San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Latin Dance Shows All about the Melodrama

Last time, I began a comparison of the U.S. TV program “So You Think You Can Dance” and the Costa Rican and Mexican versions, “Bailando por un sueño” (“Dancing for a Dream”) and “Bailando por el mundo” (“Dancing for the World”), in which the contestants are couples made up of a famoso/a (celebrity) and a soñador/a (dreamer) dancing for a good cause.
All seemed to go beautifully for the contestants in the U.S. program, though we in the audience know that reality doesn’t work that way.
Surprise, surprise. By the second program of the Mexican “Bailando por el mundo,” many of the dancers were injured, sick or just plain upset and threatening to leave. It was no wonder.
The judges were extremely critical of, if not downright cruel, to both the dancers and the  choreographers. The judge from Costa Ricawas one of the softies, and she usually gave scores of only five or six out of 10. When Shirley and Ricardo, the Tico couple, did their disco routine to the music of “Saturday Night Fever,” the judge from Colombia gave them a score of one and commented sourly, “Pienso que fue horrible lo que hicieron” (“I thought it was horrible, what they did”).
A U.S., British (Simon Cowell of “American Idol” aside), Australian or Canadian judge with the same opinion might have said so to his or her fellow judges, but would probably have found an extremely civilized and constructive way to say it to the dancers, at least on camera.
Not here. Here, melodrama, malice and misunderstanding reign supreme.
Nor did the dancers and choreographers take all this lying down. They hurled a barrage of nasty comments and accusations toward the judges and, sometimes, each other. The program gleefully filmed every bit and aired it all, week after week.
Take two incidents that took place in just the second program.
The judge from Argentina, Jorge Lafauci, who is a caricature of the arrogant, supercilious Argentinean, generally gave ones and twos during the opening program, but, unable to get around the fact that the Mexican couple danced well, gave them a score of five with the haughty comment, “Just because you are the host country, I give you a five.” So, during the second program, the presenter allowed the Mexican dancer, the celebrity of the couple, and the grim Argentinean to get down and dirty with each other then and there and declare their mutual hatred.
In a later program, it came out that Lafauci had been caught on camera remarking that Mexicans were “la gente más fea del mundo” (the ugliest people in the world).
Lafauci’s reaction to his subsequent and dramatic exposure was to come close to crying on camera and claim that he was so ashamed that he hadn’t been able to come out of his room for three days (¡pobrecito!). Moreover, he revealed, he really loved Mexicans. The Mexican celebrity dancer magnanimously forgave him – it was a Kodak moment. Thereafter, Lafauci gave everyone good scores and the presenter started calling him “Tío Jorge” (Uncle George).
Our Mexican celebrity, incidentally, cut quite a figure. He was a great papasote (stud) of a man who appeared to have badly done silicone implants in his buns.His stage name was – are you ready for this? – Latin Lover!
Yes, in English, not Spanish. I presume this is exotic, and it seems to be a trend, for there is a reggaetón (for lack of a better translation, Latin hip-hop) star who calls himself “Daddy Yankee.”
I went to pieces every time I heard a judge address the Mexican dancer as “Latin” or “Señor Lover.”
But all of this is child’s play compared to an earlier incident in the second program. It was time to present the couple from Panama, but only the male partner, in this case the soñador, appeared on stage. The presenter then announced that the Panamanian man’s celebrity partner had been sick that week. What followed was a prepared film clip. It showed the well-endowed star in various positions of discomfort, holding onto her stomach and talking about how dreadful she felt. Finally, she said, the doctor had discovered that she had an inflamed uterus!
When this bizarre piece was over, the presenter announced that they had procured a substitute, but it was still uncertain which of the two young ladies was going to dance that night.What do you know? Out came the two girls, both dressed and ready to dance, both apparently distressed.
The presenter next went on to tell the infirm diva she had three choices: 1) Panama wouldn’t dance that time and, as a result, would automatically remain in last place for the second time. 2) The substitute would dance and thereby permanently replace her for the rest of the program. 3) She could dance, but the substitute had to leave Mexico (meaning no more chances to have a substitute if she got sicker).
At this point, the choreographer appeared, and the presenter gave them 20 seconds to make a decision.Now the substitute was starting to look really annoyed. The celebrity’s glittery eyes filled with tears as she made a plea for justice. The presenter was implacable. He repeated the conditions and once again gave them 20 seconds. They took five minutes. Finally, they announced their decision.
“I am going to dance!” she brightly proclaimed, as the substitute fumed. “I am going to dance no matter what!”
So she and her inflamed uterus proceeded to dance.
They ended up in last place, anyway. “Puro teatro” (pure theater), grumbled my disgusted husband.
All of this soap opera left no time for commentary by the judges, explanations about the dances, clarification of the scores or decent rehearsal clips. But, oh well, what’s most important, anyway?
Excuse me if my culture is showing.

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