Dallas — A whirlwind of stars cha-cha their way to Big D for a one-day blitz at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Ballroom with a Twist offers audiences a taste of the dancing styles featured on Dancing with the Stars, plus a sprinkling of contemporary and hip-hop.
Headlining the tour are DWTS pros Cheryl Burke, Maksim Chmerkovkiy (season 18 winner), Tony Dovolani, and Karina Smirnoff. Other reality shows join the party, too. American Idol contestants Von Smith (season 8) and San Antonio native Haley Scarnato (season 6) lend their vocals in between dance numbers. So You Think You Can Dance moves into the program with Jenna Johnson (season 10 and DWTS season 18), Legacy Perez (season 6), Jonathan Platero (season 5), and Randi Lynn Strong (season 5, formerly Randi Evans).
The show starts with a jazzy flair, then moves into the recognizable Latin styles. The stage is noticeably sparse, but projections give some dimension to the space. Hips shake, ladies twirl, and the energy remains high for an exciting opening set.
The energy simmers down for a gorgeous waltz by Burke and Dovolani to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” Burke’s stunning lavender dress adds a luxurious touch to a lovely number.
After a brief introduction from the headliners, Smith takes the stage with an overly embellished “Feelin’ Good” which transitions into a lively jive. The gentlemen first show off their energetic kicks, but I think the ladies win this round. They have to hop around in heels, an impressive feat for sure.
The performance continues to jump between music and dance, with several moments of audience interaction. The dancers execute the ballroom segments quite well, although a few timing issues pop up here and there with the larger group pieces. They mainly stick with salsa, cha-cha, samba, some paso doble, jive and swing. Tango, however, is noticeably absent. The attempt at a hip-hop/ballroom blend tends toward a Latin fusion with hip-hop clothes instead of the typical flashy attire.
The country dance sequence to Travis Tritt’s “Girls Gone Wild” proves to be loads of fun and a nice break from the usual moves. Casual sambas, fiery cha-chas, and plenty more swingin’ jives round out the genre with excellent energy and passion from all.
Contemporary doesn’t fare as well, because it feels like an afterthought. The audience’s first glimpse of contemporary for this performance is a trio accompanied by Scarnato’s rendition of Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity,” a song which became etched in SYTYCD history as the soundtrack to Mia Michaels’ iconic work about addiction. The dancers perform nicely, with Strong as the female lead, but the choreography doesn’t even come close to that of Michaels’ piece and the song only gives a reminder of its shortcomings. Random breakdancing throughout the dance makes it even more confusing, especially since Perez doesn’t seem to be at the top of his game.
Scarnato and Smith’s vocals shine throughout, especially in “The Prayer.” Scarnato has a moment of audience interaction, as she dances with a gentleman in the front section, and Smith gets the audience involved in “Zoot Suit Riot.”
While the production showcases a wide range of talent, much of it seems to be geared towards DWTS fans. The four headliners spend a good amount of the evening talking with the audience, answering questions, and even teaching the merengue. But if you don’t watch their show, the dialogue becomes somewhat meaningless, and the cheers from fellow patrons over seemingly insignificant quips grows confusing. Many of the “questions” asked by the audience members are fans gushing about the show or ladies begging for hugs and kisses from the men on stage. Chmerkovkiy is obviously a favorite, and elicits plenty of gleeful screams.
The show advertises itself to be an entertaining evening for the entire family. The dancing is entertaining, yes, but to call the show family-friendly is a bit of a stretch. Dovolani’s sexually charged dialogue pushes it into the PG-13 realm and is even somewhat inappropriate at times. Also, half of the “dance lesson” consists of the ladies shaking their hips or chests.
Many in the audience obviously have a fabulous time throughout, and plenty of fans apparently have their dreams come true. As a production, however, it’s simply mediocre. The show as a whole has little cohesion, plenty of randomness, and the dancers’ fabulous performances can only overcome so much. If you’re a fan of DWTS, then you’ll probably enjoy it. Otherwise, if it comes back next year, this is one to skip.