Sunday, October 23, 2016

DWTS S023, Week 5: Stars Get Emotional in 'Memorable Year' Week

60-piece orchestra and pro dancers
The ode to My Most Memorable Year kicks off with a truly memorable sight: a 60-piece orchestra in the ballroom at Dancing with the Stars. And the dance (to "My Heart Will Go On") kicks off with our favorite lovers (Sasha and Emma) swirling around the ballroom, soon joined by the other pros. Just wonderful. (Choreographed by Mandy Moore, of course.)

My Most Memorable Year is always a dicey week at DWTS. Sometimes, it's a sobby mess of emotion. Other times, it's more like, "Oh, you got that show that year. Yay, you." But usually, no matter what, we get to see an emotional side of the stars that they wouldn't otherwise access in their dances, and the dances from this point forward are always the better for it.

Maureen and Artem. Courtesy of Just Jared.
Maureen and Artem. What a revelation! I just love watching them. Their wedding day foxtrot was lyrical and beautiful. Nice choreography, nice movement, just a joy to watch.

And who knew (I didn't.) that Maureen McCormick had a cocaine addiction? But look at her now! Her and her loving husband. Just amazing. As Carrie Ann said, "You are slow and steady. But you know what they say about slow and steady? It wins the race."

Maureen seems to have the most amazing husband, and they seem very much in love. The whole thing even brought stoic Artem to tears (and btw, Artem, tears are a GOOD THING).

Family usually plays heavily in successful Most Memorable Years. But sometimes, it's sports. This one was both. Calvin Johnson (aka Detroit Lion "Megatron")'s most Memorable Year was the year he "broke Jerry Rice's record." To football fans, I'm sure all of that means something.

They also showed how when he did this, he walked off the field to hand the football to his dad.

When they do the jazz dance, to a Motown song, to Megatron's surprise, he is thrown the ball (in the dance) by Jerry Rice (the actual Jerry Rice), and he then leaves the floor to hand it to his dad. So there was a very nice symmetry there. Also, Calvin had never before met the actual Jerry Rice, so that was nice to see.

These two (Calvin and Lindsay) are definitely a couple to watch. Lindsay just keeps getting better and better.

And Erin Andrews, God bless her, is such the perfect host when they have football players on. I'm not a football fan, but you could tell that she handled the appropriateness of these two football giants quite well. Jerry Rice (apparently, I don't remember this; it was back in Season 02) had been on DWTS previously. And once you're DWTS family, you're always family.

Jana's Most Memorable Year saga was guaranteed to be a tear-jerker. Nothing tops an abusive ex. The year she chose was the year she had her baby (this year). Gleb and Jana did a contemporary dance, which ended with a cute picture of her baby. Awwww....

Then, some pros did some dancing to showcase their upcoming tour (around Valentine's Day in LA). Tom has a bit of fun with the title. DWTS upcoming tour.

As much as I love the addition of the Charleston to this show, I equally LOATHE the addition of so dang much contemporary to this show. Really really hate it. The judges, however, loved this piece from Cheryl and Ryan. There was a nice bit at the end, when Ryan is standing alone on a gold podium with gold flakes twinkling down on him, bathed in gold light. Very atmospheric and nice.

Laurie and Val's paso doble was, as usual, quite wonderful. But the judges hit on what may be their Achilles heel: lack of connection. Since she's 16 and never had a (romantic) relationship, how could she possibly do that whole connection thing with Val? But, at this point, that is their only weakness. (Costumes, as you can see, were gorgeous.)

Marilu and Derek had a breakthrough this week. She owned up to the fact that she was afraid of him, and wanted to be perfect for him. (Part of what was making her so tense.) They obviously worked through that, because she was much more free-flowing and fluid in this week's Viennese waltz.

And there were tears. Marilu was talking about her mother's death (just before she got Taxi). Ryan Lochte had been talking about his happiest moment (when he first broke a world record in 2008), and teared up. Lotsa crying by the celebs this week. Some of it good... some of it...

Let's just say that I don't think Amber Rose is emotionally cut out to do DWTS. "It's hard!" "It's so much harder with heels on!" and on and on... Her favorite year was the year she had her son, but the song she chose she wanted to be an anthem for women... um... and moms... *eyeroll*

James and Sharna continue to be one of the couples I look forward to every week. This tango was amazing. The fact that he suffered a major life-threatening injury (2015) and is here doing these incredible dances is astoninshing.

Well, yes, I know I said I hate contemporary. On the other hand, Contemporary gave us this. Her year was 2013, the year her father passed, and the year she got her big show. Sasha, in this dance, portrayed her dad. It was beautiful and poignant.

Sasha does such amazing and innovative choreography with Terra. Just a joy to see. And the angelic version of "Stand By Me" was stunning, too.

No elimination this week.

1. Terra and Sasha (contemporary)
2. James and Sharna (tango)
3. Laurie and Val (paso doble)
4. Marilu and Derek (Viennese waltz)
5. Maureen and Artem (foxtrot)

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Ryan and Cheryl
3. Amber and Maks


Monday, October 10, 2016

DWTS S023 Week 4: She Said Yes, and Cirque du Soleil Enhances the Dances

There was a vice presidential debate. There was a double elimination. There was a Cirque du Soleil event with clowns and bicycles and juggling and lots of stuff. For my money, not a thing on TV this week was more important (and better TV) than this moment. Sasha Farber and Emma Slater, two of our favorites from Dancing with the Stars, and quite possibly (it seems anyway) two of the nicest people around, got engaged in front of us all.

I was wondering when she knew something was up. Maybe the fact that they were asked to dance together to do a bumper (not a common occurrence). Maybe when he kissed her on the forehead at the beginning. Maybe when he kissed her on the lips at the end. Maybe when suave Tom Bergeron mentioned what "great chemistry" they both have (not a common statement from him). Surely, by the time Tom backed away and said he was letting Sasha "host for awhile," she had figured it out.

I think it was about that time that I, and the rest of America and the ballroom, started crying. The big sign behind them, flashing "She said YES!," the confetti streamers falling around them, the rest of the cast surrounding them with congratulations. It was an epic DWTS moment.

So so happy for you both. What a great couple. Ah, but back to the matters at hand...

We also had this this week: Cirque du Soleil! First time ever in #DWTS history. Of course, we had the regular dances, but Cirque du Soleil was there, in and around and through all of them. And cast members got to visit the shows that they were portraying (whether in Vegas or NYC) for inspiration.

One of the best things about Lindsay Arnold is that she seems to have single-handedly brought (and kept) the Charleston in this competition. It is often her go-to dance, and thank goodness for that. Here, decked out in their Kurios steampunk costumes, they do an amazing Charleston.

I really love Maureen and Artem. Maureen is trying so hard. I just love to watch them dance. This week, they had an Argentine tango (not the easiest of dances) to Mystere. It was beautiful.

I also have to commend the costume department for these lovely and amazing costumes (this week, but really all season long). The materials they are using make for incredible visual experiences, as you can see above.

Jana, who's in the mode of "Oh, poor me, I have so many other concerts and things to do" (while I should be rehearsing for this TV show I committed to), aka, you get no sympathy from me... performs a passable foxtrot from The Beatles' LOVE ("Here Comes the Sun"). Bruno calls it, "magic hour in Malibu in 1962," which is inaccurate, cause this song wasn't written yet in 1962, but picky picky.

They had fire! They had flags! They had the paso doble. You would think this would be a stunning dance. (They also had troupe members.) But as the judges alluded to, Marilu seems to be too much in her head. She really hasn't let loose in any of the dances she's done, even though she seems to be getting the steps completely accurately. So, I dunno. I liked them in the beginning, but I even liked Jana and Gleb's dance better this week. :-(

Maks, in the package, says this dance "is gonna be too hot for TV." Um, no. Too hot was Gleb and Jana's first dance. Too hot was Mark Ballas last season, with that white shirt. That's too hot. This was, at best, mildly hot. Course, they are doing Zumanity. Still, Amber is too wrapped up in her own sexuality, and not enough in the dance. She, too, like Marilu, really hasn't let loose this season yet. (Although the Booty song was close.)

There is also a dustup with her and Julianne. Awkward.

(To this moment, cannot find a pic of Ryan and Cheryl dancing in Week 4...)

Ryan and Cheryl are tasked with (of course) O, the aquatic Cirque du Soleil project. Although why? Other than to get some shots of Ryan Lochte in the water (like we haven't seen that before), it didn't make any sense. They are dancing a Viennese waltz. It was merely OK.

Well, I've said before that I just love Allison Holker and her choreography. And I've enjoyed watching her and Babyface, even though he doesn't quite keep up to her often. This week, they are also dancing a song from The Beatles LOVE ("Come Together"). Unfortunately, the trick that they have to maintain is hitting a series of spotlights as they are turning (a complicated move, even for a professional dancer). So, while I enjoyed watching it, the dance as a whole didn't quite come together, and they ended up getting the lowest score of the night (18!). Hard to come back from that. Allison did not look happy.

So we just slogged through five dances where people were too much in their head, not hitting marks, too wrapped up in themselves, blah blah. Don't worry, folks, Terra and Sasha are here to save the day.

HOLY GOD, was this amazing! Terra Jole rocked that salsa like nobody's business. She reminded us what this whole "dancing" thing is supposed to be about. Hip action? Sweet Jesus, was there hip action. I cannot believe this dance. It was so incredible.

Sasha and Terra get the first 9 of the season.

But, as it turns out, that amazing performance by Terra and Sasha was just a warm-up for the best performance of the night: Val and Laurie, doing jazz to Michael Jackson ONE. And I'm going to call it right here and now in Week 4: Val and Laurie are going to win this season's Mirror Ball. (I would love to see it be Terra and Sasha, or James and Sharna...) But they are destined to win. They are knocking it out of the park with every dance.

And as fantastic as Laurie Hernandez was, let's not forget that Valentin Chmerkovskiy is Michael Jackson in this dance. They were both spectacular. Not surprisingly, they get the first perfect score of the season.

Unfortunately, this was next. Vanilla Ice, who had five concerts in six days, and thus no rehearsal time. Oh, and they were doing a Viennese waltz, to La Nouba. You guess what happened. I have no sympathy for people who don't take this show seriously.

How much do I love love love James and Sharna? They are amazing. The choreography was stunning. The costumes were awesome. Great number. They quickstepped to Paramour, which they actually went to see on Broadway. Just wonderful.

1. Val and Laurie (jazz, Michael Jackson ONE)
2. Sasha and Terra (salsa, O)
3. Sharna and James (quickstep, Paramour)
4. Lindsay and Calvin (Charleston, Kurios)
5. Artem and Maureen (Argentine tango, Mystere)

1. Laurie and Val*
2. James and Sharna
3. Terra and Sasha
4. Calvin and Lindsay

* Prediction to Win (Week 4)

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Ryan and Cheryl
3. Marilu and Derek

(Please forgive my lack of accents. My machine doesn't do accents.)

All is right with the world.
So, let's get back to what's really important of these two nights. (See above.)

Oh, and the double elimination.

First, though, we had a performance by DNCE, with dance assist by four couples, all pros (except for Alan).

Then two couples are safe...

Come back from commercial, and we have a bumper to show us Contemporary dance, with these two. Oh man, was this wonderful.

Then, we had a package about all the stars' superstitious rituals, while everyone onstage was crying and congratulating Sasha and Emma.

There was a beautiful dance by (almost all) the male pros, plus Alan. Moody and atmospheric, notable for dueling Chmerkovskiys on opposite tables. Very nice. (Can't find a picture, sorry.)

Then, another "safe" or "in jeopardy"? moment...

Maureen and Artem are safe, unfortunately Allison and Babyface are the first elimination on this double elimination night. I am sad about this.

Then we have a little package about how rough it is to be a pro.

Then Derek (as he does sometimes) choreographed (and played drums and danced in) this number.

More results. Then some chick sang while dancers (including Witney) danced.

Then, this final elimination, with Vanilla Ice and Witney finally going home. I was really tired of hearing about how his schedule is so taxing, so I'm glad he now has more time to devote to just doing concerts.

NEXT WEEK: My Most Memorable Year


Sunday, October 2, 2016

DWTS S023, Week 3: The Ornery Texan Gets the Big Boot on Debate Week

First, there was a presidential debate cutting into the timeslot. Dancing with the Stars (now only an hour long) had to adapt. And adapt they did. (Also, Erin had a death in the family and wasn't here this week.)

Ta-DA! We have the "Faceoff." Instead of their regular dances, we had two couples pitted against each other (six times). The dances were shorter, each given the same dance, but different music. The twist was that whoever the judges picked as best was granted immunity for the upcoming elimination. So six were immune, six were possible for elimination. Following me so far?

Let's go through them dance by dance.

Babyface/Allison vs. Jana/Gleb

I just love the team of Allison and Babyface. In this pairing, he still seems stiff, and they lost out in this Faceoff because his "kicks and flicks" weren't sharp enough. (We know how Len scores this one.) Overall, it was a night of women pros dancing their butts off while their male stars mostly seemed stiff.


Jana and Gleb, in their first non-sexual dance of the season, did provide sharp kicks and flicks in this jive, and so won the Faceoff.

JUDGES' SCORE:  26, Faceoff winner

Rick Perry/Emma Slater vs. Vanilla Ice/Witney Carson

Emma Slater and Rick Perry win the award for best music of the season so far (Rodrigo y Gabriela) for their paso doble. Also, great costumes. Emma's choreography continues to be just stellar. Nonetheless, they lost out in the Faceoff. (And Perry ended up going home on Tuesday. *weep, weep*) Sorry, Emma. Hopefully, you'll get a better partner next season.


The whole Vanilla Ice thing is hitting all my hot buttons on this show. 1. Someone who knows nothing about the show coming in. 2. Someone who has no idea how much work is actually involved to do this show, yet somehow gets signed to it. 3. Someone who, amazingly, has a fully booked tour schedule, and thinks he can squeeze DWTS into that anyway. Where do they get these people? Why do they keep booking them? UGH. Please let him be GONE soon...

Also, there is Witney. Vanilla Ice: "What language is paso doble?" Witney: "I don't know, Latin?" *eyeroll*

Note to Witney: Spanish. It's Spanish. (She's not the brightest one, that one.)


Len breaks the tie, making Vanilla Ice and Witney the Faceoff winners.

James Hinchcliffe/Sharna Burgess vs. Ryan Lochte/Cheryl Burke

This couple (James and Sharna) really rocks my world. And this cha cha was steamy, sexy and just off-the-charts fun. Loved the costumes, loved their chemistry, loved everything about it. James really seems like a natural dancer, unlike a lot of these pairings. The dancing was natural and fluid, and just fun to watch.

JUDGES' SCORE: 29, Faceoff winner

As was noted by the judges so astutely on the second night (I really love this addition of judges' comments and backstage chatter on the second night.), Cheryl was dancing her butt off and Ryan was mostly just standing there. Unlike most dancers, whose shirt bursts open and it becomes sexy, Ryan Lochte didn't have that effect. After all, he's a swimmer. We've seen him countless times shirtless. The sexy was just not there (IMHO). Although Cheryl was just tearing it up...

Terra Jole/Sasha Farber vs. Calvin Johnson/Lindsay Arnold

Usually Week 3 is the week we get the stars to connect in an emotional meaningful way to their dances. Well, that didn't happen (in most cases), except for this one. Sure it's a shorter dance, caused by preempting for the debates, but nonetheless, the Viennese waltz was packed with emotion for Sasha and Terra Jole.

They danced to "Iris" from the Goo Goo Dolls. The lyrics are all about being accepted for who you are. "I just want you to know who I am." And Sasha leaves Terra in the spotlight by herself at the end. This dance brought tears to my eyes.

Funny, how last season they (#DWTS producers) were just beating us over the head with how Nyle was doing so much for deaf people, and this poignant emotional moment almost went under the radar, yet to me, it was much more effective, cause it felt real. I, for one, accept Miss Terra Jole for exactly who she is, and celebrate that, and celebrate all she is giving to us on that dance floor (also thanks to Sasha Farber for bringing it out so poignantly).

Beautiful, beautiful dance. Another interesting thing about the pairing of these two couples is that Terra is quite a bit shorter than Sasha, and Calvin is quite a bit taller than Lindsay. In this pairing, I just loved the shapes that Sasha was able to create, despite the height difference.


Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Viennese waltz was all about having round (circles) of frame shapes? To my eyes, Sasha and Terra did this much more consistently. Calvin's arms were often bent in hold. Lindsay's choreography was marginally more interesting, but I would've given the edge on this pairing to Sasha and Terra. Also, Lindsay and Calvin danced to "It's a Woman's World," which didn't seem to hold any significance at all (for Calvin), whereas Terra's song was quite moving and connected to HER.

JUDGES' SCORE: 32, Faceoff winner

Amber Rose/Maksim Chmerkovskiy vs. Maureen McCormick/Artem C. 

So, remember in past seasons, when Maks came on as a judge, and he was berating everyone for not having enough content in their dances? Yeah. Here's Maks doing a salsa, with not enough content in his dance. However, to be fair to Maks, I think there are other things going on. It appears (just my instincts here) that Ms. Amber Rose is quite a handful (from "blacking out" during their first dance, to not seeming to be willing in general), and perhaps she just wasn't capable of doing all the salsa moves. And Maks, knowing how this thing goes, knows that really the bad dancers are the ones voted out first, so he could slide with this one having a lack of content. He just offered up a great show.

They had black lights and graffiti, the song was J Lo's "Big Booty," as he said, so people could focus on HIS big booty (but of course), and in the middle of the song, he takes out his phone and takes a selfie (while he's dancing!!!). Definitely a #DWTS first.

So, yeah, it was way entertaining. But a "salsa"? Um, not so much.


Contrast that with:

If I hadn't told you already that this was a salsa, which dance would you say, off the top of your head this would be? RIGHT. A salsa. So clearly. The costumes, the music, the dance, everything about it screamed: Salsa!

Guess who won this Faceoff?

JUDGES' SCORE: 28, Faceoff winner

Laurie Hernandez/Val Chmerkovskiy vs. Marilu Henner/Derek Hough

The errant lift which caused Carrie Ann to take a point off. :-(
So Laurie Hernandez is 16 years old. She still sleeps with a teddy bear and has never had a boyfriend. Asked how she could get into the mindset of this tango, she talked about envisioning "a great quesadilla." Hey, whatever works. Men are sometimes like a hot quesadilla. I get ya.

They were talking with the costumer, and she was describing some lingerie in the front. Val says: "Lingerie. French for trouble." Luckily, her costume (for a 16 year old) was tasteful. But the transformation was pretty incredible. Between Val's big brother coaching and costumes and hair, WOW! As Val said in the package: "If you don't do this, you're going to be 'Cute Laurie' all season." She is Cute Laurie no more.

They also had this thing where their shoes lit up during the dance. It was amazing. Also nice, because (especially with the tango) you want to see their feet.

And she may be thinking of a quesadilla, but she brought more passion to this dance than bubbly Ginger Zee brought all last season (IMHO). And Laurie Hernandez is pretty much known for smiling all the time. We constantly saw her smiling at the Olympics. One would think that she would have a tough time NOT SMILING (as Ginger Zee did) during the tango, but no, she did great getting into character and being serious through the dance.

JUDGES' SCORE: 31, Faceoff winner

Now, one would think that Marilu Henner would be able to bring the brunt of her experience and life lessons to this tango, and just beat the pants off Laurie Hernandez with her passion. However, that is not what happened.

There is much more of an ease with Val and Laurie as partners than with Derek and Marilu. They do seem to have an effortless ease when you see them in interviews, but she still seems to be really tense when she's dancing, and that's not going to bode well going forward.

Also, I realized as I was watching this: Marilu Henner is pretty much known for being a comedic actress, not a dramatic one. So maybe the passion flair thing of the tango is hard for her. Not sure, but she didn't convey what she needed to convey to these eyes.

(And it came out on the next night that she "did better in rehearsal" than in the final show.)


1. Sasha and Terra
2. Sharna and James
3. Val and Laurie
4. Artem and Maureen
5. Lindsay and Calvin
6. Allison and Babyface

On night 2 of Week 3, the "Results" night, we have much more time to go over everything, and hear the judges' comments and backstage chatter. (Quite revealing.) I'm really digging this new format.

We also have former Mirror Ball winner Kym Johnson as co-host with Tom Bergeron. Well, she's better than Leah Remini (who always kept hitting people in the face with microphones; really annoying), but she's no Erin Andrews. Johnson was ok reading off the teleprompter, but when she actually had to converse, she was pretty terrible. Come back, Erin!!!!

Johnson starts off the show calling Tom Bergeron "Thomas," saying, "You're Thomas now," then promptly only calls him Thomas once again (good thing). He's been Tom for 23 seasons. Come on, now.

Their banter was leaden. Ugh. And throughout she has a habit of sticking the mic too far into people's faces (Ryan Lochte even backing away at one point). At least she wasn't hitting them with it...

Last week, I misspoke when I said that Keo was not in the troupe this season. There was a cha cha bumper with Hayley, and Tom clearly said it was Keo dancing (he danced quite a bit on this episode).

So, Kym's talking to Calvin and Terra, about their height difference and whatnot, things they have in common. And Terra starts riffing on how they can't just go into a store and buy shoes. "They all have strawberry shortcake on 'em. Sometimes you just don't want light-up shoes," she says. Sasha starts cheering her on. She is an entertainer, indeed.

Then we had this wonderfulness, with all the women pros and troupe dancers doing this dance. So great.

Tom says after, "And people wonder why I'm never late for work." Oh Tom, we know it's cause you're a professional!

They had this really nice insert when this song started, it showed Jenna and Keo, dancing on a beach. Then, it showed Florida Georgia Line singing onstage, and then there were Jenna and Keo dancing. Very nice.

An actual nice piece, called, "Welcome to the Competition," which highlights what they all THOUGHT it was going to be about, and what it's actually about to dance on this show. The running theme, of course, is, MAN! You have to work so HARD!

Then! (LOVE this about the Tuesday Results show!) LA legends Fitz and the Tantrums perform their hit, "Hand Clap" with dancing assist by some of the pros (Jenna, Allison) and the troupe. Very very fun.

Fitz and the Tantrums (Fitz and Noelle) and troupe, courtesy of Just Jared Jr. dot com.
Then Florida Georgia Line sings another song, with Gleb and Lindsay dancing this time.

Lame, forced banter by Kym. Blah blah.

This summer, Maks and Val had a show that they toured the country with (charging big $$ for the priviledge). They decide to recreate some of that magic here.

The most fun part about this is that they picked a woman from the line outside to feature, and she not only gets to sit front and center during their song, but she also gets a kiss from both brothers (on the cheek from Maks, on the lips from Val). Woo hooo!

Who's the star of this show? Can we say CHMERKOVSKIY????? Wow.

Then, Tom informs us that Len is going to be gone for a couple weeks (or so) to judge the mothership show (Strictly Come Dancing) in England again. :-( (Probably a good thing since next week is Cirque du Soleil Week, and we know how Len feels about all the hooha stuff.) Len admonishes people to start doing "proper ballroom dancing" while he's gone.

Then, they decide to show us (after 23 seasons) how they put together a number. First, dancers, then costumes, and makeup and hair and lights. (They forgot sets.) Oh, and music. Then, they dance.

Can you tell that this Tuesday show is often a time-filler? Good grief. (And this was AFTER Florida Georgia Line did two songs. What? They couldn't have Fitz and the Tantrums do two songs?)

Then they had a nice package where Sasha told Terra that she danced so well that he teared up (which he "never does"). Sweet.

Then some promo about next week's Cirque du Soleil show.

Finally, the bootee is named (Rick Perry).

1. Laurie and Val
2. James and Sharna
3. Terra and Sasha
4. Babyface and Allison
5. Calvin and Lindsay

1. Vanilla Ice and Witney
2. Jana and Gleb
3. Ryan and Cheryl

NEXT WEEK: Cirque du Soleil Week