Saturday, August 18, 2012

Retirement Pleasures — Dancing with the Elders

ABC recently announced the contestants for Season 15 of Dancing with the Stars. It kicks off September 24 and will feature a cast of all-star dancers. That is to say, celebrities who have already been on DWTS and may or may not have won. (Bristol Palin, for example of the latter.) Likewise they may or may not be names that are familiar to you. (Melissa Rycroft, anyone?)

The first few seasons this show was on the air, I watched it faithfully. Now I dial around for alternative TV fare and, should I find nothing worthy, I go upstairs to dig out my mending basket.

I’ll tell you what would get my attention. If ABC put together a season called Dancing with the Elders, I’d be there. Supposedly, they’ve tried (and failed) to get Betty White. I’m not surprised. She’s a hot commodity now, and is actually a celebrity. Ditto on failing to get Suzanne Somers, though you’d think she would have been happy to show off her thighs-mastered.

Among the men who’ve turned down DWTS is Sylvester Stallone. Maybe his pecs are a tad too bouncy now, but he was probably saving his energy for The Expendables 2. (In theaters now.) Richard Branson also nixed the idea. Rumor has it they couldn’t find him a Virgin partner.

I could provide a laundry list of elder celebrities that ABC could approach, but I’ll leave that parlor game up to my readers. My time will be better spent explaining the modifications to the standard dances that will be required so that these older contestants will survive the season.

Let’s begin with a dance with which we are all familiar—or so we think—the Waltz. As it turns out, there are two standard versions of that dance: the English (or Slow Waltz) and the Viennese. The former moves to 28 - 30 bars per minute; the latter moves to 58 - 60. DWTE will feature the Ever-So-Slow Waltz, moving to 18 - 20 bars per minute, a much more heart-friendly rate, but graceful and elegant nonetheless.

The Quickstep will also be slowed—from 50 - 52 bars to 28 - 30. The requirements will be simplified as well. Normally, the Quickstep is energetic, with syncopated rhythms, as in slow-quick-quick, slow-quick-quick. Slow steps are taken on the heel of the foot, quick ones on the balls (of the feet, thank you). The new Watch-Your-Step version goes more like slow-oops-oops, slow-oops-again. All steps are taken flatfooted and if they are syncopated, it’s probably by accident.

As with the Waltz, there are two styles of Tango, in this case based on the type of embrace in this dance of love. The open embrace allows some space between the dancers, enabling long steps and complicated footwork. In the closed embrace, the dancers touch either chest-to-chest or thighs and hips, sometimes with the legs slightly bent (as in Tango Canyengue). DWTE will feature the Tango Arthritico, with a modified closed embrace: chest-to-chest (pacemaker to pacemaker), with legs completely bent.

Another modified favorite is based on the Cha-cha-cha (International Latin version, 30 - 32 bars per minute) and the Cha Cha (American Rhythm version, 28 - 30 bars). The DWTE one is called simply the Cha and in it, the couples take just one step per figure, not two or three. It looks quite like the Hokey Pokey, as the dancers put their right foot in, they put their right foot out, and… Well, you know the rest.

In a nod to Country/Western, DWTE will combine the Two Step, Polka and Swing. This high energy, boisterous dance starts with a hop and the pattern bounces clockwise around the floor. Unlike the three-step Polka, the Swinka-Two (inka dinka doo!) swings side-to-side in a two-step, likely confusing many contestants. Couples who stay upright throughout the spins and turns earn extra points. Those who get disoriented and go counter-clockwise lose points. Don’t expect any perfect tens until the semi-final.

Finally, DWTE will also include the Lambada. This sensual, sexy “forbidden dance” is rumored to lead to pregnancy. (No risk of that on DWTE.) The typical Lambada is danced with arched legs, swaying side-to-side, with lots of hip movement and head rolling. Though the new version minimizes the scope of movement, it’s a challenging dance for most elders, often resulting in severe lower back pain. Look for this Lumbago Lambada to separate the potatoes from the patatas in the Latin category.

So, there you have it. Dancing with the Elders will be an exciting line extension of the Dancing with the Stars franchise. Better polish up your dancing shoes. Their next phone call could be to you!

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