Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guest Judge, new dances and Bye Bye Bristol

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas in their final dance. (Images courtesy ABC/Adam Taylor) 
My final two couples on Dancing with the Stars would always include some combination of either Derek Hough or Mark Ballas, or both. They are, more than anyone, who I tune in to see.  I love their inventiveness and their drive, what they do with their choreography, just the way the Muse of Dance strikes them. They alone have made me a repeat viewer to DWTS.

Sadly, though, they are always paired with people. Sometimes those people are blissful heaven (like Nicole Scherzinger). Sometimes, they are Bristol Palin.

Mind you, Mark Ballas is such a gentleman and professional. He will work with whomever they throw at him, and honestly try to make it work. So it is with mixed feelings that I bid adieu to this pair. I absolutely don't want to see him go, but I honestly can't stand one minute more of watching her dance.

The blogosphere was also up in arms about Ms. Palin. Without getting into the whole politcal thing and her mother, there were many folks on the DWTS page who voiced their opinions along the lines of: "I am not watching another minute of DWTS until she is gone." And variations thereof.

It is true. The bad dancers MUST go first, in a fair contest, and people are still complaining about how she stuck around for so long last time...

Can I just take this moment to say this? People scream and yell about the competition being "rigged" and such. What they are not taking into account, and indeed, the debacle with Maks claiming it was "his show" kind of put this on the back burner, but the fact is, after all these seasons, people don't just tune in for the "stars." They really do (I am a case in point) tune in to see what their favorite pros are doing.

So let me just say this about that. While there are seething Bristol haters out there, there is also a strong fanbase of folks who really love what Mark Ballas does, and will vote him up (with ANY partner). He has an active Twitter following, he's actually great with social media (possibly even more than any DWTS person). So at least PART of why they were ranked so high, and why she's still in at this point, has to do with that. We love Mark Ballas. We love his dancing and his choreography, and we vote for HIM. OK?

But alas, he is now gone. :-(

Let's look at the rest of Week Four. Two things. If every season was the same, with the same dances, it would get pretty boring, not only for the viewers, but for the choreographers. OK, here's another rumba! Yawn! So DWTS is trying (almost constantly it seems) to change things up.

This week, they did that in two ways. One: they had new styles of dance, chosen by team members for other team members. Two: they had Paula Abdul.

Both were interesting experiments that I hope they don't soon repeat.

As far as dance, my favorite variation was when they had the normal dances, but done in a different style. Remember Mark Ballas' amazing futuristic paso? Things like that. Dances where they get to push their creativity, within the bounds of what they know. That worked much better.

This was more throwing completely new dances at people, and what we mostly saw was choreographers FREAKING OUT. Case in point:

Emmy winner Tom Bergeron, Karina Smirnoff and Apolo Ohno. (ABC/Adam Taylor)
This is not the look you want one of your star choreographers to have! Karina is elegance and grace on wheels, but she was dancing to music she hated (hip hop) using a dance style she wasn't really familiar with. (Mind you, I loathe hip hop, but I thought her dance was awesome.)

Karina Smirnoff does hip hop with Apolo Anton Ohno. (ABC/Adam Taylor)

You really don't wanna see choreographers tearing their hair out (which many did this week). You wanna see them swooning, and going, OOh, hey, let's try THIS!

Another choreographer, who, in the clip package was swearing about being out of her element was the amazing Peta Murgatroyd, who was faced with dancing "Bollywood." Her dance was one of my favorites for the week. Look at this.

Peta Murgatroyd and Gilles Marini do "Bollywood." (ABC/Adam Taylor)
For all her complaining, it turned out amazing. However, note to Gilles: This is not a groundbreaking Bollywood dance on DWTS. The first Bollywood (to my recollection, anyway; maybe there were ones previous) was the memorable dance by Derek Hough and Maria Menounos. Stunning, that was.

But this one was pretty amazing too. How amazing? Well...

The first TENS of the season. That's how good.

Now, about this Paula Abdul thing. She's a dancer and choreographer, so you'd think she'd be a match made in heaven here. Here's the thing. I like Carrie Ann and Len and Bruno. I like their mix of personalities. I didn't at all like the intrusion of Paula Abdul to that apple cart. She seems like a judge adrift without a show, and it was sad. Granted, it was only for one night, but I really truly hope she never comes back again. We have enough mayhem in the judges area, without her drama. Thumbs down on the Abdul, for me.

Back to the dances.

We also had Kirstie and Maks doing the Charleston (fun!), Sabrina and Louis setting the house on fire with their disco moves, Melissa and Tony doing a stunning jitterbug.

Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani (ABC/Adam Taylor)
Two more dances really stood out. Val and Kelly, one of my favorite couples this season, attempted something that I honestly hope no one has to attempt again. Contemporary dance. Contemporary dance is so different, so starkly unlike any of these other styles, I think whoever came up with this exercise is really a sadist. But Val and Kelly really really tried, and it was pretty amazing to watch.

Judge for yourself.

Val and Kelly dance Contemporary. (ABC/Adam Taylor)

This was the show, though, that for me, all the cards were thrown over, and the answer became clear: Shawn and Derek are winning this thing.

The dance they were chosen to perform this week? The mambo.

And you know, many might be wowed by all the gymnastic tricks that gold-medaller Shawn Johnson gets to throw down, but for me, it's all the little subtle perfect touches that Derek puts into the choreography. Watch this dance, and notice all the pretty little touches. It's sublime, truly.

Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough do the mambo. (ABC/Adam Taylor)

Nobody is putting out the magic they are. And everyone is doing amazing stuff here. But this dance was magical.

Shawn and Derek add some gymnastic tricks to sublime dance steps.

I'm going to have to go watch it again. Keep your eye on them, specifically. They take one's breath away.


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