Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Marlee Matlin: "Read my hips!"

Marlee Matlin's debut on "Dancing with the Stars" March 18 was impressive. She gave it her all and wowed the judges, who subtly admitted their skepticism about whether a deaf person could dance. She and partner Fabian Sanchez scored a 22 out of a possible 30, finishing in third place and trouncing stars like tennis player Monica Seles and Tony winner Marissa Jaret Winokur.

I guess it's good that the judges were blown away, but they let some of their initial biases show by calling Matlin's performance "almost unbelievable" and "inspiring" (Carrie Ann Inaba) and "so unbelievable and life affirming" (Bruno Tonioli). But as their skepticism went away, they were full of compliments for Matlin.

"You are so fluid and you move with great ease," Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said.

"You may not hear, but the music is running through your blood," Judge Bruno Tonioli said. "You hardly missed a beat. I counted all the song."

Even Matlin's daughter seemed to say "oh my god" at the end of her mom's performance.

The best part of the show was the behind-the-scenes segment where the audience received good information from Matlin and Sanchez about how she approached learning the dances by watching Sanchez' body and face and feeling the rhythm.

She has said often that she joined the show because her four kids love it and she wanted to be "cool Mom."

"I have good rhythm. As a deaf person, I use my body to communicate every day so I think that's a plus," Matlin explained when she met Sanchez. She explained also that she wants to represent deaf people well.

"I'm here on 'Dancing with the Stars' to prove just because you're deaf doesn't mean you can't dance. . . .I hope," she says with a laugh.

Matlin has a natural comic side, which is a joy to watch. Her Oscar-winning role in "Children of a Lesser God" was so intense that many may not recognize that's she's quite funny. But it is definitely coming out in recent interviews and on DWTS. She even threw a bit of her comic side into her dance, which was wonderful.

At the end of the March 17 DWTS show, she put out a humorous challenge to her competitors: "Read my hips." And they better, because she has shown that she's got some serious moves as a dancer.