Dancing With a Pro
July 17, 2008 5:48 PM
On Wednesday night, “Dancing With the Stars” pro Kym Johnson picked me to dance with her. She dragged me to the center of the dance floor by my lanyard. And, for a few moments, I felt like a star.
ABC brought out Ms. Johnson, along with “Dancing” colleagues Mark Ballas, Derek Hough, Alec Mazo, Edyta Sliwinska and Karina Smirnoff, for a night of dinner and dancing at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
The program promised, “You’ll come away from the experience with more insight into what [tennis star and season six contestant] Monica Seles must have been going through. Plenty of alcohol will be available to help you loosen up both your hips and your inhibitions.”
Basically a drunken dance party. Yippee!
The night began with a buffet of fajitas, sushi and pasta, as well as an open bar. Real-life married couple Mr. Mazo and Ms. Sliwinska opened the dance floor with a sexy demonstration of their technique. Having greatly intimidated many, they and the other “Dancing” professionals invited critics and reporters to the floor to teach them a few cha-cha steps.
With boys on one side and girls on the other, we all learned basic cha-cha and some snazzy pivot turns. (Disclosure: I took some dance classes in high school and college. Getting the basic rhythm wasn’t a problem for me. I was more concerned with the fact that I could have stepped on one of the pro’s feet, effectively ending their dance career, in addition to potentially facing a lawsuit and hatred from millions of Americans who love the show. No pressure.) We then paired off to show what we had learned.
My partner, a woman who works at ABC, did really well; she was encouraged to take the stage with one of the male professionals. I tried to quietly step aside, until I made eye contact with Ms. Johnson, who grinned and pointed at me. “You’re coming with me,” she said, as she grabbed my press pass lanyard and dragged me to the center.
We did our thing—cha-cha forward, then back, then left, then right, then pivot turn, then pivot turn again, then the whole thing again. We were on count and doing well. People clapped and cheered us on. (At least in my head they did. It played out like one of those movies where the main characters break out into a dance in the end in front of everyone and get recognition for what nobody knew was possible. You’re thinking “Dirty Dancing,” but I’m thinking “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.”)
We were then asked to freestyle. Ms. Johnson and I moved around a little. I twirled her, and she twirled me in return. I asked, “Can I dip you?” She said, “Yes, let’s dip.” And we did. Then I swear I heard some more cheers. A few shimmies later she said, “You were great.” I gave her a hug to say thanks and it was over. Then the not-so-adventurous critics swarmed the floor for their photo ops with the dancers.
I walked off the stage looking for a glass of water. Not that it was a very rigorous dance, but I just get very hot when in the spotlight, actual or imagined.
I got a few “good jobs” from random people as I walked around. I felt pretty pleased with myself. I now belonged to the club of Ms. Johnson’s dance partners, which includes Jerry Springer, Joey Fatone, Mark Cuban and Penn Jillette.
I told my editors I would put myself out there for some coverage, and I did. I also ended up walking away with a great story to share with friends, of how I dipped a “Dancing” pro and for one night felt like a star.