Shake Your Groove Thing

mainHeaderBasic cable can be a no man’s land or the last bastion for entertainment. With the glut of reality shows this summer, a weight-loss show with an ambitious premise is currently showing on the Oxygen network. 12 heavy-set contestants compete through dance routines to lose weight and win big money.

There are three judges who the audience is not familiar with who play an instrumental part in the show. Mayte Garcia (best known for belly dancing in Prince music videos) has been below the radar for several years. You wonder what Lisa Ann Walter is doing there until you find out that she is a professional dancer as well as an actress. And then there is dancer-choreographer Danny Teeson. With his brutal honesty, he takes no prisoners from day one. With unknown judges and a combined ripped-off premise from two successful shows, is there a place for “Dance Your A** Off?”

The beginning episodes are painful to watch. Here we have 12 people who need to lose a significant amount of weight. The weigh-ins are awkward and the dance rehearsals make the contestants look clumsy. Even Ruben with his dance experience was held back by his weight. However, there were heart-wrenching moments, as well.

The back stories of the contestants are weaved through each episode. We learn of Ruben’s lover’s battle to get well again, Pinky’s inability to join her brothers’ dance troupe because of her weight and others who were once thin and have used food as a way not to deal with the world.

There are also contestants who have never been thin and for the first time are realizing they can achieve anything they want – once they set a goal and relearn how to live their lives. It’s no wonder that the first episode gave Oxygen its largest rating to date.

To see large people who weigh 100 to 200 pounds more than they should dance to a song that lasts approximately two minutes was a hook that the audience could not ignore. What would they look like? Would they make total fools of themselves? How could we not tune in? Isn’t that America’s favorite pastime – to tear someone down or laugh at them, while eating ice cream on your couch? After all, you only have that baby weight to lose.

And while you and your 13-year-old “baby” watch people changing their lives, something happens. You realize that perhaps these 12 people are brave because they are willing to transform themselves in front of thousands of strangers.

While the back story of each contestant is pivotal to each episode, this show is at its best when the contestants are on the dance floor.

They learn and achieve things that they did not think was possible for their bodies to perform. Each episode has a theme, which is tackled by a contestant in a consistently entertaining fashion.

We see through rehearsals the professional dancers’ frustration working with people who use their weight as a crutch. Some are afraid to try new things or don’t feel sexy and are eliminated. The episode where they had to use a stripper pole forced contestants to show their sexy side. Some overcame their fears, some did not and one was eliminated because of that. Moments like this make the show a success and one worth watching.

“Dance Your A** Off” is currently in full swing and the semi-finals are next week. If you’re looking for something to entertain you on Mondays at 10 pm, then try it. Oxygen even shows marathon episodes on the weekend to catch you up. This may be the best way to watch the series. Although the ratings are good, its future is uncertain.

Whether or not you have weight to lose, it’s fun to see real people doing something with their lives besides living in a house with strangers for money.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 631 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’

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