Sep 21, 2010

The Post's Pulitzer-winning dance critic Sarah Kaufman takes your questions about the season premiere of "Dancing With the Stars."

Read Lisa de Moraes' take on the premiere.

GALLERY: New cast of 'Dancing With the Stars'

Good morning, dance fans! Let's get this conversation going. Faves, raves? What's on your mind about the premiere, and the future?

Kyle was great! He put so much energy into the dance and had finesse too; he's a cutey pie. Rick Fox was classy and smooth as silk; his smile is to die for. Brandy was classy and so excited to be there-- I thought she might faint after the good comments and scores she got.

Flo Henderson is a good rep for the senior crowd and seems so much fun and pleasant. Go Jennifer! She's a great rep for the mature, good looking ladies.

I love how Len zinged The Situation --you might have guns but no ammunition-- that was the line of the night! The Situation has gotta go tonight! Hoff should go back to the beach and rest.

Kyle was adorable, and put on a show. But I saw more charisma than cha-cha. I was greatly surprised by Rick Fox, and Cheryl Burke's comment to him in the rehearsal, about "don't dance down to me, let me dance UP to you," is something we can all live by. In other words, as our mothers told us, stand up straight! That totally made his dance.

Did any of the cast really stand out for you? Is it too early for you to predict a favorite?

My favorite was Brandy. She was living the waltz; she looked relaxed, smooth, light as silk. I also loved her partner, Maks--that strut! Yowza. I definitely want to see more of them. But Bristol Palin was the story of the night:  Didn't we all expect her to flub? What she surprised me with was her naturalness, and that was in short supply with the rest of the "stars." Here's a  person who's not an athlete, not a dancer, maybe not the best performer and she definitely needs to loosen up...but she showed us what she can really do. It was all her out there, not a presentation.

Hi Ms. Kaufman,

Not watching DWTS, since "star" does not apply, IMO.

Does it seem we've become less star, more reality (not worth our time)?

Interesting point! I have to say, this is not my fave reality dance show--the better dancing, and more instructive judges' comments,  are on "So You Think You Can Dance." And few (any?)  of the celebs on DWTS are actually stars. What  I find interesting is how the pro dancers labor to make their partners look good. THAT's the real show, the real performance.

How much can a one of the professional dancers help the performance of a struggling "star"? Or are they all pretty much the same? Which one would you want to dance with if you were on the show?

There was a great example of this kind of help in the Rick Fox/Cheryl Burke pairing. Dance partners, out in the real (nonreality TV) world, have to look good together, fitting heightwise, and this was OBVIOUSLY not the case here. But the dancing came off rather well because that upright elegance was worked in. The whole look of it was up, up, up, except for that sweet moment when he dipped her a little and they bent in for a snuggle. Actually, it's the choreography that was the star here.

Why did the camera cut to Eliza Dushku when Rick Fox was dancing? Are they involved? Isn't she a lot younger then him?

whoa, interesting subtext! Beyond my realm. Anyone else  have a clue?

What do you think they look for when they are casting the show? And do you have a "dream cast" of celebs you would love to see perform? Talking people not normally known for their dancing.

Great question! No. 1, I think ABC is looking for ad revenue. No. 2, my dream cast would have to include Lance Armstrong (I would love to see if he can loosen up!), George Clooney, Lynn Swann, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Iman. Just to name a few!

They have been dating for over a year I think. He even went with her to her brother's court proceeding if I remember correctly.

What is it about this show that's made it such a big (and growing) hit? How do you explain its appeal?

Ah, mein kind, this is a deep and perplexing qvestion. Let us revisit our core human interests: sex, money, emotion. This show has it all, one could argue (I'm guessing Hoff has the most money of the current crop of stars). More importantly, there is the body. We all have one, we're all interested in them, we watch how we move above all else, IMO. Dancing bodies, feathers, potential train wrecks...and you got one great formula.

So, are the pros new each year? And per Elliot in the Morning (I know, I know), Rick Fox and Eliza Dushku are an item. But again, consider the source.

Most of the pros cycle through from season to season; some of the ones this year won trophies in past years. Not a lot of money in dance, so this is a cash cow--not to mention a fabulous showcase-- they'll milk for all they can.

They've been dating for a while, and I understand they've moved in together.

Why are people so nasty about Bristol Palin? She's a kid, for goodness sake, and she's just trying to make some money to support herself & her son.

The comments on Lisa's article were uniformly horrid about her. Lighten up!

I agree there something very touching about Bristol's appearance, and that's not something you get on this show very often. I absolutely want to see more of her, and who knows? Dancing can work magic on a person--I've seen it, in all the years I've been covering the field--and maybe she'll find her own expression here. I liked the dress schtick too--theatrical and clever. Unlike Margaret Cho's disaster.

Along the lines of the earlier question, who do think is the best coach/teacher among the pros, in terms of getting the most out of the least?

Cheryl Burke and Derek Hough have won this several times and they're good, but I haven't seen them paired with Steve-O or Jerry Springer either.

We haven't talked at all about Kurt Warner, and I think he's a case in point. Yes, he was stiff, and not terribly graceful. But I got a definite connection between this towering QB and Anna Trebunskaya;  they had the warmest rapport. I chock that up to great coaching by Anna. It's a subtle thing, but it's effective--more so than strutting, posing, sliding on the floor and lifts. The judges didn't find it so, but they were wrong. That was a lovely dance.

Thanks for a great chat, folks. this has been terrific fun. Onwards, and upwards...So long!

In This Chat
Sarah Kaufman
Sarah Kaufman received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and has been The Washington Post's dance critic since 1996.

That's a lot of "Nutcrackers."

But after logging serious sit-time in opera houses, church basements, fairground tents and lawn chairs, what moves her most is seeing grace happen where she least expects it.
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