This week, we’re treated to something everyone’s been waiting for this season of Dancing with the Stars: Aly Raisman’s parents. They became mini-celebrities during the Olympics as they freaked out excitedly during her performances, and though they’ve been in the audience a lot during “Dancing With the Stars,” this is the first time they’ve appeared in one of Aly’s pre-recorded segments.
This week we were down to five contestants, but oddly Aly’s entire segment was about how she came in fourth place a bunch of times and it was really depressing. Could it be a giant sign asking America to make sure she lasts until at least third? The show certainly pulled out all the stops this week, with Shawn Johnson (a previous “DWTS” champ), Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, and walking meme McKayla Maroney all showing up to talk about how awesome Aly is.
As soon as this week’s first dance — a crowdsourced Afrojazz selection — comes up, I realize why Aly needed all that support this week.
In case you missed the thousand or so references to it so far this season on Dancing with the Stars, Aly Raisman’s arc on the show is about how she’s going from innocent young girl in a leotard to sexy young woman in skimpy dance dresses. In other words — from Aly to Alexandra.
This week, Aly’s dance was the Argentine Tango, a huge crowd favorite. It’s an easy way for even bad dancers to look good, thanks to the quick, jerky movements and the permitted lifts — in particular, it’s easier for female celebrities since they get to be the ones twirled around and lifted, instead of the guy who has to do it.
This week’s segment begins with Aly and her pro partner Mark Ballas having the world’s most awkwardly staged conversation at a restaurant that serves no food. He tells her that the dance is all about sexuality and drama: “You have to be so seductive that you steal all my money,” he says.
Every week, Dancing with the Stars comes up with a new way to torture its already-frazzled celebrity contestants, from a solo dance to a faceoff against a pro dancer. This week, the celebrities and their partners were paired against each other. In some cases, that was bad news, but for Aly Raisman it was great news, since her opponent was comedian Andy Dick, who has been one of the lowest-scoring contestants this season. That meant that this week’s total was determined first by a regular dance, with extra “judges’ points” going to the winners of the face-off dances.
First up: the salsa.
This dance was all about the sex appeal, and it definitely felt like Aly was loosening up and becoming less awkward doing hip shakes, which can only be good for her future Latin dances. That said, Aly’s pro partner Mark Ballas really needs to cool it with the gimmicks in their dances. It’s one thing to use gimmicks (in this case, having Aly work at a fruit stand and literally shake pineapples in the beginning of the dance) to disguise a bad dancer, but Aly’s good enough that he should let it go.
This week, everyone on “Dancing with the Stars” got to dance to Stevie Wonder songs. Unfortunately, the man himself wasn’t there, but Aly lucked out with a pretty good song/dance combo: a foxtrot to “Isn’t She Lovely.”
Although it’s only six weeks into the season, it’s never too soon for the show to throw extra challenges at the celebrity dancers. This week, there was a “group dance” segment where the pairs had to dance together. That made two dances to train for in a minimal amount of time — although that’s still probably nothing compared to training for the Olympics.
“I think everything at the Boston Marathon has affected me a lot more than I thought,” a somber Aly said to the camera while wearing an “I [Heart] Boston” T-shirt. That’s not a good sign for her, since the foxtrot is one of those peppy, upbeat numbers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Fred Astaire movie. She then admits that not only is she affected because she grew up in Boston, but she was supposed to have been at the Marathon that day. Her pro partner, Mark Ballas, tells her that she should dedicate her dance to Boston and try to bring joy in order to heal. In other words, even if she falls on her face, no one is voting against Aly Raisman this week.
This week, Dancing with the Stars threw yet another monkey wrench into the season. They added a “side-by-side dance,” where celebrities and their partners had to dance alongside two pro dancers and try to look good in comparison. That’s a new trick for DWTS and, in my opinion, a pretty mean one — especially since we’re early in the season and have only had three eliminations.
This week, Aly Raisman had the samba. The samba is a super-sexy Latin dance, and Aly admitted that she was having some trouble pulling it off. Considering that one of Aly’s “storylines” this season is that she’s tired of people viewing her as a little girl, having a sexy dance and executing it well could really help her stand out this week.
When it came time for the side-by-side dances, Aly and female pro Witney were apparently given two halves of the same dress. This is where I think the conceit of the episode failed Aly: On her own, she looks like a pretty competent newbie dancer, but forcing her to dance next to a slender, lithe pro dancer with insane hip movements is really unfair. My own personal dislike of Aly’s pro partner Mark Ballas — who likes to ham it up for the camera instead of letting the celebrity have the spotlight — also made it hard to love this dance, since his bright orange socks and over-the-top gestures were incredibly distracting.
Dancing with the Stars loves their theme weeks, and this week didn’t escape unscathed. The contestants were asked to do dances that tied in with “The Best Year of My Life.” While that’s actually a pretty decent theme for a dance, the celebrities still have to work within the constraints of the show; if you’re assigned a super sexy dance but your Best Year is about, like, recovering from cancer or giving birth or something, you have to somehow make it work. Luckily, Aly and her partner Mark Ballas were assigned Contemporary for this week, and that style is pretty open and malleable.
Unsurprisingly, Aly chose 2012 as the best year of her life, because it’s the year that she won two freaking Olympic gold medals. “Aly was the underdog,” Ballas said to the camera. “No one thought she would place.” Their song is one that Aly picked: “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia. The lyrics, which Aly says she listened to all the time when she was working out in the gym, are pretty standard pump-up fare: “I’m strong, and no matter what you do to me I won’t give up.” Contemporary dance, unlike a lot of other styles on this show, allows fancy lifts, so I expected to see quite a few of Aly’s signature gymnastics moves repurposed into this dance.
Dancing with the Stars is no stranger to cheese, and this week the show laid it on thick its theme: Prom Week. Because of her age, Aly Raisman looked somewhat less ridiculous than, say, Wynonna Judd did in her poufy dress, but it was still kind of a cornball way to come up with a dance. And when your dance starts with a woman in a Cupid outfit shooting arrows into you and your partner, “cornball” is definitely a fair word to use.
This week, Aly and her pro partner Mark Ballas danced the Viennese waltz. This is one of my favorite ballroom dances, because it involves a lot of fluid motions and dancing in hold — that is, connected to each other rather than breaking apart and doing parallel moves. I was nervous about how Aly might do with such a fluid dance, considering that what won her a gold medal for floor exercise was her tumbling, not her grace.
So, who did get eliminated this week? The bottom two were Real Housewife Lisa Vanderpump and boxer Victor Ortiz, but ultimately Olympic figure skating legend Dorothy Hammill opted to drop out of the show following an injury. If we were betting people, we’d bet that Aly has quite a few more weeks of solid dancing ahead of her.
Aly Raisman, team captain of the Fierce Five gold-medal winning gymnastics team, made her debut on the new season of “Dancing with the Stars” last night. But it became clear quite quickly that the 18-year-old Olympian wants to brand herself as something more than just a gymnast. The first hint came when the show introduced her — as Alexandra Raisman.
Since there’s no elimination on the first week of the show, the audience has two weeks’ worth of dances and carefully edited clips to help them get to know the celebrity contestants. Every year, there are a few familiar narratives to follow: the older celeb who’s doing the show to lose weight (Wynonna Judd), the football player who has to translate his footwork to the dance floor (Jacoby Jones), and the reality star who really wants to be taken seriously (Sean Lowe and Lisa Vanderpump). Aly — I mean, Alexandra — will be playing this year’s Innocent Girl Who Is All Grown Up Now, and she laid it on thick in her introduction segment.
Aly Raisman won the hearts of Jews and non-Jews around the world when she won a gold medal for the gymnastics floor exercise at the London Olympics last summer. But now the girl who did insane flips and twists to the tune of “Hava Nagila” might be trying to win another piece of hardware — the “Dancing With the Stars” mirrorball trophy.
The official cast for this season will be announced tomorrow on “Good Morning America,” but a few names have already started to leak. One of those rumored contestants is Raisman, who started to raise suspicions when she tweeted back and forth with another possible contestant, Houston Texans player JJ Watt, about their dancing skills. “It looks to be pretty official that it’s happening,” says Lindsey Green, who has covered gymnastics for New York magazine and blogs at The Rings. Green points out the close association between Raisman and fellow Olympian Shawn Johnson, who also competed on — and won — a season of “DWTS.” Raisman and her “Fierce Five” teammates even appeared with Johnson this year when she competed in “Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars.”
However, the Raisman pick isn’t sitting pretty with some of the show’s fans. One argument is that she’s less musical than some of her other teammates. Meanwhile, a few commenters on Television Without Pity say that Raisman only got the “DWTS” nod because she’s the sole over-18 member of the “Fierce Five.” (Due to laws governing the entertainment industry in California, where the show tapes, people under the age of 18 cannot work over a certain number of hours, which would drastically limit a contestant’s dance rehearsal time.)
Instagram, the artsy-fartsy photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, skews young. If one were to build a composite of the average Jewish female Instagrammer snapping away with her iPhone, she’d probably be a 16-year-old Jersey girl who collects and distributes “likes” with her #besties (best friends) of #selfies (self portraits) taken posed in front of a bathroom mirror.
I’ve lost many hours mining Instagram’s search feature for hashtag keywords in an attempt to figure out just what types of photos and behaviors Jewish girls and women are offering up on this particular social network. The popular hashtag #jewishgirlproblems (and its variants, like #jewishgirlsprobs and #jewishgirlprobz) yields more than 1,000 photos. Add another thousand for #jewishgirls, and another 500 for the predictable #jewishamericanprincess. Most of the photos with these tags are taken by girls who are almost certainly younger than 18, so I won’t highlight them here, but the point is that girls are using Instagram hashtags to tie their faces and bodies to their self-identified Jewishness.