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DWTS Season 21 Premier/ABC

 “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow … I hear my being dance from ear to ear … I learn by going where I have to go.”   ~from The Waking by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) is an American version of the British television series, Strictly Come Dancing that first aired in 2005 on ABC.  A natural lover of the arts with dance being my favorite art form, I have become a fan of DWTS despite its historic biases.

Overall, the show’s energy is joyful, the production numbers are classic, and the sets are spectacular.  Now, if only the show’s producers would present all American cultures with the same deference it affords Eurocentric cultures (“the West”).  DWTS would then be a perfect vehicle toward world peace and unity.

A Little History Lesson

Sadly, most of us don’t realize the extent of our biases, or how hurtful such can be.  Moreover, believing that we are right, rarely do we consider the origin of our thoughts or the fact that we can actually change our minds at will.  Yet, herein lies the root cause of our destructive biases longing to be transformed.

In January 1492, Granada Spain is retaken.  Thus falls the last bastion of Moorish civilization that had conquered parts of Europe during the 8th Century. The Moors (“the Blacks”) were mainly Black Africans of the Islamic faith.  Now ruled by White Christians of the Catholic faith, Islamic books are burned and historic records allegedly hidden.

Concurrently, Christopher Columbus and his long awaited voyages of discovery are financed by the victorious Catholic monarchs. The Americas are discovered, and the sad conquest of land and human slavery is repeated.  Around 1600 AD, the Moors are expelled from Spain.  Europe’s Transatlantic Slave Trade emerges destined to divide civilization, but not forever!

With the enslavement of some Black folks and other people of color, White folks of all stripes are erroneously socialized into believing that their civilization is superior to all other Races on the planet, and “race-mixing” is deemed a civil wrong with grave consequences.

Today, racism is slowly dying in the West.  Yet, the root of racism remains, but not forever!

How DWTS’ Historic Bias Spoils the Fun

Mahatma Gandhi, who freed India of colonialism by use of Spiritual Force, which he called “the Force of Truth,” once declared: “We must become the change we want to see.”  Yet, in order to see that change, we must transform our flawed biases.

In my opinion, DWTS have literally taken the fun out of Latin dance.  Clearly a major point of contention for me from the beginning, as authentic Latin music is rarely played.  Still, I’ve learned to overlook such Western biases and enjoy the rest of the show.

That is, until it became obvious that Season 21 judges (Carrie Ann, Bruno, and Julianne whom I like and God loves) were clueless about Latin dance techniques, thus were unwittingly sending the wrong message.  Did they ever study Latin Dance with its actual creators?

After his Western Cha-cha dance on 9-22, the judges unduly criticize actor-singer Carlos PenaVega whose talent and Hispanic heritage is undeniable.  All deem his dance form “too squatty,” like he was “sitting on a horse,” adds Bruno.  Cary Ann abruptly said she was “not impressed.”  Julianne wrongly advises him to keep the legs straight, which is contrary to certain dance steps.

Actually, Carlos’ Cha-Cha was ideal.  His study of musical theater at the Boston Conservatory showed well.  Set to “Hound Dog” an old R&B song first recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1952, Carlos and Witney delivered a great story. Bravo!

Being human, such biases likely hurt.  Yet, Carlos remained polite and brought it to the dance floor with style and vigor.  He would finish in fourth place.

Next, Hispanic jockey Victor Espinoza, a recent winner of the legendary Triple Crown who uses his good fortune to help others, could not escape the judges’ historic biases either.

After Karina and Victor’s Jive Dance on 9-21, Bruno seemingly refers to Victor’s variation on a theme of La Bamba, a beloved Mexican folk song and courtship dance from Veracruz, as a chaotic “jumping bean”, while Carrie Ann seemed fixated on his diminutive height.  Likely meant as a cultural gift, Victor’s handsome face radiated his humanity and good-humor despite the judges’ very bad manners.

In sharp contrast, seems the judges unfairly favored young Bindi Irwin, a perky teen of European heritage. Much to the exclusion of her rivals, she was often called special, a star, a diva and such; which, of course, ultimately became very influential.

Exceeding his usual dramatics, after Bindi & Derek’s “Freestyle” Dance in Week 11, Bruno tells Bindi: “You showed us the power of dance at its most pure and effective form…” clearly an overstatement that was not amusing this time.

While Carrie Ann’s remarks to Bindi really got mushy, thus tearfully saying: “Thanks to your mom and dad for creating you.  I am so grateful for you…”  Like, way over the top perhaps?

Bindi Irwin would win the grand prize.  Given all the unfair sentiment the judges unabashedly heaped upon her throughout the season, how could she not!

Her final dance, a so-called Latin dance fusion, finished with a few twists and turns on the balls of her feet.  Hopefully, one day Bindi will learn Latin dance and realize the vibrant spirit of its wonderful people, which is what DWTS must really be about.

Alek Skarlatos, a polite young man who received national honor from President Obama for stopping an attack on a Paris train along with his two childhood friends, was also overly glorified by the judges.  Alek would make it to the finals and finish in third place, though he admits to being a limited dancer.

Honoring World Dance and Music

Given its badly informed emphases on hip thrusts and gyrations, which is a joke, and the unusual twirly-whirly movements, seems DWTS is way out of touch with Latin Dance that is both joyful and timeless, which uplifts the human spirit.

After Bindi & Derek’s Salsa dance on 11-16, I was shocked when Julianne said to Bindi: “For me, I wish I would have seen a more down and dirty because that’s what Salsa is all about.” Being very offensive, this remark drew unexpected boos from the audience.

Actually Salsa, and other dance traditions, is a family affair meant for everybody.  At home or family gatherings, its dancers can range from toddlers to senior citizens.

Besides the lyrical rhythms of the Spanish language, Latin American music is a mix of the Afro-Cuban rhythms created by the African slaves in need of spiritual renewal.  Seems Julianne’s “down and dirty” remark about Salsa dance is so typical of the historic biases we are referring to here, and on so many levels.

Dance traditions differ throughout the world.  Some dance to the ground (African and Spanish Flamenco dance), some barely touch the ground (Native American dance), some nearly sit (Hindu Temple dance), the Dervishes whirl in ecstasy (Sufi-Islamic Sacred dance), while other traditions keep the posture erect (Celtic, Ballet, and Ballroom dance).

In general, art is more fluid than linear.  Yet, there is truth, discipline and passion at its core.  A true artist recognizes the presence of art and honors it well.

As the Reggae troubadour often sings: “Who feels it knows it.”

Being born and raised in the West, it took me a long time to flex my knees enough to properly move through Reggae dance.  But I did!  My formal study of Bharata Natyam, Hindu classical dance, helped a lot.  A big fan of Reggae music, I also hung out in the culture that created it, and quietly studied the movements of the people.

So I really appreciated the veteran dancers on DWTS who actually executed Latin Dance with knowledge and grace, though generally absent its indigenous rhythms.

Dance Can Be Big Fun and Very Healing

Having the soul of a dancer, over the years I’ve learned that the pure joy of dance heals sadness, fatigue, the flu, and even an open wound when naturally open to its spiritual vibrations.

Years ago, I was healed of a small open wound during Latin dance.  The next morning, unlike finding the usual lumpy scab, to my amazement a smooth, seemly days-old tissue had formed. Thus, my band-aid fix was discarded.

Tito Puente/ Photo biography.com

Such healing appeared after dancing all night to the live music of the legendary Tito Puente, also known as “El Rey de los Timbales” (The King of the Timbales).   Wow! I can still see his great smile and feel the joy as he played his famous timbales, now in the Smithsonian Museum.

Though born and raised in New York City, studied at Julliard School of Music on his GI Bill, some thought El Rey was Cuban. In June of 2000, the beloved Tito Puente dies at age 77. The world grieves, while local fans wait in line to bid him goodbye.  Having lost her native son, America weeps.  Yet, Tito Puente’s musical legacy lives on!

Be More Like Water and Change The World

Often attributed to the legendary Bruce Lee, a Chinese-American actor and acclaimed martial artist of the 60s and 70s, the following motto is revered in the Martial Arts community:

“I want to be like water. Water is the softest substance in the world, yet it can penetrate the hardest rock.”

Likely a metaphor for Universal Love, as water flows naturally unless we block it.  Only love can conquer hate and self-indulgence, the source of all wars.  Thus, the classic goal of the artist is to rise above the primitive passions of egotism and elevate the human spirit.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

Chef Joseph of the Nez Perce/ Photo Wikipedia

Outnumbered and facing defeat, in surrendering to the U.S. in October of 1877, the honorable Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Tribe, a Native American leader who fought valiantly for their homeland, states these immortal words:

“I am tired of fighting … From where the sun stands, I will fight no more forever.”

With all the talk of terrorism these days and how to avert it, still the world is advancing towards unity.  Thus, it is best for all of us to be more like water, and seek to penetrate the hardest biases of those bent on hate and segregation.

Universal Love lights the way, which often begins in our families, our churches, and in our arts.

While we can’t change the past, we can change our minds about how we chose to see the world, and how we react to those around us.  And we can do this now.  Herein is a direct path to the peace and transformation we all seek.

In closing his Noble Peace Prize Lecture, Dec 2002, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter Jr., 39th U.S. President and Global Peacemaker awarded for his work with the Carter Center, states:

“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us a capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes ̶ ̶ and we must.”

So let us resolve to make the world a better place.  Let us awaken to a new day, relax our biases, lovingly embrace the world’s cultures, and gladly learn by going where we have to go.  Thus, the world is changed one step at a time, as only the true artist can do.

Happy New Year.  Free the mind!

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© Delores L. Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post 2016. All rights reserved.

 

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Happy New Year and Many Happy Returns of the Day!

Time is but an illusion really. The past is over and the future is now, go figure.

Only love is real. Yet, pain and suffering can seem more real than real at the time. Perhaps this is why some think of hell as eternal damnation, go figure.

Actually nothing lasts forever. And since hell is not real and only love is real, the odds of escaping an eternal hell are definitely in our favor, go figure.

Thankfully, it’s already been figured out for us. Thus say the Ancients:

Choose once again! But remember, what we chose for others we also choose for our self. Choose love.

Have a blessed and prosperous year. Free the mind!

© Delores L. Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post 2016. All rights reserved.

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