Video Review: Juliana Hough from DWtS

Hello all! Welcome to another Friday–er–Tuesday Video Review. (Best laid plans of insects and internet, right?) Today I have some thoughts and feelings about a video I recently discovered, again from the popular TV show “Dancing With the Stars”. Now this is practically ancient news by internet reckoning, first published in September of 2014, but I think it’s relevant.

For starters, I kind of love the one female, lots of men ‘thing’. Maybe because I’m so used to dancing in situations that are heavy on the ladies, but I think it’s fun, sexy, and different. Sure, you see it in ballet in places like the “Sleeping Beauty” Rose Adagio and other famous multi-pas de duex, but it isn’t as common in ballroom. I love the moment at 1:11 where the men are in a circle around her and she lifts her arms as though summoning them to her will….[Holly scribbles down ideas for future pieces.]

Rose Adagio, Kremlin Ballet

Poking through the YouTube comments–a dangerous endeavor if there ever was one–most of them are concerned with what she’s wearing, split about half “hot damn sexy” and half “good gawd woman put some clothes on”. It’s funny, because the first time I watched the video I thought “that skirt is too long to do anything crazy–oh! Oh ok. That works too.” (Also, just from a stage manager’s perspective tear-away clothes make me nervous.)

Frankly to do those kinds of acrobatics you need to be wearing as few and as form-fitting clothes as possible, which is exactly what she’s doing. It actually highlights my number one problem with this performance–not the costume, but the content. Julianna Hough is a fabulous dancer. Lady’s got moves, especially those hips. Watch some of her other performances on the show and she proves herself to be a formidable Latin dancer.

And yet, at least half, if not the majority of the piece, is her flipping and dipping and flying through the air like a trapeze artist.

Look, I like dips and lifts. They are exciting, they add extra dimensions and levels to a performance–both in space and in difficulty. But if that’s all you want to do, go be an ice skater or a gymnast or a circus performer. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still expect a little artistry, emotion, and contrast in choreography. Lifts should be a means to an end as dictated by the music, not an unending string of one after another after another until the audience gets bored of even the more daring tricks. On the deepest level this kind of display is a function of the competitive ballroom culture, where simple technique executed beautifully is oft overshadowed by the flashy and impressive.

And lastly, to fulfill my weekly dose of schadenfreude–if you watch closely at 1:40 in the video, you will see a slightly awkward move where her hips kind of ‘thunk’ over her partner’s head. Check out her partner’s face and you’ll see the face of someone saying “ooohhh $h*t” in his head. Essentially they screwed the lift up. She wasn’t close enough to his neck, he dropped his head too soon, and they had to cut it short as she fell over his front.

And do you know the best part? I know that lift. Steve and I do it in our routine. And we screwed it up in basically the same way! Frankly I feel much better about myself to know that a professional dancer of her accolades can mess up the same lift on national television. And kudos to her, she played it off like a pro, going right into the finish with little sign on her face as to what happened. You probably wouldn’t even notice unless you knew the move.

Which I do. And now I feel much better about myself. Here’s to screwing up and playing it off! The show must go on, even when your partner drops you.

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