Mary Murphy Back! PBS’ America’s Ballroom Challenge Kicks Heels Up April 24

TV Picks: America’s Ballroom Challenge on PBS is the only American television dance series to feature world-class dancers in a real competition with accredited judges.

America’s Ballroom Challenge returns on Friday, April 24, 2015 at 9:00 pm ET on PBS.

The finalists in each style compete first as a group, with six or seven couples on the floor at once, performing the required dances in their category. Each couple then takes to the floor by themselves to perform a Showdance solo. After a winning couple is crowned in each of the four styles, the four champions compete across dance styles in a Best of Show Grand Finale to determine a single winner.

This three-part series, hosted by former U.S dance champions Mary Murphy and Tony Meredith, features all four major styles of competitive ballroom dancing: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Latin.

In addition, this fun series includes backstage footage of the couples preparing for competition; exhibitions featuring other top couples in each style of dance, from children to Pro-Am champions; and behind-the-scenes looks at different aspects of the world of ballroom dancing, from music to hairstyles.


Hosted by former U.S dance champions Mary Murphy and Tony Meredith


Hosted by former U.S dance champions Mary Murphy and Tony Meredith, the series features three one-hour episodes of super-heated competition and gravity-defying exhibitions, shot at the world’s largest ballroom dancing competition in Columbus, Ohio. Broadcast in stunning high-definition, America’s Ballroom Challenge once again takes viewers onto the dance floor and behind the scenes as 25 world-class couples compete for the ultimate dance title: America’s Best!

From the producer who first brought the magic of competitive ballroom dancing to public television, this series features all four major styles of competitive ballroom dancing, each with its own personality: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Latin.

Donald Thoms, Vice President of Programming, PBS says. “After a six year hiatus, I’m happy to bring this show back! Our viewers have truly missed this program, and we’re excited to introduce fans to the new competitors who have raised the bar on this popular style of dancing.””

Providing commentary throughout are Mary Murphy, a former U.S. nine-dance champion best known as a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Tony Meredith, a former U.S. Latin Dance Champion and longtime choreographer and judge.

““I’’ve seen a lot of great dancing over the years, but the couples on this show are just dazzling,”” says Murphy. “”Not only are they the top professional ballroom dancers in all of North America, but the show’s format, with its emphasis on the Showdances, really unleashes their creativity. The solo performances are just breathtaking.””

In addition to the sizzling competition, also featured are exhibitions by top couples in a range of styles — from precocious children to Pro-Am champions and cabaret dancers.

The schedule and the dances!


Friday, April 24 (9:00pm-10:00pm ET/PT on PBS)

The series kicks off with the American Smooth and American Rhythm divisions. Six finalists in each style compete first as a group, with all the dancers on the floor at once, as expert judges gauge their mastery of such dances as waltz, tango, cha cha and mambo. Viewers will see graceful, gliding “Fred and Ginger” moves during American Smooth and watch things heat up with the lively, sultry steps of American Rhythm. Each couple then has a chance to shine: a Showdance solo with all eyes on them alone. By the end of the evening, two couples are crowned champions in their respective styles, advancing to the Grand Finale.

Friday, May 1 (9:00pm-10:00pm ET/PT on PBS)
The second episode is a study in contrasts — from the flowing ball gowns and graceful waltzes of the classic International Standard style to the sensational footwork, provocative moves and seductive costumes of the sizzling International Latin division. Find out which two couples in these dance styles advance to the Grand Finale.

Friday, May 8 (9:00pm-10:00pm ET/PT on PBS)
The Grand Finale! Four championship couples compete across dance styles to determine a single winning couple. Each duo performs two pull-out-all-the-stops solos, limited only by their own imaginations. At the end of the grueling competition, the judges name one of these couples “America’s Best.”

Styles of Dance in America’s Ballroom Challenge

American Smooth (Hour 1 & Hour 3)
Picture Fred and Ginger gliding across the screen, sometimes together, sometimes apart, but always in perfect time. This is American Smooth. Adapted in America from the traditional standard dances of Europe, American Smooth includes four dances that are also performed in the International Standard: waltz, tango, foxtrot and Viennese waltz. While the Standard dancers must remain in contact throughout, American Smooth couples are allowed to separate, and even perform solo moves, before rejoining. This “open hold” gives them more creative freedom and leads to a distinctly different kind of expression than is seen in the International Standard style.

American Rhythm (Hour 1 & Hour 3)
The dances in the American Rhythm division consist of the cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo. With the exception of swing, which started in America, these sultry, sexy dances originated in Africa and Cuba. The essential ingredient is the suggestive hip rotation, referred to as “Cuban motion.” This is the only division in which the mambo, bolero and swing are danced competitively.

International Standard (Hour 2 & Hour 3)
When one conjures an image of ballroom dancing, International Standard is the style that most often comes to mind: sweeping ballgowns, men in tails, and formal, regal dancing. With steps that date back hundreds of years to the royal courts of Europe, it is ballroom’s oldest style, its most recognizable and, some would say, its most elegant. The competition includes five dances: waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot and quickstep. All five must be danced in the “closed position,” meaning that the man and woman must remain in contact at all times — in contrast to their American Smooth counterparts, who are allowed to separate and rejoin while performing many of the same steps.

International Latin (Hour 2 & Hour 3)
Dancing doesn’t get any hotter than International Latin. Dazzling footwork, provocative moves and skimpy costumes define this sizzling style. The couples perform five dances — cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive — each one, in its own way, reflecting the timeless dance of seduction between a man and a woman. The fiercely competitive Latin couples attract the judges’ attention with flamboyant hair and makeup, dazzling accessories … and costumes that leave just enough to the imagination.

Pro-Am Exhibitions (Hour 1, Hour 2 & Hour 3)
Interspersed throughout the professional competition on America’s Ballroom Challenge are six “Pro-Am” exhibitions — two per hour. Each Pro-Am couple is a pairing of a professional teacher with an amateur student. These Pro-Am couples work just as hard as the professionals, spending countless hours rehearsing. The security of having a professional partner helps students develop the confidence and poise they need to perform in front of a large crowd and to be in the spotlight for a solo routine they’ve worked on for many months. For the truly devoted amateur, competing in Pro-Am is the best stepping-stone to becoming a professional.

Cabaret (Hour 3)
Cabaret is the riskiest and most theatrical of all the dance styles, where the dancers defy the laws of physics with seemingly impossible lifts, spins and jumps. More than in any other division, the men in Cabaret must be strong and the women must be light, agile and flexible. Both partners must also have terrific stamina, because Cabaret dances run about three-and-a-half minutes — twice as long as a typical routine in the other styles. These dancers also need nerves of steel, because the moves can be dangerous. The best of these daredevils of the dance world craft routines with enough risk to keep audience members on the edge of their seats.


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