But take away the dress and the heels — strip her bare, in fact — and Solo delivers such a charge that you almost want to back away from her.
Look, if you dare, at the nude photo of her on the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s “The Body Issue,” an annual edition featuring artful photographs of athletes in the buff. Solo rises high on one leg with the other crooked in front, its gleaming shinbone in daggerlike alignment with her pointed toes. (Her lifted knee ensures that we don’t see too much. Thankfully, none of the ESPN photos offers a prurient view, and we don’t have to look at the athletes’ plumbing.) The muscled arms that are such a liability on “DWTS” are angled with Euclidean simplicity, sweeping across Solo’s chest as though she’s about to backhand an overzealous fan.
Think the goalie lacks grace? Not in this photo, which combines the athlete’s fierceness with a dancer’s poise and lifted rhythm. There is, in fact, something of the linear, neoclassical ballerina here — put a red leotard on her, and Solo could be the towering, icy Siren in George Balanchine’s “The Prodigal Son.”
Do we admire her or fear her? With her lean frame and leonine features, she could also be a boy warrior. Solo is the un-centerfold: androgynous, powerful and a little menacing.
As Martha Graham said, the body doesn’t lie. There’s a truthfulness in how we move and how we present ourselves — something choreographers as well as criminal profilers and experts in body language know, but evident to the untrained eye as well, because nothing is more familiar to us than the body.
We watch “DWTS” to glimpse some of this truth, to see performers out of their element, in a realm where any insecurities about how they look and how they move are exposed. But too often the ideal they are striving for is itself a fake. The cheesecake poses, the hyper-macho act. As surely as they don costumes with the obligatory sequins and plunging necklines, the dancers give hackneyed views of male and female.
As we watched Solo and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, rehearse their cha-cha-cha recently, Solo tried to get her sexy on. In shorts and heels, she swiveled up to him and attempted to wrap a massive thigh around his leg.
“That’s not sexy,” Chmerkovskiy muttered, morosely.
He’s right, but he was wrong when he told us later that “Hope has a problem with being sexy.” Her problem is the pasted-on cartoon sexiness she’s being tutored in. The judges liked her cha-cha-cha, but it looked to me like she was trying to remember a recipe (“You start with a kick, then squat and, oh, right, the backbend, and um, a twist . . . ”).