*How do you say goodbye to a legend and her brilliant partner?
*How do you manage to not fall apart when they do that final group hug?
*How do you keep the tears from falling when you just want to see them dance again?
*How do you stop the sun from shining? Oh wait, that was from a BeeGees and later Al Green song. Forget that part. This isn’t that serious.
It’s easy. You slap yourself upside the head, tell yourself to grow up, and have some laughs because let’s face it, Season 14 was going to be over in less than a month anyway, so it’s the journey that’s important, not the final result. And oh what a journey we’ve had! We’re going to focus though on what we lovingly call The Cutest Rumba In History!
Let’s forget the obvious Motown connection in Tristan’s costume choice (the tribute – whether intentional or not - to David Ruffin), forget that the legendary Temptations were singing, forget everything but the dance. We will focus on the artistry, the performance, and the choreography and costume selections that were supposed to convey some connection to Motown itself. We will be concentrating on the back story – Tristan’s way of captivating us by giving us a cleverly executed story behind the dance.
We aren’t going to spend a lot of time on the other performances from this week because let’s face it, other than a few misguided attempts to throw in some signature Motown moves and mostly non-Motown anything related to costumes, it was an epic fail. The music was special; the performances have already been forgotten because they absolutely did not incorporate the spirit of Motown. Four days later, and neither of us can remember a thing about any of the other dances (other than the Dance Duel in which Tristan and Gladys did a true jive while Chelsie and Roshon did some sort of freestyle that we suspect made the judges eyes cross and mix up their decision making powers. That is another story, however). We will be talking about those performances another time, and this blog is dedicated solely to the team that infused their program with the entire aura and spirit of Motown, none other than our own Team Gladys.
Let’s talk costumes. Purple costumes. Not as in a psychedelic weird grape purple but the lovely soft purple that the young (pre-Superman days) Clark MacKent was sporting as he descended the stairs with his girl, the one and only Teenage Gladys “You Know You Want Me” Knight. In fact, even BuddyTV took notice and named Miss Gladys's purple sensation as THE #1 fashion hit of the week. But that's not what's important. What's important is how it all came to be. Yes folks, before Smallville, before all of the Superman movies and television shows dedicated to the big guy, there was simply Clark MacKent and he was doing his best to make his way in the world as a normal guy. Of course he had dancing superpowers but why flaunt them and give himself away? TG (Teenage Gladys) was the girl he had his eye on, and he was going to convince her to teach him her sweet soul moves. In an effort to live as a normal teenager, Clark is determined to go to the school dance with the classiest and sassiest of all the girls, TG. This was all about the school dance, impressing the girl, getting the girl, and making her blush. Or making him blush. It was reciprocal in this case.
The cute little couple was drawn to each other by their love for the music of Motown - the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight (remember her?)…all of it. The boy, who incidentally was a reporter for the school newspaper, wanted to match his girl’s dress so instead of choosing a purple shirt or a purple boutonniere, he went 100% all out and knocked her socks off when he picked her up in a full out purple suit because he just knew that this was her favorite color. Did it diminish young Clark’s masculinity? Not a freakin’ chance. It clung to that surprisingly hot body (let's just say that static electricity was doing the ladies of the world a favor), but at the risk of censoring ourselves for being naughty, we’ll just leave that topic alone. So anyway, Clark showed up dressed to the nines in his form-fitting attire, looking hotter than hot in those glasses that screamed “I am really a good boy that just wants to be bad but will behave." Who knew the white shoes – perfect for dancing– would be so downright sexy when on anybody else they would be shouting ‘used car salesman’? They were also appropriate to the era. This is a phrase we will be repeating frequently. Appropriate to the era. There wasn’t a lot of that during Motown Night, was there?
We turn our attention to the daring dress worn by young Gladys. A little sexy, a little tempting, but not overtly sexual because after all, Daddy was a minister and didn’t want his little girl going out anyway. But Clark is essentially every parent’s dream son-in-law, so it wasn't hard for TG to sell her father on her new potential beau. Being the ever sassy nice girl, TG rocked the best part of her ensemble...the purple bow in her hair! This was, dare we say it, completely appropriate to the era. This was 1966 and that one accessory nailed down the perfection of this costume better than anything else possibly could. Her hair was the perfect bob of the 60s; his hair, while we would prefer the 2012 pre-haircut hair, was the clean cut hair of those who avoided the Beatles haircut.
Now the dance. The Rumba. It’s a slow dance, but let me tell you, if you had done sexy, steamy, or sulty in a slow dance at school in the 1960s you would have been tossed right out on your derriere so guess what? They had to keep it appropriate to the era. So when the crazy-ass judged said “I prefer my Rumba a bit steamier” we wanted to go over there and yank him by his ear and say, “Nuh uh. You can’t do that in school, and nobody wants to see it anyway with a bunch of high school kids and certainly not with Clark and the straight-laced preacher’s daughter.” Some dancer guy – Tristan somebody - pointed that out himself when he called the comment “stupid.” Truer words were never spoken. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. Or an idiot an idiot. Just as point of reference let’s recall Season 13 when Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus (remember him?) did a Rumba which the judges clearly labeled as appropriate because it excluded the sexiness they felt would have been inappropriate because of the age difference between the 2 dancers. Ahem, math whizzes on the judging panel – add another 15 years to that age difference and what does that tell you?
So anyway. Some people said the dance was too slow. Dudes, a Rumba IS SLOW. “My Girl” is slow, and Clark and TG took care of doing an amazing little Rumba that portrayed the era perfectly. It was appropriate to the era. Every move in a Rumba was in this one. Clark had obviously been taking lessons or was a natural. Every step was perfectly synchronized – almost as though they had been practicing in Daddy’s basement for weeks. And to top it all off – while the other kids at the dances pretty much missed the whole point that it was Motown Week and their dancing should reflect it, our young couple not only put those moves into their flirty little dance, but they nailed each and every one to perfection. HA! Follow the rules and see what happens, kids. I vote y’all skip out on the dance and head to the drive-in, where Clark, always the perfect gentleman has offered TG his purple sweater and his arm is innocently draped over her shoulder to keep her warm. Yep....I can almost hear that collective MacManiac swoon-sigh right now.
So what happened to Clark and TG after the school dance you ask? We don't know for sure, but rumor has it that they practiced and mastered their Motown Rumba moves so well that they were invited onto American Bandstand...or was it Soul Train? Whatever it was, we think it likely that they were never forgotten because not only did those two wild and crazy kids nail their perfect dance, they made it appropriate to the era without rolling around on the floor, without incessant rubbing against each other, or without reminding us of some basic animalistic urges that had no place in this little dance. It was lovely, just as “My Girl” is lovely. A perfect song for a perfect sweet Rumba.