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How to Dance like a Star, according to Len Goodman

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Len Goodman
KELSEY McNEAL/ABC

After 40 years of teaching dance, Len Goodman has lost a little bit of patience — especially considering the Dancing with the Stars judge has been going back and forth between the U.S. and U.K. for the original British version of the show. But the jetlag didn’t stop Goodman from spending one afternoon in Hollywood teaching a small group of reporters how to move like a star.

Last week, I, along with a few other unsuspecting journalists were given a salsa lesson with the help of some of the show’s professional dancers, including Keo Motsepe, who has a little more time on his hands after being eliminated last week with partner Lolo Jones, and Anna Trebunskaya, looking gorgeous as ever only eight months after giving birth to her daughter. Knowing that, like the show’s competitors, a sparkly numbered paddle would be the ultimate judge, we got our game faces on and dance shoes tied up. (Well, not all of us.)

Take note future “stars”: Use the following as an example of what to do (and sometimes what not to do) in order to get “a 10 from Len!”

Come prepared

Before even stepping in the ballroom, there are certain things you already should be able to master, according to Goodman. First and foremost is punctuality, a lesson one fellow reporter learned she arrived a couple minutes late. Secondly, focus. Once everyone had arrived, he asked me to stand up straight and raise my right arm up over my head followed by my left, somewhat balletic. He joked that it had nothing to do with the actual lesson, but from the glean in his eye you could tell the judgment had begun. And lastly, wear shoes. It sounds obvious, but one reporter’s choice in flip-flops is something Goodman takes note of in his signature British wit.

Warm up properly

Anna and Keo led a quick warm up focusing on everyone’s favorite money maker, the hips, because a little-booty shaking is always what gets the live audience going during the show. With Len out of the room, it was also an opportunity for the other reporter-dancers to quickly judge each other. Of course, it’s all just fun, so we quickly start working together to master the simple steps.

Get hands-on training

Compared to what the celebrities have to learn on a weekly basis, the lesson given to us was beyond basic. However, the way it was taught was unique. Goodman isn’t the type of teacher to go through a routine once facing in front of a mirror and expect you to follow. He’s the kind that will grab you by the arms and teach by example. After a quick clarification of who would be leading, my one-on-one with Len was somewhat surreal. As “The Tequila Song” played on repeat, he and I went through the steps a couple of times. Goodman was quickly impressed by my skills (full disclosure: I have years of dance experience) and decided to focus a little more time on others, notably the reporter now dancing barefoot.

‘Fake it ’til you make it’

Everyone knows, practice makes perfect. In this case, practice made for slightly better. I was paired with Trebunskaya, who —after pointing out that my clothes didn’t match her blue dress — taught me a valuable lesson: If you don’t know what you’re doing, fake it ’til you make it… and smile, of course. Confidence is key for any competition, and though there was no mirror ball trophy in our future, we still had to act like it.

The results:

Goodman must have had an unreasonable, since they no one brought any paddles under a 5 that day. As custom goes, the first reporter to dance was the woman without shoes. Keo playfully started to take off his shirt,  poking fun of a show staple that he really seems to be embracing. Despite the fact that she admitted she can’t even tell her right foot from her left, she received an 8 and another lesson from Len: Don’t sell yourself.

As the last to go, I had a couple of butterflies in my stomach as I was pressured by Goodman to at least beat the 8. Realizing I literally had nothing to lose, I embraced my inner Ricky Martin and started moving my hips, much to the delight of Anna and Len, who deemed my performance the best of the day. I ended up scoring a 9.  And while it wasn’t a perfect 10, Len admitted he was too distracted by my oversized feet to give it the extra point.

Sure, it was fun, but chances are the Dancing with the Reporters spinoff won’t be picked up anytime soon.

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