The long-delayed debut of a new dance-reality series, Ballroom Bootcamp, premiered last night on TLC. The premise will remind you of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS): non-dancers (in this case, also non-celebrities) are paired with professional dance instructors, and given a limited time to reach competition level in their performance.
That’s as far as the similarity goes. The non-dancers in the opening episode are “a tomboy, a tour-guide, and a tired mom”: Krystel, Jeff and Monique. Jeff is afraid of commitment, and hopes to learn how to stick with a project. Monique works 12 hours a day, but wants to lose weight. And Krystel is an athletic tomboy who becomes energized by the competition.
They are paired with dancers Gocha Chertkoev, Christian Perry, and Susannah Cuesta. Chertkoev visits his student Monique at home and cleans “unhealthy food” out of her fridge—holding a pan of tuna-noodle casserole out at her, he intones, “I call this a recipe for a fat ass!” He shows up at a staff meeting and has Monique do ab-crunches on the floor. Perry has his already-fit, but terminally reserved student Krystel take belly-dancing lessons to “free her hips” and release her sensuality for the cha-cha. He is encouraged when the tomboy shows up for her next cha-cha lesson with a bare midriff. And Cuesta makes it plain that Jeff has a larger task than either of the two women. He must lead the dance, as well as perform the steps.
The goal for all three students is to learn to cha-cha well enough to compete in a “special category” of The Yankee Classic in Boston, MA. They will have a new partner to compete with—a professional who will be their dance partner (so this is a pro-am competition just as DWTS was). And they will have professionally-fitted costumes worth thousands of dollars to enhance their performance.
I was thrilled by the transformation of Monique, who lost 15 pounds (much like John O’Hurley in DWTS), and performed beautifully in her sequined, leopard-print-adorned costume. Jeff’s mobile hips (harder for a man to achieve), sense of play and confidence on the floor also impressed me. But in the end, it was Krystel whose flirty skirt-flips and dramatic Latin motion impressed the judges enough to win the competition.
It is unclear if future competitions will involve any of the three students from this week, but we can expect to see Chertkoev, Perry and Cuesta paired with a non-dancer for new attempts with other dances in the weeks to come. Still to come, according to a PR release for the series: competitors whose real-life jobs include Crime Lab Investigator for the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, a nurse technician, a stay-at-home mom with two children under three and a former college football player.
Future competitions will be held at Florida State DanceSport Championships in Sarasota, FL and the Embassy Ball in Irvine, CA. Winners each week will qualify for a grand ball to be held at season’s end.