My parents, despite being in high school when Elvis Presley was in his prime, didn't listen to a lot of rock 'n' roll when I was growing up. Their record collection was filled with waltzes and sambas and old musical soundtracks. So, deprived of "All Shook Up," my sister and I would dance around the living room for hours, pretending to be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
We'd never seen Fred or Ginger dance, mind you. But we'd heard stories about them from my mom—how light they were on their feet, how they spun and twirled and made music out of movement. My sister and I wanted to be just like them.
My sister now teaches dance for a living, while the only dancing I do these days is a little victory jig when my editor doesn't cut my copy. Still, when it comes to reviewing Dancing With the Stars, I bring a little more history to the project than most.
Not that I really need it that much. Because Dancing is pretty straightforward: Well-known personages, ranging from sports superstars to D-list celebrities, are paired with professional dancers and made to dance their little ankles off—performing everything from intricate jives to backbreaking paso dobles. Each week someone gets voted off, and the last celebrity standing (and, by that time, likely gasping for air) wins.
And the thing is, many of these celebrities—despite being rich and famous already—seem to really want to. While some stars dance about as well as the average garden vegetable, by the time the contest advances, the dancing is really quite good. My sister and I certainly would have thought so. Stars who reach the final episodes push themselves hard to get there, and along the way we're given a glimpse of how some of these folks became famous in the first place—most often through dedication and hard work. At times it can be quite inspiring.
Still, Fred and Ginger this is not. While some of the traditional ballroom dances might be pulled right from a 1930s musical, the show turns more salacious when the music turns spicy. Some of this is, frankly, obvious: Tangos, mambos and other Latin-style dances have historically been more sexually charged than the average waltz or foxtrot. But I have a hard time imagining that folks in 1940s Havana wouldn't raise an eyebrow at all the clothes-shedding, leg-grabbing, floor-crawling maneuvers seen here. It can edge far closer to Dirty Dancing than Top Hat.
NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocino gets booted from the semifinals—a revelation, really, that should've lasted five minutes if they were milking it. But networks like their results shows to last 60 minutes, so viewers are treated to a variety of padding techniques, from human interest stories to a college team ballroom competition and standing ovations for … well, almost everything. I'm sure if Evan Lysacek cleared his throat, most of the folks in the studio audience would cheer.
Speaking of whom, Evan and his partner, Anna, revisit their 30-point dance from the night before—including the part where Evan rips her "skirt" off near the beginning and plants an aggressive kiss/vampire bite on her at the end. Two singing performances round out the festivities, one by Sarah McLachlan, the other by Miley Cyrus, who sings her ode to liberation from all things restrictive, "Can't Be Tamed" (which includes the word "h‑‑‑"). Cyrus, for the record, is dressed in a sexualized feather costume and is surrounded by what appear to be stylized—and also sexualized—refugees from Mad Max.
Olympic skater Evan Lysacek, NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger get the chance to once again strap on their dancing shoes. While the competition is restrained during the ballroom portion, things take a turn for the titillating during the second half of the show—and the slinkiness is rewarded by the judges who insist that, on the dance floor, sexier is better. Evan kiss/bites (it's a vampire thing) his partner, rips off her "skirt" and uses it as a cape. (Chad's shirt is similarly pulled off.) Women wear outfits that bare cleavage, midriffs and thighs. Judge Bruno dubs Nicole the "sexylicious purple queen of the cha-cha-cha" and is accused of pulling a "premature paddle"—a sexually charged pun that gets a laugh from the audience. (The judge also says the f-word, according to later reports, though it was excised from the online stream).
Contestants do offer positive messages in between their sultry dance steps. Nicole says her mother is the "joy of my life." Evan admits that he once wanted to quit skating, but his mother told him, "If someone's better than you, you have to try twice as hard."