Where Were The Hips?!: Dancing With the Stars Week 5

This week's dances were Rumba and Samba, my two personal favorites. So, I guess it makes sense that I'm going to be most disappointed if those don't come out perfectly. I thought the only truly good routine Monday night was Mario and Karina's Samba. Karina was somehow, alone among the professional dancers, able to teach her celebrity student how to perform properly those undulating hip and contracting and expanding pelvic movements that give the dance that seductively snaky look. They danced beautifully together.

My second favorite of the night was Marissa, just because of her attitude alone. I wouldn't call her dancing Samba - there was no circular pelvic movement to speak of, but it was fun all-out grooving to the music, and very full of sass and her own special charm. Interestingly, Marissa said during practice that she understood Samba to be all about "shaking your booty," and it's really not; the movement rotates around the entire pelvis and waist, and extends far past the hip, it's not all about the backside. So, if she saw it that way, and Tony didn't correct her, then it's no wonder she looked all wrong.

Marlee had the same problem -- no pelvic rotations, though she also looked cute and gave her routine a lot of pizzazz. The dance was just more Hustle than Samba.

Priscilla, Jason, and Cristian all tried to move their hips in their Rumbas, but they didn't understand that the hips need to be connected to the lats (upper back muscles). It is the lats that push down on the hips that cause the hips to move. And when each hip settles into its socket, the weight of the hip drives the heel into the floor, which is what makes the dance grounded, rather than lightweight. Standard ballroom is feathery, Latin grounded. If you just move the hip without first moving the lat and without extending that weight down the leg to the ground, it looks like, in Marissa's words, you're just shaking your booty; it looks superficial. It also tends to look dainty and girlish, which is perhaps why Cheryl kept asking Cristian during practice why he looked so feminine.

One of my ballroom friends, Juana, once told me that Rumba emanates from slave culture. The quintessential Rumba walks that people now view as being so sexy, actually evolved from the movement a woman would make while trying to carry a heavy load, say jugs of water, atop her head. If you think about how that might look, how you might emulate that movement, you'd take a step forward, the load would bear down on your shoulder forcing the shoulder downward, the weight would then ripple down to your hip, the hip would settle into its socket, the heel into the ground, and you'd then move on, taking another step and setting the motion anew. For me envisioning this worked wonders. Sometimes it makes more sense for a student to have a concrete image in his or her mind when trying to learn new movement, rather than having the teacher shout repeatedly "foot, lat, hip, foot lat, hip," like a drill sergeant.

There was virtually no hip action for Kristi and Shannon, both thin women. Shannon, with sweetly humorous self-deprecation, noted she had none to move. Funny, I used to use the same excuse! But all of the world's top ballroom dancers are thin and without many curves and they do absolutely tantalizing Sambas. I believe everyone can move properly and beautifully; they just have to be taught how, and then they have to practice. Kristi did a lovely lyrical routine. She's most definitely a natural mover. But without the hips it really wasn't rumba; it was it was a nice theatrical dance you might see on Broadway or in the Cabaret division at a competition, but not in Latin ballroom.

I miss Julianne Hough. I particularly loved her Sambas - how she would take movements from Brazilian Carnival Samba - the body rolls that begin from a standing position and end up with the dancer crouching nearly to the ground, the small sexy shuffles - and put them into her ballroom routine. It added authenticity and it exposed audiences to something new, to "the real thing," the same way putting Argentine tango movement into ballroom Tango was so brilliant. No one else has tried that with Samba.

And now Louis Van Amstel and Priscilla Presley are off. I'll sure miss Louis. I loved the routines he gave Priscilla - classic with a surprise thrown in: a death spiral, a (naughty) lift, this week the splits. But we all knew they were going to be the next to go. I think Priscilla was similar to Jane Seymour popularity-wise. The mainly young voting audience has a hard time relating to more mature women. But to be fair, at this point Priscilla was one of the least talented left, I suppose. I wish they wouldn't reveal the bottom two each week. I thought they weren't going to do that this season. It ruins the fun and surprise for the audience and it puts too much pressure on the dancers for the following week.

I was also happy to see Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian dancing on the elimination show this week. They frequently compete in the Exhibition / Cabaret divisions at the big championships, one of my favorite events. Although oftentimes the routines are too much about the tricks and end up being lift after lift after lift, here I thought they did a pretty, lyrical dance that nicely complemented James Blunt's poetic song.