Thursday, October 16, 2014

DWTS Week 5: The Switch-Up and the Case for Mark Ballas

Bethany and Mark Ballas do hip hop on Switch-Up Week. Courtesy of ABC/DWTS.
An interesting thing happened during Swtich-Up Week (Week 5 of Dancing with the Stars). I switched my favorite.

The dreaded Switch-Up takes our already established pairs, and puts the celebrities (remaining) with another partner. Sometimes this has disastrous results, sometimes great ones. (Remember last season's switch of ultimate winner Meryl from Maksim to brother Val? Fantastic stuff.)

This week, maybe cause Len's still gone, we had a lot of dances not normally done, with a lot of sets and props and hooha that Len hates.

But the thing that happened to me, is that I can now see a very clear break for myself. There are PROS that I love this season, and there are celebrities. They don't really go together (in most cases).

For example, my favorite celebrity, whom I had initially chosen as my favorite this week, is Alfonso. I just dig the stuff he's doing. This week, he was switched to Cheryl, and they did a pretty amazing flamenco. It was beautiful to watch.

Alfonso and Cheryl do flamenco. Courtesy of ABC/DWTS.
Cheryl Burke has never looked better. Her flamenco was stunning. And we don't get to see the flamenco very often. It's not one of the regular dances. So all of that was very nice. (Maybe I'm still on a Carleton high from last week... dunno.)

But I was watching back the dances from this week (as I do when I write this column), and something struck me. Mark Ballas. JEEZ. Unbelievable.

I've been saying this all season long, but let me again shout this from the rooftops: WHY IS THIS MAN NOT GETTING 10s? Holy crap. This week, he did a hip hop dance with Bethany. From the very first note to the very last, it was PERFECT. He gave us a story (from the beginning to the end; loved it). He gave us incredible dancing and choreography, as he has done all season. He's savvy enough to know that hip hop is not one of Len's favs, so he does it now, and he does it with Bethany. Just perfect, all across the board.

Most of these other dances, I can watch once again and I'm done (even that flamenco), but his hip hop this week: WOW.

And mind you, he's been doing that all season with his own partner, Sadie, too. The judges went all gaga over Derek's Charleston with Sadie, and complemented the heck out of her (and it was stunning, true), but what she does with Mark Ballas has been incredible! Where are the 10s for that? C'mon, judges. Mark Ballas deserves higher scores. (I'm looking at you, Julianne.)

They rightfully took Artem to task for his burlesque dance with Janel (not enough burlesque content), yet that dance scored higher than Mark's hip hop, which had tons of great hip hop content. And it's straight-up not fair.

In other dances that I liked/loved, Val danced that nebulous category (sometimes called "jazz," sometimes called "Broadway," basically meaning whatever we want to dance to) with Lea. She, too, is one of the contestants whose dancing I really like, and like to watch. Not sure about Artem yet though.

But this dance with Val included multiple walkers... like the kind old people use. Wonderful stuff. Never been done on DWTS before either!

Val and Lea and the team of walker dancers. Courtesy of ABC/DWTS.
Those are the dances I like the best. Give me a story around the dance, make it a complete entity. (Which Mark Ballas does every week.)

Another interesting story dance was the Bollywood danced by Allison and Antonio this week.

Allison and Antonio dance Bollywood.
She's trying. She's trying so hard, gotta give her that. Her Bollywood was stunning, the best ever on this show. However, Antonio was in no way her match. Not even close.

Her regular partner, Jonathan, kinda proved that it's more him than her which is causing the low scores. He was paired with Peta, who does a mean jitterbug. Their scores were terrible.

And Witney and Michael doing disco? The less said about that, the better. (Although if someone had to dance to Car Wash, I'm glad it was the race car driver.)

And in that vein, I have to say that a large part of why I continue to vote for Tommy Chong every week (even though he is just as bad a dancer as Michael Waltrip) is that I really dig the fact that DWTS is using every opportunity to have pot-themed songs and dances for Tommy Chong (as they should). This week, no joke, he danced to "Pass the Duchie." It was supposed to be a mambo. I don't know what it was, but it made me laugh.

Ah, but let's clear out the pot smoke, and instead meditate on one of the best Charlestons ever on this show.

Sadie and Derek Charleston. Courtesy of ABC/DWTS.
Another thing, I want to really comment on how all the technical parts are coming together. DWTS has always been a miracle of costuming and sets, but the camerawork and editing both seem to have hit their stride finally . The dancers are really getting featured, as they are supposed to (catch the ending of Mark's dance to see what I mean). The cameras are where they are supposed to be to catch the best bits. And they actually catch FEET, not just faces.

Working in social media (in the Mark and Derek bits) was and is wonderful. Love that about this season. Also, Erin is really hitting her stride as a host. She actually knows what the voting methods are this season!! (YAY!) And she really asks probing, good questions. Thank whoever had the idea of hiring her. To my eyes, she is MILES better as a host than Brooke ever was.

The only downside of the technical stuff is that the music has issues. Both in song selection, and performance. Positive: we get former cast member Joey Fatone singing The Stray Cats song, "Rock This Town." (What? Brian Setzer was busy?) Negative: we get more and more taped crap, which often doesn't work (case in point: Lea and Val's song, which was loud and obnoxious), but which sometimes does (Mark and Bethany's song). When it's good ("Pass the Duchie" and "Car Wash"), it's great. When it's bad, it's painful.

That song that Allison and Jonathan danced that Gatsby thing to a couple weeks ago was a good example of new music done beautifully. Revisiting a familiar song, and putting a new spin on it. That's what I had hoped for when I heard there was a new band. Guess they're still working out those bugs.

But enough of all this. I wanna go back and watch Mark Ballas' hip hop dance again, and dream of the day when he actually gets all the 10s he deserves.

1. Mark and Bethany (hip hop)
2. Alfonso and Cheryl (flamenco)
3. Val and Lea (Broadway)
4. Derek and Sadie (Charleston)

1. Michael
2. Jonathan
3. Antonio
4. Tommy


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