I suppose it’s no revelation, but in many ways Chinatsu and Tatara are the worst possible pairing one could imagine in ballroom dance. That’s always been the elephant in the room during the second cour of Welcome to the Ballroom, with an explicit expectation that there was some underlying factor that would eventually make them an ideal pairing (frankly, after this much foundering anything less would be a letdown). The seeds of it have always been hinted at, certainly – I’ve written about them in prior posts – but damn, Ballroom is certainly taking its time in sprouting much from them.
Maybe, at last, we’re starting to see the worm turn here – though not before Tatara has been the victim of yet more highly dubious “help” from those he has no choice but to rely on for it. It’s a truism in sports that the most gifted competitors usually make bad coaches (the best baseball managers are frequently former second-string catchers), and the likes of Sengoku and Hyoudo are certainly doing their best to prove it in Ballroom e Youkoso. Hyoudo’s cavalier attitude can be pretty infuriating at times, and no matter how it works out, he did Tatara no favors by experimenting on his body – with zero explanation – literally in the middle of a competition. It may wind up helping (that would be the shounen thing to do) but I hate to see dumb behavior that like rewarded.
That said, that there are much deeper problems with this pairing is obvious at this point. This series can get pretty theoretical when it comes to dance, and this episode may have been the most striking example. The idea that the tall, elegant Kugimiya pair would excel in standard a while the more dynamic (by necessity) Tata-Natsu pair would have a better chance in Latin makes a lot of sense. As Hyoudo-kun notes, however, that kind of rivalry game really only matters when the skill sets of the two pairs are at a comparable level. As to Mako’s assertion that standard people are like dogs and Latin people are cat-like, well – I can sort of see where she’s going with that, but I certainly know some cats and dogs that would dent the metaphor.
In order to become an ideal (or even serviceable) pairing, I think Tatara-kun and Chinatsu need to figure out what sort of pairing they intend to me. It’s telling that not even the dance press (it exists, apparently) knows the name of Kugimiya’s partner (it’s Idogawa-san, for the record, and I don’t know if it’s been mentioned at all in the series). That works for him – whether it works for her has not been shown to be relevant yet. For Sengoku and Chizuru it’s quite different – they fight like, well- cats and dogs, but on the dance floor they mesh. Chizuru was a partner who had a clear idea of how she wanted to dance – and had no patience for a leader who had no clear path in mind.
It’s not difficult to see which model makes more sense for Chinatsu and Tatara – but getting there certainly isn’t easy. The metaphor the series uses for this is fitting – a young and brash Chinatsu towering over a smaller and meekly affable Tatara who has no idea how to “open the door” for her. A boy who can’t assert his own personality through his dance and a girl who can’t abide the thought of following someone else’s lead – again, it’s hard to imagine a worse partnership. Each of them has to effectively become something they’re not in order for this to succeed, which from the perspective of making them confront their respective weaknesses might make sense. But in practice, can that really work?
Maybe these two really can meet in the middle (empathy is the key) but we’ve never seen an example of a dance partnership that works that way apart from possibly Sengoku and Chizuru (and I’d argue that dynamic is quite different). I suppose it almost has to end up working out that way or we don’t really have a story, but Ballroom e Youkoso can certainly never be accused of making it look too easy…