Queen of the Ballroom

June 27, 2005

She goes by the nickname of “Big Dog.” She has been described on the court as powerful and bruising. On Thursday, June 23, she was introduced as the “Tango Queen.”

Second-year Fever center Ebony Hoffman, one of the team’s most outgoing, boisterous and contagious personalities, was asked recently to take part in a local competition of “Dancing with Our Stars,” a local spinoff of ABC-TV’s Dancing with the Stars reality show featuring three local celebrities. As always, Hoffman approached the assignment with enthusiasm and laughter, and this time even a competitive spirit that was reflected in a 60-second routine before an audience at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Greenwood, Ind.

The Los Angeles native and former college star at USC had never undergone any formal dance training, but then again neither had either of her two celebrity competitors – Dave Smiley from WZPL Radio’s morning show and Tom Berg, a local weather and traffic reporter for Metro Networks and WRTV-6.

Each competitor performed a ballroom dancing routine before three on-site judges and an audience, but the real judging takes place through on-line balloting through July 5. Winners will be announced on July 6, to coincide with the series finale of the national TV show.

After taking part in a preliminary practice session in flip-flop sandals on June 20, Hoffman scheduled two additional practice sessions with her instructor and partner, Tony Crosby, an award-winning performer and a certified instructor and choreographer. Despite her 6-foot-2 frame, her athleticism and footwork were obvious while handling her competitive routine in a flowing orange gown and heels – a stark contrast to her more familiar #32 Fever jersey, shorts and basketball shoes.

“I’m in it to win it,” she said throughout the week. In an on-camera interview following her routine, the last of the three to perform, she was asked who she thought had won. In true, outspoken Hoffman-fashion, she replied, “Ebony, of course! Are you kidding?”

“I think she’s a very powerful dancer,” said Craig Cassel who owns and manages the Arthur Murray studio in Greenwood, and referred to Hoffman as the Tango Queen during a curtain-call review of the competitors. “She’s also extremely graceful, with well-defined moves. All of her moves are very deliberate, and for dancers, they’re supposed to be. She is very confident and she walks out there like she owns the dance floor.”

Cassel was asked if a professional athlete might have an advantage in a ballroom dancing arena. “The ballroom championship dancers are ordinarily very exceptional athletes who take great care of their bodies. I think it does make a big difference – dancers and athletes both are very aware of what their arms and legs are doing together, and the coordination between them.”

Added Crosby, who attended the Fever’s win against Minnesota the night after the competition, “I really think it worked naturally with Ebony. She did a great job.”

And the judges agreed. Intent on giving comparable marks for all three celebrities in their first public performances, Berg received three 8s (24) following his rendition of the “Jitterbug” with Arthur Murray instructor Patti Cassel. Second in the lineup, Smiley and instructor Suzi Ensch received scores of 7-8-8 (23) after performing a combination “Cha Cha/Hustle.” Hoffman and Crosby ended the competition with marks of 8-8-9 and the unofficial on-site championship.

Fever fans can view all three routines and cast their votes by clicking here!