So how come a mediocre dancer continues to advance?

As I have said before quite a few times, things change, even in Costa Rica. This makes it difficult to recommend any business or even a museum, and be sure it is going to be ‘as advertised’ by whoever is giving it a thumbs up. The sad truth is buyers should always beware.

That doesn’t happen just in Costa Rica. I used to teach ballroom dancing, and I am a sometime fan of “Dancing with the Stars,” a reality show on ABC-TV. Lately I have been watching them each week because of two mesmerizing dancers: Jennifer Grey and Brandy. They and their partners are a joy to watch and at times have transported me into the magic of their dance. Four contestants, Brandy, Jennifer, Kyle Massey and Bristol, have reached the finals.

Bristol, obviously not a dancer, started with all of the grace of a wooden soldier but has continued to soldier on. She is the youngest of the group and has been given the easiest routines (some of the other dancers get pretty acrobatic), yet the judges have consistently given her the lowest scores of almost any contestant ever, because they are tough and, in truth, she is a mediocre dancer. Kyle defies his size and shape with his charm and grace. Jennifer, at 50, is the oldest, yet has received some perfect scores of 10 from the judges, as has Brandy. I like to rate the dancers, too, and my scores have consistently matched the “official” ones.

The dancers’ fates are determined by the combined votes of the judges and viewers. The judges are professionals and expert dancers. Obviously, not every viewer has had the experience of waltzing or dancing the foxtrot with a partner. (Dancing has changed considerably over the years.) But they do know what they like. And to quote one more time, “the American people have spoken.” Thus Bristol survives each week over far superior dancers. She says it is because she is just like us (I doubt that) and people identify with her (I don’t doubt that).

I don’t want to start a polemic about Bristol Palin or even about the viewers who voted – they have figured out how to stuff the ballot box and, as we know, are not always well-informed or discerning. Bristol did not ask to be on the show, it had to be the producers of “Dancing with the Stars” who decided she was a star and invited her. They must have been thinking of ratings, which equal profits. And we must accept (sob!) that even reality shows are in it for the money. I’ve been told that some of the other reality shows are rigged. But “Dancing with the Stars”?

This column was begun last week but I decided to wait until this week’s show to see if it was going where I thought it was.

All that surprised me was the behavior of the judges. Bruno and Len, the two men, totally caved. Bruno tends to be generous, but Len is adamant about the finer points and will deduct for an improperly bent leg, an awkwardly pointed toe or less than perfect footwork. He disagreed with Carrie Anne, obviously not seeing Bristol’s misstep and nearly leaped out of his chair to praise Bristol. In my opinion, only Carrie Anne held on to some integrity of honest critiquing that a judge should have. I could accept her 8.

I have this uneasy feeling that the producers of the show called everyone in (except Bristol) and told them that for the sake of profits, they should all go along to get along. And so, by those whose reputations depend upon them, honesty, integrity and standards are left by the wayside in favor of mediocrity.

Recently Cable TV pundits are considering whether or not politics are involved. You think? Unless you live alone in a cave or next to a pond, politics are a part of your life. Don’t be surprised if this is a harbinger of things to come. A reality show can be dismissed, but real life is another matter. If the United States wants to be first in the world, mediocre isn’t going to make it no matter how popular.

As I said, things change, but I hope, in Costa Rica, we can take a lesson from this. There are values that Costa Rica is known and praised for and that invite the rest of the world to witness. Those of us who have chosen to live here need to maintain these values and not let the bottom line compromise them.

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