Sunday, September 28, 2014

DWTS Season 19 Week 2 a bit off, but Oldsters Come Roaring Back

Still haven't really picked a favorite for this season of Dancing with the Stars (you?), but so far, I'm gravitating to Val and Janel. I would like someone who hasn't won a Mirror Ball to win one this time around.

So, what did we have this week? Well, the cinematographers got some lessons, and finally figured out how to fit four judges in a frame. (We'll worry about what happens when the 10s start flying later. aka, they won't fit in this graphic setup...) They seem to only use the four setup for the first mention of the judges. If it doesn't include all four of them, it's not working, IMHO.

We also had a GREAT effect that is new. When the judges were commenting on a dance JUST danced, the screen split and it was shown again. GREAT effect, love it big time. Of course, right now, it just seems like a random replay, but if they got to the point where they were actually showing what the judges were referring to (a step, or sequence), that would really be awesome!

Other camerawork (like spinning around and around as the dancers are twirling, specifically seen in Derek and Bethany's number this week) was really incredible to behold. After all, they have this huge space to work with, with flying cameras, it would be nice to see them really take advantage of all that.

Another thing that is really working is the balcony area in which dancers can watch others perform, as well as comment to Erin once they get their scores. They seem to have stairs on both sides of it now (works well) and the camera makes excellent use of both this space and the backstage area, so that you really feel like you are part of the action. Those are all great things. It really makes it feel exciting and frenetic when you really see all the people who are rushing around over there.

I haven't yet ventured into their backstage cam thing. Obviously, they've given up their photos to the media thing in favor of a whole interactive thing while the show is on. Bully for them. I prefer to watch the dances going on, and not get distracted by others telling me what I just watched. I'm old-fashioned that way.

BTW, I am combining commentary from both nights, especially since pics are so hard to come by now. Let's start with the worst and go to the best.

Tavis Smiley. Jeez oh pete's. *shakes head*

Let me just say this. I have NO, ZERO, No patience for people, whoever they are, who sign up and agree to be on  Dancing with the Stars, and then don't realize that they are going to be putting in mega hours, oh, actually dancing. And training to be dancing. In fact, if you have any other kind of career while you are doing DWTS, you are going to lose. You are going to be voted out early.

It is a COMMITMENT to do this show. If you agree to do it, you should bloody well CLEAR YOUR DECKS during the time you are doing it, cause it's a LONG hard slog. GET IT? If you can't do that, if you have book tours lined up or whatever the F, DON'T DO IT. Don't waste our time and yours by signing up.

Tavis Smiley couldn't even be bothered to be on the opening show when they introduced the cast. They had to Skype him in. LAME. And if you do it the way he did it, you might wanna look at your schedule, cause you're overcommitted, and you probably need a Workaholics program. I'm just saying.

So good riddance to Tavis Smiley. Good riddance.

I feel very bad for Sharna, cause she's a wonderful partner and dancer, and she got the short end of this deal. And I'm bummed she won't be competing more this season.

To the other competitors, I really don't like Michael, the racecar driver, although at least he is showing up and trying. But he's seriously in the two-left-feet category, and I do expect him to go very soon.

Another boggle we had this week was dear Allison Holker (partnered with Jonathan). She's a transfer from So You Think You Can Dance (which I must say, I've never watched), and she also did some (Emmy-nominated) choreography with Derek Hough. So everyone was excited about her coming over. However, DWTS is its own animal. It has its own rules and structure, and after all, it was based on the longtime history of ballroom dance competitions. That's what it still is, mostly. The judges score based on the rules of the particular dance being danced.

Even the newer ones (like jazz and modern and hiphop) that they've incorporated, they still use the rules of that dance to judge by. One of the DWTS fan sites has an Instagram where they were asking today: "Who is your favorite judge?," among other questions. Mine is actually Len, because he is a stickler for the rules. But he can also be swayed by a truly magical dance.

All of that to bring up the case of Allison Holker. She danced "a cha cha," and every single judge (including Julianne) commented on the fact that she had "no cha cha content." Poor Allison seemed gobsmacked. "I wanted to bring a fresh new take to choreography," she sputtered.

First lesson to Allison: listen to what the judges are saying. That's what they are scoring you on. You can go off and do your own thing, if you want, but be prepared to get low scores as a result. Second, whatever you think about the judges, don't say it into the camera. (Maybe you could ask Maks about this.) She was really walking a fine line this week with this. (Jonathan actually saved her.) They will probably give her a pass because she's new and doesn't know any better, as long as she keeps other comments to herself from now on. You don't take on the judges and win. Not on this show.

Also, don't get me wrong. Derek Hough pushes the choreography envelope constantly. But he has five Mirror Balls because he knows what content Len (in particular) is looking for, and makes sure that is in there, then adds his own little touches here and there. And it ends up magical. That is certainly not what Allison was doing in this cha cha. (As a viewer, I didn't vote for her.)

Karina and Randy also did a cha-cha, with (need I say it?) much more cha cha content. However, someone forgot to mention to Randy that DWTS usually does a whole ep during the season which is dedicated to the servicepeople (Army, Navy, Marines, etc.). He didn't need to do it so soon. Also, a great song blends together what the song is saying with the dance you're doing (see Val and Janel's "Call Me Maybe" foxtrot, which perfectly blended lyrics and presentation). It's highly questionable (especially if you're trying to compliment/honor them) to dance "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" to servicepeople. Cause, um, that's kind of an insult. But whatever.

And let me say this about that. DWTS previously had various theme nights. They were timed to fit in with the cast as it was evolving. The one about "My Favorite Year" ended up around the fourth or fifth week, when some of the dead weight had been weeded out, and the cast was gelled together enough to tackle an emotional dance. It always worked well and brought some poignant moments.

Don't know if this new show runner ditched all the previous themes, but the first one (a new one): "#MyJamMonday" (yes, that is a hashtag) fell really flat. Not one of the stars talked about why this particular song is "My Jam" or whatever. It was just lame across the board. Randy worked in the service people angle, but what does that have to do with "Satisfaction"? Just a song he liked? Blech. Hated this concept.

In fact, once again, Val and Janel are one of the few who really took a song I could see her jamming to, and performed it. That didn't work for a lot of folks.

So those were the outright travesties, of one variety or another. Then we had the ones in the middle, which were ok, fine. Cheryl and Antonio did a rumba (and another nice little touch is when they list the couple's phone number to call, and their names, it also says the dance they are dancing). The hottest parts of this dance were shown in close-up (of their faces). Which is great for a movie. Not so great when you are supposed to be showing a dance.

Alfonso and Witney, fresh from a kick-butt routine (which they had 3 weeks to practice), didn't do as well this week.

I will give Alfonso this: he's got charisma to kill for. And that's going to propel him through a lot of dances. But I fear that, as a pro, Witney may not be strong enough (creative enough as a choreographer) to carry him the whole way. I wish he had been paired with Sharna. That would've been a combo I could root for all the way.

Their salsa didn't do it for me this week.

Lea and Artem did a jive, splendidly. Also, Artem became an American citizen this week, so congrats on that, Artem! They are a couple to watch.

One of the highlights for me of this season is that there are two dancers in their 70s, and two who are teenagers. I would bet money that both teenagers would get to the final five, and the 70 year olds will be voted out sooner rather than later. But it won't be for lack of trying. All of them have excellent Mirror-Ball-winning partners.

Mark Ballas and Sadie (she's eighteen, and from Duck Dynasty) are fun to watch, of course. Is he cursed, or does he just ask for whichever contestant is uptight about their costuming? Season after season, he gets the religious ones, or the prudes, or the ones who have overprotective dads (this season) who won't let their daughter dance in DWTS garb. So far, at least, it hasn't harmed their dancing. At least Sadie isn't in the up-to-the-neck burkhas that last season's twit subjected us to. I have said it before, I'll say it again, it DOES affect the dance. It does, certainly, affect the voting, although all those who are adamant about Janet Jackson's nipple showing and other such horrendous stuff, look up Sadie and Mark's number, and vote for that chastity you so love.

So far, for me, it hasn't been a distraction. I just really want Mark Ballas to win another Mirror Ball, and he keeps getting saddled with these wingnuts. (For whatever reason.)

Then we have someone who is being portrayed as a wingnut, who is actually incredibly smart and fun. That would be Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong) and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd. He made a big show of it the first week, even bringing along partner Cheech for his opening number. It was cool.

This week, he and Peta had the salsa, and it was bright, snappy and fun. In fact, 76-year-old Tommy Chong was the first male dancer this season to bare his chest. And it was good. I really loved this number.

Another significant thing about DWTS, and any longtime pro will attest to this, it's not just about dancing. If you really give yourself to it, it can really be life-changing. This week, we had 72-year-old fashion designer Betsey Johnson. If you know anything about her, you've probably seen her in her wacky outfits. Even last week, she ended her dance with a cartwheel. Zany is her persona.

She also was one of the people in the Bottom Two last week. So this week, well-versed pro Tony Dovolani went to town on her, and had her do a makeover. Her hair was slicked back, she was dressed very elegantly. Tony even pre-empted any further wardrobe malfunctions by ripping apart her long dress (smart move, Tony), so she wouldn't trip over it.

Now, one of the ways you can win (see: Derek Hough) is to execute everything perfectly and do mind-bending choreography. Another way you can win, or at least get very very far in this competition, is to win the hearts and minds of the audience. You could be tripping all over yourself, not able to dance a lick, but if you get out there and try, and seem to be improving, the audience (us, sitting here at home) will vote for you. PROMISE. Ask Bill Engvall.

Such is the case with Betsey this week. The first week, she was falling all over herself, and she was a mess. This week, she looks like Ginger Rogers, all glammed up, and was splendid. She got a standing ovation in the ballroom, including from Carrie Anne. And I voted for her. Not because of the dancing, necessarily, but because of the process that appears to be happening. She said in her comments, "I just wanted to look pretty." Almost made us cry.  (And she did, btw. Look pretty, that is.)

Emotions, capturing the hearts of the audience, will take you far in this process. Look for Betsey to go far if she keeps showing up with this version of herself.

The other 18-year-old is lucky enough to be dancing with Derek. However, she also injured herself, so that was not good. But the dance they performed (injury and all) was my second favorite of the night.

Janel and Val were my favorite.

1. Janel and Val
2. Bethany and Derek
3. Sadie and Mark
4. Betsey and Tony
5. Tommy and Peta
6. Lea and Artem

Also, I normally tune out the musical acts that appear on the results show. However, there was a dance with this one that just blew my mind. Karina and Val and Peta. So incredible. Really amazing.

It was a tortured modern dance about a threesome: a man torn between two women. Very powerful. And I have to say that most of the time I ignore/forget that Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Val's brother) was involved with Karina Smirnoff (engaged to) and Peta Murgatroyd. There are other times that I really remember it. That's all I'll say about that.

On the other side of the brother spectrum, we had Julianne Hough (our new judge, and two time Mirror Ball winner herself) dancing provocatively with the hot sexy men of DWTS Season 19, which, of course, includes her brother, Derek. I know people (in both these instances) are playing characters when they dance, but still... it kinda bugs me to see Derek and Julianne in any kind of romantic scenario. And the whole Maks-Karina-Peta thing, danced by Val... Well, it was an amazingly powerful dance.

Also danced tonight was a hit song by Sia, she who won't show her face (it's her thing). All you know her by is her blonde hair (which, of course, leads me to believe that she doesn't have blonde hair in real life. In any case, Allison Holker danced this incredible pairing with a girl from Dance Moms, which made it look, at various times in the song, like this was a woman and her child and/or a woman dancing with a younger version of herself. Also very powerful and poignant. I really like Allison Holker's interpretations in this case.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Dimple Season of DWTS (19) Kicks Off with a Rousing Number from Carlton

Alfonso and Witney wowed us the first week of Season 19.
DISCLAIMER: For the last several seasons, my blog posts about DWTS have been filled with gorgeous promotional pictures from the ABC website. To my mind, they both illustrated the lovely dances we were seeing, and mostly, promoted DWTS every week. For whatever reason, last season, ABC's posting of pictures was sporadic, and I ended up having to get a lot of them from On the Red (a sister ABC site). This year, all of that seems gone. For whatever reason, DWTS pictures do not seem available from Week 1 (unless you have something like this, which someone obviously took from their TV). Not my first choice. I would love to have proper pictures through the proper channels to illustrate the stories and the dances, but it doesn't seem to be happening this season. So I may have stories with only text. Sorry about that, readers. I'll do the best I can.


Season 19 has kicked off. Well, in some cases, limped off, but in any case, it's begun. We have our usual collection of motley folk, some athletes, some stars that you've totally forgotten about, some teen things. Yawn.

We also still have Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews (yay!). We have our three regular judges (Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman) with the addition of Derek's sister, Julianne Hough, to help with the judging. We also, before I get into the meat of the dancing (I'm looking at you, Antonio Sabato, Jr.), some housekeeping details. We have a new showrunner and director this year. We shall see how that plays out, when the man we had for six years isn't there to guide the ship. So far, we've seen some pretty bad camerawork and artistic choices.

For example. They have four judges now, yet have a configuration where when the votes are given, you can only see THREE of them. Lame, people. Get some professionals to do this, please. Countless really bad camera shots... where you'd only see half of Tom Bergeron as he was talking, where the star isn't even in frame, just amateur stuff. Hope they fix that, and FAST.

Also, inexplicably, for one of the contestants, we didn't get to hear Bruno's vote explanation. Sure, running short on time? Just lop off one of the judges' comments. WHAT? You have four judges now. I want to see all of them, and hear what EACH of them has to say about each contestant. Really... is that so hard?

Oh, but let's start at the beginning, shall we? The show kicked off with a taped bit showing you everyone who's on the show. OK, I'm thinking, they are doing away with the personal introduction of everyone. But no, they have that TOO! Fun.

They also have their two days back! Mondays are the main deal (2 hours), and Tuesdays are eliminations (1 hour). We'll see how it goes. (I'm not covering the second night this week, other than to say that someone, either camera person or director or choreographer doesn't seem to like Karina Smirnoff very much because in the big dance sequence, she was totally out of view of the camera. She's one of the STARS, people. Put her front and center, please! Karina and Cheryl are who we want to see, not all these new blonde dancers. Sheesh.)

So, to our motley collection of dancers/stars. Let's talk about the ones who need to go right away: Lolo & Keo (love Keo, so it's too bad) and Betsey & Tony. Also sad, because I do love to watch Tony dance, but Betsey is crazy. And can't dance. Neither can Lolo. Enough about that. (Indeed, Lolo & Keo were the first couple eliminated.)

Hedging closely into this group is Michael somebody (a racecar driver) who compared himself to Bill Engvall. Dude, you don't deserve to wear Bill Engvall's dancing shoes, and you are not going to last anywhere near as long as he did.

Comic relief is present with Tommy Chong, who could flame out fast, or surprise us and pull an Engvall. Jury is still out on that one. But as long as he lasts, Tommy Chong is darn fun to watch with Peta. And his buddy Cheech showed up to give moral support.

Two others who I'm not sure about (they could go either way) are Tavis & Sharna and Randy & Karina. Love these women, and they can both make things happen, but these two guys are still big question marks.

So that leaves this list.

DWTS WEEK ONE (Miche choices based on dances)
1. Alfonso and Witney
2. Janel and Val
3. Bethany and Derek
4. Lea and Artem
5. Jonathan and Allison
6. Antonio and Cheryl
7. Sadie and Mark

In all honesty, those seven are our competitors. One of these seven shall win this season. We shall see how a season of injury, stress, constant new dances, etc. wears on them all. Based on the first week, Alfonso and Witney are really going to be hard to catch. This man was polished. Blew everyone else away. Great way to end the first show of the new season.


Monday, May 26, 2014

DWTS S18 SemiFinals: Derek-Amy Neck and Neck with Maks-Meryl

Derek Hough and Amy Purdy do a quickstep. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Week 9, aka the Semifinals of Dancing with the Stars, has no couple here who doesn’t belong here. They are all talented, great dancers by this point. Going into this point, my feeling is that I really really really want Maks and Meryl to win (mostly because Maks has never won, and Derek pretty much always wins). But there are other great dances along the way, amazing spectacles that you have to see to believe.

Like this one. Amy Purdy, she with no legs and feet, has just blown our minds all season with what she’s able to do in her dancing. In this semi-finals, there are two sets of dances the couples do (seemingly no distinction between them, just two sets of dances). Derek and Amy did a quickstep (you heard me) to the Supremes. It was astonishing.

She had these springy... I wouldn’t even call them feet. Something at the bottom of her legs which had a lot of bounce to it, which enabled her to move quickly and elegantly across the floor, and kinda simulate what real feet and legs can do. It was incredible.

But then, there was also this.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis. Courtesy of ABC/On The Red Carpet/Adam Taylor
First of all, it’s Maks as Elvis. (What?) Second, and more importantly, it’s Maks SMILING. In a dance. FYI: He doesn’t smile much while he dances, over many many seasons. But look at him. He’s smiling away.

And it was just a superb superb jive. Such fun to watch.

Mark and Candace did a wonderful Viennese waltz. I love how toward the end, the finalists get the concept that the dances have to have a story. Mark Ballas does exceedingly well with this. Peta and James danced to a never-before-heard Michael Jackson song, and were wonderful.

The guest judge this week was Kenny Ortega, so it was rather daring to dance that in front of him.

But rather than any pics of them, I just want to post this.

Amy Purdy and Derek Hough do a quickstep. Mind-blowing.
Seriously. Just look at that!!!

Now, if you were to ask me who were/are the weak links at this point, I’d say that Candace’s crazy religion/prudishness (still) really bugs me, but her dancing has been amazing. But if anyone is limited, it’s Charlie White. Mind you, he did this beautiful foxtrot on this night to “New York, New York” where he looked like Fred Astaire. Just gorgeous. His milieu is definitely happy, beautiful, nice things.

For that reason, it was ill-advised, to say the least, to have him attempt to do hip-hop. Dreadful choice, dreadful dance. I believe the hip-hop had been intended for the first segment of dances. Wisely, the producers switched it out to the second half.

There was a moment (well-crafted by producers) when all of the Olympians were “in jeopardy.” (Amy and Derek, Meryl and Maks and Charlie and Sharna). Charlie White ended up being the one (as I predicted) going home first among them.

Spectacularly bad choice. Sorry, Charlie.
Of all the decisions which made up Season 18, two were spectacularly bad. One was to have 80-year-old Billy Dee Williams on. The other was to have Charlie dance a samba to this hip hop tune (“Mo Money, Mo Problems”). Wow, was this bad.

If there’s one thing Charlie White can take away from this season of DWTS, it’s that a perfect season has a mix of good (happy, positive) elements and bad (sad, tragic, dark) elements. Charlie is the best at the good elements, and he never, not once, got even close to mastering the dark elements.

But that’s OK. America needs the good elements much more. I hope he focuses his career on those, cause he is a master of that.

Now, in between the first segment of dances, we had the final Macy’s Stars of Dance, choreographed by Derek, which was amazing. (Finding it difficult to find pics of that. Sorry.)

Then, the second round of dances. We went a little more country, with James and Peta doing a samba to “Islands in the Stream” (very sexy). Meryl and Maks did a Viennese waltz, looking like they were in a barn. Very interesting and beautiful.

Mark and Candace blew me away with their jazz number.

Candace Cameron-Bure and Mark Ballas. Courtesy of ABC.
Now, Candace Cameron-Bure is about as whitebread as Charlie White, but she proved in this number what at the beginning of the season I didn’t think was possible: that she could indeed see her dance as a CHARACTER, and embrace the darker side of life, of sexuality, of passion. She was dancing to “Nasty Boys” here. And she was amazing.

Not sure what brought about her transformation, but somehow, somewhere along the way, she got it, and completely deserves to be in the Finals because of it. Wonderful dancing.

And lastly, there was Derek and Amy, dancing jazz.

Amy Purdy and Derek Hough, dancing jazz. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
I’ve always considered that a measure of the performance of the song “Too Darn Hot” is whether you really feel hot, in listening to it. I was steaming with this one. Hot stuff, indeed.

Kenny Ortega, the final guest judge of the season, who really knows dance and is respected by these pros at the top of their game, said this, after this dance. “Derek, you redefined choreography for this generation.” (Very true words, but WOW.) Len, the curmudgeon, gave this dance a standing ovation. Big stuff here.

Amazing, amazing show.


Monday, May 12, 2014

DWTS Week 8: Gut-wreching shocker elimination and Maks mouths off

Dance of the Night: Amy Purdy and Derek Hough do an Argentine tango

This Week 8 of Dancing With the Stars had the best-ever opening number (Mark Ballas performing a song he’d written) and the worst-ever guest judge. I had heard the moans and groans when this particular guest judge was announced, but wasn’t sure why. No, I am not on the edge of my seat every week watching Dance Moms—in fact, I had not heard of either the judge or the show until they were talking about “next week’s guest judge.”

I realized in the aftermath of this week’s show how crucial it is (if they are going to be retiring Len and bringing in someone new) that the cast RESPECT that person’s dance acumen. After all, they are the best of the best here onstage. They are pushing dance boundaries. They deserve someone better than someone on a reality show with no dance (respected) background herself.

All of the cast members pretty much took what the guest judge said, but Maks, when asked, said that he doesn’t respect “anything the woman said.” And I respect Maks’ dance judgment a lot. He seemed to say outright what all the other cast members were only thinking.

So all that tension was interesting.

Then there was this. Bruno said in his vote on this dance that he would be “devastated” if these were the two people voted off. And they were. And I shared that sentiment. I cannot believe it. But we are in the realm of all of the remaining dancers are amazing, so it really does shock each time someone wonderful goes home. Danica and Val were the first of that for me this season.

The other thing that’s happening is that those on the bottom whom you’d think would be going home are fighting hard for their survival. Candace Cameron-Bure (whom I would’ve thought would be gone by now) is turning in amazing dances suddenly. She and Mark Ballas were as surprised as anyone to hear that it wasn’t her this week.

Candace Cameron-Bure and Mark Ballas are elated to not be going home.
Candace Cameron-Bure and Mark Ballas do a foxtrot.
And, then, they do an amazing foxtrot, which is witty and frothy and fun to watch. Mark Ballas’ choreography (as usual) is stellar, and even I find myself voting for them. The one annoying aspect of CCB (her rampant prudishness) seems to have been downplayed the last few weeks and not been an issue. So what they are doing is just lovely.

Also, Peta and James. Bottom of the leader board. Peta was in tears, when they were deciding between the two couples in jeopardy. I seriously thought she was going to have a breakdown if it was them. And then, it wasn’t.

Peta Murgatroyd and James Maslow do a Viennese waltz. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
They, too, are doing stunning dancing. I enjoy watching them every week. It just gets so hard in these final weeks when everyone is so good.

We also had a poignant, story- and content-filled rumba from Maks and Meryl, which I loved.

Maks and Meryl do a rumba.
Charlie and Sharna, constantly fighting to receive a 10 from Len, after weeks of doing really challenging, amazing dances FINALLY get perfect scores across the board for this wonderful quickstep.

Sharna Burgess and Charlie White do a beautiful quickstep. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
As if the competition of their individual dances weren’t enough, this week, they also threw in side-by-sides. But in seasons past what we had was a couple dancing side by side with two pros (so they could see how it’s really supposed to be done). This time, we had competitors dancing with each other.

Amy and Derek danced a jive with James and Peta. Meryl and Maks did a samba with Danica and Val. But (for me) the breathtaking one of these dances was this amazing heartfelt passion play, done contemporary, where Sharna and Charlie and Candace and Mark played couples. And in the midst of their dance, infidelity reared its head, so you saw this poetry of Charlie and Candace dancing together poetically, while the two other couples were fighting (through dance). Amazing work. Stunning choreography. And Candace and Charlie took my breath away.

Charlie White and Candace Cameron-Bure do contemporary.
All of these dancers deserve to be here. All of the ones left are capable of fantastic performances. I’m still rooting for Maks and Meryl to win, but it is truly anyone’s game.

Mark Ballas debuting his new single, with help from Derek Hough and Cheryl Burke.
What we learned from this night is that Mark Ballas is a formidable performer, singer, dancer, whatever he chooses to do. And that Abby Lee Miller need never grace the stages of Dancing with the Stars again. Because honestly and truly, she is beneath the talent before her, and doesn’t deserve to judge them.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DWTS Week 7: Sexy Sweaty Skimpy Latin Night

Meryl and Maks doing a salsa. Courtesy of On The Red Carpet/ABC/Adam Taylor.
Controversies and injuries permeated this week’s episode of Dancing with the Stars. It was Latin Night, which translated to sexy, steamy, and mostly not a lot of clothes. (I thought it was wonderful!) Some others did not share that view.

Host Erin Andrews’ best move so far this season was to goad #DWTS viewers to vote (via Twitter) whether or not Tony should dance with his shirt off or on. Of course, the vote was “Off.” Sadly, the couple’s fate also ended up being “off”...the show. Although they were due to be ejected, IMHO. They were my least favorite at this point in the competition. NeNe never really got the whole complicated steps part. She definitely had the big personality down, but dance isn’t all about that, sorry.

Interesting changes this season to DWTS. As you can see, costuming is not what it once was, it’s much more modern and with the times these days. So too, the music. Much more heavy beat, club kind of music. I do think it’ll go far to bring in a younger audience, but still not sure if I like it.

Val and Danica do a samba. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor
Let’s jump to the injuries. Danica broke her rib, yet still decided to dance. I do believe that if she were not injured, this dance would’ve been one of my favorites all season. But they opted not to do any of the lifts they had planned.

This dance also brings up something which I find curious about this season. Previously, the dance being judged was only the two people at hand. More and more this season, the dancers are bringing in the troupe as backup. Certainly it adds more depth to the presentation, but I don’t know that it’s entirely fair to those who only dance with two people.

Val and Danica do a steamy samba.
Also dancing with a passel of people (and no injuries!), in the dance I considered the dance of the night, were Maks and Meryl, doing a salsa. (See pic above.) I still love this pairing and what they are doing with dance the most, and want them to win.

Also on the injury tangent, we have Derek and Amy. They had an amazing rumba that they performed. Very sexy, very sensual. The pictures don’t even do it justice. It was just fluid poetry to watch.

Derek Hough and Amy Purdy do a tantalizing rumba.
But sometime after their dance, she got injured and had to go to the hospital midshow. She was unable to participate in the team dances, and they had to judge it from the rehearsal footage (which was amazing).

Here’s hoping that both injured competitors regain their health swiftly.

There were other controversies. Meryl (one half of the Charlie and Meryl ice dancing gold medal team) is knocking out 10 after 10 after 10 being paired with Maks. Charlie, not so much. Sharna, to her credit, is choreographing some amazing stuff, but I think that Charlie is his own worst enemy here. I really do think that in ice dancing (or ice skating competition in general) it really is all about the scores. With dance (and DWTS in particular), it’s about the dance, and Charlie is forgetting that. Or needs to learn it.

They were tasked to do a paso doble (which we haven’t seen nearly enough of this season yet).

Sharna Burgess and Charlie White. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor. 
This picture really says it all (why their scores were not 10s). She is totally in it, and he looks like he’s still struggling. Sorry Charlie, but I can promise you this. You are going to be voted out of this thing before Meryl is.

Now we get to the big controversy that’s blowing up social media. Mind you, these are the people who got all up in arms about Janet Jackson’s nipple, so I tend to ignore them.

In one corner, we have the Candaces of the world (who actually send her children out of the studio during Peta’s dance!), and then we have this.

Latin dances are supposed to be hot, steamy, sexy. On this night, there was no more sexy one than Peta and James’ samba. Her choreography was stunning, the concept was great. He’s a gas station worker, and she stops by for some gas. Along the way, they are stripping off each other’s clothes, and she’s dancing most of the time in skimpy lingerie. I thought it was awesome.

Peta Murgatroyd and James Maslow do a steamy samba. Courtesy of On the Red Carpet/ABC/Adam Taylor.
Now, on the other side of the spectrum... At the beginning of Latin Night, when I saw what Candace was wearing, compared to the others, I thought she looked like a nun. Certainly we knew she wasn’t going to be wearing what Peta was wearing. However, that being said, I was pretty stunned when I really enjoyed their Argentine tango. Candace seriously rocked it.

Candace Cameron-Bure and Mark Ballas do an Argentine tango.
Mark Ballas and Candace Cameron Bure do an Argentine tango. Courtesy of OTRC/ABC/Adam Taylor.
It was also interesting that Candace and Mark went to a sports psychologist as part of their package, and she admitted that she’d never been in therapy! (An actress never before in therapy? WHAT?) Anyway, it had the result of making her more vulnerable and human to the audience. She remarked that she felt like she had been letting Mark down, and I am glad she came to that realization, because her dance tonight was much better.

So, as much as I hate to admit it, Candace does deserve to stay another week. I was proud of her.

Our lovely hosts, Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews. Ricky Martin, guest judge, behind.
The losing team.
As I predicted last week, Derek’s team (again) won the team dance, and someone from the losing team went home.

The winning team (minus Amy Purdy, who was in the hospital). Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

DWTS Week 6: Maksim C FTW?

Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy do the perfect dance of the night. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
This was the dance of the night. Perfect scores all around. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, it was Party Anthem Week. Which meant, basically, this.

Women of the troupe and Redfoo getting their party on. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor
...and this...

Sharna Burgess and Charlie White.
PARTY?!!!!??? GET IT?

This episode proved how hard ABC is trying to work to get younger viewers to this show. Lotsa EDM music and techno beats. Fun! When all else fails, throw in some Day-Glo®. Woo hoo!

Yeah. *eyeroll*

But in the midst of all of the neon and confetti, we also had this:

Candace Bure, Mark Ballas, Cheryl Burke, Drew Carey. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
This photo, more than any other, expressed to me what this show is REALLY about. These, the Bottom Two couples, one certainly going home, have friends Mark Ballas and Cheryl Burke supporting each other, whatever the outcome. (It ended up being Cheryl Burke and Drew Carey departing.)

That, to me, represents the real Dancing with the Stars. It’s posited as a competition, but everyone lucky enough to be on it is a winner. Although some, heartbreakingly, go home sooner than others.

And we saw little glimpses into the jealousies behind the scenes. Some pro dancers having multiple Mirror Balls, others having one, others having none. Yet.

So let’s get back to the competition at hand.

We did have this.
Mark Ballas and Candace Cameron-Bure do a cha cha.
Candace Cameron-Bure, emboldened and electrified, finally GETS IT (in Week 6) that you do this as a character, not as yourself. And so, she’s able to let herself go more, and I have to say, the dance was better because of it. Not likely to save her to the end, but heck, I even voted for them again this week.

Not so with the emboldened in a negative way NeNe Leakes, who, after dancing with Derek, seems to have thrown rules out the window and wants to dance her own way every week. I predict she and Tony will be next to go. (Sad because I really do like Tony. He really does go the extra mile for his partner every week. At least it seems so from here.) But NeNe I’m really done with.

So now we’re down to the real final five contestants of the competition. Alphabetically: Derek, Maks, Peta, Sharna and Val. What these five do in the next weeks is what’s truly going to be interesting to watch.

Peta Murgatroyd and James Maslow, obviously having a lot of fun doing a quick step.
All of these five I just love watching, for differing reasons. Peta and James, for example, really look like they’re having fun out there.

Charlie and Sharna do too, but I really dread seeing him doing a Latin dance this week. Happy and fun are his forte. The serious “character” dancing doesn’t seem to come to him as easily.

Then we have what I hope are the three semi-finalists.


Derek Hough and Amy Purdy doing a jive.
Derek creates magic with every dance. And Amy, besides having the sympathy card for her situation, also dances her butt off. They are formidable competitors. Still, Derek can’t (and shouldn’t) win EVERY season. And he just won last season.


Danica McKellar and Valentin Chmerkovskiy do a cha cha. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Season after season, since he became a pro on this show, Valentin has presented us with (arguably) some of the best choreography on this show. Why he doesn’t yet have a Mirror Ball surpasses my mental abilities. He has certainly deserved one, IMHO. And could deserve one this time too.

But what I found most interesting, starting from this show in Week 6, is this.


Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis do a tango.
I want Maks to win this season. I sure didn’t think I’d be saying that at the beginning of the season. Sure, I was glad he was back and all, but still...

What is this ephemeral thing that causes people to win? What is it that pushes them to the top? Maks has been so close. He thought he should’ve won (and publicly said so) with Kirstie Alley. I thought he should’ve won with Erin Andrews.

But this time, this show, just before he goes on to do a mind-blowing, perfect-scoring tango, he talks very vulnerably about how much he wants to win, and how humiliating it is to have danced all these seasons and not yet won. And you know? He’s right.

Maybe Maks finally realizes that it was himself getting in his own way previously (with his arrogance), and that’s why he’s toning it down and actually becoming vulnerable on camera. No, I want this, he says to us. It’s certainly a strategy he hasn’t tried before. This time, it just might work.

When these two ice dancers with gold medals came on this show, it appeared certain that one of them would win this. After all, America loves them.

I am really hoping beyond hope that the one who wins is Meryl. With Maks, the chastened fallen hero, returned to vanquish and get that Mirror Ball finally. It would be a great ending to this season.

Artem Chigvintsev in the Macy’s Stars of Dance segment.
There was also this. Thank you again to Macy’s for letting these Stars of Dance segments return, and also to ABC for letting Derek Hough drive the creative on them.

Also, every week for several weeks now, they’ve been having guest judges. I haven’t been mentioning it (like last week’s Donny Osmond, this week’s RedFoo) because I mostly see it as a stunt thing. The DWTS judges are Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno, to my eyes.

What I am suspecting is happening is that Len is going to step down, and one of these “guest” judges will then take over his spot. So far this season I haven’t seen one I’d want in his place, though I suppose Donny Osmond comes close, cause he has seen a lot of dance over his career, and he was fair and honest in his judging. And certainly we need someone somber to keep the air in the room (between Carrie Ann and Bruno, sheesh). Julianne Hough is a little too mean (and not in the Len kind of way). Plus, I think someone with some distance from the participants would be better.

Robin Roberts? No, too easy on everyone. RedFoo? Heck no. Way too much wackiness in that scenario. Plus, he doesn’t really seem to know dance.

This week is Ricky Martin. Well, he does know dance, and Latin dance in particular, so we shall see.

Also coming up this week? The Team dances. In the history of Team dances, Derek’s team has always won, and I promise you, will win again. Bet me. (Also, in DWTS history, the losing team is always the one with someone going home. That will be true again tomorrow. Bet me on that too.)


Saturday, April 19, 2014

DWTS Week 5: Every Week Is Disney Week at ABC... Oh, Wait...

Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Danica McKellar. Courtesy of ABC.
Normally, product placement in a show bugs the crap out of me. Devoting a whole episode to variations of things done by your corporate parent could get real tedious, real fast. However, with Dancing with the Stars on ABC, we are talking about corporate parent Disney, which, like it or not has some great iconic images under their domain. And the opposite side of blatant product placement is that they can do things (because they own all the characters) that no one else can. And so we have: Disney Week.

Like Val and Danica, above, being our guests with a lovely waltz. Val and Danica, btw, were my favorite couple from this week. Just wonderful to watch them dance. So perfect. Val looked so elegant in that suit. I realized later that he was going for the genie look (with his goatee and pulling his hair up straight in the middle). So sue me, I don’t have kids. Many of these movies were lost on me.

But I really enjoyed their dance, and Val’s choreography.

Danica and Val just look so “Disney,” don’t they?
We seem to be going in reverse order this week, with the couples I loved the most first.

Charlie White seems to have found his (and our) happy place, staying on the side of happy in his dances. And you can’t go wrong with Dick Van Dyke and Mary Poppins. Charlie and his pro partner Sharna recreated “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocioius” with a wonderful dance sequence. (It appears now that the DWTS “jazz” category essentially means: “whatever we feel like dancing which doesn’t fit in any of the other categories.” So, too, was this “jazz” dance.) Ah well, it was tons of fun.

Charlie White as Dick Van Dyke and Sharna Burgess as Julie Andrews. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
And it’s so good to see (most of) these couples back together again. There was a fire in their dancing this week.

Meryl and Maks, for example, did a wonderful Jungle Book samba, complete with samba rolls! Not sure what was up with the pants Maks was wearing, but certainly a half-naked Maks elicits a huge “Yes!” from this peanut gallery.

Meryl and Maks do a samba. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Have I mentioned how glad I am that Maks is back? Hm... yes...

Then we had a very emotional moment or two with Amy Purdy, who realized, in trying to do a waltz this week, the limitations of her lack of legs. But Derek Hough, brilliant choreographer that he is, came up with a way around the limitations, and for my eyes, it looked to all the world like a beautiful, dreamlike Disney waltz of Cinderella and her prince. Bravo to Derek for that. And to Amy for persevering through what appeared to be a really tough week.

It is very interesting to me, I suppose, like most things worth having in life, how people come onto Dancing with the Stars thinking it’s going to be one thing, and it ends up being something so completely different. More of a spiritual and psychological challenge and growth period.

Derek and Amy in waltz hold. Note foot placement.
This is a bit (from what I understand) of what the traditional waltz entails. But one of Amy’s issues with dancing is wanting/needing to feel like she’s not falling, certainly moreso than people who have the use of their legs for balance.

So what seemed to have been done (for this dance, at least) was a bit of improvisation. Her feet (as you can see above) are almost nearly covered through the whole dance, whereas in other dances this season, you could see them. Also, rather than doing the whole waltz in traditional hold, Derek devised more of this:
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough were magical.
Sort of a backwards hold, which had the effect of her appearing strong, and him appearing very much in love with her. It was truly magical and awe-inspiring.

Of the other dancers, James and Peta were in another world with their contemporary dance to the Oscar®-nominated song from Frozen.

James and Peta do contemporary to the song from Frozen.
Drew and Cheryl? Eh. NeNe and Tony? God help us. (I feel sorry for Tony, but I’m pretty done with NeNe.) Thankfully, the kids (Witney & Cody) were voted out this week.

And then, there’s Candace and Mark Ballas. I really love Mark Ballas, and would love for him to win (and every season I do start out saying this), but WOW! I really can’t stand Candace. This week, in our I Don’t Care I’m on a Dance Show that Shows a lot of Skin, I’m Doing It MY Way Follies...Candace decides to show some skin. (Mark, however, is buttoned up from top to bottom, even having flippers instead of hands.)

The upside? I absolutely loved 100% every single thing Mark did (even his costume!). He was (as usual) a blast to watch. So much energy! So many great steps. So much fun.

Candace? UGH. Let me just show you. Here’s her idea of “showing a little skin.”

Mark Ballas, in his element. And Candace.
This picture really says it all. Here’s Mark, the maestro that he is, loving it, thriving, dancing his ass off. And Candace, who looks like a tired mom who just needs to go home already. So sad. UGH.

I do really want to take a moment to commend the costumers, who have to contend with people like Candace, but also for this season giving us lots of fun textures and sparkles to look at, as well as really recreating versions of every single one of these beloved Disney movies. I love the fact that more and more of these dancers are being allowed to dance in flatter shoes (men, too, seem to be more comfortable with their shoes), and we seem to be getting FAR fewer (as in we haven’t heard of any yet this season) dance injuries. Women also aren’t tripping over long ballgowns. I, for one, am grateful about all of the above.

I’m also so very grateful that the very beautiful Erin Andrews was dragged out of her black/white sackcloth and put into a gorgeous Boston Strong blue ballgown. Very nice. Also rocked the amazing updo. Kudos to her hair people. (LOVE HER. Have I mentioned that? She’s such a great addition to the show.)

Also am grateful for those, notably Peta and Maks and Val this season, who will bare skin if it’s warranted in the dance (from the characters and the scenarios). I’m sure Mark Ballas would too, if he weren’t locked down by his prudish dance partner. UGH.

Let’s end this review with a little JOY, shall we? A little happy? A little up? (Oh, and thank you, too, to whomever finally got their act together on the webpage and started posting photos again. You will notice Week 4 is completely missing still. *sigh*)

But here’s to joy and beauty and love and romance. Cause really, isn’t that what Disney is all about?

The magical Amy Purdy as Cinderella and Derek Hough as her Prince. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor and Disney.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happiness looks like. Charlie White.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

DWTS Week 4: Switch This

Meryl Davis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy dance the Argentine tango. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There are some really great photos for this week, but ABC (for some reason) is slacking on actually posting them to the DWTS website. I got most of these from other places. I had really wanted to show some of the other competitors (and if they ever post Week 4, I may still add them, but at this point, just wanted to get the column up before Week 5). #ABCFail

When I first heard (during the Good Morning America segment in which the new cast was announced) about this “switch” concept, I was enthused. I envisioned a path in which favorite dancers who had been voted off could reappear with new partners. Well, that’s not at all how this happened. (Sorry, Karina! *pouts*)

I also pictured partners being switched mid-season, stuck with other partners for the rest of the season (which would’ve been interesting). That is also not what happened.

No, in the final analysis, this Switch thing will go down (like the Glitter Pit before it) as a grand failure. What is very interesting about this week, though, is why.

I knew, on some level, that the “stars” would be more comfortable with partners with whom they’d already built up a rapport. What I really had no idea about was how much like a fish out of water they really were, in the arms of other partners. No one (except Val and Meryl, above) really seemed comfortable with other partners.

Consequently, and sadly for us viewers, where we had been having really dynamic amazing dances the past few weeks, almost without exception, they were less than they could’ve been. It was, pretty much, like Week 1 all over again, except with their real partners, they also have a few weeks’ of prep time. So more like Week Minus 1 or something. Blech. Please don’t do this again, ABC. It so didn’t work.

Now, that said, we did have some interesting things happening.

For example, I was wondering who would be paired up with NeNe. (I was hoping for Maks.) It ended up being Derek. Derek, who, with his regular partner Amy Purdy, holds her tightly and close, almost didn’t touch NeNe at all. It was very interesting. Not sure I really dug it. (Although it looked FANTASTIC!).

OTOH, the pairing I was most hoping for/waiting for was to see Mark Ballas (whom I just love) with Amy Purdy. It is not easy dancing with a dancer with disabilities. It requires someone with sensitivity and kindness and a different way of looking at things. In short, if it couldn’t be Derek, it had to be Mark Ballas.

And their pairing did not disappoint. It certainly seemed to both stretch and enliven Mark and Amy. It was a wonderful salsa.

Those three were my main favorites from this night. Other things of note: Drew Carey had a gold suit (and shoes!). Sharna and Cody were revelling in their Aussie-ness. Maks and Danica did a fun jive. And Charlie should never ever ever wear his hair like that again. Whew!

Also of note, Derek Hough, DWTS resident dance genius, seems to have taken on more of a creative role with the show this season. That played out most effectively when Macy’s Stars of Dance returned.

Derek choreographing and designing this amazing dance, with other troupe members and some woman from So You Think You Can Dance. It was just brilliant and beautiful. Thank you, Macy’s. Glad you’re back to give us such stunningly beautiful dances.

Very glad Derek is in this role, too. His vision about dance is just breathtaking. They did some cool things with slo-mo in camera that were visually just amazing to watch, and about as state-of-the-art as you can get.

Derek’s sister, Julianne, was guest judge on this evening (not quite as nasty as she was last time). She mentioned that she and Derek are going to be touring with a dance show later this year. Mark your calendars for that.

Erin Andrews’ outfits (black and white each week, with maybe a pop of color) are really starting to annoy. After being spoiled every week with Brooke Burke, who always had fantastic clothes, Ms. Andrews’ wardrobe does leave quite a bit to be desired. Still really glad she’s there, though.

Worth mentioning is that one of the casualties of letting go of the entire orchestra is that this week’s music (which seemed to rely more on tapes than people playing and/or singing) was consistently off, though the dancers seemed to dance through it. It’s pretty important that the music play when it’s supposed to. Here’s hoping they can work all that out sometime soon.

Meanwhile, back to the normally scheduled Dancing with the Stars next week, with regular partners in tow. And someone again eliminated (thankfully).