Dancing Among the Stars

02-Mar-10 5:03 PM by
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ABC's Dancing with the Stars continues to redefine the definition of "celebrity", finding its contestants beyond the stage, screen, and sports field and choosing famous figures of significant historical value. This practice continues in the show's tenth season later in March when it introduces the first celebrity to have literally danced among the stars.

Buzz Aldrin, who earlier this year turned eighty, will be the show's next contestant, as he confirmed via Twitter: "Yes, it's true — I'm going to be on Dancing w/the Stars. Make sure to tune in to ABC for the premiere on Mon, Mar 22." His dance partner will be Ashly DelGrosso-Costa, who appeared on the show's first three seasons.

It's exciting to see pop culture acknowledge the value of science and technology. When Steve Wozniak broke the geek mold to defy all expectations on Dancing with the Stars, I was right there with him. And when the show took a Star Wars turn, I cheered for the spaceport tango. Though the dancing skills of an eighty-year-old retired astronaut remain untested, for being so brave and stalwart a hero, Buzz Aldrin has already earned my vote.

As others have said: that's one small two-step for mankind!

Dancing with the Woz, Round 4.0

31-Mar-09 7:23 AM by
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Last night, Steve Wozniak appeared on Dancing with the Stars for his fourth performance. Since last week, I joined the official "Vote for Woz" Facebook group and was surprised to learn its members receive regular missives from the Woz himself. He really is as nice a guy as he seems: one lengthy message was asking his fans' forgiveness for not replying to each individual email he received. Apparently that is a typical practice for him, keeping him up until the wee hours of the morning, even when he needs to get up early for dance practice. He asked his fans to understand how the demands of the show may cause him to temporarily re-prioritize. I think we can afford you that one luxury, Woz.

Woz's last performance earned him and his partner the lowest scores the judges had given in three years — yet the popular vote brought him back for more. Declaring his intent to earn the fan's trust and prove the judges wrong, Woz vowed to work hard and surprise us all this week. Here is his resulting tango:

I thought Woz did a great job, but I was bit disappointed by the choreography: it seemed like his partner was doing all the sexy and challenging moves. As Carrie Ann said last week, has the novelty worn off? If you don't think so, then be sure to vote for Woz. Follow his progress on Twitter for more updates!

Dancing with the Woz, Round ///

24-Mar-09 9:50 AM by
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We've been watching Steve Wozniak on Dancing with the Stars here on Showbits, giving him more attention than we previously have to any other topic. It can't be helped — the man invented the Apple II computer, which set this blogger on a path that ultimately led to this very site. Having the opportunity to watch the industry's progenitor get fancy on the dance floor is an honor.

After debuting with a mediocre cha-cha, Woz returned last week and performed a more respectable quickstep, despite having a fractured foot. Last night, his third dance was compounded by a pulled hamstring that made an already challenging samba even more arduous. Here are the results of his third and potentially final performance:

I've already applauded Woz for his daring and demeanor, and I think the judges both were unnecessarily harsh and didn't take into account Woz's physical limitations. Nonetheless, based not on the scores but on the routine itself, even I have to admit this could be the end of Woz's dancing career.

But remember: it's all relative. To get this far, Woz has worked harder than most of us could, proving himself a better dancer than anyone I personally know. A regular dancer myself, I was once told: "As long as you're smiling, you're doing it right." I admire anyone who would willingly put himself through the physical and social trials Woz has and still come out grinning.

Dancing with the Woz, Round ][

17-Mar-09 11:19 AM by
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I blogged yesterday about Woz's Dancing with the Stars debut. Here's round two of his performance!

Could geekdom ask for a better representative?

Dancing with the Woz, Round 1

16-Mar-09 4:52 PM by
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As I've mentioned before, I don't watch Dancing with the Stars — yet the retrocomputing enthusiast in me has been eagerly awaiting the debut of this season and the star of the show, Steve Wozniak.

In my circle of cloistered friends, Steve "Woz" Wozniak is a household name. He invented the Apple II computer that revolutionized the personal computer industry and which many of us still use to this day. With games like Oregon Trail and accounting software such as VisiCalc, the Apple II put computers in more homes and offices than possibly any other computer.

Three decades later, Woz is getting his mainstream acknowledgement with an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. How brilliant of ABC to recognize that celebrity comes in more shapes and sizes than Hollywood allows! The season debuted last Monday, and Woz's performance and scores are captured below:

Though I agree that the actual choreography and performance may've been somewhat lackluster, I find Carrie Ann Inaba's observation the one worth keying in on: this was something new and fun for Woz, and he took advantage of it. Unlike the actors and athletes that often stock the Stars lineup, Woz's fame is not built on performance. For him to strut his stuff on the dance floor took a lot of work and courage. I'm not sure if that's worthy of the sort of promotion fans are encouraging — for better or worse, dance competitions are usually won by the person with the most talent, not who put the most effort in. But Woz has vowed to keep on dancing, despite a fractured foot, and I think his dedication to something so obviously outside his comfort zone is admirable. Take a look at his training, courtesy MacRumors:

The results of last week's round are to be announced tonight, at which time we'll learn if the show will continue to be Dancing with the Woz!

Everybody Dansu Now

20-Oct-07 3:49 PM by
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There are few ways I'd rather spend a Saturday night than dancing. So it seemed apt when one of my dance partners recommended the film Shall We Dance?, though she favored the 1997 Japanese original, not the 2004 American remake starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. Either story is that of an accountant whose spark for life is little more than an ember, fizzled under the weight of a wife, kid, and mortgage. But a chance encounter is about to ignite the fire in his heart and soles.

Mr. Sugiyama's subway ride home every day brings him past a dance studio, where he sees a forlorn instructor gazing out the window. Enraptured by this Juliet, he signs up for dancing lessons. But he does so secretly, without letting his family or workplace know — for as the prologue states, "Ballroom dancing is regarded with great suspicion in a country where couples don't go out hand in hand, or say 'I love you.'" What happens next is not as simple as a mid-life crisis culminating in an affair, but is about two lonely people who discover their love for dancing and life through, not in, each other. As Roger Ebert stated: "Shall We Dance? is not about love with a tantalizing mirage, then, but about a man losing his inhibitions and breaking out of the rut of his life."

In that regard, the film immediately brought to mind one of my favorite films, Lost in Translation — at first only superficially, based on the setting, but then more substantively, in the parallel desolation each film's starring couple must overcome. Lost in Translation is one of my all-time favorite films, as the sense of alienation the main characters feel is palatable and empathetic. Yet many people have found it to be a real snorefest; I expect that same audience would find little to capture their attention in Shall We Dance?. (Both films have scored at least 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Admittedly, Shall We Dance? is a somewhat slow film, and several extended dance scenes could've been shortened. It could've been worse, though, as 18 minutes were cut from the Japanese version for the American release. These scenes are not restored to the DVD as an optional bonus feature.

What's left is a fun story filled with quirky yet likable characters. The unlikely misfits that compose the dance studio reminded me of the ensemble of Richard Dreyfuss' Let It Ride, in that everyone's happiness seems to depend on one person's. Their threads culminate in an ending that had me smiling… and if you think about how often that happens, you'll realize it's a rare film that has that effect.

The Spaceport Tango

04-Apr-07 10:05 AM by
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I don't watch Dancing with the Stars, but thanks to TheForce.net, I got to see Joey Fantone and Princess Leia dance the tango to the Star Wars theme: