Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Lacey Schwimmer

Dancing with the Stars Update: Chaz Bono Voted Off

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Folks, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me any that Chaz Bono was voted off earlier tonight during the “results” portion of “Dancing with the Stars,” but it does sadden me.

As I said last night in this post, I believed Bono wasn’t given enough credit for what he actually did during his tango.

Now, was Bono’s tango with professional dance partner Lacey Schwimmer a flawless dance?  Of course not.  But it was interesting, entertaining, and I think Bono performed it to the best of his ability.

There were plenty of performances last night that didn’t entertain me half so much as Bono’s, including that of soccer star Hope Solo and her professional partner, Maksim Chmerikovskiy.  Chmerikovsky had a well-publicized rant that I won’t reproduce here that went to the effect that Solo is being asked to do more than “other contestants, who are only judged on effort” (Chmerikovskiy said this tonight during DWTS, which is why I was able to reproduce it nearly word-for-word) — more or less calling out Chaz Bono and possibly Nancy Grace, as Grace has to be the worst dancer left now that Bono is gone (Grace also has half the charm and less than half the personality of Bono; what she does have is a cute partner, Tristan MacManus, though Schwimmer is a beautiful woman and has a following of her own due to several seasons on DWTS and a season on “So You Think You Can Dance” years ago).

I chose to focus on Bono rather than Chmerikovskiy’s rant because to me, as a performer, what Bono was going through was obvious.  He had just done his best; it wasn’t perfect, but he did something way outside his comfort zone, and aside from his partner Schwimmer (and maybe the rest of the cast, who all seemed to love Bono like he was a long-lost brother), Bono got no appreciation for it.  That judge Bruno Tonioli called Bono a “cute little penguin” didn’t sit well with Bono, as we saw during tonight’s results episode, where some of the “behind the scenes” stuff from last evening was played — Bono said that he was tired of being called “some fat troll who’s dancing with the beautiful girl” (referring to his partner, Schwimmer, who really is a beautiful woman) and that Tonioli, in particular, kept saying this about Bono.

I know that hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke-Charvet were worried that Bono would lose it on stage due to how angry he was due to last night’s comments from head judge Len Goodman and Tonioli, but Bono was gracious.  He thanked the cast of DWTS; he thanked them for the opportunity, and said that his whole mission was to give others the idea that there could be a “different kind of man,” at which point Schwimmer hooted and hollered in obvious support.  (Good for her!)

I think Bono acquitted himself well on DWTS and I really enjoyed watching him dance.  I also believe Schwimmer should be commended on three fronts: she helped Bono learn to dance, she helped Bono withstand the criticism of being DWTS’s first ever transsexual contestant, and she was honest with him about his ability and his strengths from the first.

I hope Bono realizes what Schwimmer has done here, as it goes well beyond a teacher who’s proud of her pupil.  Schwimmer actively supported Bono and treated him just like any other guy; she saw him as male (which, of course, he is), she saw him as worthy of praise and criticism just like anyone else, and she did what she could to help him withstand the unnecessary criticism she knew he was likely to get from some of the judges.

Now, Bono also made one other point in those revealing “after-the-Monday-dance comments” — he said that the bigger women (referring to Nancy Grace and Ricki Lake) were praised for losing weight, but that his weight loss had gone unobserved and/or uncommented on.   Schwimmer definitely seemed to understand this; she’s had large, male partners before (Kyle Massey immediately comes to mind) and she knows from her own father, Buddy Schwimmer, that bigger men can indeed learn to dance and dance very well.

I hope that Bono will take away three things from his DWTS experience:

1) He has made a true friend, Lacey Schwimmer — and her friendship is worth having.

2) He learned how to dance several dances (cha cha, rhumba, tango, samba, quickstep, and one more).

3) He has a winning personality and the ability to persevere amidst a huge amount of psychological and physical strain.

If he keeps all of that in mind and dwells on what he did right rather than the DWTS judges commentary, the world could indeed be his oyster.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Performances, Chaz Bono, and DWTS

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This week on “Dancing with the Stars,” it was Broadway Week — meaning every star had to do a ballroom dance of some sort to a Broadway song and also put some “Broadway inflection” into his or her routine.  Chaz Bono and his professional partner, Lacey Schwimmer, drew the tango — not an easy thing to dance to a Broadway tune — and the theme to Phantom of the Opera.

Now, I’ve written before about my liking for Chaz Bono before; I believe what he’s doing, in being open about his past gender identity struggles and being the first transsexual contestant ever on DWTS, is a very good and empowering thing.  I also think that as a heavier person, he dances well and shows that it’s a complete myth that “big people can’t dance.”

His routine tonight to “Phantom” was a tough one; his partner, Lacey Schwimmer, told him early on that he’d have to “step it up” and do more difficult choreography — that the “super-basic” routines he had learned up until now wouldn’t work.  (Note that last week’s samba routine was not all that easy; what I think Schwimmer was referring to was the rhumba routine and some of the routines before that, which were at the most basic level.)  I think this was difficult for Bono to hear, but he handled it, learned his routine, and performed it well.

Then came the judges, who were more critical than Bono had anticipated (they were about what Lacey Schwimmer expected, though of course I’m sure she’d hoped for better); they said that the role of the Phantom “did not suit” Bono (both head judge Len Goodman and judge Bruno Tonioli said this pretty much word-for-word, while judge Carrie-Ann Inaba said it in a slightly kinder way, referring to the “challenge” of acting a character that is not your own), that the dance of the tango wasn’t fiery enough or precise enough, and that Bono altogether “lacked the sense of menace” that a dance like this requires (Goodman, again).  No mention was made of the fact that Bono danced most of the dance in the half-mask of the Phantom; no mention was made that Bono’s movements were sharper and crisper than they’ve ever been, and that the form of the dance was preserved throughout.

As a performer myself (though not a dancer or actor), I’ve been there.  So I have some words for Chaz Bono that I hope he’ll heed tonight:  “Mr. Bono, please, do not listen to the harshness of these critics.  You have to understand that as a performer, not everyone is going to appreciate what you do, and you can’t do anything about that.  You can only control what you can do — which you did, as you danced the best I have ever seen you on the entire season of ‘Dancing with the Stars.'”

Or, in other words — I think the critics, while they’re certainly correct about the forms of the dance and maybe had a point about being more emphatic in your movements (the only way you could possibly have been more “menacing,” it seems to me, behind the Phantom’s half-mask, is to be very direct, cutting, and emphatic), are flat wrong about how you danced.

Look.  Your partner, Ms. Schwimmer, is correct about the way the judges will act.  This is just what they do; some of it is for effect, because they want to make a better show — and some of it is just how they are overall. 

Schwimmer knows this; she’s been dealing with these same judges now for several years.  All of her training is meant to help you withstand their criticism; she is an exacting teacher, yes, but also a kind and honest one.  She isn’t known for cursing or being upset with her pupils, in the main; she’s known for being able to teach anyone — including Steve-O of “Jackass” fame while he was just “getting clean” after finishing up some rehab for alcohol and drug addiction — to the point that her partners actually learn the dances, rather than just the routines.

Do you know what that means?  You’ll remember how to rhumba years from now.  You’ll know how to do the cha cha cha.  You’ll understand the tango, and be able to do it again once you’re off the show — that’s because she does teach the “super-basics” as well as the flourishes a show like “Dancing” requires, because she wants you to understand the dance as well as perform it.

The upshot of all of this, Mr. Bono, is this — it was very hard for me, as a viewer, to watch your face fall once you’d performed your routine to “Phantom of the Opera.”  I didn’t like seeing that, because that made me think that you’ve forgotten the most important person in the equation — you — and are basing your opinion of yourself on what other people think rather than what you think about yourself.

Granted, this can be very tough to do as a performing artist.  I have been there (I once had someone criticize my oboe playing who had listened to three hundred clarinets in a solo-ensemble music contest; it was the one and only year I didn’t go to the state contest in high school — I was the only oboist this judge heard all day, too, which made it all the more unfair) and I know how difficult it is.

Here’s another example for you:  I once had a saxophone lesson when I was going for my Master’s degree where I asked my professor, “Did I do anything right today?” 

His answer was, “Of course!  But if I don’t tell you what you did wrong, how will you ever improve?”   (Note that I was an “older” Master’s candidate, going for my Master’s past age thirty because I believed in myself and felt I still had a chance to improve my playing and perhaps work in my field.  I still believe that if my hands co-operate, I will be able to once again get back to where I should be and I really wish to work in my field, which is performing, teaching, and composing music.) 

This is why I have great sympathy for you doing something so far out of your “comfort zone,” because you obviously believe it’s the right thing to do.

I think what Lacey Schwimmer is doing by giving you criticism about how to improve your dancing and your overall performance is meant so you can take the criticism, incorporate it into your performance, and become a better dancer.  It certainly is not meant to wound you (even though it hurts, and badly, at the time).

As a performing artist (no matter how long I’ve had to be idle due to my carpal tunnel syndrome and other issues), I know that when fifty people compliment you, but one is highly critical, you tend to remember the one person who was so critical like it’s a burr under your skin.  I can only imagine what it must be like to hear yourself be criticized like that by three judges on national TV.

I know that I, as a viewer, saw both improvement and personality in your dance.  And I believe that as a performer, you did your job, because you did the very best you possibly could — you lived up to everything your teacher asked of you — in the best way you possibly could do it. 

So what I’d like most to tell you is this: keep on dancing, Mr. Bono.  You’re doing a fine job; you’ve learned a lot; you’ve hung in there and you’ve done everything in your power to improve and you have, indeed, shown improvement.   And while your overall likeability is one of your greatest strengths, do you know what your best strength is?  Your perseverance.

So keep on keepin’ on, and non illegitimi carborundum.


Oh, one other thing: if I listened to “the critics” regarding my saxophone playing (now that I can’t do as much as before, or at least as quickly as before), I’d not even be making the attempt to play.  So yes, improvement must be taken into consideration here — which is why every single week, I’ve voted for Chaz Bono and Lacey Schwimmer and it’s why I plan to keep doing so.

Dancer Lacey Schwimmer Tells Critics to “Zip It”

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This week, controversy swirled around “Dancing with the Stars” cast member Lacey Schwimmer, a professional dancer, because supposedly at 5’3″ and being a size six, she’s “too fat.”  As this isn’t the first time her weight has been talked about in a derogatory manner, Schwimmer has apparently had enough.

Here’s what she said here about these critics:

There’s nothing I can do about except let it go and get over it,” she told In Touch, adding two simples words for would-be critics, “Zip it!”

Let me try to explain how asinine it is that anyone would criticize this woman over her weight.  Schwimmer, 23, is a size six.  She dances for a living, so most of her body is toned muscle, as she is fit and in shape.  She doesn’t have an ounce of flab on her, as the skimpy costumes the DWTS female pros often wear will show anyone who has any sense at all.  And while she’s probably the curviest dancer on the show, that doesn’t mean her weight is too high; on the contrary.  It means most of the other dancers need to gain weight.

Schwimmer seems to have a healthy body image, as the following quote shows:

“I have boobs, I have a huge butt and I have a lot of muscle,” the 23-year-old dancer told In Touch magazine, via the UK’s Daily Mail. “I like having curves – I’m proud of them!”

And I say, “Good for her!”  Because if a woman who is a normal weight, who’s toned, fit, and in shape, is getting so much criticism, what chance do those of us who truly are “big, beautiful women” (also known as “full figured,” which are the kinder ways to say a larger than average size) have of being portrayed accurately in the media with any empathy at all?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 4, 2011 at 5:25 pm