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Dancing! With! The! Stars!

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Dancing! With! The! Stars!
By Moira Macdonald

Seattle Times arts writer


Photo gallery | "Dancing With the Stars"
The ABC TV show "Dancing with the Stars" is known for its hyperbole (Everyone! Speaks! With Exclamation Points!), and its just-kicked-off tour follows suit. The Seattle opener took place Tuesday night on "the world-famous Dancing with the Stars Stage" (really KeyArena, all dressed up with a disco ball), with accompaniment from "the best band in the world" and local dancers competing for the super-prestigious title of "Soft Scrub Superior Performance Dance Challenge Winners." And yes, it all was terrific fun, just like the hit show; both celebrate, in their wonderfully cheesy and exclamation-point-loaded way, the joy of dancing.

Should you doubt that, just watch the face of Sabrina Bryan, the Cheetah Girl who was voted off the show on Week 6 of the most recent season — a shocking news development the show seems to rate on a par with, oh, World War II. On hand for the tour (the only competitor from Season 5 to dance here), her delight in the movement was infectious, her smile as bright as that disco ball. Partner Derek Hough (her regular partner Mark Ballas was injured, but popped by to say "hello" to the crowd), a marvelous dancer with meticulous control, whipped her around like a blonde whirlwind.

One of the great things about "DWTS," in addition to finding otherwise reasonable people willing to discuss at great length the weighty question of whether Mel B really should have won instead of Helio (my view: yes, Mel was totally robbed, even though Helio's a charmer), is the way the show has made cult stars out of professional ballroom dancers, and given them a national showcase for their considerable talents. The audience groaned last night when it was announced that two-time winner Cheryl Burke was under the weather and would not dance; likewise when Edyta Sliwinska's absence was noted. (Edyta, a woman so slinky you could pour her on French toast,is the one famous for dancing basically nude, with a few wisps of fabric.) Both will return to the tour in other cities, but their presence was missed last night; a few of the group numbers seemed a bit short on women.

Other than a few genial and very Vegas-y songs from Season 5 competitor Wayne Newton (who's battling a heart ailment and did not dance), the evening was all about ballroom, in its many forms: a smoky tango by Karina Smirnoff and tour choreographer Louis van Amstel; a lively version of the Twist; a cha-cha with glow-in-the-dark costumes apparently fresh from the shredder; a sexy rhumba by Smirnoff and fellow pro Alec Mazo; a pole-dancing turn on "Lady Marmelade" that probably isn't taught at Arthur Murray. All this came complete with numerous costume changes (with video from the show filling in the empty spaces), likably sardonic commentary from Season 2 champion Drew Lachey, a near-wardrobe malfunction (Smirnoff, who gamely finished a dance clutching a halter top that had come undone) and — of course — dry ice.

The all-ages audience, filling perhaps three-quarters of KeyArena (with the upper tier curtained off), roared approval by the evening's end, heading out into the blustery evening with sequins in their eyes and smiles on their faces. The great pleasure of "Dancing with the Stars" — live or on television — is how it makes its watchers want to dance; how nothing seems like more fun than gliding or jiving across a dance floor. And, if 200,000 rhinestones come along for the ride (as we were told last night, with more than a couple of them ending up on the KeyArena floor), that's even better.

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Seattle Times arts writer