Sunday, April 19, 2015

DWTS Week 5: This Disney Night a Misfire

Allison and Riker. Rumer and Val. Disney Week.
Oh, we were so spoiled with past seasons of Disney night. Who could forget Charlie and Sharna's amazing Mary Poppins dance? Or Val C's Be My Guest? *swoon* Those will long live in memory.

Nothing like that this year, sadly. In fact, everyone seemed to be misfiring this week. From just OK to cringe-inducing.

Of the dancers I liked best, it's the usual suspects for me. I love Rumer and Val forever for getting first choice at a Frozen number, and snarkily remarking, "Nah, let Nastia and Derek do that." (And they did.)

Mark Ballas, always a stunner (all season long especially) performed my least favorite of his dances this season, in a mask in which he couldn't breathe through his nose. (Fun!)


Lots of stagecraft and hooha in this one (as per usual for him this season), but this dance didn't wow me. Just something creepy about a white rabbit and a young girl... dunno...

Val and Rumer opted for a villanness instead of a Disney princess (points for them). Quite entertaining to see those samba rolls with an evil character. It was fun, but also my least favorite of their dances so far.


Really the one rollicking number which swept me out of my cynicism for all things Disney was seeing Riker as Jack Sparrow in a Pirates number. A paso doble, stunningly (as usual) choreographed by Allison Holker.


This one was swashbuckling and fast-moving, and I just loved it. My favorite number of the night.


Sharna and Noah did a foxtrot to Aladdin, as you can see.

Chris and Witney did a quickstep. He was in Grecian attire. I'll spare you the visual, though her hair was stunning.

Robert and Kym did a pretty dreadful Mary Poppins tune, and they are now in the category of "soon to be voted out" contenders.

Just gets worse and worse. Patti and Artem. Blech. Suzanne and Tony did a Lady and the Tramp thing. Ugh.

Thankfully, Suzanne was voted out this week, though I'll miss Tony's dances.


He really does great work on this show, but his partners...ugh...

Oh yeah, and that Frozen number? Ugh. By far my least favorite of Derek's dances, maybe ever.


Hokey, manipulative, cringe-inducing. Blech blech blech. Totally lip-synched to the Frozen song. Hated it so much.

Bring on next week, and Team dances! Oh yeah. Derek's team ALWAYS wins. Course, this year, I believe both Val C and Allison are on the other team... so we shall see...

MICHE'S FAVORITES OF WEEK 5, DISNEY NIGHT

1. Allison and Riker (paso doble)

2. Valentin and Rumer (samba)

3. Mark and Willow (foxtrot)

4. Derek and Nastia ("jazz")


PLEASE GO AWAY NOW

1. Patti LaBelle

2. Robert

3. Chris

4. Nastia

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Monday, April 13, 2015

DWTS Season 20, Week 4: Breath-taking and tear-jerking moments for My Favorite Year

The genius of Mark Ballas created this contemporary for Willow Shields. Courtesy of ABC.
The dance above (my own personal highlight of Week 4, Season 20 of Dancing with the Stars) literally took my breath away at the end. Normally, I don't go much for contemporary dances, but wow. It was stunning to watch.

This was, after all, the My Favorite Year week of DWTS, where the celebrities pick whatever was their most momentous year (for whatever reason). And Willow Shields, prior to DWTS, was best known for being Katniss' little sister in The Hunger Games. So guess which year she picked...?


Week after week after week, Mark Ballas is over here, creating these brilliant dances, kind of under everyone else's radar. Well, the joke's on him this week, because he received THREE 10s from the judges (still not from Len). So far, that was a season record.

The dance was just stunning, and to me, everything else this week paled next to that.

So let's go back and start at the beginning.


Most often, the My Favorite Year segment is lackluster and not well executed. This year, thankfully, they started the show with the celebrities handing each other a photograph OF their favorite year/moment/whatever it was they were talking about. Maybe not "favorite" exactly, but most memorable. The soldier chose the year his limbs got blown off to represent.

Normally stoic Robert (the "Shark") got teary eyed (and us with him) talking about how he and his mother used to watch DWTS, and he danced to one of her favorite tunes. Which was really beautiful.


Olympic gymnast Nastia danced to the music which won her a gold medal, which was an interesting twist. She and Derek got the season's FIRST 10 for their efforts.


The judges mentioned the lack of passion between these two dancers (Derek and Nastia) and that it was "all technique." I kinda have to agree, though on technique it did warrant the 10s. But this couple still hasn't lit my fire.

A couple who HAS, and who just keeps bringing it, week after week, are these two. Allison and Riker. First of all, they keep picking the good music (as do Mark and Val, I must say). This week, they danced the tango to "Shut Up and Dance with Me."


Mind you, now, I said TANGO. Most often on this show, couples opt for the Argentine tango, because you can do lifts and there are those snazzy kicks you do. But the TANGO requires couples to stay in hold THE WHOLE TIME (also why people don't usually do that, cause it's HARD). They did it in this song, and it was stunning to watch. In hold even dancing down stairs. This was breath-taking of another kind.

Bachelor Chris hung in there another week, by doing a nice rumba with Witney.


Notice the roses on her gown. (Get it?)

Patti LaBelle did "have more steps" this week, but ugh. Enough already.

And Suzanne Somers did what seemed to be a touching remembrance to her Jack Tripper, the wondrous John Ritter. But the fact that she didn't even mention Joyce DeWitt felt a little grating to me. It was, after all, THREE's Company, not 2. You can't ask us to love and remember a show, but only remember your version of it. Ugh.

Noah and Sharna did a patriotic contemporary. Also my least favorite of their dances so far, but they are still very much contenders.

So, my top three, from week to week are Mark and Willow, Allison and Riker and Val and Rumer. This week was probably my least favorite so far of the presentations by Val and Rumer, but only because the other two favorites blew me away so much.


Oh, and Week 5 is Disney Week again, so there's that to look forward to... Ahem...


MICHE'S FAVORITES OF WEEK 4, MY FAVORITE YEAR

1. Oh my God... MARK and Willow (contemporary)

2. Allison and Riker (tango)

3. Val and Rumer (waltz)

4. Derek and Nastia (Argentine tango)

5. Kym and Robert (waltz)

Kudos to the amazing Costume department, who is consistently doing great work this season (no dresses to be tripped over!), and the set people, specifically James Yarnell, who recreated the Three's Company set.

PLEASE GO, AND NOW

1. Patti LaBelle

2. Suzanne Somers

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

DWTS Week 3: Separating the Irritating from the Sublime

Allison and Riker. Week 3. Courtesy of ABC.
Let me start off with this. One of my pet peeves (in any season of Dancing with the Stars) is the supreme arrogance of stars who SIGN UP FOR THIS SHOW and then decide that everything else in their life is more important. Whether that's their kids, or their day job of a full-time soap opera, or some kind of football draw thing, or other modeling contracts. Whatever the heck it is, it irritates the crap out of me.

Here's how it's supposed to work, "celebrities": You sign up for the show, you devote every waking hour that you have to getting this complicated choreography right. You dream about these dances, and how you can make them better by doing better. EVERYTHING ELSE in your sorry life gets put on hold.

That's how it works. Too many people "go on Dancing with the Stars" because they think it's a thing... something that would look good on their resume. Something they can squeeze in between all the other things they really want to be doing. WELL, STOP IT.

Or, like our besotted Charlotte this week, who couldn't concentrate because of all the modeling offers she was now fielding, YOU GET VOTED OFF. Or, maybe she knew she couldn't dance a lick and just wanted to get the heck out of there, once she realized how darn hard it actually was going to be. Either way, I'm glad she's gone. I couldn't applaud fast enough for the exit of that talk show host last season who couldn't be bothered to actually learn the steps. UGH.

So, Charlotte's gone. Boo hoo. (Props to Costumes for Charlotte's amazing outfit.)

Keo and Charlotte. Courtesy of ABC.
BTW, Bruno was taking all kinds of flak for saying, "well, you're not going to win the Nobel Prize for Physics." To which wonderful host Tom Bergeron piped up: "Well, Bruno, neither are you." Both things are true.

This is a woman who made her fame for eating a burger in skimpy clothes. She's a model with big boobs, and that's pretty much all she'll ever be. Sorry, but that is the truth.

And I'm glad she's gone.

Next, on Miche's mode of irritation this week, we have the other celebrities. Not that I have anything against older people in general. I am one. But I don't go on DWTS either.

Older celebrities who need to go, and soon, are Suzanne Somers and Patti LaBelle.

Mind you, Tony Dovolani is wonderful, and he seems singularly focused on whoever his celebrity is, and I do love him for that. However, when you have celebs doing backflips and somersaults, it's hard for a 70-year-old to compete. It just is. Sorry, Tony.

Love Miss Patti LaBelle's singing. Wonderful. As a dancer, she looks like she can barely walk across the room, much less dance. She shot down Artem's idea of lifting her anywhere. All of that makes for some limiting movements.

Artem suffering through this nonsense with Patti LaBelle. Courtesy of ABC.
She doesn't want to be lifted, she doesn't really want to move all that much, and she's damn sure not gonna "hop." (Which is what this was supposed to be.). Please vote her off, and soon. She's irritating.

They do know, these celebrities, that going on Dancing with the Stars involves, um, you know... DANCING? Right? *sigh*

So, psst... Chris, the Bachelor? Come over here a minute... let me whisper this in your ear. If you want to hang on until the middle of the season, try to just put forth a minimal effort to keep you in the pack. They have to get rid of all this deadweight, and that's going to take a minute. And if you keep doing dances like this Argentine tango you did, you can really hang on, even though you really can't dance a lick either.

Chris and Witney. Courtesy of ABC.
But let's get back to some of the couples who are gladdening my soul these early weeks... Like this one.

Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Rumer Willis. Courtesy of ABC.
This brings up an interesting and not-unnoticed point. Most of the other couples were laboring under the "Latin Night" theme, doing Latin dances. However, perhaps because they are like a rocket so far ahead of the pack, someone (a producer?) gave them additional instruction that no one else seemed to get. Everyone else on this night just did straight dances. For some (inexplicable) reason, Val and Rumer had to do a mashup dance of disco and salsa.

Which, of course, they aced. So they are pretty much still far ahead of everyone else.

Well, except for this.


Riker and Allison (who also inexplicably threw an Aztec theme in there) did this amazing salsa. Just incredible. Just worlds of precision and technique away from whatever the hell it was Patti LaBelle was trying to do out there.

Loved their dance, packed full of salsa content. Modern and unique choreography. Stunning.

Then we had Art Piece Number 3, aka Mark Ballas and Willow Shields.

Mark Ballas and Willow Shields. Courtesy of ABC.
I honestly think that a partner could just walk through whatever Mark Ballas tells them to do, and get to within an inch of the finals. This was a stunning paso, with stark comparisons of fire and ice. Just beautiful, and thought-provoking, and stunning to watch. Willow Shields is very lucky indeed.

Noah and Sharna continue to surprise. Their package talked all about how they practiced with a prosthetic arm, which they finally opted not to use.

Noah and Sharna do an Argentine tango. Courtesy of ABC.
Despite this, they did some pretty spectacular lifts. I thought their Argentine tango was just spectacular.

Lastly, we get full-circle to Derek and Nastia. I was on a tear at the beginning of this post about people who choose to do other things rather than devoting themselves full-time to the season. However, we all know that Derek could just about sleepwalk through the season and still end up in the finals. He has "10 shows a week," on Broadway. She has classes at NYU. They fly back and forth every week to tape the show. Sorry, but I am kinda rooting for them to lose (given all I said in the beginning). But being Derek, I do think he's going to get pretty far along anyway.

MICHE'S FAVORITES OF WEEK 3, SEASON 20 (Latin Night)

1. Allison and Riker (salsa)

2. Valentin and Rumer (disco salsa)

3. Sharna and Noah (Argentine tango)

4. Mark and Willow (paso doble)

5. Derek and Nastia (samba)

COUPLES I WISH WOULD GO HOME RIGHT NOW

1. Patti and Artem

2. Suzanne and Tony

3. Michael and Peta

4. Chris and Witney

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

DWTS Season 20 Week 2: Art Rises Above the Dreck

Willow and Mark go the artistic route. Photo Courtesy of ABC7.
The beginning of any Dancing with the Stars season is an interesting one. You have some pros COUGHDerekHoughCOUGH who could basically just mark time at this point (Week 2). You know they are going forward. It's not a question. Others... can barely put a dance together and are really struggling on their feet.

But after all this time (Season 20 now), some of these pros have developed their winning strategy. However, if you're just watching, there is so much flying by (12 contestants dancing), that it's easy to miss some stuff.

So I'm asking you to take a deep breath. Pause a moment, let all the hoopla of Week 2 subside. And let's look at some of the jewels we've uncovered here.

Not much is being made (so far) of the challenge that Mark Ballas has taken on with a 14-year-old partner. There was a lot of hoopla about past partners not having any sexual experience, and how can they do these sexual dances, blah blah. Not a peep has been made of that regarding Willow (yet).

And here we have them doing an Argentine tango (what?!) in Week 2, which is normally one of the most sexual dances. And it wasn't at all, and it was stunningly beautiful. In fact, it was a work of art.

Bruno commented that Willow (and Mark) could win this thing. Yes, they could. This performance was just stunning.

Val C and Rumer Willis dance to "Rumour Has It." Courtesy of ABC7.
My favorite performance (once again), though was the masterwork of Val Chmerkovskiy and Rumer Willis. Two weeks now, and knocking it out of the ballpark. And I would so like Val C to finally win a Mirror Ball. This could indeed be their year.

Allison and Riker foxtrot this week. Courtesy of ABC7.
Sure, it's easy for a rocker to portray a rocker in a dance, so maybe last week was a gimme to these two, Allison Holker and Riker Lynch. After all, this week is the foxtrot, which is all about staying in hold. Could they still hang in there? Oh yes, they could and they did. (And Allison's choreography is just so stunning!)

RedFoo and Emma. Courtesy of ABC7.
I wasn 't all that thrilled with RedFoo's performance last week. But this week, dancing to "My Sharona," how could anyone go wrong? I loved loved loved their performance. Sadly, though, they were voted out, based on last week's performance. Sad.

Sharna and Noah do a steamy samba. Courtesy of ABC7.
Sharna, to my eyes, is the sexiest of the female dancers, and she was turning up the steam this week. Great samba was performed. And the big reveal, which had been a secret to everyone was this:


Noah's wife, who had been on duty overseas, came home early and surprised him in the ballroom. It was really special.

Nastia and Derek. Courtesy of ABC7.
Derek Hough, as I said, can do no wrong. He's always going to be in the finalists somewhere. However, for me, this week was rough. Olympic athletes are pretty much conditioned to always smile during their routines. I think that's going to be one of the hardest things for Nastia (a struggle that also plagued Charlie White). They have serious songs, where they have to emote and show character, and it just comes out as smiles. So, for me, that's why I'd vote this dance lower than many of the others.

Peta and Michael. Courtesy of ABC7.
Peta and Michael danced to Motown, and really, how can you go wrong with that? Enjoyed it.


Robert and Kym, too, are such a joy to watch. Love their dances. Quite a lot of fun.

Then, we get into the "Oh, please go home already" category. Let's see, we have our illustrious Bachelor, who really has no rhythm and can't seem to deal with this "counting thing."

Previous champion Witney and Bachelor Chris. Courtesy of ABC7.

Suzanne and Tony? Ugh. Just eyerolls.

Patti LaBelle and Artem, same kind of thing, although I do give her props for doing the patented boob move (showing up that other celebrity whose only claim to fame is her boobs). That was fun to watch.

Charlotte, said celebrity, is not long for this DWTS dancing world.

Keo and Charlotte. Courtesy of ABC7.
MICHE'S PICKS FOR WEEK 2, Season 20

1. Val and Rumer (cha cha)

2. Mark and Willow (Argentine Tango)

3. Allison and Riker (foxtrot)

4. Emma and RedFoo (cha cha)

5. Sharna and Noah (samba)

6. Derek and Nastia (samba)

7. Peta and Michael (foxtrot)

8. Kym and Robert


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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DWTS Season 20: Could This Be Val C's Season?

Val Chmerkovskiy and Rumer Willis during the Season 20 premiere of Dancing with the Stars. Courtesy of ABC.
Last season (Season 19) of Dancing with the Stars, during Week 1, there was a performance, the last performance, which wowed the crowd so much, I remember thinking: "Wow! How can anyone beat them?" That couple was Alfonso and Witney, who ended up triumphing with the Mirror Ball at the end of the season.

There was such a performance again last night.

Mind you, for someone to have it so together to in Week 1 have a polished and lyrical foxtrot to present, it means they want to win. Valentin Chmerkovskiy (so close for so many seasons, yet never having won a Mirror Ball yet) and Rumer Willis just blew me away. For season after season now, his dances and his choreography have just been stunning, but it's always been something.

Last season, don't know if there was a sexual thing between the two partners, but whatever it was started out like a hot comet and fizzled into an emotional mess, which to me, detracted from the dancing. Rumer Willis, while she may have emotional issues of her own, seemed like the type of competitor who'd keep Winning the Mirror Ball foremost in her mind.

Alfonso beat Val & Co. last season in large part because he always kept focused on winning. And especially on stepping up in the clinch when it was important. Delivering impactful dances when the judges were looking for them.

Personally, I thought Val was closest to winning when he danced with Zendaya. But maybe (as no less than two judges said last night) THIS is his season. We shall wait and see, but boy, did he and Rumer Willis wow us last night, vaulting to the top of the Leaderboard easily.


Another surprise (to me) from last night (the previous strong team until Val and Rumer stepped up) was the dancing of Allison Holker and Riker. Holker has had a bit of a bumpy time of it so far, not really fitting in easily to the show as it stands. This first dance this season was her saying, "Hey, I got this!" And wow, does she!


Rocking out of the Season 20 gate, with her partner Riker (who is second cousins with Derek and Julianne Hough), Allison showed she's a real contender this time around.

She had come from a different show (So You Think You Can Dance) with an attitude (to me, anyway) like her stunning choreography and name in the dance world was gonna cause her to ace this DWTS thing. Well, no. I think she was genuinely shocked at how hard it really was. How much the judges' criticism can sting, and how hard it is to get out of the hole once you get there.

But the upside of that (and why she was hired, frankly) is that DWTS wants (and NEEDS) what's she's got. It's been stuck very firmly with the old folks who like ballroom dance (where they started 10 years ago). It wants a piece of the younger action that Allison can bring.

So, I hope they all work it out. Judging by this first dance, signs are promising. Maybe this time she has a partner she can work with?


Those two couples (at the top of the Leaderboard) were the ones who wowed me during Week 1. Let's look at some of the other strong contenders.

Derek Hough and Nastia dance in black and white! How'd they do that?
You can't have a discussion about top contenders without immediately adding five-time Mirror Ball winner and judges' favorite Derek Hough. This season, his partner is an Olympic gymnast. We know how well that's gone before. And their dance started out in what seemed like black and white. It was stunning. So yeah, add him to the frontrunners' pack.


It is going to be interesting since both competitors are based (this season) in New York City, and are going to be flying back and forth all season long.  We shall see how that wears on them.

Another competitor who hasn't won in awhile, Peta Murgatroyd, last won with an NFL football player. Guess who her partner is this season?


I have always loved her dancing. So yes, please, let's put her in the mix of those to watch, too.

For me, it was a "so close but no cigar" moment for Mark Ballas last season. He also hasn't won in awhile, and I'd like to see him win again. Interestingly, this season he is paired with DWTS' youngest competitor ever (14 years old), best known as Katniss Everdean's little sister, Willow Shields will be one to watch.


And, oh yes, we can't forget The Bachelor. Chris Soules, aka Chris Farming, just finished a successful season where he became engaged with Whitney. YAY. So, it's a natural for a good Bachelor (not Juan Pablo, yuck phewy) to roll over into the next ABC property, DWTS. Funnily enough, he got paired with last season's winner, coincidentally also named Witney. And I'd give them a good run to midseason.


And with that, with that discussion of Chris The Bachelor, we get into some of the more joke contestants, who may or may not stand the grueling test of a long DWTS season.

So here are a couple more maybes who turned in surprisingly good performances in Week 1.

Robert and Kym. What the heck was that?


Robert, already another ABC property (of their successful Shark Tank show), and Kym Johnson (who's been away too long) had a very fun dance. Lots of flirty sexy stuff going on. Surprisingly good dancing. I don't wanna see their dancing particularly, I just wanna see more of their flirting going on. That was fun.


I mean, really! Come on!

The other one, who brought the audience to tears... and I myself am fighting so hard to not be snarky about this right now... was the team of Sharna and Noah. Sharna is, for my money, the sexiest of all the female competitors. She is paired this season with... well, here...


Not to demean the man, but I really hate when they do this gimmicky thing. And they've done it already. That's all I'm gonna say about that. That being said, it was a really beautiful dance.


So this will be very interesting to watch. (Oh, and he's also an Iraq war vet, so get your tearducts ready.)

Moving on...

We are left with the joke candidates who will be gone soon, in some manner or other.

Let's see. There's the large-breasted woman best known for eating a hamburger in a commercial while being ogled by men...


Keo's right. I don't think she's going to be booted FIRST, but she's on her way to being booted. I don't care what he does.

We have the luminous and wonderful Miss Patti LaBelle, an amazing singer who really shouldn't be dancing. Although it was fun to see her command the stage dancing to Lady Marmalade.


We have former judge (who didn't really understand dancing) now taking to the dance floor himself, Red Foo, paired with someone whom I hope wins sometime, the wondrous Emma Slater.


They may last awhile, but this is not her season.

Lastly, the WORST competitor out of the gate, the one I expect to go home on the first elimination: Suzanne Somers. I feel bad for Tony Dovolani. I love seeing him dance, but the partners he's been paired with lately? Yikes.


"Physical"? Really? *cringe* Dreadful. Horrible. Please make them go away.

In other news, the opening montage which paid honor to their ten years of dancing was quite wonderful. We had some mic problems, some women tripping over costumes and overall horrific women's hair, but the seasons always have some stumbles at the beginning.

Judge Len, thankfully, is back, although there had been rumors that he wouldn't be. Tom and Erin are still there. The music sounded wonderful, some songs being better than others.

It should be noted, too, that while Cheryl Burke made mention that her contract was up last season and she'd be moving on to do other things, no one made such mention of another favorite, Karina Smirnoff, who is noticeably absent from this season. I do wonder what exactly happened there. I did notice her (last season) being placed in back in a lot of the group dances, and I wonder whom she's pissed off exactly?

I, for one, do miss her dancing and her personality. But maybe she's in that now large group of former DWTS dancers who are pulled upon (Anna Trebunskaya, for example; I still live in hope that she'll be back on the dance floor sometime. It was nice to see her doing the backstage show, she's very good at that).

So, Week 1 of DWTS Season 20 kicked off with some very memorable moments. Look for these two to be booted first.


MICHE'S PICKS, DWTS Season 20, Week 1
1. Val and Rumer (foxtrot)
2. Allison and Riker (jive)
3. Peta and Michael (cha cha)
4. Derek and Nastia (foxtrot)
5. Witney and Chris (jive)
6. Mark and Willow (cha cha)

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