“Ballroom with a Twist 2” in Wilmington

When reality competitions collide

I’m not sure why they called this production “Ballroom with a Twist.” Actually, it’s Dancing with the Stars minus celebrity contestants, but plus guest singers from American Idol, guest aerialists from Cirque du Soleil, and additional dancers from TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. There’s no “twist” and no sign of Chubby Checker.

Cheryl Burke and Derek Hough (in 2009)

If you enjoy the TV series Dancing with the Stars, as I do, you’d be more than pleased with its transmutation to the live stage. This dance production is touring the country with its combination of ballroom, jazz, hip hop, and Latin choreography.

The headliners are four of the most charismatic (and popular) regulars from Dancing with the Stars — Derek Hough, Cheryl Burke, Tony Dovolani, and Peta Murgatroyd. Their performances were superb, and the audience experienced the frisson of seeing real people instead of a flat screen.

These headliners established a casual rapport with the audience. They fielded questions with more candor than I expected, naming their favorite celebrity partners and their most unpleasant ones. As fine as any of the celebrities have been, they said, “they’re never going to be as good as our fellow professional dancers on this tour.” They also went into the audience and brought random civilians onto the stage for brief hoofing turns.

Choreography was by Louis van Amstel, another DWTS stalwart. Simple visual images were flashed on a screen behind the performers; there was no set, and the absence didn’t matter.

Von Smith, a 27-year-old alumnus of American Idol, was a pleasant surprise as singer. He has an amiable personality, exciting sound, and considerable range. He even dances a bit. Smith has been an opening act for Lady Gaga and is a star in his own right. (Smith was a finalist on season 8, which you might recall as the Adam Lambert year.) The other Idol alumna, Gina Glocksen, was serviceable but unexceptional.

Attendees might have wondered what happens when mistakes are made. What about the risk when those Cirque du Soleil acrobats hung precariously or the breakdancer spun on his head? Would one of the dancers drop his or her partner during a lift? Would there be a wardrobe malfunction? After one of Derek's shoes came untied, he took off his shoes, tossed them aside, and danced in his socks. In the anything-can-happen-live show experience, I'm surprised that mistakes were few.

The best moments of the evening came when Hough got the audience onto its collective feet and led us in joyful dancing moves. As he said, moving can keep you young. At least it makes you feel young.

 

For an appreciation of the TV show Dancing with the Stars by Judy Weightman, click here.