Monday, February 20, 2006

Ballroom dancing sweeps the Pops

A decade ago, only die-hard dance aficionados turned out for ballroom dance.
Today, it's everywhere. In movies. In clubs. And, most prominently, on television, where ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" is the darling of the moment.

Next weekend, it will also be on the Music Hall stage, where the Cincinnati Pops will present "Shall We Dance," featuring champion ballroom dancers along with an ensemble from the Cincinnati Ballet.

It's anyone's guess why we've reconnected with ballroom dancing. Maybe we're looking for something to rescue us from uncertain economic and political news. Or perhaps it's the next step up the evolutionary ladder from swing dance. Possibly it's just because it looks like so much fun.
Whatever the reason, it's television that has led us to ballroom's doorstep.
"The TV exposure has gotten many more people interested," says Michael Mead, a four-time U.S. Ballroom Champion who will be performing at Music Hall with his partner, Toni Redpath.
"In the past, you actually had to go to a competition to see ballroom dancing," says Mead. "But now ... it's everywhere."

Mead and Redpath taught Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon how to dance for the 2004 film "Shall We Dance." The movie was only modestly successful at the box office. But in its wake, ballroom dance classes around the country experienced a bump in attendance.

Here in Cincinnati, Mead and Redpath will have to share the stage with an orchestra. And that means giving up the prime real estate at the center of the stage.
Their dance floor will be more like a runway - a space 15 feet wide by 60 feet long.
"It's not ideal, but we've done it before," says Mead. "It doesn't frighten us, but ... well, when there's a drop-off, you do have to avoid the edges. But it makes is a little more exciting."