Top 10 Dancing Characters in Fiction We’d Like to See on “Dancing with the Stars”

Nastia Liukin, a Gold Medal-winning Olympic gymnast, and Derek Hugh, semifinals, spring 2015.

Nastia Liukin, a Gold Medal-winning Olympic gymnast, and Derek Hugh, semifinals, Spring 2015.

I am a fan of Dancing With the Stars.  In my favorite season, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Olympic Gold Medal-winning ice-dancers, competed for the Mirror Ball Trophy. (Meryl won.)

This fall the show was lacklustre, possibly because two women dropped out with health emergencies. After Tamar Braxton was hospitalized for blood clots, there was Bindi, the plucky teenager whom the judges and interviewers deemed “the nicest girl in the world,” “inspiring,” “my favorite person,” and “the person whose best friend I’d like to be if I were younger.” Guess who won?  Bindi!  And she was an elegant dancer, but didn’t have much competition at the end.  Or any!  I rooted for Carlos, but he was eliminated in the semi-finals.

Here is my solution to the slump:  a list of the Top 10 Dancing Literary Characters I’d like to see on DWTS. The mechanics of bringing them to life would be difficult, but it’s Hollywood!


1 Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  He is  “hot” (sorry, I got that horrible word from DWTS), but he is also snobbish.  After Darcy rejects the Bennet girls at a dance and deems Jane a gold digger, he notices Lizzie’s grace and intelligence. But it is too late:  Lizzie is prejudiced.   Eventually they fall in love.  Well, he was kind to her, but she also likes his mansion and  estate. So wouldn’t we like to see Darcy dancing?  Yes!  He is so proud.  How about the Samba?

2. Prince Turveydrop in Dickens’s Bleak House. I adore the harried Prince Turveydrop who runs a dancing school to support his father, Mr. Turveydrop, a model of “deportment.” And Prince is engaged to Caddy Jellyby, my favorite sulky character in literature.  Her philanthropist mother turns her into a secretary-drone, but she secretly learns housekeeping skills from Miss Flite, a sweet but addled old woman who spends her days trying to settle an imaginary lawsuit in Chancery.  Prince needs some fun:  let him do the Jive!

3. Natasha in War and Peace is the belle of the ball, and she also does a lively folk dance. She’s got passion:  let’s see her do the Paso Doble!

4. At a dance, Jo in Little Women burns the back of her dress while standing too close to the fire. Her neighbor, Laurie, rescues her,  and they dance and romp in the hallway.  What would this tomboy dance on DWTS?   Something athletic, possibly the Quick Step!

5.  Eugene Onegin in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin.   Eugene doesn’t have much pep.  He is one of those languorous Byronic heroes.  So let’s see him dance.  How about the Cha-Cha-Cha!

6. Glencora Palliser in Trollope’s Palliser series. In Can You Forgive Her? Glencora, an heiress, is in love with Burgo Fitzgerald, an  impecunious aristocrat.  They have a dance or two, though she doesn’t marry him.  Can’t we see Glencora doing the Viennese waltz?  (Preferably with Burgo.)

7.  Donald Farfrae fiddles at a dance in Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge  when he’s not reversing spoiled grain by science or marrying the Mayor’s girlfriend.  Let’s get him on DWTS:  how about  the rumba?

8.  In Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, Linda Radlett, the charming daughter of an eccentric lord, can’t wait for her first dance.  But the dance given by the Radletts is stodgy, until the neighbor Lord Merlin brings his fashionable house guests.  Let Linda do the Charleston!  It’s her era.

9.  In Pamela Hansford Johnson’s The Last Resort,  Celia, a businesswoman who is in love with a married man, takes her happily married novelist friend Christine to a club where they dance with professional dance partners–for money!  Christine isn’t keen on it.  Let’s get Celia on the show so she doesn’t make the terrible marriage she chooses as the last resort!  Give her Contemporary!  She needs to express her feelings.

10.  In Carolina De Robertis’s new novel, The Gods of Tango, the heroine, Leda, disguises herself as a man so she can play violin in a tango band at clubs in Argentina when the tango is a new dance.  Eventually she falls in love with a woman who thinks she is a man who turns out to be a lesbian who knew she was a lesbian….  But before that there is quite a lot of tangoing. And so give her the Argentine tango)!

I would ask you for your favorite dancing literary characters, but I’ve turned off my comments!

Addiction to “Dancing With the Stars”: Ten

Riker Lynch and Julianne Hough on Dancing With the Stars

Julianne Hough with  Riker Lynch before the semifinals on Dancing With the Stars

I dropped out of ballet after I got the coveted ballet slippers.

I could not claw my way out of an imaginary box in modern dance.

Love of rock music:  ten.  Grace and flexibility:  zero.

But here’s a fun fact:  I love Dancing With the Stars.

Millions of overweight potato-chip-chewing non-dancers like myself are addicted to Dancing With the Stars. Every Monday night I sit for two hours in front of this strange Broadway-esque Ballroom-Contemporary Dancing competition.  Then I talk about it all week to my husband, Who Just Doesn’t Care.

Reasons to watch:

Nastia and Derek, semifinals

Nastia and Derek, semifinals

1.  There is always an Olympic athlete on the show. The graceful Gold Medal-winning ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2014 and Meryl won.  This season Nastia Liukin,  a Gold Medal-winning Olympic gymnast, is breathtaking.

2.  It is  fun from the couch to gently mock the stars you haven’t heard of.   But then you realize that Riker Lynch (a rocker-actor who is in a band and was on Glee) is one of the most elegant dancers. Rumer Willis, the actress daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, is Another One to Watch. And I like her name.  She was named after Rumer Godden, one of my favorite writers.

3.  Even bad dancers improve.  Yes, the likable Chris Soules of The Bachelor was THE worst dancer this season, but he improved, and of course his pro partner Witney was his rock.  I’m glad he got eliminated, though, because better dancers were getting voted off the show.

The judges

The judges

4.  The four judges will teach you what to look for (connection, footwork, emotion, etc.).  Well, you sort of get the hang of it.  Carrie Ann is a creative madwoman who is passionate about dance,  Len, the 70ish Englishman, is very strict, Julianne Hough, a former pro on DWTS, is one of the gentler, more unpredictable voices, and Bruno is the most dramatic and eloquent.  (Actually, he and Carrie Ann are tied for drama and vocab.)

5.  The pro dancers are fascinating.  We don’t learn much about them, but we see them working with their partners in the studio and soothing their tears and encouraging them to get back on the ballroom floor.

6.  The most frustrating aspect about judging is the so-called America. Yes, “America” is one of the judges.  After the show viewers can call or tweet to vote for their favorite couple .These scores are factored into the judges’ scores. The results can be pretty weird, as popular people stay on the show and the talented are voted off.   I can only hope  “America” doesn’t go all militaristic and send gallant Noah, a former solider who lost a  leg and arm in  battle, to the finals..   I was touched by his dance, but then he did this weird thing. He dropped to his knee and proposed to his girlfriend.    I consider marriage proposals  a “don’t” during a dance competition.  Or am I just being a snob?

THIS IS THE BEST SHOW EVER.  REALLY!  Don’t call during the show because I won’t answer it.  Maybe we should place bets with a bookie on win, place, or show–not that I remember what that means.

Dancing with the Stars

Meryl Davis & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Meryl Davis & Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Dancing with the Stars

I watched Dancing with the Stars tonight.

“That is truly a trashy show,” my husband says.

No, it isn’t.  It is one of the most charming shows on TV.  I sit down and watch it for two hours every Monday and am  fascinated by the drama–well, it’s a fake drama, but I still enjoy it– as well as the dancing.

You get to know the characters.

You get to know the dancers.

You get to know the judges.

Most of the dancers dramatically improve.

It’s not just about the dance:  there is also narrative.  Short clips of the sweaty practice sessions are shown before each dance routine. Dancers temporarily defeated by the demands of the dance let off steam by crying, leaving the room, or punching the wall. Those first steps are so clumsy that it  seems impossible that a polished dance routine will emerge.  Then it does.

I started watching the show because Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Olympic Gold Medalist ice dancers, are two of the competitors this season.  They do not, however, dance together.  The “stars” are paired with professional dancers.

The stars?  Well, yes, that part is a joke, except for the Olympians.  Quite a few of them are has-beens–this season, there are/were two washed-up sitcom  stars from the ’80s-90s, Candace Cameron Bure from Full House and Danica McKellar from the Wonder Years.  At first I thought Candace Cameron Bure was a barracuda.  (Now I think she was just anxious.)  The one who MAY have been a barracuda was Danica McKellar, a slightly better dancer who reminded me of a cheerleader.  I disliked her girl-next-door widening of eyes and jumping up and down; beneath it she seemed arrogant. She was voted off the show, and  I’m not sure it had anything to do with her dancing.

Then there’s Amy Purdy, a double-amputee who won a  Paralympic Bronze Medal in snowboarding at Sochi this year.  She dances elegantly on prosthetic legs.

The judges give their scores, but viewers also phone in their “votes.”  Sometimes the bad dancers are voted off; sometimes the good dancers.  Although Charlie White got 40 out of 40 last week and 40 out of 40 this week for one of his two dances, he was eliminated.

And this is why it is is absurd to give viewers a voice and let them call a 1-800 number and vote on who stays and who goes.  Far better to let the judges decide, as they do on Master Chef.

Next week we have the finals, and I certainly hope Meryl and Maks win.  How my vote fits in I don’t know, but that’s the way we live in America now.  Yup, I dialed that number.  That’s one vote from flyover country.  I’m voting to back up the judges’ scores, and because Meryl and Maks are the best dancers.