Sunday, January 1, 2017

DWTS Season 23, Week 9: Broadway Dances Sparkle

The wondrous Mark Ballas returns from Broadway with his turn as Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys."

They called this "Showstoppers Week," a new tradition in Dancing with the Stars lore. But really, every dance isn't a "showstopper," and also, it could more accurately be termed, "Broadway Week." Broadway legend Idina Menzel is a guest judge. Hometown favorite Mark Ballas (whom we miss VERY MUCH on #DWTS) is now on Broadway, singing and dancing in Jersey Boys.

So, it's fitting that the first dance to kick off Broadway night was Mark Ballas, returning to sing his new show, while friend Derek Hough and Marilu Henner dance to it.

They perform a samba to "Oh, What a Night!" Derek goes up at the end to give Mark a hug. Oh, what a night, indeed!

Lindsay and Calvin perform a gorgeous waltz to "Memory" from Cats, with Leona Lewis. They had previously been attired in Cats' outfits (when they went to NYC), but thankfully have more #DWTS-style costumes here.

After this, Allison Holker and Keo Motsepe do a stunning Contemporary bumper to "Falling Slowly" from Once, obviously choreographed by Allison. So beautiful. I miss her being in competition. Her dances are so wonderful.

The sad thing is that Sharna still has her knee injury. The great thing is that means that Jenna is dancing in her place. Here James rocks the house with a little jazz number from The Wiz. I love this pairing (and/or threesome).

Week after week, Sasha and Terra have taken the mantle from Mark Ballas of consistently having the best music. In this case, not only the best music, but the music most suited to our wonderful Terra here. Week after week. Week after week, they have been my favorite. This particular week, they rollicked through a Charleston to "If They Could See Me Now" from Sweet Charity. So perfect. So wonderful. I just don't even have enough words for how perfect and amazing these two are.

It was the only dance on "Showstoppers" Week, where Tom Bergeron actually said, "Well, you did that." (stopped the show). And they did. So fantastic.

Bruno, "They can see you in Patagonia, I'll tell you that." (They get two 10s from the judges. Shoulda gotten all 10s, IMHO.)

Also need to give a nod to the (again) amazing work that Sasha Farber is doing with Terra. This Charleston was adapted (choreography) for Terra's unique abilities. But it was stunning. She is truly a star. (And so is he.)

Then, we had a Jersey Boys bumper of "Sherry Baby," which again made us realize how gosh-darn-much we miss Mark Ballas.

Jana and Gleb give us a waltz from the musical Waitress. They receive a perfect score from the judges.

Laurie Hernandez trots out her sexy for this hot number from Chicago. The "Cell Block Tango" turns into an Argentine tango for Laurie and Val, and is just superb. The costumes (for all the Cell Block ladies) are spectacular. Even if Laurie equates some of her moves to "wiping peanut butter off" of Val... Ahem...

They, not surprisingly, get a perfect score.

Then, we had a break with Idina Menzel doing a song ("Queen of Swords") from her new album. Wonderful dancers (Allison Holker and Jenna Johnson, plus troupe members) danced along with it.

Then, we had some kind of new madness. Something called "the Team-Up Challenge," where they put two random members together to team up. These guys are The Last Men Standing. Way to plug those ABC shows!

"I was a big Megatron fan," says James Hinchcliffe. "I'm a bigger Calvin Johnson Jr. fan." The package goes on to detail their bromance. Judges give them a 37 (out of 40) for this.

So, in this paso (which is quite wonderful), James is the bandit, Calvin is the sheriff, and at the end, the women they are with (Lindsay and Jenna) hit them over the heads with bottles and take their money anyway. Nice touch.

"Jazz is like a pu pu platter of everything," says the adorable Terra Jole. Terra and Marilu do a jazz compilation of stuff, all sparkly gold and silver everywhere. Idina gushes, "Everyone hit their marks." Um...

We do find out, in case you were wondering, what "RBF" is... Also, there's a thing with a BIG dress that brings back memories of David Byrne's Big White Suit...

These guys called themselves, "Team Cubs," cause... why not?

They get a 36 from the judges.

Lastly, we have "Team Sisters," with Jana and Laurie and their partners.

And oh, the judges just ate up this Sia song done by these two dancers. Perfect score.

Marilu and Derek go home. And with that, the vaunted "Maks-Cheryl-Derek" thing that they made such a big deal out of in the beginning goes down (as I predicted). We have left those who deserve to be in the semi-finals.

1. Terra and Sasha (Charleston, Sweet Charity)
2. Laurie and Val (Argentine tango, Chicago)
3. James and Jenna (jazz, The Wiz)
4. Calvin and Lindsay (waltz, Cats)

I will say this, too, though. Marilu, in leaving, credited the usual people, plus the crew, plus the hair and makeup people and the costume people, and called out the producers by name. That's class.

Idina Menzel also was very gracious in her exit comments. The kind of judge you want to have back (except she liked everything).

NEXT WEEK: Semi-finals!

1. Jana and Gleb


Monday, November 21, 2016

DWTS Season 23, Week 8: Halloween Scares Up Some Great Dances

Halloween is always a special time at Dancing with the Stars. Usually it involves a team dance (last week). But it's always a PARTY.

Someone tell Erin Andrews she needs a Bunny tail...
First on the Halloween docket, we are sitting at the table with Beetlejuice.

Terra and Sasha are my favorite couple this season. I love them. I love everything they do. They kicked this thing off good with this Beetlejuice cha cha, even if the judges scored them lower than they should have.

The couple that I think is going to win this had a magical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory homage next. Val has always taken a brotherly attitude toward his partners who are in their teens. His relationship with Laurie Hernandez seems to be really special, nowhere noticed more than this Viennese waltz. Rehearsals evoked tears from Val (not a common occurrence).

One minor point: Charlie enters the Chocolate Factory by possessing a golden ticket (not a KEY)...

I think there's something about the childlike wonder of this dance that gets to Val, but after the dance, he again tears up. It's so sweet.

This episode also has (not clearly explained) an immunity for whoever gets the best score (they cannot be voted out). Val and Laurie get a perfect 30 from the judges. More tears backstage.

Marilu and Derek... Wow. She struggles so much, but yet... this combo just doesn't gel the way others have. I still think she's overthinking her dances, or something. "Sweet Dreams" is not a dance that one should mess up. However, they did not get a perfect score.

Calvin and Lindsay, one of my favorite couples, were a lot of fun in this Skeleton-themed quickstep. They dance to "Mr. Bones," that Julianne calls "MegaBones" now. It was great fun. And it also garnered a perfect score from the judges.

First, huge props to costumes and hair for this whole Halloween extravaganza, but wow! Cheryl's costume was just stunning. She went hardcore on Ryan Lochte this week with their tango, so he did seem better, but like Marilu and Derek, they just don't seem to have much fire as a couple.

Jana and Gleb did Gleb's first ever jazz routine to "Little Shop of Horrors," however, as Bruno said, "Where's the plant?" First we have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with no golden ticket, then we have LSOH without the plant? WTF? If you're going to open up these worlds, know what makes them what they are. Sheesh.

Then, we had this...

Our wonderful and lovely Sharna hurt her knee in last week's Team dance rehearsal, so this week, Jenna is dancing in her place. James and Jenna do a stunning Viennese waltz to "You Don't Own Me" with James as the Joker. Quite wonderful. Costumes are great, choreography is amazing. And although I wish Sharna was dancing, I was so bummed about Jenna leaving this season so soon, so this is a nice bit for her (and us).

No surprise it gets a perfect score.

So, to recap: we have THREE perfect scores of the seven dances (Val and Laurie, Lindsay and Calvin, and James and Jenna). The immunity winner is taken from whoever had the highest judges' scores all season. Which turns out to be James and Jenna! YAY!

The nicest part about this is that neither Sharna nor Jenna had to dance the "Dance Off" since they had immunity. BTW, I hate these stupid dance-offs.

Another thing I hate about these dance-offs is that they trumpet that "America will be voting live," when really it's just the East Coast. By the time the West Coast sees it, the votes have already been counted. So UNFAIR.

So, I'll just go through this quick. Val & Laurie compete in jive against Megatron & Lindsay. Val & Laurie win.

Jana & Gleb against Terra & Sasha in salsa. Jana & Gleb win.

Marilu & Derek against Cheryl & Ryan in cha cha. Cheryl & Ryan win.

Winning couples get an extra 3 points. Immunity couple got an extra 5 points.

1. James and Jenna (and Sharna) (Viennese waltz)
2. Laurie and Val (Viennese waltz)
3. Terra and Sasha (cha cha)
4. Calvin and Lindsay (quickstep)
5. Ryan and Cheryl (tango)

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Marilu and Derek

Cheryl and Ryan end up being the booted couple this week. :-(

Next week: Showstoppers Week


Sunday, November 13, 2016

DWTS, Season 23, Week 7: Eras Night, Not a Dance Competition, Just a TV Show

It's "Eras Night" on Dancing with the Stars. Every star takes an era and does a dance. Fun times.

First up, Laurie and Val with the '60s. This isn't the counter-culture hippie rebel '60s, but the sickly sweet prom version of the '60s. Sixteen-year-old Laurie has never been to prom, since she's home schooled. Lucky girl. She gets to go to prom for the first time with Valentin Chmerkovskiy. She gets her first corsage from him. *swoon* We'll just skip over the fact that in the '60s, the black kids wouldn't have been dancing so easily with the white kids. Maybe it was a really cool high school. In the late '60s... Also, in their scenario, she asks him to dance. He would've asked her. Maybe this is the '60s, the way we wish they were...

In any case, Laurie and Val do a swinging quickstep (to "One Fine Day") that is loads of fun to kick off the show. Len is back! Yay! Carrie Ann gets on their case for doing two lifts in a quickstep. Val counters with: "It was the '60s, a time of rebellion."

First, I have to commend the hairstyling staff for their amazing '90s hair on Ryan.

Then, we have to talk about this '90s rumba. Ugh. I find him so unsexy. Cheryl Burke's dancing is always stunning, but there is such a lack of chemistry between them. This rumba was yawn-worthy.

However, Len says he's giving them an extra point because they didn't have lots of hooha going on (other dancers, big sets, flashy nonsense), it was just them and the dance. Which is Len's preference.

Marilu and Derek are another couple (like Cheryl and Ryan) who just haven't seemed to gel as partners. This week they do a '20s Charleston. It was OK, but it didn't do much for me. Julianne tries to make it all better by saying, "Well, you ARE the oldest person in our competition." Thanks, Julianne! :-/

They also had this disconcerting thing in this dance, which they've had in other dances this season when they have tap dance, namely that the sound effects indicate that there are taps happening that aren't really being created by the person doing the tapping. Very annoying.

Love Lindsay and Calvin. They have a real connection as partners. They danced a '50s jive to "Good Golly Miss Molly." (Can't go wrong with that one.) They are just fun to watch, and dance well. Very refreshing to see them.

Right before commercial, they had a bit with Artem (in his '80s gear, next to Maureen) pulling out a brick phone and making a call on it. Makes me laugh every time I see it.

First of all, Maureen McCormick is the sweet Brady Bunch chick. We're not used to her being harsh. And Artem? Looks totally different, though really hot. I loved this '80s tango. They danced to "You Give Love (A Bad Name)" by Bon Jovi.

There was an issue with someone slipping on the long skirt... really these skirts should be shorter so people don't have these problems...

Terra and Sasha! Man, I LOVE THESE TWO. Tearing up the dance floor with a '30s foxtrot.

Len comments, "You put the ALL in SMALL!" and commends Sasha for "doing a fantastic job." Indeed so. They are, by far, my favorite couple all season. And this is the season Sasha became a star, rather than just the crab.

The way he crafts each dance for Terra (this, "Cheek to Cheek," which Terra calls "Cheek to Chest"), the way he dances around her, it's just magic. Bruno calls Terra, "a mini Jean Harlow." Their connection works like no other couple this season. This foxtrot was so great.

They were at the bottom of the leader board this week. So glad they didn't go home. I know I used all my calls for them.

I have very little patience for this couple. Every season there is one star and/or pro whose ego is just off the charts. This season, that couple is Jana and Gleb. (Now that Amber and Maks are gone.) You will note that this dance, a '70s samba, includes other dancers, and WASHING MACHINES (what?), and clothes flung about here and there.

They are dancing to that "Get Down Tonight" song ("do a little dance, make a little love")...

Carrie Ann pointedly reminds Gleb that there are no lifts in samba. Even for "creative reasons."

Len starts by saying that there wasn't enough samba content.

PRO TIP: When Len starts in on you (as a pro) about how there isn't enough of whatever content in your dance, the proper response is: "Thanks, Len! We'll do that next time."

Oh, but no. Gleb does not do this. He escalates this almost to a Maks-level of insolence with Len. In his interview afterward with Erin, here is his comment: "It's not a dance competition, it's a TV show."

The look on Erin's face as he said that. Ahem.

Yeah, excuse me, Gleb, but it IS a dance competition. Ruled by Len. If you don't bend to his rules, YOU DON'T WIN. That's how this works. Gleb is very lucky that this season Len is away most of the time judging in England. But rest assured, if Gleb doesn't do what Len says, he won't win. (Actually, I hope they don't win anyway.)

This couple, on the other hand...

Sharna just presents a whole world here in this '40s jitterbug. The choreography was stunning; the characterizations, which James does amazingly, are stunning. There's a story here, and packed with content.

Although Len also said that there wasn't enough jitterbug, and was too much jive, to which Sharna nodded sheepishly.

But they did score better than Jana and Gleb...

And, for that, I am glad.

1. James and Sharna ('40s jitterbug)
2. Terra and Sasha ('30s foxtrot)
3. Laurie and Val ('60s quickstep)
4. Calvin and Lindsay ('50 jive)
5. Maureen and Artem ('80s tango)

Now, to the Team Dances. First, it's very odd to have the Team Dance night fall on a night that isn't Halloween. Very strange. Also, two precedents that need to be brought up: Derek's team always wins, and the person going home is usually on the losing team.

This was Team Past, dancing a Viennese waltz to a Scottish brogue or something.

Here's how the Team dance thing goes (usually). The ensemble dances together, then each couple breaks off and does a bit by themselves, then the ensemble gets together again. In all they are judged for cohesiveness, and how well they are in time with the others, and in their individual pieces, how well those reflect each couple's personality. This is what scores big numbers with the judges.

So mind you, on Team Past, you have two powerhouses of choreography (Sharna and Lindsay). It is a beautifully executed piece.

Len notes that it was "very brave to go for a Viennese waltz... This was a proper Team dance."

They score two tens, for a total of 38.

Team Future also has two powerhouse choreographers (Derek and Val). It also has the regular winner of the Team Dances (Derek). Plus, Sasha and Terra. Lots of elements here to win this.

Why did this dance fall apart? "Laurie's traveling... Jana's traveling..." (could be?)

Several of the judges mention the lack of synchronicity among the dance members.

They get 35. Derek's team loses.

And who goes home? Someone from the WINNING team.

Sad. It was fun watching you, Maureen. And at least we got to see Artem as an '80s rocker.

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


Sunday, October 30, 2016

DWTS S023, Week 6: Latin Night Not as Steamy as Promised

It was billed as "the hottest night of the season." Well, it wasn't. It's Latin night at Dancing with the Stars, so normally that means a lot of hot dances. Still, the hottest night so far this season was when Jana and Gleb came out on Night 1 with that STEAMY Viennese waltz. You heard me. (So it was steamy and inappropriate. On this night, when it is appropriate, their dance wasn't so steamy.)

This dance, Week 1, was HOT. (But it wasn't supposed to be.)

Old favorite Pitbull kicked off the show (with two other guys) and all of the female pros, plus a bevy of Pitbull's own female dancers. The number (as his numbers usually are) was all over the place, using every bit of stage. The best thing about it? Having Allison Holker among the dancers really made it sparkle. Although Sharna and Witney were really his arm candy...

What Latin Night REALLY is is complicated. It's Week 6, the rubber has hit the road, and if you're still here, these steps get complicated. The Latin dances, one of the biggest staples of the ballroom circuit, have been scaled back in recent years, adding more (*shudder*) Contemporary and less proper samba. But on Latin Night, everyone is on a Latin dance.

Really, what you see is not so much HOT as struggling with a lot of steps (for the most part).

This starts right out of the gate with these two: Ryan and Cheryl. For all the times Ryan reminds us that he has "Cuban" heritage, he doesn't seem to have the Latin rhythm in his blood very much. The whole samba, they are taking each other's clothes off, but it doesn't seem sexy at all. In fact, at the end, they end up in bathing suits under a black light (and he has glow-in-the-dark kneepads, which really kill the mood).

JUDGES: 30 (out of 40)

Also, another crazy thing that happened on this show is that, well, Pitbull hasn't been on as a judge in a long while. So he forgot the whole system and just blurted out his score as the judges are giving their comments. AWKWARD... They set him straight for later judging... sheesh.

I love Sasha and Terra with a passion that I've only felt rarely on this show. The connection they have, the chemistry, the singularity of movement--all of that is huge. But really, the magic of these two (shown again in this paso doble) is the way that Sasha takes the elements of the dance, and molds it to her unique needs.

I would've been giving these two all 10s weeks ago. This dance is no exception. Between the music (they consistently have the best music), the costumes, the sets and lighting, and mostly Sasha's stunning choreography, these two are sincerely my favorite on this show. Sasha did this thing this time around...I don't know what the step is called, but often there is a step in paso where the man is on his knees (and usually he bounces up quickly). In this dance, he stayed down on his knees for quite a bit, and it made it feel more intimate because now he was on Terra's level. Very powerful.

Just stunning. They blow me away, week after week after week.

HOT OR NOT: Not (but WHAT a dance!)
JUDGES: 30 (out of 40) (Boooo!)

I am so over Amber's whiny madness. Although I love to see Maks dance, I was quite happy to see these two get voted out this week.

They cha cha to a song called "Blah Blah Cha Cha." Quite fitting. One thing that really bugged me (other than Amber's overall attitude) was the whole trope that if a woman drops a handkerchief (first of all, which woman carries a handkerchief anymore?)... the man will immediately swoop down and pick it up. So dated, so old. That part didn't work for me.

Another thing that bugged me about Pitbull's commentary is that he constantly was referring to things people did in rehearsal. You're supposed to be judging just what's in front of you, dude. On show night. Grrrr.

JUDGES: 28 (out of 40)

James and Sharna are another of my top favorite couples, week after week. James speaks in his package about his alter ego, Ricardo, who brings the sexy. But he's fooling no one. Everyone knows that Canadian guys are the sexiest guys on the planet.

And this week, they are doing the sexiest dance: rumba. Not sure who thought up this sexy lace number of a shirt for James to wear, but wow. (Way sexier than Ryan Lochte's kneepads, I'll tell ya.)

All this nonsense about James "not being an actor," is just crazy. He invented a persona called Ricardo, for gosh sakes. If that's not acting...

Julianne says that James is "hands-down, the best male dancer we've ever had on this show." :-0 Pitbull misses his cue when they give the scores. The voiceover announcer actually has to say: "Pitbull" twice. *shakes head*

HOT OR NOT: Muy caliente (as Ricardo would say)
JUDGES: 38 (out of 40)

Marilu and Derek is an interesting work-in-progress. Derek made an interesting comment in the package about Marilu's legs, and how he didn't want to look at them cause "she's my mom's age." But hey, go for it. Lots of older ladies are pretty darn sexy, Marilu among them.

Their salsa continues on last week's dance evolution of Marilu.

JUDGES: 34 (out of 40)

First, Gleb is a bit full of himself. He posits that this Argentine tango is going to be the "hottest one ever" on DWTS. (It isn't.) In point of fact, to my eyes, it's not even as hot as the first dance they did this season. Certainly NOT the hottest Argentine tango on this show (just a quick pause brings to mind not only a couple that Val did, a couple that Maks did, but also one steamy one that Sharna did. Plus at least one that Mark Ballas did. All WAY sexier. And that's not even pausing to think about it.)

Here's really the gist of it. Let's use Gleb's dance and compare it to last season's sexiest Argentine tango (by a country mile): Mark and Paige, the dance with the white shirt.

Gleb's starts out with a bed center stage. (Gag. Can we say "on the nose"?) With black satin sheets on the bed. (Double gag.)

Mark Ballas, on the other hand, had a progression of passion. As the dance progressed, it got hotter and hotter and hotter, clothes were being taken off, but they were still dancing. There was a table involved, but it was all a dance of passion.

Jana is already darn near naked at the start. Plus, they are dancing to Selena Gomez (not the sexiest song).

Then, there's this. Their big set piece. Did no one mention to him that taking a cold shower usually means dampening hot lust? Not amping it up... So yes, it's got a gimmick that no Argentine tango has had before, but it didn't in any way make it hotter. The dance itself is supposed to be what makes it hot. Ugh.

These two really bug me. The judges (since Len is not there, especially) really loved it. I did not. Gleb throws his wet shirt at Bruno (cause if Bruno is aroused, he always gives good scores, so good way to get a 10). But then, during the comments, Pitbull says to Jana (completely inappropriately): "If you want, you can go ahead and toss that dress over."

Really, ABC? Really, Disney company? You have this guy judging? It was so rude, it was unspeakable. I really hope they never have him back as a judge again. This incident was a fiasco.

JUDGES: 40 (out of 40) (gag)

We come out of commercial to a rumba bumper by Allison Holker and Keo Motsepe (to "Light My Fire"), which to me, was way hotter than the dance everyone was just raving about.

Artem and Maureen, Week 6. Courtesy of Just Jared.
Maureen and Artem and troupe. Courtesy of Just Jared.
Then, Maureen and Artem do a splashy samba, with lots of color and troupe dancers. And streamers! But this one seemed more of a strain for her, although I enjoyed watching it.

JUDGES: 31 (out of 40)

For my money, this Argentine tango, danced to "Hotel California," was just as hot (or even hotter) than Jana and Gleb's version. No shower scenes, no bed in the middle of the set. Just a nice Argentine tango. And I personally like Calvin's connection with Lindsay more than Jana and Gleb's.

Lindsay knows how to get there: through amazing choreography, with some stunning lifts, but just straight up Argentine tango. No gimmicks. That's what this competition is supposed to be about. Here's hoping that Lindsay and Calvin get further in this competition than Jana and Gleb. Because they deserve to.

JUDGES: 37 (out of 40)

Val, in his package, preparing Laurie for Latin Week: "There's going to be a lot of men ripping their shirts off." (beat) Laurie: "Don't you usually rip YOUR shirt off?" Val, to 16-year-old Laurie: "NO!"

So Val got around the whole hotness thing by packing the dance full of salsa content, which Laurie executed wonderfully.

HOT OR NOT: She's 16, not applicable. Good salsa though.
JUDGES: 37 (out of 40)

1. Terra and Sasha (paso doble)
2. James and Sharna (rumba)
3. Calvin and Lindsay (Argentine tango)
4. Laurie and Val (salsa)

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

NEXT WEEK: Different Era Dances and TEAM dances