Don’t forget – DWTS Season 4 is on GSN on Saturdays. This saturday (tomorrow) we get weeks 3 and 4, at least according to my TiVo. My contact at GSN tells me that while I was correct that it airs in the eastern time zone at 6pm, I should give 8pm for the pacific time zone. But, as always – check your local listings to be on the safe side.
Some videos that I was holding off on posting until now…first, the beautiful Gilles.
What are some of the shows that stood out for you the most when you costumed them, and why? (i.e. certain theme nights, specific seasons, finales, etc.)
Randall Christensen: Movie/Broadway or TV night is always great fun. We get to step out of character even more. If you can dream it up, SOMEONE will wear it! Themed nights are always fun. Loved the Halloween show back several years ago. Edyta as Morticia Addams (The Addams Family), Monique Coleman/Louis van Amstel in their “Ghostbusters” tear away coveralls, to “slime” green…..great fun! Doing specific time periods are fun and challenging as well. Doing a retro ‘50’s Paso Doble for Nicole Scherzinger was one of the most challenging, as the Paso Doble is so serious and passionate, yet the ‘50’s inspired song just didn’t go…..but Derek is a genius with choreography, and we came up with a fun yet strong look for them both.
If you could pick any of the pros, past or present, on the show to be your assistant, who would it be and why?
RC: Hands down, Edyta Sliwinska would be a great co-designer. She has such an eye for style! Lacey Schwimmer has some really fun, “out there” and cutting edge ideas too.
What was the best part of your job on DWTS?
RC: Hands down, the best part of my job was the trust of the producers, and being able to create with such freedom. You just do NOT get that in the television industry, and that was the most rewarding thing I can imagine. Weekly, the most rewarding part of my job was when Harold Wheeler and orchestra start playing the overture, there’s not a week that went by that I was ALWAYS there, with shivers running down my spine. When those couples came down that stairway……truly a magical moment each and every week. I never missed that descending down the stairs at the top of the show – NEVER! Read more..
This is a very good question , but unfortunately one that required a bit of research on my part…so please bear with me as I give you guys a brief history/background of the swing dances.
First things first: all of the above dances are related, and evolved from one another, so that’s why they all look so similar to the naked eye. Even I often have a hard time discerning between them, especially within the context of DWTS, where I think sometimes even the pros themselves aren’t quite sure about some of these dances – especially the Jitterbug & Lindy Hop. The lines between them are very blurred, because there’s often a lot of overlap in terms of steps, timing, & styling.
Charleston was the earliest of the swing dances, originating in the speakeasies during the 1920′s, and is usually associated with the “flappers”, who danced it alone or with each other to mock the “drys” – people who supported Prohibition. At the time, it was considered to be a pretty provocative dance. It has a bouncy feel to it, and the basic step does have the backward rock-step characteristic to almost all of the swing dances. Here’s a good example of some other Charleston steps – note how it also has some twisting movements, high kicks, and very jazzy arm styling. The music was a swing beat, with perhaps a bit more of a ragtime feel than other swing styles to follow – think “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago. These days, it more often lends steps to jive & quickstep, rather than being danced as its own, exclusive dance – my boyfriend’s studio doesn’t have an official Charleston syllabus (just not enough steps), but he does often incorporate Charleston steps into other dances. One example many of you may have noticed is that funky leg flick that the pros often add to their quickstep routines – Mark does it at about the :55 mark of he & Chelsea’s quickstep. Yep, Charleston moves fit Mark’s jimmie legs perfectly Which is probably why he & Melissa’s Charleston in season 9 sticks out to me as the best representation of the dance on the show – it has the characteristic steps, and they stuck with the 1920′s flapper theme.
Out of the Charleston came the Lindy Hop, which had its heyday in the big band era of the late 1920′s-40′s. It was a product of the Harlem Renaissance, and was born in traditionally black clubs like The Savoy & Cotton Club in New York. Its footwork was similar to the Charleston, but it had elements of other vernacular/folk dances (such as the cakewalk and Texas Tommy) and also included a breakaway/throwaway step, which allowed the couples dancing it to do more open work than in the Charleston. It was also quite a bit more daring – when wealthy white patrons descended upon Harlem clubs to watch the black dancers, the dancers themselves upped the ante, and began doing increasingly more dangerous & eye-catching lifts, flips, and tricks (“air steps” or “aerials”) to entertain them. This often resulted in the dancers being hired to perform or teach Lindy Hop to the patrons. I would say it’s definitely the “showiest” of all the swing dances, due to all the tricks that have come to be standard fare in the Lindy – and with the pros on DWTS, nothing seems to scream “Lindy!” more than some crazy lifts. In terms of said lifts, I would say that Melissa & Tony’s Lindy in season 8 is the best example; but in terms of overall “feel” (and good use of basic steps), I’d say that Ty & Chelsie’s Lindy is the best example. Read more..
This is just a tease for some upcoming information about DWTS on GSN. I am working on getting a bit more information – as soon as I know it, you’ll hear about it. From GSN:
GSN (Game Show Network) has an amazing gallery of stunning new original art—as well as revealing one-on-one, behind-the-scenes video interviews—with a buzzworthy group of DANCING WITH THE STARS celebrity alums and pro dancers from a variety of seasons, including reigning champ J.R. Martinez!
As we recently announced, GSN has acquired seasons 4-14 of DANCING WITH THE STARS, and we assembled a one-time only group of series veterans and dance pros to celebrate and promote our upcoming January 21 launch of the series.
GSN will kick off our airings of DWTS with Season 4 on Saturday, January 21, 2012, at 6:00pm ET/5pm CT. Season 4 episodes will air back-to-back every Saturday night on GSN through March 3, 2012.
GSN sent us some High Res photos for your enjoyment (Derek Fans head to PDH). Read more..
Judging from the comments of my inaugural Ask Courtney post, it looks like many of you are baffled about this one. But fear not, I am about to shed some light on the mysterious “heel lead” Len seems to prattle on about
Before I start, though, I want everyone to stand up and take 5 steps in whatever direction you have a clear path. Did you do it? Well congratulations! You just did a heel lead. Literally, all a heel lead really entails is taking a step where the first part of your foot that hits the ground is your heel, and then the ball of your foot, and then your toes. Unless you’re injured or just prefer to walk on your tiptoes all the time, this is how people normally walk. It’s a very natural motion.
Where it gets dicey is on the dance floor. In the ballroom dances (waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep, and Viennese waltz), you’re (almost) always supposed to step forward on your heel; in the Latin dances, you’re always supposed to step forward on the toe. You step backward on the toe in both dances (it’s nary impossible to step backward with a heel lead…I dare you to try. You will feel silly ). When Len starts bitching about heel leads, it seems like it’s usually a male celeb stepping forward on the toe in one of the ballroom dances – it leads to a very stilted, awkward gait, and seems to throw both the male celeb and the female pro off balance. It also negates the possibility of them getting the proper “rise & fall” characteristic of the ballroom dances (with the exception of tango, which has no rise & fall). This is probably most noticeable in the regular waltz, which has the most exaggerated rise & fall.
As for doing a heel lead when you’re not supposed to – the only thing that springs to mind is Derek’s infamous rant after Shannon’s rumba in season 6, where he accused the judges of overlooking some other couples “doing heel leads out there!”. I haven’t the time or patience at the moment to pore through all of the other rumbas from that particular night and look for heel leads, but I imagine that they probably looked kinda bland. Part of what makes rumba (and all Latin dances, for that matter) look cool is the hip action – hip action that can really only be done well if you’re leading with your toe. So if you’re doing heel leads in Latin dances, it probably looks like you’re just walking like a normal person – hardly the exciting movement we’ve come to expect from dancing on this show.
Hope that clears things up a bit Keep the questions coming, guys!
Yes, I know….everyone knows that Nicole is one of the judges on the X-Factor. It’s common knowledge and lots of you watch the show. I’m not one who watches the show because I’m over singing competitions, especially those that include Simon Cowell. I only have room for AI and the Voice.
ANYWAY, the reason why I decided to pick up the “Where are they now” method of killing time between seasons is because I found this video from this past weekend of Nicole singing at the Royal Variety Show in London. Singing Opera…as in Christine from Phantom of the Opera. When Nicole said she is a trained singer, she wasn’t kidding – she KILLED this. No lip syncing, per one of her Phantoms. Perhaps all future XF contestants should watch this and then not even try out if they can’t measure up. This lady is more than a singer from a girl band. Of course, it helps if you just love musical theater and Phantom of the Opera. I actually get misty.
This is a feature I’ve contemplated doing for awhile, and I think now might be the right time, with one season over and the rumor mill not quite started up on the next. For those of you that don’t know, I actually do have quite a bit of ballroom knowledge, as I’ve been dancing for about 9 years now and my boyfriend is actually a ballroom dance teacher. Because of that, I’m probably better able to answer some of the more “technical” dance questions than the average viewer, and many of you have seen me get a bit more in-depth in analyzing the dances, in terms of technique and what have you.
I’ve noticed that many of you seem to be getting more curious about the actual ballroom world, as well as how the rules of the actual ballroom world apply to DWTS (or, rather, how TPTB seem to TRY to apply them ). So this is the place where you can finally get answers to those burning questions about ballroom technique, certain rules, dance steps, etc. - I will do my best to give you guys thorough, relevant responses, and if there’s something I don’t know the answer to, I will defer to my boyfriend, who is a true expert on the subject So if you are curious about a certain ballroom subject, feel free to post your questions in the comment section of this post, or tweet them to me @putuincespence, or you can email them to John and he can send ‘em my way. Try to keep them fairly objective – things like “Why do ladies have to wear heels in ballroom?” or “What makes the jive so hard?”, rather than “Why does Derek stink at choreographing samba?” or “Why does Mark always wear spats?” I’m not really equipped to handle subjective stuff like that, hehe. I’m going to try to answer a new question each week, at least until things start to pick up with the new season.
So to kick off this inaugural “Ask Courtney” post, I thought I’d tackle a question I’ve seen quite a few of you ask in passing this season: Why can’t you break hold in the quickstep?
For those of you that didn’t know, quickstep is the only dance on DWTS in which the couples cannot break hold in the middle of the dance. To quote Len, they can do “a little bit at the beginning, and a little bit at the end” out of traditional dance hold, but they must remain in-hold for the majority of the dance. Notorious violators of this rule? Mark & Shawn in their Aladdin quickstep, and Nicole & Derek in their sailor quickstep. So why did they get in so much trouble???
The answer to this is a bit silly to me, because it’s one of the few ways that DWTS has attempted to adhere to actual ballroom dance rules – which I often find don’t really translate well to this show. In “real world” ballroom, there are two styles: International style, which tends to be more strict and is more difficult; and American style, which is a bit more relaxed and open to interpretation. With the ballroom dances, you can either do the International Standard style (in which the couple must remain in-hold the entire time) or the American Smooth style (where the couples are able to go in and out of hold as much as they like). The International Standard dances are waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep, and Viennese waltz; the American Smooth dances are waltz, tango, foxtrot, and Viennese waltz. You’ll notice there is no quickstep in the American Smooth style – it is only danced in the international style, thus the couples are forced to adhere to the international style, in which hold cannot be broken. Since there is overlap in the other 4 styles, the DWTS pros can choose to dance either the American or International styles of the waltz, tango, foxtrot, and Viennese waltz – and most choose the American style, since it’s easier and allows for more creative freedom. But even though they’re trying to adhere to “real” ballroom rules by forbidding the breaking of hold in the quickstep, they’re still not being completely true to the rule, since they’re allowing open work at the beginning & end. In a real international standard quickstep (or any other international standard-style dance), the couple would only be allowed to walk a few feet towards each other to get into hold before dancing – any sort of open work at the beginning (i.e. Ricki & Derek’s tap sequence) is a huge no-no. You have to be in-hold before you do ANY dancing in real quickstep.
So what do I suggest? Eliminate the silly “no breaking hold in quickstep” rule – it’s just a pointless vestige of the show’s often feeble attempts to mirror the real world of ballroom. If you’re going to allow open work at the beginning and end of the dance (which I think is a good idea, as it’s more audience-pleasing than just getting straight into hold), you may as well allow it in the middle, just like all the other dances, because most viewers aren’t going to understand the reasoning behind forbidding it, anyway.
So what ballroom questions do you guys have? Lay ‘em on me, and I’ll do my best to get you answers
So the other day, we counted down the top 10 worst freestyles in DWTS history, and re-lived some of the biggest stinkers we’ve seen in 12 seasons. Today we’ve saved the best for last: the showstoppers, the jaw-droppers, and the dynamite freestyles that have set the bar for all the freestyles to follow.
Some patterns we’ve noticed: most of these routines are high-energy, use recognizable songs, and have either a theme or a general “feel” for the celebs to connect to. It’s a pattern that seems to work – let’s hope this season’s finalists stick to it!
Heidi’s Note: You’ll also note that you have a better shot of making this list if your name if Johnson, Hough, or Ballas. Possibly Schwimmer – she’s one for two, isn’t she??
10. Kyle Massey & Lacey Schwimmer, season 11
Courtney: This is a good example of a hip-hop freestyle actually working out well – basically the polar opposite of Lacey’s ill-fated hip-hop freestyle with Lance. This time around, the song & theme fit her partner to a T – Kyle LOVED “Tootsie Roll”, and it really showed. Now while the choreo wasn’t really all that complicated, it was the fact that Kyle just milked each step for all its worth that really made it fun – I swear, I think the only more charismatic contestant to ever do the show is Carson. Kyle had swaaaaaag, and was a true showman…and it didn’t hurt that he wasn’t too shabby a dancer, either.
Heidi: The thing that made this work was that it fit Kyle to a tee and he LOVED it. He was having the time of his life and he had the skills to pull off a hip hop routine. You combine that with some pretty clever choreography and you have a brilliant freestyle. He’d be much farther up on my list…but this is surprisingly hard to come up with and putting them in order? Impossible! Anyway, when I stand up off the couch and cheer, you know it’s good. And this one was also FUN in all caps. Read more..
So every season, as we draw nearer & nearer to the finale, it seems like the question on everyone’s lips is “What are they gonna do for their freestyle?” We debate which pros are the stronger freestyle choreographers, which celebs can handle the lifts, who’s got the most dance skills, who is going to struggle, etc. So Heidi & I decided to tackle the big question: what makes a good DWTS freestyle?
While everyone may argue over what works and what doesn’t, with 12 seasons under our belts, we have enough historical data to see some patterns – and there are definitely some things that all good freestyles seem to have in common, and some things that the bad freestyles have in common. Today we’re starting with the worst – these are examples of what this season’s finalists should likely avoid, and of which they should probably try to do the opposite
A little insight into how we arrived at this list: I made a list of my own, and then bumped it against a list Heidi made and we looked for similarities. I also asked for suggestions on Twitter, to see if my finger was on the pulse of the more dedicated viewing audience; I polled my co-workers (likely more representative of the average viewer than most of us lurking on the Net ) as well to get their thoughts. Turns out, most of you guys came up with the same examples of good & bad – which is good, since it shows that opinions on freestyles seem to be pretty universal. But without further ado, I give you the top 10 WORST freestyles in DWTS history:
10.) Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas, season 12
Courtney: This was one that a lot of you seemed divided on – some of you loved it, some of you hated it. I ultimately decided to include it in the “worst” list because it seemed to have something in common with a lot of the other freestyles on this list: it wasn’t reflective of the celeb it was meant to showcase. Yes, it was high-energy, it was well-executed (for the most part), and it was entertaining – but what did it really have to do with Chelsea? While she managed to keep up with Mark fairly well and got through the choreography, I never really got the feeling that it was a routine she really felt connected to, or that she even would have picked for herself. It was as if she had given Mark carte blanche with the routine and he chose everything – the music, the costumes, the theme, etc., and Chelsea was just along for the ride. I think choosing an obscure song didn’t help, and the choreo seemed to showcase Mark more than Chelsea – the poor girl just seemed to be trying to keep her head above water. Add to that some bland costumes and a wardrobe malfunction, and you’ve got a freestyle that’s overall just “Meh.” Definitely not 30-worthy, IMO.
Heidi: Well, this one I would have put in “dishonorable mentions” but it’s almost in that pile anyway, at slot #10. The problem here, like you say, was Chelsea wasn’t connected to it (and similar ideas appear throughout this post). Not only that, but the music didn’t really match the costumes and none of it matched the choreo. It seemed all mixed up to me. It had a latin flavor, yet they were doing a light hip hop type choreo (I don’t really know how else to explain that) and their costumes matched neither. Then – why the lights and the bike?? I feel like I missed something on this one. There was also a section where it seemed like they just went from one cool trick to the next. The best freestyles (including some of Mark’s) had a good bit of actual ballroom dancing thrown in in places. This one is just a bit weird for me.
9.) Evan Lysacek & Anna Trebunskaya, season 10
Heidi: PEOPLE, unless your pro is Dmitry – do NOT argue with them about choreography. At all. Geez. That said, this is another freestyle that was good on paper, but in execution just didn’t work for some reason. Clearly it worked in person, since the studio crowd loved it…but the dance didn’t seem to fit either Evan OR Footloose. When Derek did Grease with Brooke, there was a clear, but brief, homage to the movie. The dance went with the song and it worked perfectly for Brooke. When he did a song from Dirty Dancing with Jennifer – again, a subtle, brief homage to the movie and it worked for Jennifer because, of course – she was in the movie. I think by the time they get to the freestyle the pros are just drained and they forget to really tie it altogether – and if you pick an iconic song, you have to really tie it altogether so that the dancing fits the iconic song but also works for your partner. It seems like this dance doesn’t fit either. He didn’t dance it badly by any stretch, but neither did Gilles in their Flashdance freestyle. That doesn’t make it good.
Courtney: I was always a bit puzzled as to why they picked Footloose – did one of them really, really like the movie? Or was it just another easy, dance movie theme to go with? I think that’s the one big difference between a freestyle like Jennifer’s and a freestyle like Evan’s (or Mya’s, or Gilles’, or Stacy’s – see below) – relevance. Dirty Dancing was relevant to Jennifer; but was Footloose really relevant to Evan? I want a freestyle to basically sum up a partnership for me – I want it to feel like both the celeb & the pro connect to both the dance and each other, and for the routine to feel like a nice closure to their season together. For me, going with Footloose as their theme left more questions than answers. Ooh, and can I just say that I think bringing in an outside choreographer is the absolute kiss of death? It doesn’t see to mesh well with the chemistry the couple has forged over the course of the season, and usually leads to coupled being led dangerously out of their comfort zone. And both Evan & Anna seemed uncomfortable with this one – almost pained, at times. Read more..
And the parade of song dittos just keeps on coming. Seriously, I find myself groaning aloud each week when I see the song list – “Ugh, that one AGAIN!” or “I feel like they just used that song!!!” But alas, at the very least, it makes throwing these posts together a cinch
Lotsa dittos this past week – the only ones who managed to make it through semi-unscathed by the reuse of songs that probably shouldn’t have been reused were Nancy, Hope, & David. Guess that was to be expected, though, since there aren’t too many songs that are both Halloweenish and suitable for ballroom!
Battle of Evanescence “Bring Me to Life”
As most of you already know, it was Evan & Anna’s paso doble song in season 10:
And then, this past week, it was the song for Team Paso Doble:
Court’s take: I have to say I was a bit shocked that they were reusing the music from a very memorable routine, and I gotta give this one to Evan & Anna. Both routines are great, and this song is damn near perfect for a very dramatic, intense paso doble – but compared to Evan & Anna, who were absolutely KILLING their routine, team paso doble was just kinda kicking it in the shins. And on a side note, it’s amazing what you notice when you watch these routines the 2nd or 3rd time around – Evan looks a lot better than I remembered him being at the time (guess a few seasons of subpar dancing will make you recognize REAL talent even more!), and Hope looks off-time in several parts of team paso. That cape section Evan did was SUPERB.
Battle of Rihanna’s “Disturbia”
Lance & Lacey had their tango to it in season 7, Lacey’s very first season on the show:
And it was Team Tango’s song this past week:
Court’s take: Why oh whyyyy did they pick this song to reuse for a tango??? I mean, the lyrics are edgy…but the beat is so clubby & dancey. Not edgy enough for a tango, IMO. But anyway. As overrated as I thought Lance & Lacey’s tango was at the time (and I still kinda do), it was better than team tango’s interpretation of the song. I liked how Lance & Lacey went the classy-edgy route, with the dark costuming and slight tweaks in choreo to make the dance feel “creepier”; in retrospect, it just seems like team tango was doing a regular tango in straightjackets and kinda let that be our only indicator that it was a scary Halloween tango. I will say this, though: I still think Lacey’s ballroom is horrid. You could drive a boat show between her & Lance…and that footwork? Yeesh. And as ho-hum as I felt about the team tango on the whole, I actually really liked JR & Karina’s section, upon second viewing. Liked that body wave move they did in reverse
Battle of Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”
It was first used as Chad & Cheryl’s tango in season 10:
And then it was Ricki & Derek’s paso this week:
Court’s take: Considering that most of you probably didn’t remember that it was Chad & Cheryl’s tango, you’ll probably agree that Ricki & Derek had the better interpretation Chad & Cheryl were just a non-event to me – it was just a garden-variety example of their usual routine each week that season, with Chad just kinda walking through the steps while Cheryl danced circles around him. I think I remembered Cheryl’s dress more than the dance itself – that was during her sheer-skirted ballgown phase, and I remember the back being vaguely…thong-like. It may not have been the most compelling paso doble that Derek has ever choreographed, but for me it at least managed to take a step beyond the stereotypical Halloween schlock we saw this week. Plus I just kinda dig Little Red Riding Hood – my favorite Halloween costume everrrrrr.
Battle of Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”
Monique & Louis had it as their cha-cha song during the first Halloween show back in season 3:
And JR & Karina got it as their tango this week:
Court’s take: This is almost a no-contest to me – Monique & Louis!!! The song was positively sucktastic as a tango and I think JR may have been 2nd only to Nancy in song screwage this week. Wayyyy too hard to keep timing. And let me just say this: I think Monique may be one of the most underrated contestants that’s ever been on this show, and I think Louis is capable of being every bit as creative as Derek, Maks, or Mark – when he has the right partner I loved this cha-cha – it was fun, cute, cheeky, creative, and yet still a proper cha-cha. And Monique is like the DWTS-conceived love child of Kyle Massey & Lil Kim – she was a sassy showgirl like Kim, with the skill & youthful appeal (and Disney pedigree) of Kyle. That girl could DANCE, too – kinda makes me wonder if she would have fared better (and possibly won) if she was in a less-competitive season.
Battle of “The Addams Family Theme”
Another gimme from the original Halloween episode in season 3, it was Joey & Edyta’s tango:
And Rob & Cheryl had it again this Halloween episode:
Court’s take: This is a little bit of a weird one for me, as I’m not particularly fond of “The Addams Family” as a tango – even though it has a strong tango beat, it just seems…hokey. And I think both guys had different strengths in their respective routines – Joey’s was definitely better from a technical standpoint, but I thought Rob played the character a bit better. I enjoyed both for different reasons. But overall – I just don’t ever want to hear this song again on DWTS!