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On the Scene: Shall We Dance? If TV can make room for ballroom flair, can it Hava Negilah, too?

August 18, 2005
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Len Goodman, judge
HOLLYWOOD

Dancing with the Stars of … David?

"And why not!" exclaims Len Goodman, his voice a British beat of Blenheim bleat and a Bar Mitzvah emcee.

"The hora … what a wonderful dance to do on the show. Why wouldn't they do it? Yes, that would be wonderful!"

He should know. Goodman, a champion ballroom dancer, has room on his résumé to tout all things dancing. But perhaps American audiences recognize him best these days as one of the judges of summer's supersize samba-of-a-sizzling-hit "Dancing With the Stars."

The series, set to return mid-season on ABC, has already fostered other imitators trying to catch its beat. But this series, with Goodman and co-judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, has stepped ahead of the pack.

"Dancing With the Stars," which controversially crowned Kelly Monaco over John O'Hurley in one of summer's more entangled tangos of water-cooler topics, has the nation up on its feet and … dancing.

As for more ethnic additions to the series mid-season, it's as easy, says Goodman, as one-two-three, one-two-three … "That would be wonderful, adding the hora," says Goodman, who now runs his own school in his hometown of Kent, England.

"Indeed, last year in England," where the series originated before the Americanized version was created, "we had ethnic dances - a group from Africa showed how to do a Zulu war dance. It was just wonderful fun."

And fun is what floors the show's competitors, amateurs paired with pros who talk about how amazingly cool the feeling is to be swept off their feet - and, in the process, sweep the ratings.

Judgment Day
As for the controversy that O'Hurley should have won and that Monaco was chosen because she's an ABC daytime soap sweetheart … no tiptoeing around Goodman's good-guy response: Balderdash!

"Had I been asked to judge over the six-week period [of the series], John would have been my winner. But I wasn't. It was that final. Out came Kelly with Alec," her dance partner Alec Mazo, "and I thought they did a better job," as did the other judges and the home audience, which voted Monaco the queen of the stardust ballroom.

But after all is said and done - and danced - the controversy has only seemed to make the show more attractive - there is talk of a dance-off between O'Hurley and Monaco - and has sped registrations at dance clubs all over the country.

At 61, Goodman is surprised, but not shocked. After all, his whole life has been strictly ballroom … well, maybe not totally. "I was playing soccer and hurt my foot, and it wouldn't heal," he recalls of an early sports injury.

As therapy, he was told by his doctor to "take ballroom dancing." His response, which he told his girlfriend? "I just met a nutty doctor."

"After all, I was a rock 'n' roller," and more inclined to do the Frug than fox trot.

These days, however, he rocks on his heels to the ultimate sole music.

As for future versions of the show including the hora … well, Goodman is a good bet to understand why such a dance would set feet tapping. A cha-cha at Chanukah?

"I've done hundreds of shows at Jewish events, all those Bar Mitzvahs I've appeared at."

Hava Negilah? Have a good time!

"Who more than the Jewish people - they're so physical - to enjoy dance so much?"

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