Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dancing with the stars

One of the most famous dancers in America passed through town this last weekend — or at least she will be in a couple of weeks.
Misty May-Treanor, the United States’ double gold medal-winning beach volleyball player who suffered a rare loss with partner Keri Walsh at the Santa Barbara Shootout on Sunday, has never stepped on a dance floor in public.

But in two weeks time she’ll be hanging up her sand socks, at least until spring, to compete in the next season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” By the end of the September, millions of Americans even beyond those who watched her clinch her second gold medal in Beijing last month, will have seen her waltz, fox trot and swing.
The seventh season of the show starts a week from this Monday on September 22 with a three-night premiere, and May-Treanor has been furiously practicing during the week and often between matches trying to prepare with the same intensity and focus the former Long Beach State star used to become the winningest female player in the history of the sport.
“I look forward to dancing every day…it’s so fun,” she told me after the tournament last Sunday afternoon. “It’s challenging, and it’s new. People don’t get to see that side of me.”
The volleyball goddess will be paired up with professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who is returning for his fifth season of the hit TV show. Her competition this fall includes singers Lance Bass and Toni Braxton; actors Cloris Leachman, Kim Kardashian, Susan Lucci, Ted McGinley Brooke Burke and Cody Linley (from “Hannah Montana”); comedian Jeffrey Ross; celebrity chef and author Rocco DiSpirito; and fellow athletes Maurice Greene (the 2000 gold medallist in the 100 meter sprint) and Warren Sapp, the football tackle who was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1999.
“They’re all your toughest competitors when you step on the floor,” May-Treanor said.
But she said she feels up to the task.
“Ballroom dancing is a sport. People don’t realize just how athletic it is,” she said. “…I just hope I don’t trip in my high heels… or make a fool out of myself.”

• • •

While May-Treanor is hard at work in Los Angeles, this weekend it’s your turn to take a trip on the dance floor with our own local heroes.
The Santa Barbara Dance Alliance is presenting DaM, its 14th annual International Dance and Music Festival, at a new location Saturday afternoon and evening. Leaving behind Oak Park for the more centrally located Marjorie Luke Theatre and the grounds at Santa Barbara Junior High, the event has also been truncated from a two-day extravaganza into a five-hour affair.
Scaling back was a financial necessity, reports SBDA’s Julie McLeod.
“There were so many costs associated with the logistics,” she said. “And you can’t collect an admission fee at Oak Park. It just became too prohibitive for us to continue.”
The lessons portion of the event remains completely free at the new locale, an area behind the theater on the school’s campus. Six local organizations will offer short, 20- to 25-minute intros to a variety of styles between 2 and 4:30 p.m., including: Hula & Tahitian Dance with Hula Anyone?, Chicago 2-Step with Derrick Curtis, Mexican Folklorico with Marisol Cabrera, Balkan Folk Dance with Oak Park Village Dancers, Capoeira with Capoeira Sul de Bahia, and Salsa dance with Just Baila.
You don’t need any experience, nor is there a need to enroll in advance.
“Beginners are fully welcome,” McLeod said. “Nobody is getting a grade. Just enjoy yourself.”
While all of the teachers do offer classes in town, the event isn’t meant as a method of procuring enrollment, said McLeod, who has been dancing even before she served as a member of the chorus in “West Side Story” on Broadway 50 years ago.
“We just want you to dance. The more we dance the happier we are.”
Following the lessons, 14 dance groups – including the afternoon teachers – will put on a performance inside the theater from 5 to 7 p.m. Dances and performers span the globe, including: Indian Bollywood from East India Dance Company, Balinese by Edmundo Luna, Flamenco with Fuego Gitano Dance Company with guest Marlon Dorantes, Middle Eastern from Seher, and Brazilian with Hip Brazil.
“We’re proud of the cultural diversity in Santa Barbara and we honor their heritage in dance,” McLeod said. There are no barriers in dance. The arts bridge the differences between cultures.”
Each of the performers will have only a short slot with which to impress the audience.
“The routines are just 8 minutes, a lot shorter than they were at Oak Park,” McLeod said. “You get to see the best but there’s no time to get tired or bored.”
Tickets for the 5 p.m. performance are $10, free for children 16 and under. Call 966-6950 or visit

• • •

Need more dancing? Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation is offering free introductory classes at Carrillo Recreation Center all week long next Monday through Friday as a sampler for the fall offerings.
While yoga, Pilates, parent workshops and Tai Chi are also among the disciplines being taught, the main thrust is on dancing, with styles from ballroom to belly dancing to country two-step, modern dance to Argentine tango, and folk dance to hip hop.
Not sure what to take? Check out the opening night instructor exhibit on Monday from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. in the ballroom when five of the teachers will perform. Details are available in the activity guide, via phone at 564-5418, or online at

No comments: