Len Goodman, an elder statesman of dance, steps out from behind the judge's table to add his soft shoe to the ballroom.
CHARLOTTE, NC, May 12, 2015 – The popular 1975 musical A Chorus Line featured a poignant song titled “What I Did For Love” which described the dreams of young dancers to succeed on Broadway. The song was about dancing, but it could have been about any other endeavor that requires dedication and total commitment where sacrifice far exceeds the promise of financial reward.
Dancing with the Stars produced an innovative twist during its semi-final competition Monday night which conjured multiple images for those who have ever attempted to achieve a goal against seemingly insurmountable odds.
The clever concept had all four judges, accomplished dancers in their own right, conceive, choreograph, select music and choose costumes for a dance for one of the teams remaining in the contest.
Rather than allow the judges to be observers who critically score the competitors, in this instance they were forced to “put up, or shut up” by demonstrating their own skills and putting their reputations on the line.
For the most part it was a magical idea that produced stunning performances by each team and served to add dynamic credibility to the four people who serve as jurors week after week.
If there was any weakness to the experiment it was in the scoring because, even though a judge could not vote for his own team, it would have taken a calamitous event for any dancer to receive marks that were not perfect.
The judge’s credibility was on display to the world and none of them was going to vote down the other.
Even so, the dancing was spectacular and, in the end, it was the grand finale choreographed by senior judge Len Goodman that took the honors in an evening of prize-winning performances.
Regular viewers know Goodman as the Simon Cowell of DWTS. He is old school. He is a purest. He respects ballroom dancing for the art form it is and when it does not meet his standards he says so.
Though not always, Goodman typically rates dancers a point lower than his three colleagues. And therein was the genuine magic of his input on Monday.
Dancing with the Stars is popular because it revives something America has lost in recent years and is badly in need of capturing again. Dancing aside, the show is positive, uplifting and upbeat, but most of all, it has returned dignity to a country that has lost its sense of direction. DWTS has style. It has class. It is sophisticated and even, at times, sexy but in the end, it has come to represent the goodness that we the American people seem to have lost somewhere along the way.
The program brings together young and old, spry and physically challenged, men and women, black and white, experienced and beginners in a manner that unifies the country in ways that no politician can. It works its charms through dance and through music.
It highlights the struggles to achieve something beyond the comfort zones of complete novices in the art.
In the process, it brings together millions of viewers because each passing week takes us further into the personal lives of real people who previously seemed so powerful and strong. We see their vulnerabilities. They become friends rather than celebrities even though at the end they remain just as removed to most of us as they were in the beginning.
Goodman’s concept was simple. It was reminiscent of another Broadway show, Cats, in which the character of Asparagus, affectionately known as Gus, the Theatre Cat, returns to the stage for one last memory of his days where he “Once played Growltiger, (who) could do it again…”
In Goodman’s version, professional Derek Hough and his partner gymnast Nastia Liukin performed an elegant Viennese waltz. Then, just at the finish Hough moved away to allow “old pro” Goodman to complete the dance.
It was both touching and dramatic. A simple dignified gesture told a complete story in which youth respects age and yields to experience in a moment of pure appreciation.
Dancers will come and dancers will go, but the magic and the dream will always live on. Those who understand what their mentors have given them are the people who will thrive, for they appreciate the history, the art and the dedication to achieve in art form they so dearly love.
Dancing with the Stars has, in its own unique way, recaptured respect, dignity and elegance.
Old Gus danced once again Monday night. And in the paraphrased words of “What I Did for Love” may “Len Goodman kiss the day goodbye….softly.”
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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