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Paula Abdul's 'Live to Dance' wears Spandex
January 5, 2011  | By Ronnie Gill

By Ronnie GIll

If passion about dance equaled excellence, Paula Abdul's new CBS series, Live to Dance, would score an A.

Unfortunately it doesn't.

The show -- which had an unbearably long two-hour premiere on Tuesday, and claims, unrealistically, to be looking for America's best dance performance -- left more than a lot to be desired. It left us bored and wanting to change the channel almost immediately.

Dancers can perform solo, as couples or in groups and be any age. So we were not only treated to sobbing parents proudly watching their questionably talented progeny perform, but also seniors (the oldest was 90), who should be lauded for their ability to still be able to move it, but who clearly had no place in a competition for America's best dancers.


The "talent" never exceeded mediocre and usually fell far short of that. True, the producers might have been holding back some of the better acts for later shows, a la American Idol, which doesn't reveal all of the best performers in their audition stages either. But in this case, we were left with nothing to hold on to, nobody to root for or care whether we saw again.

No matter what their age, almost all of the contestants seemed to think that a loud, cheaply made costume and overdone makeup would be an adequate substitute for formal dance training. The truly talented dancers we have seen audition on So You Think You Can Dance usually come barefaced and wearing dance workout clothing.

A couple of acts near the end of the program -- a group named Twitch from Florida, and a young ballroom couple, D'Angelo & Amanda (9 and 10 years old) -- were about the best of the evening. Twitch, an odd combination of eight girls and one guy, did a routine that wanted to look like Sonya Tayeh choreographed it, but fell far short, leaning more on facial expression than footwork. D'Angelo & Amanda were unbalanced -- she was a far better dancer than he. Plus they just gave us the creeps: She was dressed like a Vegas showgirl in a skimpy two-piece outfit with feathers in her hair and on her butt, huge crystal earrings and a ton of makeup on her pretty little face; he like her Latin lover in Spandex pants and V-neck shirt with a large gold chain around his neck. Sound bad? The coup de grace came when they told us they had been dancing together for about three years and considered themselves to be "in a relationship." Eeeeeew.


But the heart of Live to Dance is pure Paula Abdul, which means sentimentality and lots of awwwwww factor. While the judges, including Abdul, had no problem eliminating contestants -- you needed at least two votes from the three judges to make it to what the show calls its "short list" -- Abdul did have a problem saying "no" to those spunky seniors and one dancer who had hearing loss (none of them deserved to advance). An annoying rule was the ability to try to force a judge to change his or her vote, either from the audience chanting "Change your mind," or pressure from another judge on the panel. What's the purpose of having a judge if his or her opinion could be so easily swayed?

Not that it mattered, as we weren't impressed by the nicer-than-nice critiquing by these "experts." Other than Abdul, billed as the show's executive producer, lead expert and mentor, the panel included former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt, who did a stint judging on the UK version of the series, called Got to Dance, and Emmy-nominated choreographer Travis Payne, who was choreographer and associate director on This Is It, Michael Jackson's never-to-be concert.


And, of course, the show had to have the requisite foreign accent, this embodied by Australian host Andrew Gunsberg, who most recently served as cohost of Australian Idol.

Trust us, Brit and natural charmer Cat Deeley need not lose any sleep over Gunsberg entering the U.S. market.

So the question is, do we even give this show a second chance after such a bad first impression? We'll let you know.

Beginning tonight, Live to Dance will air on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

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