Here we are at the Dancing with the Stars Season 25 Semifinals. To my eye, the ones who most deserve to be here are the semifinalists: Emma and Drew, Jordan and Lindsay, Lindsey and Mark, Frankie and Witney, and Victoria and Val.
Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews kick off the night (no opening number) by telling us that there will be two dances. One (whose concept I hate) is recreating iconic DWTS dances of the past. Ugh. The first, though, will be the pro selecting a dance which reflects their star partner. That sounds interesting.
Emma kicks it off by taking the concept seriously, picking the perfect song for a tango. Can you tell that Drew’s Scottish? In the package, Emma credits Drew’s “determination” with getting him this far. I would strongly argue that it was also the fans WHO LOVE HIM (and Emma) that got him into the semifinals. If it were just up to the judges, this couple would’ve been gone much earlier. (Even this week, they go into it at the bottom of the Leader Board.)
But in any case, they are dancing to “500 Miles.” It doesn’t get any better than that. This music is great, the choreography is great, and it ends with the troupe (including Sasha) also dressed up in kilts flashing the band. Wonderful!
Len: “Well done, Braveheart. You came out, full of determination and attack. However, it was so full-on, you lost your posture, you lost your technique.” Bruno: “It’s the Flying Scottsman and the Tartan Army, going for a full flash. I don’t think the band will be able to play for the rest of the night. You have to make sure it didn’t turn into a Highland Fling. Tango is not skippy.” Carrie Ann: “No matter what you do, there is always an entertainment value. The tango lacked a bit of artistry.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 (out of 30)
Val has chosen a contemporary dance which reflects Victoria’s medical struggles (and Val and Jenna Johnson are playing Victoria’s parents). Of course, Victoria is dressed in her beloved pink. Contemporary is my least favorite dance on this show, but this one was very powerful. Part of the dance showed how both Val (as the father) and Jenna (as the mother) had moments of their own struggles with Victoria’s illness, yet they showed their daughter only smiles and support. That was powerful.
JUDGES’ SCORES: 27 (out of 30)
In the package, they talk about how Lindsay hurt her leg. Also how Jordan is a good brother. So they are doing an Argentine tango to the song, “Brother.”
For me, I didn’t much like the song or the dance. We’ve seen a lot better Argentine tangos this season.
Carrie Ann: “Jordan, you are so much a part of what has made this season so fantastic. You have kept the standard extremely high. That was not your best performance.” Len: “You know I’m a fan of yours. The ballroom tango is like a guy dancing with his wife. The Argentine tango is like a guy dancing with his mistress. It’s as though you shouldn’t be watching it. This is a dance competition. Work on the DANCE.” Bruno: “What I saw, I saw your most mature performance to date.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 28 (out of 30)
Like I said, I’m really not much for contemporary, but it was well done.
Len: “Lindsey, I think you’re a very talented dancer. Wonderful extensions throughout. You really blew me away, it was a really fabulous performance. Great routine.” Bruno: “Dynamic, athletic, surprising. It really captured the feeling of what it is to be one’s self.” Carrie Ann: “I was thinking about the quality of movement that you’ve expressed, from the beginning to now. It has changed so drastically. You’ve evolved so much. You used to be all sky and light and pastel, and now you are deep blood earth momma, girlfriend. There was so much primal beautiful energy in that dance.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 29 (out of 30)
This is one of those rap songs I hate, but it's also got Frankie and Sasha and the troupe on a basketball court, so it’s fun to start off with. Oh, I hate this music so bad. I had to rewind to see what kind of dance this is supposed to be. Salsa? Really? Wow.
Fun moment when she rips his shirt open at the end. But for me, it was a struggle to make it through this entire dance. Ugh.
Bruno: “Talk about a salsa with street cred. Witney, you transformed the new kid on the block. I loved the originality.” Carrie Ann: “I don’t know if the song matched you. But you give it all.” Len: “You come out with so much enthusiasm. For me, it was too much hip hop, and not enough hip action. I needed the salsa.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 25 (out of 30)
MICHE’S FAVORITE DANCES OF THE SEMIFINALS (Round 1)
1. Emma and Drew (tango)
2. Mark and Lindsey (contemporary)
3. Val and Victoria (and Jenna) (contemporary)
4. Lindsay and Jordan (Argentine tango)
5. Witney and Frankie (salsa) Really?
We have a palette cleanser in between by showing us wonderful Mandy Moore choreography of the #DWTS show ‘Light Up the Night.”
But then, on to Round 2.
Let me say this about that. One should NOT attempt to recreate classic DWTS dances from the past. They are classic for a reason. They are etched forever in our minds, and shouldn’t be marred with someone else trying to do them. That said, some of these surpass the original, some fall far short.
Overall, I really dislike it because one of the best things about this show is seeing the choreography from the pros. They do amazing work, and I want to see inside THEIR minds, not the minds of someone ten seasons ago. So I go into this round kicking and screaming.
Emma and Drew start us off recreating a jazz dance by Karina Smirnoff (with Corbin Blue, with Witney Carson also dancing with them).
Ugh. I also hate when they use the tap dancing sound effect, and the taps aren’t anything anyone is doing. Ugh.
This version has Drew dancing with four women, including Emma.
They do a very risky move that makes me scared for Emma, but it goes well. (Emma tried to compensate for the fact that Drew is a very different dancer, and put a different spin on the dance.)
Len: “It was fun, and fun to watch. You gotta work on finesse. Get more finesse in your dancing.” Bruno: “I’m just happy that Emma survived reentry. You captured the spirit of the dance. But it was more croquette than Rockette.” Carrie Ann: “There are high expectations. These are numbers that got perfect scores, by incredible people. You’re a very different dancer than Corbin. I love that you went for it.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 (out of 30)
THIS DANCE COMPARED TO THE ICONIC: Different and more suited to Drew. Liked it a lot.
Victoria and Val are recreating a Charleston by Derek Hough and Amber Riley. But there were at least a couple of moves in this amazing Charleston choreography that Amber Riley DID NOT do. There were lifts and twirls and various troupe things (Derek and Amber just danced alone). One move that I’m surprised got past the ABC censors. (Nice!)
And while I do love Derek Hough’s choreography, in many ways, I love Val’s even more (in general and in this dance). Plus, Jenna and Sasha are in this dance. What’s not to love?
Bruno: “It’s incredible. Your acting tonight was right on the money. You gave it your own interpretation. It had charm, it had wit. And your timing was spot on.” Carrie Ann: “I didn’t think this was possible, but I forgot about Amber and Derek while I was watching you. It was uniquely yours.” Len: “That put a smile on my face. It was full of energy, full of razzamatazz. That was a performance.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 29 (out of 30)
THIS DANCE COMPARED TO THE ICONIC: Much better to my eyes. Plus, Val looks so good in his vest and ascot. More Charleston in the iconic one, though. And lots more footwork from Amber originally.
Jordan and Lindsay have an impossible task. They are trying to recreate THIS dance.
(To my mind, one of the most perfect jives ever on this show, with choreography by Mark Ballas, dancing with Paige Vanzant.)
Everyone who is doing these iconic dances is using the same music as the original dance. This jive was danced to “Proud Mary” (not a slow song). The iconic part of this dance, other than the massively fast energy level, was that Paige and Mark did a double cartwheel, which was breathtaking.
So they start out the slow part of the music wearing red (as Paige and Mark did). Then strip them off to be:
Carrie Ann: “OH MY GOD! First of all... (she screams). I am so glad you got that number. That is like the marathon of all jives in the history of Dancing with the Stars. Not only did you nail it, you also did the double cartwheel with straight legs.” Len: “People don’t realize how much really great dancing brings me so much joy. Over the years, there‘ve been good jives. There’ve been great jives. And now, we’ve got Jordan’s jive, which is the yardstick for everyone.” Bruno: “That was a triumph. Very rarely a remake can top an original. This one did.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 30)
THIS DANCE COMPARED TO THE ICONIC: Different, but pretty damned amazing in its own right. Homage was duly paid.
What must it have been like, just then, I wondered? For Mark Ballas to hear the judges say the dance he created was surpassed by the competitors ahead of them?
Well, they are busy recreating the iconic tango that Meryl and Maks danced. In their package, they Skype with Meryl and she wishes them well.
Ha! That’ll show ’em. That was an amazing tango. Just beautiful.
Len: “There was plenty of snap, crackle and pop. I loved your head position when you went into the Promenade. Sharp and fast, and clear and crisp. It was a proper tango.” Bruno: “I think you raised your game tonight, just at the right time. That was a wonderful tango. The extended line, the placement, but what I love is the detail, the way you took these accents (from Meryl and Maks’ dance). Every change of direction was absolutely on the money. And it doesn’t happen usually in the tango. Tonight you two were like mirror images.” Carrie Ann: “About the recreation, I thought you did a fantastic job. You guys don’t have that sexual chemistry that Maks and Meryl had, you have this friend balance chemistry that is so powerful. Watching two of the same dance together, and it’s really stunning.”
This team is the only one who actually credited and thanked their previous iconic dancers. And as Erin is talking to them about that, Maks comes out and tells them they did a beautiful job.
JUDGES’ SCORES: 28 (out of 30)
THIS DANCE COMPARED TO THE ICONIC: Loved it as much as the Maks and Meryl version.
Maks says what I’ve been thinking about this whole thing: “You don’t compare art to art. This was just as special. It’s a different couple, a different season. You guys did an amazing job.”
Witney and Frankie are recreating a paso doble from Season 4 by Julianne Hough and Apollo Ohno. I think personally that it’s a producer’s trick to get her away from always dancing to rap music, cause this was a very Latin dance.
Frankie tells us in his package: “Not only do I belong in the finale, I deserve to win the Mirror Ball.” Did anyone tell him that people with ego like that don’t tend to win this show?
They vow to do the same choreography, even though it’s filled with things they wouldn’t normally do. Strangely, everyone previously danced to exactly the same music as the “iconic” version. This was kinda the same music, but Julianne/Apollo’s version sounded much more Spanish/Latin. Witney/Frankie’s version sounds really cheesy.
Bruno: “You gotta get your shoulders sorted for the paso doble.” Carrie Ann: “The good news? The audience went absolutely wild for you. Also, you handled your props beautifully. There were some moments that were absolutely fantastic: the knee slides, the things that you were worried about... The bad news is you’re stopping your breath sometimes. You have to breathe through your movements.” Len: “I can understand the innocence about you, and everyone can see: you’re doing everything you can. I like you so much, I don’t really want to talk about... there was not enough shaping. Paso doble is all about getting the shapes. Getting your buttocks under.”
JUDGES’ SCORES: 26 (out of 30)
THIS DANCE COMPARED TO THE ICONIC: They did all the difficult moves. The music much cheesier.
Who’s going home?
Let me just say: Victoria was CRUSHED. Crushed. Val did his best to console her.
MICHE’S FAVORITE DANCES OF THE SEMIFINALS (Round 2)
1. Lindsay and Jordan (jive)
2. Mark and Lindsey (tango)
3. Val and Victoria (Charleston)
4. Emma and Drew (jazz)
5. Witney and Frankie (paso doble)