If you watch television, you probably know who Jerry Springer is.  If you watch dancing, you know he is scheduled to be on the latest season of Dancing With the Stars.  Scheduled to premier September 12, he may or may not be busted by the time this article appears.  I however want to comment on the recent September 3, 2006 Associated Press article in the St Petersburg Times (and probably many other papers as well) where it is declared that Jerry Springer is dreading being on the dance floor.  And this when partnered with Kym Johnson, who won with her previous partner in the Australian version of the show.

The issue is not how Jerry Springer will do, as the judges will and audience will decide that, but how even the stars have all the normal emotions each and every other dance students has.  In the many years of running studios, I can’t remember a man who did not go through many of the same thoughts that Jerry Springer suggests.  The audience fully expects the Stars to do better than they themselves might do.  First of all, they are stars, and America’s fascination and idolization with stars would suggest the expectation that they be super human.  In fact, looking at previous shows, one has to admire the level of competence and even excellence obtained in the short amount of training received.  This must be partly due to the caliber of instructors offered the stars, partly because of intensive rather than sporadic training, but part again because Stars by their mere nature and experience have already conquered what may be hardest for the rest of the population.  That is performing in front of people.

Let us be serious, if the average Joe comes into a studio to learn to dance, they would most likely be happiest to work with their instructor in a private room far away from other students, where entry would require a door bell or invitation.  The fact that most studios suggest the lessons be given in front of other people has already eliminated countless potential students.  Speaking in front of people is considered one of the hardest things to do, so you can imagine where dancing in front of people falls.  In fact in this case the real world may not be all that different than TV.  If you are ever going to take a lady in your arms you are going to be watched, and so taking lessons in front of people may well be the best practical experience you can get.  Let’s face it; unless you can get your girlfriend, wife or date to believe that there is more romance in dancing in the kitchen than at a club with live music, candles or the fancy lighting and energy of a nightclub then sooner or later you will be in public.

Once you are resigned to the fact that you are going out in the real world, you will find out that there are three types of people out there.  1)  Those that can dance, 2)  Those that are spectators and 3)  Those that are drunk and think they can dance.  The drunks that think they can dance might be obnoxious at the time, but they won’t even remember seeing you.  Those that can dance will most likely be out on the floor, and won’t care.  The spectators, which are the largest group will be watching, judging, and are inevitable talking.  So getting used to the crowds is important and that, at least, stars should be used to.

His concern over age is another often heard concern.  “I should have done this years ago…  Even when I was a kid, I was not the good dancer…”  In fact what they remember is the locker room conversation, where it is heard, “What are you doing tonight?  …  Oh, dancing.  …  You dance?  …  Yeah, all my life, don’t you? …  Well…”.  In fact nobody was born dancing, and all good dancers learned how.  Some from watching their big sisters; some from watching TV some from watching MTV or videos and emulating what they see; some from a teacher or friend, but everybody learned.  Just learning the rhythm is just that, learning.  If it was automatic, you might see somebody walking down the street going Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick, and following shortly thereafter would be the people with the white coats.  At the highest levels dancing is pure sport, and as such speed, endurance and physical training and strength matter, but at the social, or entertainment level dancing is probably less affected by age than most sports.  Agassi just retired from tennis at 36, but top flight competitive dancers have performed well past that age just as Fred Astaire and Tommy Tune did.

Another concern mentioned is just how strenuous the training might be, and to that point, dancing may well be a perfect exercise.  The natural progression of learning, and training tend to balance the needs of the body and mind.  Obviously these show participants must step it up so to speak, and the intensive learning and training is extraordinary for any age group given their starting point.  The fact is that there have been successful contestants of advanced ages in previous series as well, namely John O’Hurley and George Hamilton.  These contestants lasted as long as they did by using their personality and style as assets and that is what Jerry Springer needs to do.  The artistic side of dancing where style and personality matter is probably better noticed by the audience than it would be by judges who have been trained to look for the technique.

The article also mentions the driving force behind Jerry trying this out.  His daughter’s wedding which for him matters a lot of course.  For other men it might be pleasing a spouse, losing weight, gaining self confidence, business reasons but whatever it is, social activities such as dancing always have a reason behind them.  The artistry or sport by itself is rarely if ever enough.  So when your clients come in or if you are trying to decide if dancing is right for you, remember Jerry Springer and with all his celebrity he too has to address all the fears of learning to dance.  Whatever the result of the show, he will likely shine at his daughter’s wedding.

Michael Reichenbach


Dance Week

October 13, 2006

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