Ballroom Blitz: Toddlers & Tiaras for Grown-Ups

When Bravo announced it would be airing Game of Crowns many eagerly awaited the grown-up version of Toddlers & Tiaras. But, as I wrote, that series turned out to be more like a pageant version of Real Housewives of RI/CT. Instead, it is another TLC mini-series, Ballroom Blitz, that comes closest to the formula, subculture, glitz, and sometimes sheer oddity of Toddlers & Tiaras.

Both shows feature three competitors each week. They practice, prep their bodies, compete, and often cry to the camera (when they lose and when they win). Women get spray tanned and pay people to do their hair and make-up in elaborate ways. Thousands are spent on dresses covered in stones. In the end much of the final results seem linked to who has the most money to buy the best connections, from teachers to costume designers. Finally, if there is one thing to learn from both shows it is, “Do NOT be late for competition!”

Perhaps because of the now-formulaic storylines all the episodes of Ballroom Blitz were shown on a single day on TLC and it doesn’t appear likely more will be made. Simon Fuller, of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance fame, was part of this and I think there’s one way in which they got this wrong. I was most interested in the young dancers currently dancing pro-am, but who want to go pro. How do you become a pro? Is there a certification? Do you have to win gold level competitions?

Instead we got a lot of older women, divorcees, gay men–all rich of course– who love dance. Stories like Jacob who does this for health are important, and yet I was more interested in his changing hair color. We also got stereotypes coming to life (the woman who leaves loveless marriage to rich husband to marry dance partner) and lots of dance floor “comebacks.” If the characters were more fleshed our and likeable it could have worked, as it was it was too much earnest botoxeria and tanorexia to be compelling.

Ballroom dance is a fascinating, lucrative, subculture that has been popularized thanks to network shows on ABC and Fox. But a documentary series that explores how this happens with an appealing cast could have mass appeal. I loved learning things like it is actually easier for a woman amateur because she doesn’t have to lead like a male amateur. Isn’t this one of the few areas in which an aesthetic physical activity might be easier for the female? I’d love to learn more about these sorts of things and less about hair glue, cost of lessons, and divorces.

More Blitz, less formula next time, please! But keep these dance shows coming.

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