movement was choppy as though her parts don’t work together in a streamlined way. It’s the first dance though. I would not expect a beginner to be able to address needing sharpness and dynamics so that there is a differentiation between steps, qualities and eventually dance styles.

Kurt & Anna. Viennese Waltz. My mark 6. While he sometimes has trouble extending his arms and uses them like sticks that have no connection inside or to his whole being, Anna’s choreography minimized his weaknesses and I found myself enjoying her. The woman is supposed to be the jewel in this waltz so it is important to be able to see and engage with her.

Kurt must have been graceful because there was nothing that went clunk in this or threw Anna off. One thing though, this being a Viennese Waltz, the gliding and swirling weren’t genuinely there for me in any big romantic way, nor was there the elegance that might be in an effective slow American waltz.

Kyle & Lacey. Cha cha. My mark 7. He gave it his all and the fact that he can go in and out of solos and partnering is fantastic for Week 1. He’s a little choppy sometimes but so rhythmic. He definitely knows how to give us a show.

Cheryl & Rick. Viennese Waltz. My mark 7. I could see a je ne sais qua – a mysterious magnetism – when the show introduced him. When he started his dance, I could see he was a natural. I found him enjoyable and saw that he has a natural sense of ease and  grace. He seems open and elegant. His posture was so clean that it made me go, “Whoa baby, who are you?” He didn’t know how to use his hands sometimes, but somehow that barely detracted from the performance because he has a natural line. Being paired with Cheryl could pose problems due to their difference in height, but knowing Cheryl’s gifts as a choreographer, I doubt it will make much difference in the end.

Margaret & Louis. Viennese Waltz. My mark 8. Margaret is the reason I’m here online doing what I’m doing. When I see something the judges don’t, I’ll write about it. Sometimes I see a theme amongst the performers, or an energetic stance, or a difference between performing which I attribute to the dancer and choreography which I often attribute to the pro. For me dancing and choreography are a process; they’re not about winning or losing and sometimes giving dance a mark becomes ludicrous.

My reaction on seeing Margaret dance with Louis – at first? Wow. She’s quite good – her line – all of it. The problem actually began there: she started so serious. There was no suggestion that this was to be comedy. The strange facial expression that began to develop was just that-strange. This posed a problem and was confusing. Still, there was a richness of movement and an ease and security that one normally sees in an experienced and mature dancer. She handled the prop well and it spoke – at least to me – of her Asian heritage. One sees scarves like this in Chinese folk dance and I have an image of the famous dragon from the Chinese New Year celebrations in mind right now.

When the dance started to “go wrong” and feel odd, it seemed like the attempt to be comedic had been tacked on – forced onto a romantic fluid dance that even a skilled pro might have trouble making funny. However, Margaret was so good in the intro that I wanted to see more of that. Although the dance didn’t work as comedy, the fact that Margaret could handle the dance steps, the attitude or “acting,” and the prop throughout the dance spoke of such high potential that I pray she’s not voted off because the judges led the way in misperceiving the talent that showed itself last night.

I want to see more. I want to see the pure dancer who is Margaret Cho and I want us as a nation to stand behind the individual who takes risks to be who s/he is: someone who on the first show used everything she knew to perform for us. The dance was like someone who belted it out of the park only to have that hit labeled as completely and fully wrong or incorrect when the dancing needed to be about the dancer AND the choreography, about the good choices Margaret and Louis made as well as the less effective ones.

When I saw the 5s from all 3 judges an unusual thing happened for me: my eye went to Margaret and like a configuration of energy or a printout streaming from the computer, words flowed: female, oriental, comedienne… single woman… Then I saw Louis and more words flowed: flamboyant, over the top, heterosexual/homosexual… does that get you in trouble ever?

So I wonder now, having seen the whole first show, the marks and remarks of the judges and knowing how a fanbase can affect outcome, will this couple be voted off? I hope to continue writing about Margaret on my new blog, Embrace the Magic… the theme has been what’s hidden. To that I add, Margaret’s remark, “I didn’t know I was going into therapy…” [when I took up ballroom dancing]. I can relate to that.

Maks and Brandy. Viennese Waltz. My mark 8. I could title this pair last night, “The Gentleman and the Black Ballet Dancer.” Brandy was fluid, graceful and really excited about doing what she was doing. She was so light and ethereal that I felt like I was energetically part of a dream. Analyzing this was incredibly difficult. I saw the dancer part, all that lightness, grace and exuberance and I saw another dimension of potential. Some performers, certain ballerinas come to mind, perform the way Brandy did, caught up in the lightness of it all. Their movements remain undifferentiated and the person behind the movements does not seem able to grow each step, or know how to fill and delight in filling each phrase with color, emotion, weight and lightness, texture, timing, using all the elements of dance to capture audiences on several levels.

Mark & Bristol. Cha cha. My mark 5. She needs to let go. She’s really holding herself groin and waist and perhaps even at the break of the leg. This holding stops her from being able to move out freely. She handled the steps individually well, especially with her being an obvious beginning dancer. And though the dance was performed as though it was in sections, each section had a clarity and a brilliance and potential. Now if Bristol can loosen up and connect all the sections, she may become an individual in her own right instead of a woman who’s celebrity comes from her politician mother.

Corky & Florence. Cha cha. My mark 6. She was stiff and sometimes gave the impression she was dancing on ice, but her entertainer saavy and his choreography and partnering skill kept this dance going. The comedy aspects of the dance also worked for the pair. I’d like to see Florence perform in dance sneakers to see if that would alleviate the way she is on her legs and the brittleness I see.

Chelsie & Michael. Viennese Waltz. My mark 5. I could see how he hunches over the microphone in his movement. He did not lead; she did it all for him and he let her. He has no body awareness when he dances. This could be the result of fear. He’s not able to infuse the movement right now with meaning or enthusiasm. The question is, can Chelsie bring what he does as a singer – the way he fills himself with song and intention – into his awareness so he can use it? She’s the true dancer and he desperately needs her help to progress with this. I’d get him started doing some movement exploration maybe paired with yoga or relaxation and bodywork.

Mike and Karina. Cha cha. My mark 5. He doesn’t know how to connect his movement, isn’t graceful, and oddly for a singer, isn’t naturally musical. He breaks up everything. He doesn’t seem to be able to take the competition or ballroom seriously. He’s another one who does everything in pieces – like no step belongs with the next. Without knowing much about him, I perceive him actually as shy underneath, a man who covers that with humor, distracting us from staying with him for long.

Jennifer & Derek. Viennese Waltz. My mark 8. Well done. It was a slow Viennese Waltz so she could do it well. I’m not sure if a fast dance would have showed her off like this one. She has an elegance and maturity now that are lovely. I really enjoyed the pair.

Kym & David. Cha cha. My mark 6. I think that David knows himself – he expressed how enthusiastic he was to do the show and try the dancing, but he also knows his body and his age. He’s able to connect steps, however, he’s barely doing it so what he does doesn’t feel like dancing. I wondered if he’d bitten off more than he can chew, especially because tall people often have more trouble controlling their bodies than others and also because he has long legs. A lot to manage. Plus he seems superficial though I may have succumbed to that suggestion from the music Sex Bomb that I know has been sung by sex bomb Tom Jones. I don’t know if David can get inside himself and if Kym can help him take what he believes or feels he’s doing from the inside out so he can better convey it to us.