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DWTS14 Melissa Gilbert: “Nobody puts Halfpint in the corner!”

Such good news! Melissa Gilbert has returned to rehearsals today. She joked about her injury on Twitter. Below is more from ABC.

“Nobody puts Halfpint in the corner!” she tweeted to her actor friend Craig Bierko, referencing her character’s nickname from “Little House on the Prairie.”

Later, she tweeted that she was “very happy” to be back dancing with professional partner Maksim Chmerkovkiy.

Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy hurt themselves on Monday following an aggressive paso doble. Chmerkovskiy injured his elbow and pulled his groin; Gilbert suffered a mild concussion and whiplash and was taken to the hospital after feeling dizzy and nauseous backstage.

Gilbert was well enough to watch the show Tuesday night. In response to Sherri Shepherd’s elimination, she tweeted that she was “truly stunned.” “If they can go any of us is fair game!” she added. “This makes my head hurt even more…”

According to People.com, Maks has his protective hat on. Here is more for how Maks is reevaluating his ballroom tactics….

“I think we are coming back,” he says. “I’m pretty sure. It’s not up to me, it’s up to her, [but] I haven’t heard talks of not coming back. Although, if she wakes up tomorrow and continues to have a headache, I won’t let her in the studio.”

The week’s events do have the dance pro reevaluating his ballroom tactics, questioning if it’s worth it to put so much effort into the dances and risk injuries, only to be eliminated so quickly like favorite Sherri Shepherd, who got the boot on Tuesday.

“We owe it to our fans to give them a reason to vote for us,” he says. “I’ve always been very vocal about how you have to earn your stripes. But I’m not sure if this is the right strategy this season, because it’s clearly not appreciated.”

Even though Chmerkovskiy has “a problem with easy choreography,” he says, “Honestly, at this point, I’m not really sure if it’s worth killing yourself and trying to put on a show.”

I agree! They need to be really careful. Let’s hope all goes well!!

UPDATE: Maks has penned a new blog at TV Guide on Melissa’s condition, their rehearsals, and more. Below is a take. More at the link.

First things first, Melissa is doing well. She’s quite an inspiration. It’s not like her injury was a crazy trauma, but it’s definitely scary and not something you want to see on the show. This is not The Hunger Games. It’s Dancing with the Stars. It’s not without struggle and adversity, but it’s not a blood sport. We love to see people fall down and get up metaphorically speaking, not literally. Watching the playback made me think, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I pushing her too hard?” There was a lot of debating within myself. But Melissa and I spoke afterward on how to proceed and where we’re gonna go. We’re gonna try to take this week easier. It goes against everything I believe in and my process, but I’ve matured enough to understand that sometimes, certain things are not worth it. This is one of those moments where it’s not worth the drama and not worth putting her through it.

I think the show amplified her injury. Having said that, Melissa’s injury wasn’t really blown out of proportion, but we had to tell viewers what happened, why she got carried out with an oxygen mask and why she’s not here. The picture is dramatic, so we had to comment. Sometimes it becomes overdramatic afterward when people start talking, but she did almost pass out. She did take my leg out with her head so fast that she didn’t even remember that it happened. I didn’t even know it happened! It tells you how unexpected it was. At the same time, it was a very hard hit. It takes a lot to take my leg out. Her neck is very sore. Those are facts. When you hear that, you can take it as you wish and then people start writing things and talking about it. Honestly, I would take her falling over backwards and hitting her head over what happened. What happened is more dangerous. She has a fused vertebrae in her neck area. Her doctor came to her house and said that she should not attempt to be a hero.

Rehearsals are going well. We are taking it easier. I’m going at her pace. If I see any sign of any kind of anything, I’m stopping. She’s like, “Let’s continue.” I’m like, “No, we’re stopping.” I think we’ll be fine on Monday. More than anything, I really respect how cool we are as friends. We’re very cool together. I was speaking to someone and they said, “She loves you. She talks about you all the time. She really likes hanging out with you.” This is a person who has nothing to do with us. I’m not saying this to toot my horn or something, but I thought it was very sweet. And I love spending time with her. I really do feel that we’re not fake with each other. We’re have each other’s best interests in mind. I’m trying to be the supportive partner and someone who has her back. That means that I alter my views on what the dance should be. As long as she’s happy and smiling and healthy, I’m good.

April 12, 2012 I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

Donald Drivers’ Two Biggest Fans On Dancing With The Stars (New Interview And Video)

These two are just cute as pie! I am having the biggest “awwww” moment right now. Take a look at WBay.com to see why for the pics they have up of Donald Drivers’ two kids. They’ve also interviewed them about their Dad and Dancing With The Stars.

Both kids agree they love watching their dad dance. They already know what they’d do if he brings the mirror ball trophy back home.

“I would put it in my room, and if anybody would touch, if anybody would be — ‘Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it, don’t touch it!'” Christina says.

“I would take it to school, let my friends touch,” Christian says.

“What if they break?” Christina asks.

“I’d do this. I call this the shark knife,” Christian says, holding his hand up straight.

Speaking of moves, Christian and Christina have some dance skills of their own. Christian says he wants to grow up and be just like his dad, play football, and maybe be an actor, too.

In the meantime, he’s trying out a different profession… as dancing judge.

“If I was one of the judges, I would put 10, 10, 10. Bang, 30!” Christian says.

“That’s what I would do, too,” Christina says.

So cute. Be sure to read the full interview for more. Also, if you missed the video below posted yesterday in one of our media posts, be sure you see it too. It’s of Donald and his family after the show Monday night.

So, have you had an “awww” moment yet?

I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

DWTS14’s Cheryl Burke And William Levy Visit The Grove In Hollywood (Photos)

Pictured above is Cheryl Burke and William Levy of Dancing With The Stars Season 14. Yesterday, Extra’s Mario Lopez, interviewed the two at The Grove in Hollywood. You can view more fun pics of them at Zimbio Pictures.

William is also gracing the cover of this week’s People Magazine. They’ve got a little cover story on him too. You can view and read a sneak peek here. Below is a little take. If interested and for more, you can pick up this issue of People in newsstands everywhere on Friday.

“To come to this country and receive this kind of love from people you don’t even know, it’s amazing,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.

The Telenova star and father of two – to son Christopher, 6, and daughter Kailey, 2, with on-and-off girlfriend Elizabeth Gutiérrez – also opens up about his early lean years in Cuba before emigrating to the U.S. at 15.

“I try to give my kids everything I never had,” he says.

UPDATE: Below is The Grove interview from Extra and a take from it….

As for the sex symbol stuff (People dubbed Levy “the hottest man on TV”), Burke explained her partner will not be taking off his shirt for every performance. “I can’t take his clothes off every week, and he doesn’t want to do it. We’ll show a little bit here and there.”

Mario asked Levy about his own childhood, growing up dirt poor in Cuba, and how he wants to raise his kids. “I look back then, and I understand so much what my parents went through. “You can work all you want in Cuba and you don’t get paid. So here, eat a chicken every day if you want to. Back in Cuba, you get a quarter of a chicken every month.”

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I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

Pure Dancing With The Stars Discussion: When The Music Matches The Style Of Dance

Who needs to relive this number last night with Karina Smirnoff and Jose Manuel Carreño when they danced the Argentine Tango? I thought it was steamy, beautiful, and so passionate! Also, I love it when the music matches the style of dance. I wish the producers of Dancing With The Stars would discontinue theme weeks and go with matching music to the style of dance instead. The whole package is just so much better when everything goes together. Do you agree or disagree?

Special thanks to PureDWTS reader Jimmbboe2 for the video! Let’s get Heidi and Court’s thoughts:

Heidi: Aw, come on…who doesn’t love someone attempting to Tango to Bohemian Rhapsody?? :-) Sorry, that’s cray cray.  All you have to do is look at the music the pros choose to dance to when they have a choice: Karina last night…Derek and Allison Holker last season…neither “Popular” music, but both dances were great and well received.  We figure that the producers are trying to accomplish making the dancing more…current?? But at what cost? The very least they could do is have the pros pick the actual songs for the actual dances from a list of popular music. At least then the tempo would be more correct.  And people are watching ballroom dancing on TV in 2012 – shouldn’t that tell you something about the need for pop music?? I dunno. I think they could do a better job at it.

Courtney: I agree, sometimes a song can totally screw a couple, and for what? So they can have some hokey theme, or appeal more to mainstream viewers not familiar with “real ballroom” music? I think Tristan’s been the victim of it 2 seasons in a row now – “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” were nothing more than an excuse to fit with a theme, which is one of the many reasons why I hate theme weeks.  The tempo and phrasing were not at ALL conducive the dances they were meant to coincide with, and the end result was 2 particularly train-wrecky dances.  I get that they want to appeal to a broad audience – hence the need for “current” music.  But yeah, like Heidi said, at least try to pick current music that’s actually conducive to ballroom dancing.  However, on the flip side, I often wonder if the nary impossible music some of the couples are given is an attempt to get the pros to “rise to the occasion” and craft some innovative, unique, Emmy-worthy routine, a la Ricki & Derek’s Psycho tango or Karina & the Situation’s “Boom Boom Pow” foxtrot.  I’m all for unique, innovative, & Emmy-worthy, but there’s just one problem: not every pro is capable of spinning a crazy song in that direction, and I’m not sure every “wacky” song they dole out is even capable of being translated into something cool.  Sometimes, a song is just bad, and better left off the dance floor :-)

April 11, 2012 I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

Howard Stern Grills Martina Navratilova About Her Dancing Role On DWTS (Rant Post)

Being a tennis fan of Martina Navratilova and hoping she will do well on Dancing With The Stars, I’m wishing she had never been a guest on the Howard Stern Show yesterday. He has this way (as you know) of sensationalizing everything, starting rumors, and trying to make a person look bad just as he tried to do last season with David Arquette. Granted, David might have had a hand in some of it as well, but, does Martina?

In the interview, Howard starts off saying Martina should be dancing with a female partner being she is gay. Martina defends herself saying she is a “woman” and she’s playing who she is. Howard insists she’s not doing the show right for homosexuals and should be wearing pants. She said she’s learning how to dance and she’ll wear what she wants even if it’s a dress or heels, etc.

Howard tries to say she is attracted to the other female dancers as well and tries to get her to admit it. She says they are lovely and tries to highlight who they are and their dancing. He also says she could care less about Tony in part of the interview which is hardly the truth. He goes too far as always. *rolls eyes*

Anyway, before rumors gets out of hand for what was said and not said, let’s hear what went down from the horses mouths. You be the judge when you listen. I don’t see Martina in any bad light. Howard was trying to get her to admit to things that aren’t true. I also see nothing wrong with her wanting to dance like she wants. She was beautiful Monday night and she is a “woman” afterall whether she is a homosexual or not. Martina, if you read this. Please don’t do his show again!

What do you think everyone? Curious for how you take this after listening? Do you see Martina in a bad light? Or was Howard in the wrong?

March 21, 2012 I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

When Teaching Dance Goes Too Far: Should ‘Dance Moms’ Be taken Off The Air?

Do any of you watch the Lifetime reality show “Dance Moms”? I’ve never watched it, but, last night, Dancing With The Stars pro Derek Hough took to twitter with his criticisms of it. After doing a search at You Tube to watch some of the footage, I was truly horrified at what’s going on. Question: is it right to abuse little kids when teaching them how to dance even if it means that the abuse could turn them into “stars” and “dance champions” someday? And what about sexually exploiting them? Go here to get a summation of the show and how it’s created a controversy and why. Below is a video as well that will give you a little example of the instructor and the moms for how they act while the little girls sit by and watch. This is just sad im opinion. :( Huge Kudos to Derek for standing up to how wrong this is!!!

Below is a take from MSNBC on it which includes Dereks’ tweets and reaction;

“I’m sorry but this Dance mom show is straight up abusive,” the three-time “Dancing” champ wrote. “Kids Run!!!!!!! It ain’t right. Child abuse isn’t right. I’m livid right now.”

Hough knows a thing or two about how talented, young hoofer hopefuls should train. Not only were his parents and grandparents dancers, too, but both he and his younger sister Julianne moved to London as children to train under fellow “Dancing” pro and ballroom vet Corky Ballas and his then-wife Shirley.

“There’s a difference between being strict and being abusive,” he went on to write. “I believe in discipline and a strong work ethic. But there is nothing productive about screaming and making little girls cry over being on the wrong foot.”

When Miller visited TODAY last year, she defended her sometimes scream-filled approach.

“All children learn differently,” she said. “Some children you can speak calmly and nicely to. ‘You need to open up your hip and press your knee back. Turn out on your passe.’ I can speak to them that way. Other children you have to yell at ‘til you’re blue in the face.”

Penny for your thoughts while we await more Dancing With The Stars news, leaks, and rumors. I say take this show off the air. No one should be abusing kids. :(

February 22, 2012 I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

DWTS Rants & Raves – Why the Pros Should Count Their Blessings

This post started off far more “rant” than “rave”, but I opted to change the tone a bit, perhaps in hopes that the message would then be more easily swallowed :-) As many of you know, Edyta has recently been writing a series of blogs about her time on the show that have been rather…bitter. Vengeful.  Even malicious.  And it’s unfortunately colored many of our opinions of her for the worse – she even went so far as to block a reader who dared to make a comment expressing “disappointment” in Edyta’s choice to be so critical of the show that made her a household name.  That’s when it dawned on me: some of the pros seem to have forgotten what life was like BEFORE they were on Dancing with the Stars.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “real” world of ballroom, first things first: prior to 2005, when DWTS & SYTYCD hit the air, most ballroom dancers (even the world champions) led lives of relative obscurity.  They may have been well-known within the ballroom community (which is still relatively small), and may have even been what I like to call “ballroom famous” – a title that me & my teammates from my college ballroom dance team bestowed upon dancers that were particularly respected & admired in ballroom circles – but they most certainly weren’t household names, and they weren’t mobbed by fans in public.  In short – they were just like you and I.  Just average people with a not-so-average occupation.

How bout a short poll: how many of you had heard the name “Tony Dovolani” prior to 2005? Now of those who had, how many of you HAVE NOT somehow been involved in the world of ballroom dance at some point in your life? If you fit both of the criteria above, then I applaud you – because prior to 2005, the only mainstream thing Tony had really done was a bit part in the American version of Shall We Dance?, and he was also credited as a choreographer in that film.  The fact that he actually got a few lines to say was pretty impressive, considering that, at that time, the biggest movie/tv role (besides choreographer) that most ballroom dancers could ever hope for was either dancing around in the background as an extra in a big dance scene, or maybe being a “dance double” for a particularly ungraceful actor (true story: the owner of my bf’s dance studio was Ben Affleck’s “foot double” in the movie Going All the Way – apparently Ben has 2 left feet!).  Dancers were lucky to even get credited as extras, let alone hope for a speaking part.  The widely held opinion with most casting directors was that “if you’re doing a dance movie, you’d better find actors that can dance…because you aren’t going to find dancers that can act!” It was a far, far cry from the starring movie roles that Julianne & Derek have been given in recent years, and the tv gigs that Maks (Bachelor Ukraine, Celebrity Ghost Stories), Cheryl & Louis (Suite Life of Zack & Cody), Edyta & Alec (CSI: NY), and Mark (Samantha Who?) were able to get due to their DWTS fame.

You know all those spiffy endorsement deals that so many of the pros on the show have gotten over the years, with their faces plastered over everything from shoes to hair extensions to diet pills to makeup to exercise tapes to dancewear? Yeah, pretty non-existent back in the pre-DWTS days – most competitive ballroom dancers were lucky if they could get a dance shoe or costume sponsor to help mitigate the exorbitant cost of competing.  And speaking of money – let’s just say they weren’t raking it in back then like they are now :-) Don’t get me wrong, some ballroom dancers make quite a good living for themselves just on coaching, choreographing, and doing exhibition performances, but it’s peanuts compared to what they’re rumored to make on the show (which I’ve heard reported as roughly $6k+ per week).  And can you really put a price on the exposure the show gives them??? Since the beginning of the show, how many of the pros have opened successful dance studios with their name plastered on it? So far, I count Cheryl, Karina, Chelsie, and Maks & Tony (with the new Dance with Me in CA).  For those who already had dance studios (like Jonathan & Anna), I can only imagine they started booking up faster after their appearance on the show – I know for a fact that Jonathan is now one of the most in-demand pro-am teachers in the country. 

How many pros have graced the covers of magazines since joining the cast of the show? Back in the day, the biggest magazine a ballroom dancer could hope to appear in was American Dancer, the bimonthly publication put out to its members by USA Dance – which, of course, was only sent to members.  All those invites to parties/award shows/premieres/charity benefits/etc? Probably wouldn’t happen to your average ballroom dancer. And how many pros can now count some pretty big celebrities amongst their friends…and sometimes exes? Without the platform of DWTS, Maks may never have met Kirstie, Derek may never have met Shannon, and Julianne may never have even been in the same room as Ryan Seacrest.  In the entertainment business, it really isn’t what you know, it’s who you know – and DWTS has supplied some primo connections for its pros. 

I don’t want ths post to be a neverending soapbox of why DWTS is so great, so I’ll get to my point: as much as the pros may bitch & moan in the media about the show and how “unfair” or “fake” it is, at the end of the day I daresay their participation in it has done them far more good than harm – it has plucked many of them out of obscurity and opened doors to opportunities far beyond their imagination as young ballroom competitors.  Some (namely Julianne, Derek, Mark, Cheryl & Maks) have parlayed those opportunities into success better than others (namely Alec & Edyta), but even the latter has undoubtedly benefitted from having the show on their resume – Dance Temptation may not have taken off with someone less notable at the helm.  And fans, you can take something away from this too – you may complain about how the show has been so “unfair” or “biased against” [insert pro here] (which, of course, is pretty subjective), but I challenge you to imagine a life without that pro in it.  Would you rather watch Maks occasionally “take a beating” from the judges, or have never known him at all? Would you rather see Tony tough it out with such duds as Wendy Williams & Kate Gosselin, or have no idea who he is? I know many of you will probably argue “you can’t miss what you never knew to begin with”, but I’ve seen how this show brightens some of your lives, and what an important role some of the pros play in it.  They inspire you, entertain you, and can even motivate you to better your own life. Yes, sometimes this show is indeed “unfair”, “fake”, “scripted”, & “storyboarded”, and I’m not saying the viewers or the pros should accept every aspect of the show without complaint. But when it comes down to it, it still fulfills one crucial purpose in the lives of its pros: to share their love of dance with the world…and reap some sweet benefits while they’re at it ;-)

February 10, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS13 Chaz Bono Is ‘Very Much Alive And Plans To Stay That Way’ (Rant Post)

Have you all read about how the National Enquirer claims Chaz will die within four years because of “purported health issues stemming from his gender transition?” Chaz and his lawyer, Dina LaPolt are outraged (I don’t blame them, do you? How could anyone report such a thing! :( ) According to E News, Dina sent a cease and desist letter to the National Enquirer accusing the magazine of defamation and demanding it print a retraction and apologize.

“This is absolutely outrageous, false, fabricated, and highly defamatory,” the legal eagle wrote. “The salacious and inflammatory headline and article were crafted for the malicious purpose of discriminating against our client’s gender and sexual orientation.”

The letter then takes issue with several key assertions the article makes, including that “obesity, testosterone supplements, and high suicide rates among transgender people all increase Chaz’s risk of an early death.”

Hardly, notes LaPolt, who describes the statement as “outrageous” and “offensive.” She also blasted the tabloid for citing as its evidence the authority of a so-called doctor, Patrick Wanis, whom the Enquirer labeled a transgender specialist, a depiction the attorney claims is “highly misleading and blatantly false.”

“He is not a physician and has no specialty in transgender health issues,” stated the attorney.

LaPolt went on to call the story “a smear campaign” and pure “character assassination.”

You can read the E News article in full and how the rep for the magazine defend themselves.

There is no excuse for what they wrote in my opinion. I wonder how they’d like it if someone wrote a death prediction piece like that on them? Sad!!! :x

November 6, 2011 I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.

DWTS Rants & Raves: Why It’s Too Early for the Jive (and Other Dances)

So apparently we all seemed to be on the same page about the dances done the other night: the consensus is “It’s too early for the jive & the quickstep!!! Why on earth did they make the couples do it so early???” Well, we’ve always said that DWTS, try as it might, will never be a “real ballroom competition”.  And I don’t really think it should try to be, since its objective is different: it’s an entertainment program for ratings, rather than a serious competition for skilled dancers.  However, there is one page in the “real ballroom” book that DWTS could stand to copy a few things from: the order in which the dances are done.

Many of you have probably already heard most of this next spiel from the comments sections of a few other posts this week, but I’m going to go into greater detail here.  When learning how to ballroom dance in the “real world”, there is a certain order that the dances are taught in, and each successive dance you learn tends to build & elaborate on the technique you’ve learned in a previous dance.  Most teachers will start with the cha-cha – comparatively, the easiest of the Latin dances.  It introduces Latin hip action, and the beat sets the trend for moving on the 2 (which also happens in the rumba and mambo).  Plus, the beat is common enough that cha-cha can be danced to just about any upbeat song on the radio.  It’s a good, relatable dance to start with.  DWTS was right to start out with it in week 1.  As for the ballroom dances, the first dance taught is usually the standard waltz – the “slow one” in 3/4 time.  It’s slow enough for beginners to keep up with, and allows them to focus on new concepts like rise & fall, rotation, line of dance, and holding a good frame.  It will also set the framework for the Viennese waltz (which will come much further down the line), since it’s a sped-up version of the regular waltz.  DWTS actually got it right in seasons 1, 2, & 8 – the first week, the couples did either a cha-cha or a waltz. Two dances of equal difficulty that are fitting first dances for beginners. Read more..

October 1, 2011 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

PureDWTS Rants & Raves: To Lift or Not to Lift?

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed me “getting up on my soapbox” the past few weeks regarding something that has been debated from several different angles around PureDWTS: lifts.  We’ve casually kicked around the pros & cons of them: do they enhance the routine, or are they just filler? Should they be required? Should they be prohibited? Are they safe? What exactly constitutes a lift, anyway? Well here it is, kids – the place where we can really get down to the nitty-gritty of lifts.

My sudden fixation with the topic started about 2 weeks ago, while watching a movie with my boyfriend (who, as many of you know, is a pro ballroom dancer/teacher).  He kept squirming around, trying to get comfortable, and failing.  Finally, getting annoyed with all his wiggling, I asked what was wrong.  “Oh, I just strained my neck a little bit doing a lift with one of my students today.  It’s just a little sore.” Seemed benign enough – minor soreness from doing a new lift.  But over the course of the next week, the pain intensified, to the point where he was unable to turn his head to the right AT ALL, and had to turn his whole body to face me when I was talking (which was actually kind of cool, since it made me think  he was just really listening to me intently ;-)) and had to institute a temporary ban on lifting at the dance studio. He iced it.  He put a heating pad on it.  He stretched it. He used a special neck pillow. He took some Tylenol. He went and got 3 massages in one week – all to little avail.  Things were starting to take their toll on both of us, as my bf was in too much pain to ride his motorcycle, sit upright for very long, or do any sort of vigorous activity. Finally, at the recommendation of one of his students (and me, as I had been HOUNDING him about it), he finally went to the chiropractor last Friday, and after taking one look at my bf’s x-ray, the chiropractor exclaimed “Ooh, no wonder you’ve been in pain – your C4 & C5 vertebrae are wayyyy out of alignment!” A few minutes with the TENS unit and some adjusting with the chiropractor later, he was FINALLY experiencing some relief.  That was a week ago – he’s been to the chiro a few more times since then, and he’s probably 85% better. But the no-lift rule at the studio still stands until he’s back to 100% and gets the all-clear from the chiropractor.

So the most obvious question brought up by my bf’s dilemma is “Are lifts safe?” The answer: no.  Read my lips: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “SAFE” LIFT. Sure, there are techniques to make them safer, and some are clearly safer than others, but all lifts are inherently dangerous, as there is always going to be the risk of injury from falling or being fallen on, as well as other sprains, strains, and even breaks from trying to correct a fall that is already in motion.  In fact, the very appeal of lifts is in the danger – the awe-spiring risk of doing them in the first place, and often the romantic notion of the delicate lady being in harm’s way, but protected by the strong arms of a handsome male lead.  No wonder all of my boyfriend’s students want lifts in their showcase routines! ;-)

Which brings up the next question: should they even be doing lifts in the first place? Obviously, it’s always going to be safer for a couple already experienced in lifting to be doing lifts (check out Eric Luna & Georgia Ambarian, the current world champions in the theater arts division), and it’s a downright TERRIBLE idea for two inexperienced individuals to start attempting them without the guidance and supervision of someone with experience (this is a good example of people that should NOT being doing lifts!).  But both my boyfriend’s predicament and that of the couples on DWTS is a bit more of a grey area – the situation where only half of the couple is experienced. In this particular case, I’m a firm believer that the more experienced member of the partnership is the one more likely to get hurt, regardless of gender.  Since they’re experienced, they’re going to be more likely to be hurt by the rookie mistakes of their partner, and more likely to try & protect their partner from harm…and possibly injure themselves as a result.  My boyfriend is a good example of this, as his neck injury was the result of him compensating for a student who couldn’t quite get the right leverage to get up onto his shoulder; Kym’s neck injury this past season is also a good example, as it was Hines who lost his balance and fell onto Kym, likely due to pure inexperience.  Toni Redpath (a former Australian ballroom champion & a frequent guest judge/choreographer on SYTYCD) did a great video blog a few weeks back (thanks for pointing this out, Evaine! Quite timely ;-)) which did a good job of explaining why lifts are allowed in ballroom routines on SYTYCD but not on DWTS – and the biggest reason was *drumroll* EXPERIENCE.  All the dancers on SYTYCD have some experience with dance, which makes the transition to lifting quite a bit smoother for them than a celebrity with zero dance experience. Not only does it make life a bit easier on the celebs, but it keeps the couples safer, too. 

But let’s say experience is not an issue.  From a choreographic standpoint, should everybody be peppering lifts into their routines? I certainly don’t think so.  Heidi always brings up an interesting argument whenever someone starts comparing ballroom on SYTYCD to ballroom on DWTS and the subject of lifts comes up: when used in excess, lifts tend be a bit of a cop-out, choreographically. It can often let bad dancers get away with not really dancing, and results in a routine that is more “flash & trash” than meat-and-potatoes dance steps – and can end up looking NOTHING like the dance it’s meant to portray.  The best example of this that I can think of is Channing & Philip’s samba from season 6 of SYTYCD.  While not inherently “bad”, the routine only has a few basic samba steps in it, and the rest was a lot of shimmying and (rather clumsily-executed) lifts.  Of course the video cuts out before the judges give their commentary, but I distinctly remember Adam actually calling out the choreographers on this one for making the routine “too lifty”.  I feel like lifts can also interrupt the “flow” of a dance if not placed properly – for a lift to work choreographically, I think it has to have proper timing & musicality, and have very fluid transitions in & out of it.  Otherwise you end up with routines like Channing & Philip’s, which feels jerky & disjointed – “Look I’m doing samba, I’m doing samba, I’m doing samba…ooh now I’m stopping samba & doing a lift…aaaaaand I’m back to dancing samba…STOP! time for another lift-and more samba….” It’s just visually…displeasing. Now don’t get me wrong – a few well-placed, well-executed lifts can enhance a routine.  A great example is Riccardo Cocchi & Yulia Zagoruychenko’s samba showdance from the 2009 America’s Ballroom Challenge (does the move at 1:06 look familiar? Derek used it at the end of his samba with Nicole ;-)).  Only one lift, and they ended up winning the showdance category, over 5 other couples – most of whom had more lifts. IMHO, you don’t need lifts to make ANY routine on DWTS (including the freestyle) look good.  Derek had no choice but to come up with alternatives to lifts in season 11, when Jennifer made it clear from day 1 that her neck injury made lifting an impossibility – and they still managed to win, and create some very memorable routines while they were at it. Their lift-minimal Argentine tango still stands out to me as one of the best we’ve ever had on the show.

So the bf & I were talking about lifts at-length the other night, and he said something that stuck with me: “You know, DWTS is great for the attention it has brought to ballroom dancing & all, but it’s really left some people with an unrealistic idea of what ballroom is and isn’t.” He went on to explain that he gets new students in the studio who are frustrated upon finding out that they won’t be dancing eye-catching routines like the ones on TV right off the bat, and many of them seem more concerned with costumes & music than technique & solid choreography.  I can imagine it gets very frustrating for dance teachers like him – especially when the demand for flashy nuances like lifts necessitates them risking their own safety.  The format of DWTS has actually forced my bf’s studio to start doing more showcase routines with their students (as opposed to focusing on good technique for competition) – and as my bf puts it, “every single one of my ladies wants lifts in her routine – and if they think one of the other ladies has more/better lifts, they’ll ask for more.  It’s KILLING me!” And me as well, since he often comes home cranky & sore and barely able to move…let alone do other activities. ;-)

So I’ve said my piece with regards to lifts…what do you guys think? LAY IT ON ME :-D

August 9, 2011 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!