DWTS – or – how to use a box of tissue in one evening


I do not watch reality television as a general rule.  I’m a writer.  I like my television (and movies) to have story lines that are performed into something interesting, not edited into highly manipulative states.

That being said, I am addicted to Dancing With The Stars most seasons.  I add “most” because there have been two or three celebrity contestants who simply by breathing made me crazy-itchy-nutso and I couldn’t watch for fear I’d see them or, in one instance, hear her speak.  With that contestant, as bad as her so-called dancing was, her speaking voice was worse. Blech.

Sometimes, the complete opposite happens and every one of the contestants thrills me with their background stories and their hard work, the bond they develop with their pro- partner, even how the goofiness of Tom Bergeron plays off them.  This season, DWTS’ 20th season, is one of those ‘must-watch’ ones for me.

Tonight, one of the four semi-finalists will be eliminated.  This after a show last night that brought out great dancing (even a two-left footed bumbling boob like me could see the dancing was superior) and more heartfelt, heartwarming stories, not to mention a very simple and sweet marriage proposal!  The four celebrities remaining are Nastia (a former Olympic gymnast), a pop singer named Riker, a war veteran-model-motivational speaker named Noah and Rumer Willis, the daughter of Demi Moore & Bruce Willis.  Rumer, Ryker and Nastia came into the competition with performance backgrounds of one sort or another, an understanding of how to create an atmosphere, a story in the dancing.  They also started out a pretty good amateur dancers and have become much, much better as the weeks have gone by.

Noah is a different story because he’s not just a war veteran, he’s a double-amputee.

He lost is left arm from just below the shoulder and his left leg above the knee in an IED explosion.  He wears a prosthetic leg and foot, but not an arm.  His partner, Sharna Burgess, has had to choreograph to his skills, his desires, his challenges and still make us think, make us see that Noah is a dancer.  That Noah deserves to be a semi-finalist in this competition. Honestly, I’m not sure who is the braver one of this partnership — Noah for exposing himself to a world he never knew before his injuries and then needing to work around and with them to succeed in that world, or Sharna for going into a whole new place in dance to make it work.

Carrie Ann Inaba, who is one of the judges, said the first week, amongst her tears after watching him dance, that Noah had helped her see beyond her own images, her ideas of what dance is, what dance should be.  Not that she marked  him that way often but at least she was moving forward.

Without a knee, Noah cannot be as fluid in his movements as he might like, indeed as he should be, in dance.  It’s bloody close to impossible for him to do “rounded” floor movements although the choreography in both routines he did last night were so mesmerizing, so true to his strengths, so close to ’round’, they were brilliant.  There was one moment, at the end of one of the routines, I hoped everyone who was watching noted and remembered as they were voting — Sharna and Noah walked up the stairs together using his gait, where his left leg swings out a little to compensate for not having a bendable knee.  Matching his step in every way, from exactly how high his left leg swings up to how much bounce gets from his “good” leg, Sharna made that could-have-been-awkward walk up the stairs completely, utterly beautiful.  They made it a dance….

If I’m honest, Noah probably shouldn’t win this competition because he is not, yet, the dancer that Riker and Rumer and Nastia are, but I still gave him every one of my votes last night (and he’ll get them next week if he moves on). I gave him those votes not because I feel sorry for him, and not because he proposed to his girlfriend (who said ‘yes’, btw), and not because he’s a drop-dead gorgeous war hero.

I voted for Noah Galloway because he really has opened up the world of what dance is and should be.  He is a walking, breathing, strong reminder of why we all need dance and music and art and theatre in our lives.  We are enriched by the arts.  We are humbled, stretched, encouraged, enlightened, saved by the arts.  We are better for dancing, we are smarter for music, we are more aware for theatre, we are educated by art.

Thank you Sharna, for helping to make that happen with such brilliant routines.

Good luck Noah. I hope the journey continues in the world of dance for you forever…

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