Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, pondering just why it is that the only television show I’m looking forward to in the new season is Dancing with the Stars, which premieres its twenty-fifth series tonight at eight. It certainly can’t be an interest in any of the “stars” because none of the names that have been announced mean a thing to me. Star is, of course, a relative term. Fellow cozy writer Ella Barrick (aka Laura DiSilverio) got it right in her three book series featuring a ballroom dance instructor when she named her fictional TV competition “Ballroom with the B-List.”
But that aside, just what is the root of this fascination? In general I don’t care for reality TV or game shows or competitions. This program should strike out on all three counts. Instead, I set aside time on a dozen or so Monday nights twice a year to watch a team of professional dancers try to turn amateurs into champions. Some of the celebs are so bad that you wonder if they were chosen for that reason. Every season seems to have “the old guy” (or girl, or sometimes both), the person whose movements are so stiff that they look like a puppet with the strings cut, the wacko (also most likely to get ticked off when being critiqued), and the one who can’t dance but is so popular with viewers at home (who get a vote) that they stay on weeks longer than anyone expects. The athletes, especially if the sport is football, gymnastics, or ice skating, are odds on favorites to win, but there are always surprises.
The pros vary from season to season but there are always familiar faces, as there are in the dance troupe that performs between competition numbers. The judges don’t change much either, and have distinct personalities to enliven the proceedings. But when you get right down to it, what pulls me back, year after year, is the dancing.
I’ve never done ballroom dancing, unless you count the lessons I took for a brief time in about seventh grade—those versions of the fox trot and cha cha have little in common with the dances as performed in competition. The closest I got was “modern” dance lessons, which led to doing some choreography for amateur theatrical productions in high school and college. I took ballet lessons until I was sixteen, and somewhere along the line learned to tap dance.
But you don’t need to be able to do a certain type of dancing to appreciate it. I’ve never done Scottish dancing either, but I learned enough about it to create Liss MacCrimmon, former professional Scottish dancer (until she blew her knee out and had to have a knee replacement—something I do know about first hand).
Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Dance is an art form. It is also a sport. In ballroom competitions, there are rules, just as there are rules in baseball, football, and other sports. Do a lift in a dance where your feet are supposed to stay on the ground and you lose points. The pros only make it look easy. The upshot is that those of us who are no longer limber enough to perform such numbers can still appreciate the athleticism that goes into them, and the artistry of the choreography. As a spectator sport, seen on TV, I’ll take Dancing with the Stars over watching baseball, tennis, basketball, or golf any day of the week.
What else am I watching regularly now that September is here? The Pats, of course.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of more than fifty traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (X Marks the Scot—December 2017) and Deadly Edits series (Crime and Punctuation—2018) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. New in 2017 is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com
I’ve never watched an episode of Dancing with the Stars, but for years I had a similar obsession with So You Think You Can Dance. Like you, I’m not a reality TV watcher. The early seasons of Project Runway and Top Chef were my only other ones. But I love dance, and I love watching people who are good and passionate at work.
That really makes all the difference, doesn’t it? The pros are really good at what they do and the choreography is tremendously creative.
We enjoy dancing with the stars. What do we enjoy, the pros, the dance routines & good dancing. What do like not so much… bad dancers staying and good dancers going due to the popular vote which isn’t based on good dancing.
I agree completely. What’s also frustrating is trying to vote. It was easier a few seasons ago. Now they want way too much information before they let you weigh in.
Funny thing when we were growing up my older sister had zero rhythm, I mean none at all. I was the dancer, but you know club dancing, concert dancing and the like. Well after my sis got divorced for the second time she decided to do something different. She started going to a club that had ballroom/latin dance classes on one night a week. I went with her, but due to knee/health issues just watched. And as I watched I noticed my sister gain confidence, a big smile, some rhythm and a husband. Now they dance competitively and have won several big tournaments. The oddest thing, I think her salsa is her best dance. She still have no rhythm, but knowing the steps forces her to have it, lol
Wonderful story, Kay. Thanks for sharing.
I took up dance at the age of 60 and ended up running the program, which was for “older dancers”…ahem!… at the National Museum of Dance In Saratoga Springs NY. Because of the Skidmore College dance program we had the top dance companies send instructors – they loved us! Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Doug Varone, David Parsons… I made David a rhubarb pie and got a kiss from him, which sent me soaring in class…. That’s why I watch DWS; reliving my “glory days!”
What fun! I swear, Marilyn, you lead the most interesting life.