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.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DWTS: All Stars — The Story So Far

In my humble opinion, here's how you win Dancing with the Stars in a normal season.

1. You have a brillliant choreographer.

2. You have a fanatic fan base, that you enflame through social media.

3. You get lucky.

There are, IMHO, four brilliant choreographers on DWTS. Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Karina Smirnoff and Peta Murgatroyd. The way you can "get lucky" with another choreographer, is if you have excellent chemistry and work well together.

But it's always some combination of those three things.

Chelsie Hightower and Helio Castroneves/ABC/Adam Taylor

This is one of the couples voted out last night. One of the things that felled them (quite outside of their own doing) was the costume designers have been tending to make the women's dresses too long this season, and in this case, the poor girl nearly tripped over it. We need to see their feet, costumers! Please.

This, however, is no normal season. This is the All Stars season. Which means that where you normally get the first four weeks of someone getting their sea legs, and really only get spectacular dances the last four or five weeks, this time, we've had them right out of the gate (from Ep. 1).

Usually, it's pretty easy to tell who's going to be going the first few weeks. There are always clunkers. I can honestly say that's not true this time. In fact, during this particular episode, I enjoyed every single (11) dance. So, it's been hard to pick a favorite to root for. So many are just spectacular.

And, in two cases, both named Chmerkovsky, the women "stars" are making their pros look better by their own sheer determination.

First, Val Chmerkovsky. He just entered the regular pro lineup recently, and has never really come into his own (that is, risen to the level he needs to be at to win) yet. Until this season. Because of her.

Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovsky/ABC

Look at that determination. I didn't think much of them at the beginning, but they have become one of my favorite couples this season. Their dance Monday night was my favorite through most of the other dances (no small feat, that).

Now, a moment about Maks.

He used to be one of my favorite pros to watch on this show. Sexy in an animalistic way, always taking his shirt off, always pinching Tom Bergeron on the butt, he was sexy and playful and fun. His choreography with Erin Andrews was truly inspired and magical. (I didn't much watch earlier seasons.)

And then: "It's my show." An offhand comment, compounded by a tirade against the judges, made him a pariah. And really, from that moment till now, he lost all his fire. Likely made to shut up by ABC brass, he has taken the tack of not saying anything, coming off pouty and walking through the paces. His season with a sports star as his partner was uneventful.

I don't know about others, but for me, it's been painful to watch. I just wish Maks would go away already.

But then, the magic of Kirstie Alley. She, who was previously his partner (in better days), she who knows a thing or two about entertaining an audience (and/or getting over your damn self and just putting on a good show). She, in this week of "the Stars get creative control" took it upon herself to kick Maks' ass into gear.

His selling points before were always that he's incredibly hot (the hottest male on the show, easily), and he liked to show that off. And he is a superb dancer.

So, we ended up with this.

Maksim Chmerkovsky and Kirstie Alley/ABC/Adam Taylor

He strutted to "Moves Like Jagger," was allowed to express his rampant sexuality, while Kirstie played wild groupie. It was wonderful and frothy and fun. The old Maks was almost back.

Between Kirstie taking control and Kirstie's frequent and wonderful use of Twitter to compel fans to vote, I think we'll be seeing these two for awhile longer. And this dance was a joy to watch.

OTOH, we also have the woman dragging the pro down.

I love Mark Ballas. In every season of DWTS, he is my odds-on favorite to win, going in.

However, just as much as I adore him, I really dislike her. Let's just say kindly that she is no dancer, in a season of real dancers. She should have been gone early on.

And this week, when everyone else is strategizing how to win, she had a pouty crying mess of a meltdown. That they even ended up with a dance, much less such a great one, is a true tribute to Mark's professionalism.

I adore him, but I really hope she goes soon.

Both Bristol and Maks need to learn that there is no ego drama in this business called show. You suck it up, whatever you're feeling, and put on a show. And if you can't do that, step down and get out of the business.

Cause if you don't, there are plenty of others who will.

Like these:

Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani, dancing their little hearts out/ABC/Adam Taylor
Or these:

Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel, dancing their hearts out/ABC/Adam Taylor
Or these:

Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke/ABC/Adam Taylor

You don't see these people having pouty tantrums. These are pros, paid money to put on a show. Bristol Palin, for me, really threw a huge downer into the middle of a spectacular show. Is she gone yet?

These people are determined to succeed.

Peta Murgatroyd and Gilles Marini/ABC/Adam Taylor

But let's just cut to the chase, throw over all the cards and get to the performance of the week. All 11 were amazing (even Bristol and Mark), but this one was mind-blowing.

Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough/ABC/Adam Taylor

Bouncing off trampolines to start, this dance was part gymnastics, part dance, all spectacular. ABC wisely saved it for last. Dancing, dancing, dancing, simulataneous splits (see above), bounce back up (without getting out of hold!), keep dancing. It ended with them diving into the pit. Brilliant.

Creative genius. Take what they give you as an assignment and run with it. That's what it takes. Give us magic every week. Derek Hough never fails to provide that. This is, indeed, going to be an incredible season to watch. It's only WEEK THREE!!! Holy moly.

Can you imagine?

Shawn and Derek dive off the stage as a finale. WOW.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dancing with the Stars All Stars, Week Two

Most of the remaining cast (missing from this photo: Kirstie and Maks, Cheryl and Emmitt and the booted ones from this week, Joey and Kym):

Photos courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor

NUMBER FIVE: Drew and Anna

ABC/Adam Taylor

NUMBER FOUR: Derek and Shawn

ABC/Adam Taylor

NUMBER THREE: Gilles and Peta

ABC/Adam Taylor

NUMBER TWO: Apolo and Karina

ABC/Adam Taylor/Dancing with the Stars: All Stars

And my favorite couple of the week:

NUMBER ONE: Sabrina and Louis

ABC/Adam Taylor/Dancing with the Stars: All Stars


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

DWTS, Season 15, Week One

Here is my favorite dance from week one, All Stars season. I can't tell you how many times I've rewatched this.

Ooops. No, not that one... (heh)

Photos courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.

This one. Karina Smirnoff and Apolo Anton Ohno, complete with the speed skater move at the end and at the beginning. Beautiful.

My favorite dance of Week One, All Stars Edition.