November 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
I can’t believe we’re already in the semi-finals. We only have one more week left until we crown our Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars season 15 champion! It’s been quite a battle for everyone who’s still in the game and all of the competitors deserve recognition for their hard work. Getting this far was no easy task and it will be a big (and probably quite emotional) double elimination tonight. I’m quite certain that no one had any idea how competitive this season would be, or for that matter, how challenging. It’s been quite a unique experience for all of us. We’ve done things never seen before in the history of our show and that’s been quite a treat.
The dancers and choreographers did outstanding work this season. No one knew they would be choreographing Big Top Jazz, Knight Rider Bhangra, Surfing Flamenco, Espionage Lindy Hop or Caveman Hustle. (Some of those categories are quite puzzling, wouldn’t you say?) It’s been a whacky, unpredictable and entertaining season. Our producers really pushed the envelope this season with new challenges and we owe them a round of applause for really thinking creatively and outside the box. I think our production value has increased over the seasons and I’d like to acknowledge our incredible crew. They are such a wonderful group of top-notch quality professionals and it’s a joy and an honor to work with them all. I’ve worked with some of these camera operators, electricians, audio techs and stage managers for over 18 years, on various shows that I’ve choreographed or danced on, and I’ll tell you without any doubt, we have some of the industry’s finest working on our show. Read more
November 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Last night’s show was a two-part special. We started out with some wonderful dances to celebrate Veteran’s Day. The performances were exciting and paid beautiful tribute to our country’s service men and women. To have so many of them in our audience was quite an honor and a lot of fun—they were yelling and cheering more than our usual audience does! You have to take a moment to consider how lucky we are to live in this country and have the liberties we do. And we have to thank our men and women of service who keep us safe back at home. Looking around the room and seeing so many young and brave faces, I was really humbled. They really enjoyed those first seven performances and were truly touched by Kirstie Alley and Shawn Johnson’s performances, both of which had a special emotional touch. I also think Melissa’s number was fantastic this week and really ended the Veteran’s day celebration on a high note!
The second part of the show was all about trios. Len and I got into it about Shawn’s dance, which I thought was incredible. This season is really about pushing boundaries and taking risks. And when you take creative risks, you can fail or you can blow us all away. And as seen by Shawn’s trio performance with Mark Ballas and Derek Hough, you can also get mixed reactions, but that is what’s so great about our panel. Len, Bruno and I can agree to disagree. We can get so heated in the moment and by commercial break, we are all laughing and hugging again. That’s what we’re there for, to bring our different opinions to the panel. I look at the performance as a whole: Is it effective? Does it cause a reaction in the audience? Do you draw us in, complete a creative and emotional thought, and are your movements of the right quality for the dance? Is your technique correct—your posture, your frame, your musicality, the angle of your head… I look at it all. But technique and steps alone are not going to get you to the finals this season. Read more
November 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Last night we saw some really fantastic dances that were unlike any dances we’ve seen on the show before. The dance fusion was a tremendous challenge for our pros and their partners; you could see the trouble they were having with it in the rehearsal packages. I was impressed with how they handled the challenge and it was interesting to see how each couple made different choices as to how they were going to set the frame for their merging of the dances. Some did the half and half split, splitting the routine into two different dance styles. Some did a little bit of in and out—they would do a few counts of eight for each style of dance and then revert back and forth as needed. Emmitt and Cheryl did this but it didn’t work for him. Shawn and Mark did the same thing and it totally worked. Some of them blended, some of them separated the styles, but they all did some really cool choreography and transitions that deserve a great deal of respect. These challenges are no joke and this season is really pushing our pros and celebrities to the limit.
I was once again impressed with Apolo. I think he really stepped outside of his comfort zone when he took of his jacket during the Paso part of his dance. It had a huge impact. He’s a fierce competitor and I think he developed a strategy that’s working. He is definitely gaining momentum and it’s exciting. I’m also very impressed with Shawn who dances just as well with either Mark or Derek. It’s not easy to match work so perfectly with someone you haven’t been dancing with for the last seven weeks, but she’s a trooper and a perfectionist. I hope she hasn’t peaked too early, which can happen. As for Emmitt and Cheryl, the crowd goes wild for them every time. It’s nice to see but I think he needs to up his game. Kirstie and Maks also need to push themselves if they want to survive. I applaud her for collecting goods on behalf of the Sandy victims in New York. It didn’t help her dancing much, but it proves that she’s a good person with a big heart. Melissa had a great night tonight and I am really beginning to see her star quality come out. She and Tony have a really relaxed approach with each other but push themselves choreographically speaking which is good. She was spot on. And Gilles, well… he’s’ got to fix those T-Rex arms if he wants the mirror ball trophy.
There is no elimination this week so next week it will be crucial to vote for your favorite. And I must remind you all to get out and vote today. It’s a big election and a lot is at stake so follow your heart, know your facts and vote. It’s a wonderful privilege to have this right so I hope you will all take advantage of it.
I’m keeping it short because after everything that has happened this week (Sandy) and that will happen after the election tomorrow, I would like to remind us all to stay focused on humanity as a whole and how we are meant to help each other out in times of need. Give generously to those in need, whether it’s to the people who were displaced or the animal companions who also have lost their homes. Go to the various websites and give back. Call and check on your relatives. Donate food, blankets, clothing, dog food, cat food, anything. Some people have lost everything. Let’s help them put their lives back together.
October 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Last night’s show had superior dancing again! But there was a theme that I’d like to write about today. I noticed that there were some very sensual, extremely passionate and purely honest moments in a few of the routines, and it led me to think about what those words mean and why I use them so much in my critiques. I know I use the words “sexy” and “sensual” a lot on the show, along with “passion,” “honesty” and “vulnerability” and there’s not always time to explain why. We saw some of our most sensual dances and for me, sensuality is so important. I think it’s important for all women.
I sit close enough to the stage that I can feel emotions that might not come across to viewers at home, and Sabrina and Louis’ Rumba performance had pure honesty. And when you are truly honest, there comes an uncomfortable vulnerability. The desire to be accepted as you truly are without knowing what people will think of the “real” you is frightening, and Sabrina started her dance there. But in the first two counts of eight, I saw her almost go back into the facade she often uses when she dances. She almost slipped back into the comfort zone of emoting with her expressions on her face instead of allowing the emotions from inside to come to the surface. When this happens, the audience will always connect in a way that is beyond appreciation of pretty movements. But I saw her fight it, and suddenly out came beautiful and courageous vulnerability, and it was the sweetest sight. I know this feeling so well; to dance with pure abandon. To dance with the raw emotion leading you, not the steps. To me, that’s the essence of being a dancer. You can be a performer and you can be a technician, but to be a true dancer and to know the REAL joy of what dancing is, it is expressing yourself beyond words and facial expressions. And that’s what we saw last night in Sabrina. Sometimes I wish I could go upstairs and interview them with Brooke to ask how it felt, but you could see by our scores how it made us feel. I’m very proud of her for her daring performance. Being that vulnerable in front of so many people is no easy task. Read more
October 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
After 15 seasons, it finally happened. I wish I could say, “No, I didn’t,” but “Yes I did.” I fell off my chair. And today I have quite the stiff neck and a tummy ache from laughing so hard about it. My oh my… I’m still laughing. Thank goodness for Gilles Marini who is such a gentleman. Shortly after he caused my fall with his incredibly sensual and elegant Rumba with Peta, he picked me up off the floor and helped me into my seat. I’m going to have to get Len and Bruno back because neither one of them even offered me a hand. If you watch the video back, you will see Len laughing so hard he put his head down on the table and Bruno doing some sort of strange raunchy pose on the judges table, which only makes me laugh harder.
If you ask me, I think the playback with the front angle caught it the best. You could see how I felt. There was a moment of realization that I was going down, right before I felt the impact. And you can see it in my eyes…Larry, Moe and Curly better watch out! Here comes the fourth stooge—Carrie!
I wish I could say that was my first fall on a major stage, but it was not. I’ve had many accidents on many stages. One time, when I was working on American Idol as their choreographer and staging director, we were having a very last minute rehearsal and I was giving notes and running around on stage. I wanted to get off stage because the judges were coming and the live show was about to start. Of course, I took one step away from the performers and found myself up to my hip (one leg only) in a lighting hole. And yes, I got stuck. So here I am stuck in a hole on stage, while they are doing the judges introductions and the audience is going wild for them. I just tried to wave casually at Simon, Paula and Randy as if nothing were wrong. I had to wait until the intros were over and then someone helped me out of the lighting hole so the show could start. My assistant at the time was Mandy Moore (of So You Think You Can Dance fame) and she and I still laugh about it. Then there was the time I was choreographing super models in Lebanon and I backed right off the edge of the runway. Oh, and the time on Madonna’s Girlie Show Tour when I fell off the pole in rehearsals. But I think last night’s fall was my favorite. It all happened in slow motion. I was leaning in my seat when I felt one cheek slip off and thought I could pull myself back on the chair but instead found myself on the floor. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, I was being picked up but I couldn’t figure out which way was up. It was all so ridiculously ungraceful, but at least it was amongst friends and family and all for a good cause…
Speaking of which, the cause is dancing! Don’t forget to tune in tonight because there are five more dances to see. Last night’s dances were pretty darn good—I especially loved the group number. I found the choreography to be quite dynamic and exciting. The transitions from couple to couple were really innovative and they left no moment of that routine unfinished. There were no throw away moves in the high-pitched choreography. High energy and high impact!
I think Apolo and Karina need to turn it up a notch tonight and add more difficulty into their choreography. I don’t think Apolo is being physically or mentally challenged enough with Karina’s choreography and he’s such an amazing athlete. Sure, he’s sexy, but you can’t play that card in every routine, especially when he’s got such incredible talents outside of that. Look at Shawn Johnson’s routines—she uses every trick she possibly can to make her routines better and she’s pushing her limits all the time. That’s what is exciting and Apolo should have that same approach. He’s got to pull out the big guns from here on out if he wants a breakthrough. He’s the only one of our celebrities left (besides Kirstie) who hasn’t been on the top of the leaderboard yet. But let’s see how everyone does tonight. Tune in to see what happens in the “Gangnam Style” group dance!
If you’d like to meet me in person, have dinner together, and get 4 VIP tickets and a backstage pass to this season’s Grand Finale—all while helping to raise money for my animal charity, The CAI Animal Project—please go to: http://www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/318520
October 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
It’s only week four and the 10-point paddles are out! It was an unexpectedly good night in the ballroom. I have to say that I wasn’t sure how the evening would go with these new dances. I thought it was a tall order to ask our professionals to suddenly have to learn a new dance and teach it to their very competitive partners (remember, this is no ordinary season—it’s the all-star season so there’s more pressure on the pros than ever before). The thing is, not all dances are created equal! Ballroom and Latin dances are a specific style of partner dancing. Hip Hop, Contemporary and Bollywood are not styles that are truly suited to partner dancing. Sure, we’ve seen it all before on So You Think You Can Dance, so TV audiences have grown accustomed to seeing those dances performed that way. But those dance styles don’t work best in our format. Our show is about ballroom dancing, which includes old-fashioned social values, elegance and partnership. Just look at our set—there’s a big ballroom dance floor in the middle! It’s not a proscenium stage.
All that being said, I think we saw something new and quite interesting happen and the duos did a really great job of entertaining us all. This week, I think the dynamic of partnership really came through. Instead of one person leading the other, they both struggled and faced their vulnerabilities, perhaps strengthening their partnerships in a way we’ve never seen before. To me, it was fascinating to see both of them vulnerable. It was most obvious with Karina falling during her and Apolo’s Hip Hop number. You could tell she was so nervous doing Hip Hop, and then she fell and all her fears came pouring out. You could clearly see the struggle of the week in her tears and frustration. But you could also see how much they are in it together. I also saw that with Val and Kelly. Their Contemporary number (which is really lyrical jazz) pushed them both out of their comfort zones. She is absolutely right about our show not being about the dance–it’s a show about growth, facing fears and insecurities, and pushing yourself through what frightens you or even physically pains you.
Yes, our job is to judge the dancing and the dancing is so much fun to watch, but people and the human struggle is at the heart of our show. And boy, did we get to see a lot of struggle. So this week, I salute all of the professional dancers on our show for facing their fears and learning new styles of dancing and putting themselves out there just as the celebrities do week after week. It was touching to watch. I felt like a proud mama watching all of them push their own limits. I highlight Peta, Val, Karina, Cheryl, Tony, Derek, Maks, Louis and Mark for their great work! This show is no easy task for them anymore and the producers keep switching things up on all of us this season. You never know what’s going to happen from week to week, but that makes it very exciting! Read more
October 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
We know you have a story to tell that would be perfect for the annual LHJ Essay Contest. But maybe you don’t know quite how to start writing — or don’t think a you’re good enough writer to even enter (we disagree!). Today’s guest blog comes from writing coach Linda Formichelli, who proves you have no excuse to not to share your story with us. Find out how to enter the contest here!
LHJ recently kicked off their second annual Personal Essay Contest, where the lucky winner will win $3,000 and the chance to have her essay published in the Journal. Many women (like you?) want to write. They have a story to tell, and they love playing with words and making their prose sing. But chances are, a good portion of women who want to share their writing with the world won’t write an essay for this contest. Why?
Here are the top excuses that hold writers back — and how to bust them.
Excuse #1: You Have No Time
If writing is important to you, you can make the time. You may need to write during your toddler’s nap, during your break at work, early in the morning, or late at night. You may have to give up some TV time or stop surfing the Internet, or say no to obligations that get in the way of your writing time.
The writers who actually, well, write don’t have more time than everyone else — they just know how to use their time wisely, and they don’t compromise on scheduling “butt in chair” time to do the writing they love.
Excuse #2: You’re Afraid of Rejection
If you send a story to a literary magazine and it’s not accepted, or write an essay for a contest and don’t win, it’s not a reflection of you as a person or the value of your writing.
The hard truth is, all good writers get rejected. Heck, the first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers before it found a good home — and became a sensation that made JK Rowling a very rich woman.
To keep up your motivation to write, you need to develop a thick skin and realize that rejection is nothing personal. Your writing didn’t work for a particular editor or judge or critiquer at a certain time. That’s all. But if you keep trying, chances are you will hit the right person at the right time with the right story.
Excuse #3: You’re Not Sure How to Get Started
No doubt about it: Crafting pieces that people want to read — that resonate with readers and sparkle from beginning to end — isn’t easy! But the good news is, you don’t need any kind of credentials to tell your story in writing. Many writers are self-taught; for example, the most recent essay that made me cry was written by an architect with no other published writing to her name.
Luckily, if you want more help, resources abound that can show you how to improve and polish your writing, from books and magazines to blogs and e-courses. And many of these are free or cheap!
Browse the writing shelf at your local bookstore for books like Stephen King’s On Writing, check magazines like Poets & Writers on the newsstand, and Google blogs that address the type of writing you want to do — whether it’s fiction, essays, memoir, or poetry. You’ll also find teleclasses, webinars, and more.
I challenge you to ditch the excuses and get working on your essay for the Journal contest. Beyond the chance to win an impressive prize, it will be a learning experience and an opportunity to tell your story to the world.
Let the writing begin!
Linda Formichelli runs the Renegade Writer blog and has written for more than 130 magazines. She offers two free e-books for writers, teaches an e-course on how to break into magazine writing, offers phone mentoring for writers, and is the “Other Den Mother” at the Freelance Writers Den.