Sunday, May 21, 2017

DWTS S024, Week 5: Disney Night a Mixed Bag of Goodies

It's Disney Night at Dancing with the Stars! And you know what that means! (Princesses and fairies and all manner of magical things in the opening number.) Even former DWTS winner Alfonso Ribeiro, now host of another ABC show, America's Funniest Home Videos, to lead the way. Singing! And Dancing! About magic and stuff, dragging along two little kids as they traipse all around the stage, and find various cast members in costume along the way.  It's over the top. It's Disney Night!

At first, I wasn't as jazzed about this number, because it's the same costumes Val and his partner memorably wore for "Be Our Guest" to a recent Disney Night. So the number seemed slow, until I realized it was Josh Groban singing and a whole different number from Beauty & the Beast (currently out in theatres).

Well, I love Emma and Rashad, so this foxtrot was great. Also astonishing was that in the package, Emma mentioned that last week's 10s with Rashad (plural) were her first EVER! How is that even possible? Emma is one of the best dancers on this show. Although I guess she has been paired with some loser partners. Still... WOW!

JUDGES' SCORES: 32 (out of 40)

Then, this madness happened. Now, I've watched Nick Viall through three (two?) versions of The Bachelorette, then Bachelor in Paradise (a couple of times?), then, finally, The Bachelor. It's almost like he's always on TV. But in all that screen time, I don't think I've EVER seen him fully clean-shaven. (Although Pinocchio IS a boy, so he would be...) It was still shocking.

Here's the other thing that I recognized when watching this. It's easy (always easy) to dismiss whoever comes on DWTS from The Bachelor. You know it's stunt casting and they are going nowhere, and are usually one of the first ones gone. But Nick's REALLY trying here! Plus, he has Peta as a partner. They really impressed me with this jazz dance.

Judges comment about how vulnerable Nick is, and how great Peta's choreography is.

JUDGES' SCORES: 34 (out of 40)

Here's the thing I want you to understand. Both Gleb and Erika wear their sexuality like armour. In Gleb's case (and in the case of this show), it will keep him from ever winning a Mirror Ball trophy. (I promise you.) But in Erika's case, I'm not sure what it's holding her back from, but I'm sure it does. For whatever reason, maybe because it's Disney Night, and that puts one in touch with their inner child... I don't know... Whatever the reason, for this dance, to "Unforgettable," Erika put all that down, and genuinely expressed her vulnerability. It was beautiful, and every single one of the judges commented on it.

That truly, is the magic of Dancing with the Stars, that many stars don't realize when they come in. They surely don't realize the amount of work they are going to be putting their body through, and the grueling schedule that rehearsal is, but also, they have NO IDEA the emotional way that this show changes them. Yet star after star commented about that. This was Erika's moment.

And it was beautiful.

JUDGES' SCORES: 32 (out of 40)

This is a dance show with people who (ostensibly) don't know how to dance. Here's what you can do, if you have someone who is already an actress and a dancer, when you have Disney Night. You can get them to almost recreate scenes from the movie. You can give them bits of business (like throwing off gloves and scarves) that work in effortlessly into the dance. You can get them to punctuate words in the song ("I'm feeling gassy") with an actual burp effect.

Here's what you should NEVER, EVER do though. Don't have them jump onto the judges' console. It seems to me that Heather has TWICE hopped up on the judges' console in two different weeks. In this week, Len looked visibly affronted. (In his judges' comments, he says: "Don't ever touch me!" in a very stern voice. Then says he was kidding. He still does not look amused.

Your main job, as the pro who is teaching, is to get high scores. 10s, if possible. And, to do that, you have to make Len happy by not dancing on the table in front of him. You have to make Carrie Ann happy and not throw in lifts for effect. You have to make Bruno happy by throwing in a little extra sexy now and again. And I'm not sure what makes Julianne happy, but I think it's just good, emotional dance. That's why these are good judges. They balance each other well.

So, when dancer Heather hopped up there, Len was not happy at all.

I must commend the stage crew who truly did a fantastic job of recreating the Frozen world all around the stage for this dance. One big benefit of doing Disney night is that on this night, the crew gets access to all kinds of Disney animation that otherwise would be locked down. And it's just wondrous.

JUDGES' SCORES: 34 (out of 40)

Sharna and Bonner decide to recreate a videogame from Wreck It, Ralph for their tango. Not sure how well it worked, either as a tango or as a videogame. But then, I still have visions of Mark Ballas' amazing Nintendo Freestyle dancing in my head. It's a high bar to match.

Did love the costumes and the set, though.

JUDGES' SCORES: 30 (out of 40)

Season 9 DWTS winner Donny Osmond, who sang the song for the movie, arrives to perform it live. He and Tom have a few moments of banter. Nice.

Normani loved the idea of portraying Mulan to do her paso doble with Val. And, not surprisingly, it was quite wonderful. Even though they used sticks, and had some fight choreography moves, the choreography (by Val) as usual was just stunning.

The judges loved it, across the board. Carrie Ann even calling it "perfection."

JUDGES' SCORES: 39 (out of 40)

They were not as psyched about this jive, even though it was a world-premiere of a new song from Cars 3.

Carrie Ann did note that David "hit every step." However... they ended up receiving the lowest scores of the night.

JUDGES' SCORES: 29 (out of 40)

We come back from break with all the Disney characters (Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy, etc.) out dancing with the judges, who are now out from behind their podium. Tom is standing next to Goofy, whom he says, "is my agent." That man just cracks me up, I swear.

Nancy Kerrigan still seems fraught with insecurity and hesitancy in her steps and movements. However, the judges thought she was the clear star of this number (even though this was the first time she had so many troupe dancers accompanying her). They were dancing jazz to a song from "Enchanted," and Nancy did seem to be having a lot of fun.

JUDGES' SCORES: 36 (out of 40)

Last, but certainly not least, we have our wondrous Olympic medalist Simone Biles, dancing contemporary to the Oscar-nominated song from Moana, "How Far I'll Go." It's sung by the actual Moana, Auli'i Cravalho.

Normally, as I've said before, I pretty much hate contemporary dance. But somehow, Sasha makes the choreography feel like it's just Moana going out exploring. There's not that "contemporary" thing that usually makes me cringe.

And there are echoes of moves that we saw on the Olympics floor, that have now morphed into dance moves. Gymnastic tumbles and rolls across the floor, and Sasha is right there with her. It's beautiful and brilliant, and such a fitting way to end Disney night.

JUDGES' SCORES: 38 (out of 40)

Gleb and Erika end up being the ones going home.

1. Simone and Sasha, contemporary, Moana
2. Normani and Val, paso doble, Mulan
3. Nick and Peta, jazz, Pinocchio
4. David and Lindsay, jive, Cars 3
5. Rashad and Emma, foxtrot, Beauty and the Beast
6. Heather and Alan, jazz, Frozen


Sunday, May 14, 2017

DWTS S024, Week 4: Most Memorable Year Brings a Lot of Tears

I really have a love/hate relationship with "My Most Memorable Year" on Dancing with the Stars. Sometimes, it can be really transcendent. Sometimes, it can leave you sobbing. Other times, it's just someone noting that they got cast on some show. Woo hoo. It's always a mixed bag.

(One number left me teary, but we'll get to that.)

The main purpose of it, and it's really a vital one, is to get these now dancers to feel something. They have spent the first couple of weeks finding out how hard this was going to be, as they saw the joke cast members get voted off. Around the time of Most Memorable Year, it's starting to get serious, and it's wise for whoever first came up with this to have put it here.

Let's talk about whatever brings you emotion: your mom, your dad, your heartbreaking injury, your child, whatever. Because then, after this week, their dances always have more emotion than they did previously.

TEAM: Normani and Val
Most Memorable Year: 2012
Why? Because she joined Fifth Harmony.
Poignancy Factor: Three (out of 10)

As far as the "Most Memorable Year" hooha, this was one of the worst for me. The key element is supposed to be THE DANCE, and it's hard to do that when you bring in a worldwide sensation group, and just have them singing in the background.

Also, this was a not-very-sexy rumba that Len Goodman thought didn't have "enough rumba content." And Carrie Ann was irritated that there was a lift (when will these guys learn to stop putting in lifts?).

JUDGES' SCORES: 32 (out of 40)

TEAM: Nick and Peta
Most Memorable Year: 2016
Why? Because he "found love." (What else is he going to say with Vanessa right there?)
Poignancy Factor: Four (out of 10)

So, of course, in the most grand ABC masturbatory show jerkoff tradition (at least until they do Disney Week), they do a rumba to The Bachelor. Which was actually good, and well-conceived. Peta is a pretty great choreographer.

Carrie Ann mentions how it's a bit choppy at the beginning, when Nick is dancing with other dancers, but once he starts dancing with Peta, it becomes "magical."

And it ended, as it should have, when the song is "I Really Love Your Body," with Nick going into the audience and picking up Vanessa for a kiss.

TEAM: Nancy and Artem
Most Memorable Year: 1996
Why? The year she had her first child. Then, she found out she was unable to have children after her first, and had six miscarriages.
Poignancy Factor: Ten (out of 10)

Nancy just talked about something America probably doesn't know about. She always wanted three children, and really struggled after the first one. (She did end up having three.) So her story is about not giving up when you really want something.

She and Artem danced a quite beautiful foxtrot, nice lighting, nice costumes. Beautiful choreography. Len said that she now separated herself from the pack, and "became a frontrunner," then gives her a 9 for this dance.

JUDGES' SCORES: 33 (out of 40)

Watching someone who really can't dance is not fun. So what do you do to jazz it up for the audience? Well, if you're Dancing with the Stars, you bring in a nice choir, add some snazzy sets, so that there's always something else to look at in the shot.

TEAM: Mr. T and Kym
Most Memorable Year: 1995
Why? He found out he had cancer.
Poignancy Factor: Eight (out of 10)

It is a sad story, no doubt. He still can't dance. However, they give it the old college try. He professes his love for God, who got him through his ordeal, and they dance a waltz to "Amazing Grace." With a choir in the background, and the stage looking like a church.

I really like Kym as a dancer, she really does try, no matter who she's given, and she's been given some doozies. Course, she's also been given her current husband, so it's not all bad. But Mr. T? Not one of her best partners.

Tom says to Mr. T: "You get more dapper every week."

Carrie Ann (who always cries during Memorable Year week) is crying. Len mentions how "carefully" Kym has worked with Mr. T. Julianne says, "I'm choked up, too." Bruno: "You really are a good man, and this dance reflected who you are."

JUDGES' SCORES: 28 (out of 40)

TEAM: Heather and Alan (standing in for Maks)
Most Memorable Year: 2015
Why? The year she got married.
Poignancy Factor: Five (out of 10)

You know it's problematic when they met "through MySpace." Ugh. And we get to see lots of pics of her wedding. Call me jaded, but ugh.

Then, they do a cha cha to "Shut Up and Dance" (which has already had other, more memorable dances performed to it on this show). The song is supposed to represent her marriage, or something. She actually does kiss her real husband at the beginning of the song. Then, Alan steps in as him.

But, let's be clear. The LAST song was all about God, and featured a church as a backdrop. This song features a house with a "SOLD" sign on it. *eyeroll*

The dances which win this night, and compel people to rush to the phones to vote for them, are ones which pull tears out of people's eyeducts, not those which really only glorify someone's ego. I mean, sure, maybe she never had six miscarriages, or got diagnosed with cancer, but getting married and buying a house? Ugh.

No, this woman's not a dancer... *eyeroll*
Not surprisingly, though, the judges get all gaga over the dancing. Len was all googoo. Julianne gushed about how there "was so much cha cha content." Carrie Ann "took off a point for the lift, but I still loved it."

JUDGES' SCORES: 35 (out of 40) (highest score of the night so far)

Maks is up next to them as they get the judges' scores, and afterwards, he says: "I just wanna say that I think Alan has proven his case, more than enough, for pro maybe next year."

To which Erin says: "I didn't know you were producing this show. But I guess we have a new producer, and it's Maksim."

TEAM: David and Lindsay
Most Memorable Year: 2016
Why? Cubs won the World Series. "My last year playing baseball ever."
Poignancy Factor: Ten (out of 10)

He talks in his package about both how magical the Cubs' win was, but also how important his kids are to him, and how excited he is to spend these next years with them. I dunno, but this whole package moved me much more than Heather's perfect husband and marriage story did.

They do a Viennese waltz to "Forever Young" (and doesn't baseball always make one "forever young"?). The crowd really does go wild. Len gives his judging comments all in baseball signals, which Tom says was, "a little bit of Yogi Berra and a little bit of Curly Howard, is how I see it."

Erin tells David that since tonight is the Cubs' home opener, but there was a rain delay, and in the interim, they played the clip LIVE of David and Lindsay's dance. David was already tearing up, but this makes him tear up even more. He complements "all the support from that group.... I was emotional before I started, with the family... so... I'm glad it's over."

JUDGES' SCORES: 31 (out of 40)

TEAM: Rashad and Emma
Most Memorable Year: 2006
Why? "The year I realized what unconditional love is."
Poignancy Factor: Ten (out of 10)

Rashad, in his package, talks about how his father was a provider, but distant. How he had a "full scholarship," but then his father had a stroke and diabetes and had to have his leg amputated. Rashad decided to give up his scholarship to move back home.

This was just a stunning dance. Emma's choreography was sublime, it captured so many of the things that were in the package. They danced to a song about loving unconditionally. And then, at the end, Rashad walks to his father, in a wheelchair in the audience and hugs him deeply. If you weren't sobbing before, you were by then.

THIS dance. This is what Most Memorable Year is supposed to be about.

Bruno: "I am mesmerized. I was watching two great artists painting art." Carrie Ann: "You are a born dancer, that was incredible." Len: "It had wonderful, lyrical movement, great lifts. I thought it was fantastic." Julianne, like most of us, is still sobbing. "I can't even talk right now...What you just did, I have no words for. What I'm feeling on the inside. And your vulnerability is so beyond... it gives every man out there the courage to be their true selves."

JUDGES' SCORES: 39 (out of 40) (Highest score of the season so far)

It's kind of almost a sacriledge, that after the last poignant, powerful, moving and emotion-filled dance that we have this next.

TEAM: Erika and Gleb
Most Memorable Year: 1989
Why? "The year I moved to New York to find my dreams."
Poignancy Factor: One (out of 10)

As I said, the ego-filled dances/goals/memories are the ones that succeed the least. Just look at the picture. And she was dancing a "cha cha" to Madonna's "Express Yourself."

And I have also said, frequently, that the only thing in Gleb's toolbox is sex.... Well...

Len: "It's a bit of same old, same old. You go down this sexy route. If you wanna do that, you do that."

When they are back with Erin, Gleb grabs the mic as Erika is talking and says: "No, Len, we're not going to do less sexy. We're going all the way." *sigh* (Gleb, season after season now, deludes himself with thinking he can do this the way he wants to, and get in the finals. Guess what Gleb...?)

JUDGES' SCORES: 30 (out of 40)

TEAM: Simone and Sasha
Most Memorable Year: 2000
Why? "The year I was adopted."
Poignancy Factor: Nine (out of 10)

Simone talks about how her mother was drug and alcohol-addicted, and when she was really young, she remembers being "really hungry." Her mom kept going into and out of jails, and finally she ended up in foster care.

They dance just a beautiful Viennese waltz (Sasha just does such brilliant choreography). Just so perfect and wonderful. At the end, her adoptive parents are in the audience, and she runs up to hug them both. Then, quick-thinking Tom Bergeron brings them both up onstage as Simone gets her scores.

Judges, not surprisingly, loved it. Especially because, in addition to her usual perfection, she was also showing emotion.

JUDGES' SCORES: 36 (out of 40)

TEAM: Bonner and Sharna
Most Memorable Year: 2016
Why? The year of his bull-riding accident that almost killed him.
Poignancy Factor: Eight (out of 10)

Sharna is such a superb choreographer. And I'm partial to the dances which tell a story through the choreography, as this did. Just stunning to watch. Really nice, content-filled foxtrot, and they both looked so elegant performing it.

JUDGES' SCORES: 32 (out of 40)

A great night of dances, and Mr. T and Kym are the ones going home.

1. Rashad and Emma, contemporary
2. Simone and Sasha, Viennese waltz
3. Heather and Alan, cha cha
4. Normani and Val, rumba
5. Nick and Peta, rumba
6. Bonner and Sharna, foxtrot
7. Nancy and Artem, foxtrot
8. David and Lindsay, Viennese waltz


Sunday, May 7, 2017

DWTS S024, Week 3: First Vegas Night Wins Big

Why Dancing with the Stars never did a Vegas night before boggles my mind. But here it is, their first Vegas night, and it's a blast. It kicks off with a spectacular number, which includes every Vegas cliche. It's fun to see Normani dressed as a tourist, posing for selfies with Sasha as Elvis P. The faces on the giant slot machine, are, of course, the judges and Tom and Erin.

Nick and Peta jump into Vegas in full gear, with a tango to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face."  I really liked it, and the fervor with which he tries so hard to get every step right.

JUDGES' SCORES: 26 out of 40

The cool thing about Mr. T on Vegas night is that he used to hang in Vegas, back in the day. "Sammy (Davis) and I used to compare rings," said T. Too bad the man cannot dance. Who doesn't look spiffy in a white tux?

And he's dancing to Sinatra's "Ain't That a Kick in the Head."

He starts this mess out with a top hat, then drops it. One of the quick-thinking troupe dancers manages to kick it away before havoc ensues. Oh my oh my. Ain't that a kick in the head, indeed...

Mr. T says he hasn't felt so handsome since his prom. That's DWTS, baby.

JUDGES' SCORES: 24 out of 40

Speaking of DWTS, you can tell that the production crew has been to Vegas once or twice. The judges' scores roll out with a pair of dice, the stage looks like a roulette wheel. It's all glorious grand Vegas fun!

Bonner has a problem, according to his package. When he broke his neck, that limited him being able to really move much above his shoulders. (Why then, one wonders, go on Dancing with the Stars, where you have to do tricks and lifts to stay competitive? *sigh*) In any case, they plunge on ahead. Even though you can't really do a proper Charleston without tricks and lifts, they go ahead and do it anyway. And like Mr. T before them, the whole thing (sets, costumes, lighting) was all tricked out wonderfully, hoping to pull them through it.

The song was from a Baz Luhrmann show, playing in Vegas.

I think Sharna Burgess is the most beautiful woman on this show, and her little wink to the camera as they start shows that part of her knows that. Her costume (as always) was gorgeous, and she dances a mean Charleston, trying to make up for Bonner's not really being able to move much. In his defense, he did move more than Mr. T.

JUDGES' SCORES: 24 out of 40

So, Julianne and Derek have a show that they are putting together for after this season. As has become the trend on this show, the dancers get to promote that in between regular numbers. So we have Julianne and Derek dancing.

Courtesy of Pure Derek
They have developed (over a couple of seasons now) a style of dance which represents them, which incorporates them, dancing as adults, and two kids, representing them as younger, dancing with them. It's really quite magical. They say that doing this show allowed them to work out some things from their parents' divorce. And their mother is in the audience. Wow.

Tom: "Oh, I like this, a double Hough hug."
Pretty powerful, emotional stuff.

Here's what I don't like. Heather, in the package, says, "I played Britany (Spears) on Glee. I did all her songs." Pause. Beat. "But this is BALLROOM TANGO, it's different." Yeah, um, ok. Whatever. YOU'RE A DANCER. Own it.

They are dancing to a Britany Spears' song ("Toxic") since I guess she has a show playing in Vegas now.

Whoever designed this show originally (like the person who designed Survivor) is a genius. Because if it were JUST the judges scoring the show, you'd get results like this.

JUDGES' SCORES: 33 out of 40 (getting the first 9 of the season, from Carrie Ann)

Luckily, what makes it perfect, is that the audience of America factors in as well, and they are voting on other things besides technique. The judges creamed themselves over this dance, which was, perhaps "loads of content," as Len said, and "well executed" as Carrie Ann said, but really did nothing for me BECAUSE OF THE PARTICIPANTS. You have to factor that in. If America doesn't like you, forget it.

They are like watching washed cardboard, these two. No sparkle. No star quality. Blech.

On the opposite side of the spectrum...

Charo, who, btw, is older than dirt, was "best friends with Elvis" (that one you see in the background here)... And they do cut to a picture of her with Elvis, so I believe her.

They are doing "Chapel of Love," and getting married by an Elvis impersonator, as you do, when you're in Vegas. The best thing about this dance is that, next to it, they have a line of people waiting to be married after them, and they have two guys in line together. Big points for that, ABC.

JUDGES' SCORES: 24 out of 40

She may be the greatest gymnast in the world, but she doesn't know who Elvis Presley is. :-0  (Or, at least, she didn't before Sasha taught her all about him.)

I mean, seriously? Who wins Vegas night but two Elvises, dancing a quickstep to "Viva Las Vegas"? These two do. For sure! (In my voting, at least.) You used to get extra points for capturing the spirit of the evening, but I guess they don't do that anymore. (But I DO!) Especially when it's Vegas night!

JUDGES' SCORES: 32 out of 40

Artem really really, no, I mean REALLY likes Ricky Martin. So they go meet him at a show he's doing in Vegas, and Artem is all tongue-tied. It's kind of cute.

So, of course, they are performing a samba to a Ricky Martin song.

JUDGES' SCORES: 33 out of 40

Here is all you need to know about the next dance.

Yes, yes, yes, they got David Ross to do a Magic Mike thing. And wow. The crowd, not surprisingly, went bonkers.

Cause Mr. Ross did not hold back. He did the Magic Mike moves.

Anthony Risso, David Ross' Chicago Cubs teammate, Tweeted that he was "speechless...and a bit horrified" after seeing this. (So glad they put that into the show as it was happening.)

JUDGES' SCORES: 31 out of 40

(Their highest scores yet.)

We have, apparently, come to the sexuality part of the show. This was a jive, based on another Vegas show. The judges pretty much hated it. Bruno because the timing was messed up, Carrie Ann because Gleb chose to start the number with a VERY LONG lift (and she deducted, as she does, a point for that). Len didn't like the flicks.

JUDGES' SCORES: 26 out of 40

I take it back when I said that Sharna is the most beautiful woman on this show, because Emma is pretty darn stunning as well, and such a great dancer. And they have created this wonderful pool party, in which to have this samba. I liked it, but the judges commented on some messed up timing and "flat-footedness" by Rashad.

What I compliment her for is that it was PACKED with samba content, and great choreography.

JUDGES' SCORES: 28 out of 40

Lastly, we have our jet-setting couple. They went from Japan to here, last week, they flew to China, next week they are flying to the Philippines. Amazingly (I honestly think they are the first couple of which this is true), they are presenting fantastic dances every week. If there is jet lag, you sure can't tell.

Carrie Ann took off a point because they included this lift.

But this foxtrot was stunning. Val's choreography is almost unparalleled. They are a great couple to watch.

JUDGES' SCORES: 34 out of 40

Charo ends up being the one going home. Oh, darn.

1. Sasha and Simone's quickstep
2. Val and Normani's foxtrot
3. Lindsay and David's jazz
4. Artem and Nancy's samba
5. Sharna and Bonner's Charleston
6. Alan and Heather's foxtrot
7. Emma and Rashad's samba
8. Peta and Nick's tango

1. Mr. T
2. Erika
3. Heather and Alan
4. Nancy