But How Do I Become a Ballroom Dancer?: A Polemic

As far as I can tell, the main problem with the world is that only celebrities qualify to be contestants on Dancing with the Stars. What makes this more frustrating is the fact that the competing celebrities are usually just-barely celebrities; they are once-celebrities or low-level celebrities ranging from “really famous––in 1977” to “recurring role on CW show.” (This is not to say that I don’t grow to love them and talk about them like they are old friends, but let’s call a spade a spade.)

Not only do I think that non-celebrities should be allowed to submit their name for consideration on Dancing with the Stars, but also that choosing contestants for the show should function similarly to jury selection. I mean that exactly as it sounds: being on Dancing with the Stars should be one’s civic duty, and you should get a summons every few years or so. (There would also be a “call me whenever” option for people like me.) Employers would build 12-weeks paid leave into their benefits packages, because everyone would know and acknowledge that participating in the show would be for the greater good, the public interest. World leaders would have to participate too—especially the big assholes. Doing this, I think we’d see less war, less divorce, less cutting into the right lane without a blinker, less not-even-trying-to-hold-the-elevator. Actually, I don’t think. I know.

If you’ve watched, then you know that the show changes people. It changes people in a very fundamental, depths-of-the-soul kind of way. Even the otherwise alpha-male, stoic athletes who agree to appear on the show during their off-season—for reasons they didn’t totally understand when their managers explained them but went along with anyway, because $$—end up having a Human Moment on national TV, tearfully describing to ESPN reporter-turned-primetime cohost Erin Andrews (who, presumably, they feel very comfortable with) that what they are doing is not a reality show or a competition, but a Journey. That’s everyone’s favorite word: journey. “I’m just so grateful for this journey.” “I couldn’t imagine my life without having taken this journey.” “I truly feel like I’ve found myself on this incredible journey.” Voices crack with raw emotion when they utter those sentences, like dancing the foxtrot with a shirtless Russian is the best thing to have ever happened to them in their entire life. And I have no doubt that this is true. 

This is why I think it’s so important for all of us—not just Disney child stars, former Olympians, people who gained notoriety for having an affair with a public figure but describe themselves as a “media personality”—to be afforded the opportunity to find ourselves through the art of ballroom dance and, occasionally, writhing and rolling around without shoes on (modern dance). To tell a story with fluid arm motions and heel-ball-changes and to be dipped by a man (or woman) whose hips don’t lie and who preferably but not necessarily has an accent. Maybe that’s all it comes down to. Maybe we just all need to be dipped.

*****

I’m a bit of a Dancing with the Stars aficionado, if I do say so myself. Most people dismiss it as fluff and would never admit to watching it, but for me the show is a talking point, a hobby. Not to brag or anything, but it’s kind of an area of expertise. Mondays are important to me. It is vital to my well being that I have these two hours each week to be uplifted, even transported. To imagine.

The thing is, I sincerely love to watch ballroom dancing. I love it despite the fact that my personal dancing style involves a lot of shoulder movements and knee bending and mouthing “heyoooo!” (not always appropriate, but seems to work most of the time). I love it despite the fact that I tried the Dancing with the Stars “Latin Cardio Dance” workout one time in 2010 and gave up after three minutes of feeling like a giant, untalented tool.

But I like to imagine that this is not the case––that if given the chance to partner up with Mark or Val (NOT Derek—who, although formerly Mormon, I think, is still completely incapable of exuding sex with his eyes, which is important if you want to dance with me), I would be a picture of beauty and grace with command of the dance floor. I would be like Jennifer Grey’s character in Dirty Dancing. Mark or Val would unearth my latent but raw, undeniable talent, and give me a lot of tough (sensual) love to push me to my potential. My best dance would be the tango, and it would be to Ellie Goulding’s “Outside.” The judges would marvel at my perfect footwork and emotional connection to the dance.

There would be obstacles, of course. For one, I would have to learn how to walk naturally—let alone dance—in heels. For two…. Nope, just the heels thing. That’s…oof—a pretty major roadblock. Let’s not think about it.

The point (not my original point, maybe, but one that just came to me now) is that I need to find a way onto the show—because I suppose we’re decades away from the federal government (benevolently) mandating our participation. Congressional killjoys.

I don’t have a plan. I also don’t have many options, though I have considered trying my hand at mommy blogging, since it seems relatively easy and America rewards mediocrity. But I don’t have any kids, which a key accessory of mommy bloggers. I also don’t know how to make any mocktails or arrange flowers, so I guess this isn’t much of an option after all. I could write to Mark Ballas—we met briefly in Atlantic City in 2011 and he told me I was “very cute,” so I think it’s fairly obvious that he’s never forgotten about me.

Ballas

In any case, though I realize now I’ve wandered down a weird road and that anyone who reads this is probably convinced Tom Bergeron has a restraining order against me, I really just wanted you to know that Dancing with the Stars matters and it could be a means of international peace-keeping if we gave it a chance to be. And if you already thought this privately and enjoy watching it more than you ever enjoyed an episode of Breaking Bad, then own it. I do.

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