Saturday, October 15, 2005

Week 2: Ballroom Bootcamp on TLC


This week saw three new women—the Free Spirit, the Shy Girl and the Hippie Mom—taking on the Ballroom Bootcamp challenge, to learn ballroom-style Tango at a competitive level. As with last week's premiere, the best part of the contest comes as the participants approach the dance for the first time. Once again, these dancer-wannabes are paired with dance experts Gocha Chertkoev, Christian Perry, and Susannah Cuesta.

So we see mom Michelle, who wants to learn to dance, coming to her first lessons with confidence, then losing it as she compares herself to Susannah Cuesta. We watch free spirit Melody brangle with her instructor, Gocha Chertkoev, and finally dissolve into tears at her inability to come up to his standards. And back-up singer Cherish finds the steps easy to learn, but the attitude of tango eludes this shy girl.

Period illustration of tango instruction, Image Hosted by

1914 Tango instruction

Instructor Christian Perry is certainly a believer in the value of cross-training—last week he sent his student Krystel to belly-dancing class. This week, he sends Cherish to take Aikido lessons. Her martial arts coach coaxes some "ki-ahs" out of her, first tentative, and then snappingly definite. The lesson doesn't transfer to the dance floor immediately, however.

Cuesta also resorts to outside instruction, sending a life coach to counsel her student Michelle on the value of letting go and living in the moment. "Behave as if learning to dance is the most fun you know of," he tells her. "Skip into the dance studio." She does, too—and it helps her to relax into the lead of her partner.

All three women are again costumed from Davis Designs, the same atelier that produced the stunning dresses for Krystel and Monique last week. It would be easy for a single design shop to produce cookie-cutter outfits for the contestants each week, but so far, all five dresses have been distinctive and beautifully suited to the individual dancers. (Jeff, the Tour Guide from the first week, did not have such luck—perhaps because men's costumes are less exciting than women's, by their nature.)

Once again, the actual competition was disappointing, compared to the lead-up. The learning curve for Tango is steep, even for trained dancers, so one of the best things about this series is the way it shows a little of the hard work and effort that goes into dancing well. When so much credit is given for "the look" and so little, comparatively, to footwork and frame, you have a disputable result.

That was the case with the winner selected for this contest. (No spoilers, in case you haven't seen it yet!) I will be watching it again (it is rebroadcast on TLC this evening and again on Sunday), to see if I can spot why the judges made their choice as they did—because last night, I didn't see it at all!

Please join us at BlogCritics to comment on this review.


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