Who would have thought a cheer dance routine would cause such controversy in the Dancing with the Stars fandom? I certainly wouldn’t have but that’s exactly what’s going on because of criticism Charity Lawson’s freestyle routine is garnering from fans who have a problem with the supposed lack of dancing in her performance. The post highlighting the dance on the show’s Instagram account is full of commentary asking basically the same question, “Is this a cheer competition or a dance competition?”
Here’s the thing though. Not liking Lawson’s routine is an opinion, so is preferring the other freestyles to hers, but accusing her of turning the finale on a dance show into a cheer competition is wild considering there’s quite a bit of dancing in the routine. It’s simply offset by tricks and athleticism more commonly found on a cheer mat than a ballroom. What Lawson and her Pro partner Artem Chigvintsev showcased is what’s defined as cheer dance.
If you’ve seen Bring It On, you know what I’m referring to but I’ll explain if you haven’t. Cheerleading is a sport and isn’t considered an art form because the athletes who participate in it are displaying skill rather than expressive freedom of movement. If the squad is associated with a sports team they serve as performers that boost the morale of the audience coming to see a team compete and they encourage the players as well. It’s not art for art’s sake. It’s not even really about beauty even though cheer routines can be beautiful.
Cheer dance, which is a part of cheerleading though it can stand on its own if the squad isn’t associated with a sports team, literally has the word ‘dance’ in it because it involves incorporating various styles of the art form into routines to entertain and engage the audience outside of the usual bells and whistles that cheerleaders are known for.
What Lawson did in the Dancing with the Stars finale is blend the sport she came up in with the technique she learned on the show. In between choreography that wouldn’t be out of place on the dance floor like the holds she learned doing ballroom routines or even the group segments that would be serviceable in a music video, there was tumbling and stunts meant to entertain and awe. It was a fabulous performance that embodied the opening lyric to Lawson’s freestyle, “I’d rather be nobody other than me,” in its entirety.
For Lawson, this routine gave her the ability to share a part of herself with her DWTS family, the studio audience, and those of us at home. It was a reflection of her personality and her athleticism whilst still honoring the spirit of the competition. She and Chigvintsev didn’t put together a cheer dance routine when they were supposed to be doing a tango or a fox trot or a jive. It was done for the freestyle round which is a no holds bar showcase of a contestant’s talent in whatever form they’d like to display it in and whatever story they want to tell as long as they dance and that’s exactly what Lawson did.
Not to mention it was fun! It woke the house up, it got the people going and that’s exactly what you want to see in a freestyle routine. Why hate on a good time? Charity Lawson brought Cheer Dance to the ballroom and that should be applauded not side-eyed as if she did something wrong by embracing who she is and what she loves.