Sunday, September 10, 2017

DWTS S024, Week 8, Pro Pick Week and Hot Sexy Trios

Week 8 kicks off well, not with the pic above, but with this.

“Hot Summer Nights,” they are calling it. The latest show by the DWTS crew, pictured.

This week, although they don’t really announce it, or give it the hype they give other weeks, is “Pro Pick” Week. Which means that the pro gets to pick the music, based on their impression of their partners. (Love it!)

Emma and Rashad have a great package, where they show how well they get along and how much they respect each other as partners. Even gets Miss Emma a bit teary. (So sweet.)

They kick off the night with this jive to “Blues Brothers” music. Great stuff, great way to open the show.

Judge Julianne Hough is back this week. Yay. And can I just mention how snappy a dresser Bruno Tonioli has become? Snazzy pink jacket with suave gray tie. Wow.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 36 (out of 40)

Val choose a song called “Freedom” for Normani to dance contemporary with him this week. It was extremely powerful.

I have mentioned before how much I love Val’s choreography? One of the things I love the most about it is that he really pays attention to the WORDS of a song. If it says “shoulder,” there is an action on a shoulder. If it says “stumble,” there will be a momentary stumble. It all becomes part of the whole, but it shows that he is not only paying attention to the steps and beats of a piece of music, but to its whole. I so very much appreciate that about him as a choreographer, and it’s a rare quality among this current crop. To me, it really makes his pieces perfection.

Also, look at this picture. You can tell just by a still image that there is a lot of depth going on here, a story is truly being told, that comes from the heart. You may not be able to tell that the piece is about standing up to bullying.

But, like I said, it was very powerful and moving. Carrie Ann called it “a work of art” and also complimented Val’s choreography.

: 40 (out of 40)

There is trouble in paradise between teacher and dancer. Bonner doesn’t really want to keep addressing his life-threatening injury (that this show makes him do, week after week, according to him), but that is, actually what this show does best. One’s best art comes from one’s pain. Normani saw that, and translated it into dance (with Val’s guidance) and got a perfect score.

They show Bonner walking out on Sharna in the package. Len goes so far as to say that Bonner has been here a week too long (!). Sharna gasps and bites her lip.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 40)

Sasha’s Pro Pick for Simone was a One Direction song, “You Don’t Know (You’re Beautiful).” And she truly doesn’t.  Look at her left foot in this picture. This is a girl who is uncomfortable with her own beauty. So it was an absolutely perfect song, and a great foxtrot, too.

: 36 (out of 40)

Lindsay chooses “Humble and Kind” for David to dance this waltz to. It truly does seem to personify him and also really chokes him up in the package that Lindsay picked this for him. At the end, they both tell each other “I love you.” Really sweet.

Great dance. The judges comment specifically about how well he has paid attention to the footwork that is supposed to be happening.

: 36 (out of 40)

1. Simone and Sasha’s foxtrot
2. David and Lindsay’s waltz
3. Normani and Val’s contemporary
4. Rashad and Emma’s jive
5. Bonner and Sharna’s tango

Then, we have the Trios round, one of my personal favorites. Usually the pro chooses who their trio partner is, but this time the judges chose. Rashad and Emma end up pairing with Witney for an Argentine tango. Woo hoo.

The right half (blue) was the long-term romantic partner (Emma) and the left half (red) was the temptress (Witney). It was a great concept, well-told story, and I thought a great Argentine tango.

Len thinks Rashad’s footwork wasn’t great. “You’ve got dancing in your blood, it just hasn’t reached your feet yet.” But the rest of the judges loved it, so “Ménage á Shad” scores well.

(BTW, later, Erin Andrews attempts to credit Witney with coming up with the brilliant nickname. This, from the girl who thinks Fleetwood Mac is a guy? I THINK NOT.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 39 (out of 40)

Normani and Val, as you may’ve guessed, paired up with Alan to do a “country jive.” Normani admits, in their package, to thinking Bonner is “hot” and “a gentleman.”

I have to say that I really hate dances which dance partly on the judges’ table. Hate it. (Len hated it, too.)

That said, the fact that both Val and Alan end up shirtless midway through kinda makes up for it. *swoon* But, after fighting over both boys during the song, at the end, she ends up in Bonner’s arms. (Nice touch!)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 36 (out of 40)

My favorite part of that whole thing was this:

Where Tom Bergeron proved he has some pretty darn sexy hip action in him...

So then... we had this.

And this...

And, oh, this...

And I know what Len’s gonna say before he even says a thing. He hates the sex on wheels stuff, that is all fuss and not much dancing, which this was.

He brings up a good point. (He did say it was “too raunchy” for him.) But he mentioned that Rashad’s dance was also all about passion. (But it was in the dance! Not in the effects.) Everyone seems kinda shaken, like it was a bridge too far. Even Tom Bergeron seemed speechless.

The judges pretty much hated it. As they have been giving out 10s and 9s all night, they gave this straight 7s.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 28 (out of 40)

Simone and Sasha get teamed with Britney for this paso doble.

Very dynamic. Carrie Ann takes issue with Simone’s lack of authenticity, and calls her “a metronome,” as far as hitting the beats. Tom mentions that she doesn’t smile to hear Carrie Ann’s comments. Simone shoots back, “Smiles don’t win you gold medals.” :-0  Wow. (Pretty rude comment.)

Len takes Simone to task for only producing 9s, even though she’s his favorite. No 10s from anyone this time around.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 36 (out of 40)

David and Lindsay are paired with Hayley for this paso doble, to an instrumental version of “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Very powerful and, I thought, well done.

Len did not agree. “I didn’t like it at all. There was no dance quality out there.” David says, “That stinks.” Julianne says, “It was strong, but you lacked shaping, which is a huge part of what the paso doble is.”

Bruno said he looked like “Godzilla, chasing jet fighters. That is not a shape.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 29 (out of 40)

So who goes home? The person Len thought should have gone home last week.

Um... oh darn....

1. Emma, Rashad, Witney’s Argentine tango
2. Val, Normani, Alan’s jive
3. Sasha, Simone, Brittany’s paso doble
4. Lindsay, David, Hayley’s paso doble
5. Sharna, Bonner, Britt’s whatever the hell that was (jazz)


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Lobster No More—Bring Back Sasha, the Pro!

Dear Dancing with the Stars Casting Team:

You messed up. WTF were you thinking?

I’m sorry. Usually I can go along with whatever crazy choices you guys make, and just see what happens, but this time, a real travesty has been committed.

I know it's too late to change things for this season, but let’s revisit what we have here for a moment, shall we?

On the female side, great choices: Peta, Sharna, our champion Emma, Lindsay, Witney. Great choices. And our Cheryl Burke is back. Fantastic!

Sadly, our wonderful Jenna is relegated to the troupe again, but at least she’s somewhere. So that’s fine. And Hayley is back in the troupe, too. Wonderful.

It’s the male side which needs some work, and some rethinking.

Specifically, the reason I’m writing this letter is because of Sasha Farber.

Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber. Courtesy of ABC Television.
Now, I know, some of you may still be thinking of him as the guy in the lobster suit, but obviously, you haven’t been paying attention here.

Yes, Sasha has been the dependable troupe guy for a long time. He’s also been a pro for a long time now too.

Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber. Courtesy of ABC Television.
I understand. There is a certain amount of “real” casting, and a certain amount of “joke” casting (those whom you put in for various reasons, but fully expect to be voted out very quickly) on this show. I’m sure that when you paired Terra Jolé (the first ever “little person”) with Sasha, it was some of the latter. And yet, what we ended up with was some of the most beautiful, poignant dancing of that season. Dance after dance Terra and Sasha brought tears to my eyes, with their overall message of “accept people for who they are.” It was moving, it was amazing. Did you see it? It was some of the best dancing of Season 23, and they made it to the semifinals.

Simone Biles and Sasha Farber. Courtesy of ABC Television.
And then, this past season, with Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. Sasha Farber kept up with all the gymnastic twists and turns of their routines. Did you see their Charleston? Go rewatch that tape. Who else has done a double cartwheel holding hands? I ask you.

Simone Biles and Sasha Farber. Courtesy of ABC Television.
No, Sasha Farber has surprised and astonished us. Brought us great music, great routines, fabulous dances, all with a smile and a fun demeanor. Respectful of those who went before and aware of the rules of the show. A great team player, but an even better pro artist.

Sasha Farber went from being the guy in the lobster suit to a star in recent seasons. You wouldn’t put Mark Ballas or Derek Hough back in the troupe, now would you? Sasha Farber doesn’t deserve to be there either.

But who do we have dancing pro this season instead? (Male dancers)

Maksim, Val, of course. Mark Ballas is back! Hurrah (and thank God!)! Artem, sure. Alan, who put in such good service subbing for Maksim last season is now pro. Great choice.

The issue I have here is two people: TWO.

Keo Motsepe and Gleb Savchenko.

First, I’m frankly shocked that Keo even got back into the troupe after berating a producer on air with his temper tantrum. Why he wasn’t fired boggles my mind. But ok, in the troupe, fine. But back as a pro? Are you kidding me?

A big part of the job is not just teaching someone to dance well, but also coddling them, massaging their egos, doing whatever it takes to get them to the Mirror Ball. Keo is frankly not capable of this.

Both Keo and Gleb are narcissistic ego maniacs who only want their own star to shine. Whereas Sasha Farber is kind, giving, extremely helpful to his partner, as he has proven over and over. (Gently coaxing nervous Simone Biles to do sexual dances when she’d never even dated before. He worked magic there.)

On the other hand, when Keo was paired with Jody Sweetin, the talk was (and I firmly believe) that she was better than he was capable of handling. Every pro has to come up with more impressive dances as the competition increases. Some pros outdo themselves. Some, like Mr. Motsepe, come up short. MANY people said that he was holding Jody back. I am among those people. Had she been with a different partner—even, for example, Sasha Farber—she might be a Mirror Ball winner now. But with him as her partner, she faltered. It was painful to watch.

It was the best example of mismatched partners that I can think of.

And then we have Gleb.

Gleb has one mode, and one mode only: SEX. His tangos are about sex. His rumbas are about sex. His Viennese waltzes are about sex. His jives are about sex. His Bollywood is probably about sex. That’s pretty much what he does. That’s all he does.

Sex is his brand. He doesn’t care about content. Both Keo and Gleb have been given MULTIPLE notes from multiple judges (that they completely disregard) about putting more specific dance content into their dances. Gleb consistently mouths off to the judges and says that all he cares about is putting entertainment on the floor, and if he wants to put in sex (which he does), he will.

He’s arrogant and he’s a diva and he doesn’t listen to direction. (Same as Keo.)

Yet, these two are the ones you reward with slots as pros this year? When Sasha Farber has arguably been doing some of the best work as a dancer of ANYONE in the past two seasons. He doesn’t mouth off to the judges or producers. He doesn’t need to have a note about “please put in more dance content”—he already knows what’s supposed to go in there, and does it amazingly. The dances he creates, using incredible music, have been standouts across the board. The past two seasons, there has not been ONE dud.

You can’t say that for either Gleb or Keo.

You made a mistake here, Casting Department. People should be rewarded when they do outstanding work, not put back into the troupe. Please rectify this with Season 26.

Simone Biles and Sasha Farber. Courtesy of ABC Television.
You threw him a curve ball by pairing him with Terra Jolé.  He picked up that challenge and ran with it. He adapted dances to fit the new circumstances, and came out with mind-blowing shapes in the process.

Step by step, he kept up with the gymnastics of Simone Biles. Over and over, he has done what is required of a pro, and far surpassed our expectations.

Sasha Farber started as a guy in a lobster costume, but he has become one of the most-loved stars of this show. He does not deserve to be put back in the troupe. Gleb and Keo deserve to stay there until they learn some respect.

I am saddened beyond measure with these choices. I suspect you will regret your picks of Keo and Gleb. Just remember: It really should’ve been Sasha.

Simone Biles and Sasha Farber. Courtesy of ABC Television.
And, he’s given you some of the best TV on Dancing with the Stars with this:

Sasha Farber proposes to Emma Slater. Courtesy of ABC Television.
BRING BACK SASHA FARBER, pro dancer. Thank you.


Michelle Belaskie


Sunday, September 3, 2017

DWTS S24, Week 7: Movies Genres and a Double Elimination

One of the things I like the most about Mandy Moore’s choreography for Dancing with the Stars, is that when there are these big splashy opening numbers, she tends to let the real-life couples dance together (as they should, as they do in our big romance dream in the sky). I mean, look here at Peta and Maks. And Emma and Sasha. It’s right and fitting that they dance together. (It was also nice to see regular favorite Kym Johnson in the lineup.)

However, one of the problems I had with the dance, which was replicated recently with landline phones in one number, is that all the women are holding golden movie reels of film. It's 2017, and all film is digital. So... whatever... minor quibble.

Here we are, about midway through the competition, and we have a new theme night: Let’s Go to the Movies. OK. That opens up using movie music and having filmed intros that are movielike. Kinda cool. It has possibilities. Plus, our wondrous choreographer, Mandy Moore, just participated in the film that almost/kinda won Best Picture (La La Land), and unfortunately there is no Best Choreography award at the Oscars, cause she would've won it.

So, she’s back in her first time at the judges’ table. It’s about time. The downside of her as a judge? Probably what makes her great as a choreographer: she gets in the heads of the dancers too much, rather than standing back and critiquing. But the upside? She really knows her stuff, and can really speak to the dancers in a way that’s useful. So I would LOVE to see her back judging again.

Oh, but let’s get on with this movie business, shall we?

Take a guess which movie genre Bonner gravitated to? Um, yeah...

I thought it was funny when they showed a production meeting and Bonner is saying that Sharna could be “a barmaid,” and she immediately butts in with, "oh no! I"m a hustler."

I really don't think women sat down at card games with men in the Old West, but who knows? Maybe they did. In Sharna's world, they did.

Sharna and Bonner dance a paso doble to a Western theme. At the end, Sharna takes the money and another lady hustler joins her with it. Heh.

Tom Bergeron compliments the crew on “constructing an entire saloon in under 90 seconds, and no doubt they’ll be shutting one down later.” (DWTS’ crew does totally rock.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 29 out of 40

Keep in mind, there is a DOUBLE ELIMINATION this week, and also, the top scorer in the opening rounds will be granted immunity.

Nancy and Artem have the genre, “Romance,” which is actually a book genre. Pretty sure the movie genre is “romantic comedy,” but whatever.

And they are doing a tango, loosely based on the movie “Pretty Woman,” and using the song. Nancy gives props to the amazing crew (hair, makeup, costumes) who allow her to become a different character each week.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 36 out of 40

Simone and Sasha do a genre that actually IS a genre: Silent Movies, and utilize one of my favorite dances on the show: the Charleston.

About last week’s dances, Simone says: “It is nerve-wracking to try to be sexy for America.”

But can I just rave for a moment about the wonder that is Sasha Farber, and how far he’s come? From some guy in the background, always wearing a costume, to this star in front of us who does a perfect Charleston (arguably the hardest dance on the roster), I just think he’s amazing.

And when you add in Simone Biles, and all the flips and cartwheels and things that she can do... holy moly.

They did this double cartwheel thing, where they end up holding hands throughout. Just incredible stuff. Packed with content. Should’ve gotten 40 for this.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 37 out of 40

Then there was some promo for a Disney movie that I'm just skipping over.

Then Nick and Peta do this amazing Argentine tango to the “Action Movie” genre. The staging and concept was very fun.

I have to say, this is Week 7. Nick Viall is still here. Usually the joke contestants are weeded out by now. But he keeps plugging away, trying really hard to execute whatever is thrown at him, and I thought he did an amazing job with this Argentine tango. And Peta's Argentine tangos are works of art. Still, the judges weren’t wowed.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 34 out of 40

Emma and Rashad take on the “Horror Movie” genre. They wrote an intro, which was filmed. Then they do an amazing paso doble. I have to say, this is one of the couples that week after week, I really look forward to watching.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 37 out of 40

This ties them with Sasha and Simone for immunity. Emma says: “What happens now?” After Erin pauses for a moment, and asks for a producer, they realize that oops, there are still two couples left who could score more than 37.

Well, maybe not this one.

I love David Ross. I really love that he will do anything that is put in front of him on this show. And, I have to say, personally, I dialed their number multiple times this season just because the CUBS WON, baby! I mean, seriously.

But this science fiction salsa is a real trip. I actually really liked it, and it sure is different than anything else anyone else did.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 32 out of 40

Normani and Val have the movie genre of “Foreign Film,” but before they start, their package tells us about an injury that she suffered while training this week.

Well, they say all that, then deliver this stunning Argentine tango. It was truly like watching a professional do this dance.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 40 out of 40

Normani and Val win immunity.

They then proceed to do this Dance Off challenge thing, couple against couple in a style of dance. I have never liked this craziness, so I'm going to skip over it. Also, they say “America” gets to vote, but it's really only the East Coast, so that’s another reason to skip over it.

The results:

Simone and Sasha beat Ardem and Nancy in cha cha.

Rashad and Emma beat David and Lindsay in jive.

Sharna and Bonner beat Nick and Peta in rumba.

In all cases (except the last, where Bruno voted for Nick and Peta), the judges were unanimous and “America” agreed.

So, Val and Normani (who probably wouldn't have been voted off anyway) are immune from being voted off tonight.

Who's going home?


It's a weird thing, here in Week 7. At the opening of Season 24, it sure seemed like the Chmerkovskiy family (one of them, one being Maks or Val or Peta) would take the Mirror Ball. If you asked me in Week 7 who I thought would win, it sure looked like the solid money would still be on Val and Normani to win.

But this was really a season where we are reminded how the fans run this show. AND how that is a good thing.