The only thing in this show longer than the necks is the minutes…
I can say this much for certain – the more I learn about this sport, the less I understand it. It’s certainly nothing specific to ballroom dancing – I suspect most sports/arts (and this one is some of both) are like that when you take the time to deep dive into them. But competitive dance remains a genuine puzzle to me. What constitutes success is so colored by the pair aspect of it – I wonder if pairs figure skating (or even more, ice dancing) is the same way?
The dominant – well, only – theme of this episode is “flower and frame”. Like so much about competitive ballroom, it seems relatively simple but is in fact very complicated. The woman is the flower, the man is the frame – I get the idea. It wasn’t the sort of frame I was imagining last week (more like a structural one), but it makes sense. Where the concept gets difficult is the question of balance. How is a leader supposed to fulfill the role of frame without disappearing into the background?
I guess if the answer to that question were easy, it wouldn’t be a professional sport. It points up that much more how surprising it is that Tatara is as successful as he is with his lack of experience. Sengoku cautions him to pace himself as he heads into the finals, but that’s the least of Tatara’s problems. Sengoku has prepared Tatara and Mako for their one-minute solo dance knowing that in the Tenpei Cup, it’s always a quickstep. But Marisa has foiled his plans by overriding the program and changing to a waltz. And when Tatara and Mako hit the floor, he’s shaking so hard the judges and audiences can see it.
It’s clear that Tatara has taken Kiyoharu’s advice to heart, and he and Mako have planned their strategy out in advance (and in secret). Just as clearly, Mako has never been put in this position before – though in his defense, Gaju did at least try and push her to assert herself in his boorish way. It strikes me that sibling partners are quite problematical in this sport, for the nuanced relationship between the older and younger will always be another complicating factor in the final equation. Tatara is nothing if not humble, and he embraces the idea that he needs to put his partner in the spotlight if anything too enthusiastically.
Here’s where my frustrating lack of understanding of this sport again asserts itself. Ask yourself this: if you’re standing in a museum or gallery looking at a Monet or Van Gogh, can you honestly say you’re going to remember what the frame looked like? If the judges and audience are staring only at Mako, why is that a technical flaw on Tatara’s part? Isn’t it the frame’s job to make people believe the painting is as magnificent as possible? I get that there’s a balance here – that if the leader s “greyed out” in the eyes of the judge, he’s taken the concept of framing too far. But it’s hard for me to see where that line is.
One thing I know is that Mako is unrecognizable from the dancer Gaju (and Marisa) knew. And that’s because she’s dancing with a leader willing to let that happen. Apparently the judges are supposed to grade on the leader’s technique and the symbiosis between the pair, and that if the judges aren’t looking at the leader’s technique, that’s a flaw. But it strikes my untrained eye that Tatara has in this case done the job he’s supposed to do. Apparently there’s more to it than that – and I guess Tatara and viewers like me are going to learn why that is together.