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Ballroom with a Twist – A Review

January 24, 2011

Dance is a living, growing art and Ballroom with a Twist was an excellent first step in a new direction for ballroom dance. Currently showing at the El Portal theater in North Hollywood and on tour throughout the US, the show bills itself as variety show, pulling talent from Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and American Idol. The show itself focused primarily on ballroom dancing intermixed with singing numbers, short comedy bits by the hosts and contemporary/lyrical and hip hop dance. My personal take – hit and miss.

As someone who does not watch the aforementioned television shows, I was missing some of the starstruck enthusiasm and familiarity with parts of the cast that most of the rest of the audience appeared to possess. I came to watch as a competitive ballroom dancer and someone with a keen interest in crossover choreography and pushing the boundaries of ballroom dance. Given that I was in the minority of the age range (on the younger end of the spectrum) and a trained dancer, I took the show with a grain of salt knowing that the television viewers were the target market, not people like myself and my fellow ballroom dancing friends in attendance.

What went right. Some of the dance numbers were spot on, mixing styles, costumes and innovative movements that pulled from elements of musical theater and hip hop. I in particular enjoyed a paso doble done to trance music, a fantastic Brazilian samba, and a large mixed dance style number with equal parts hip hop, lyrical and cha cha. There were some beautiful partnered lyrical pieces, some done to live singing, that were truly stirring. The few pieces by the TV show pros (Louis Van Amstel, Jonathon Roberts, Anna Trebunskaya, Alec Mazo and Edyta Slawinska) brought in a refined element to the show’s flashy feel and reflected more traditional competitive and show routines as is found in the non-televised ballroom world.

What went wrong. The show’s pace was lightning fast and hardly gave the audience time to breathe between numbers. The next set of dancers were literally walking on as the previous set ran off, giving the show an action flick, almost gimmicky Hollywood feel. There was a little time to actually take in and appreciate what you had just watched. The flip side to that of course, is more numbers crammed into the timeframe. The costumes felt overly “ballroom.” It was an endeavor to find someone not wearing rhinestones, especially the ladies, and tiny latin outfits dominated. While rhinestones are great and cleavage nice on television and at ballroom competitions, in a stage setting I found them distracting. Likewise, all the women had their hair down and flinging in every direction. I often spent more time focusing on the flying tresses instead the actual dancing. The comedic interludes felt forced and did little to add to the actual enjoyment of the show.

If I had things my way. I would have loved to have seen more standard and smooth. That genre of dancing was in short supply while cha cha locks, jive kicks and batcha catas ruled the floor. More storytelling in ways that really engaged the audience would have been amazing. As noted, some pieces really hit the mark, but it did so inconsistently. There were just as many random dancing numbers with flying hips and half undressed men as there were truly moving pieces. Less flash and skin on the costumes, so that the focus reorients towards the dancing itself. And finally, slow things down. Add more slow dance styles and more time between numbers.. Rumba, bolero, and most of the smooth/standard genre barely blipped the radar. Give the audience a chance to soak in the experience instead of being bombarded at a frantic pace.

All things given, I really enjoyed the Ballroom with a Twist and give it kudos for pushing the edge of ballroom dancing. I’d love to see this newer genre of crossover dance choreography take ground and see ballroom brought to the stage.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 11:59 pm

    What a great review of this show! I agree with all of your comments, having enjoyed the majority of the show, but winced at some of the less successful aspects. You’ve provided a great critical assessment and several ways any future offerings could be improved. Bring on more of the truly breathtaking and genre-bending stuff!

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