Friday, October 10, 2014

My Favorite DWTS: Week 4

Sadie (of Duck Dynasty) and Mark Ballas wow the crowd.
My favorite dances on Dancing with the Stars involve some combination of these things: a dance which incorporates the required number of content elements, something which addresses the theme in some way, elegance of choreography: all of which together create dance magic before us.

Usually, Derek Hough's dances have all of these things, which is also why he has won most often. But also usually, so do Mark Ballas' dances. These are dances, which at the end, leave you with your mouth hanging open, just saying: WOW. This week was one of those.

The theme of Week 4 of DWTS was My Favorite Year (as it usually is). We had the usual ones: my favorite year being when I got my big break on whatever show, or when my parent (or loved one) died or was born, yadda yadda. Bethany had a moving one with the theme of: "I thought I was ugly, but really I'm not." (A new one on these shows, admittedly.)

For me, there were really two dances which went beyond the pale this week. I am now eating my words about Alfonso getting back to the top of the leaderboard. Sheesh. When that man tries! Wow. Course, he had a built-in audience-pleasing factor: the Carleton.

I never watched the show (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air)  in its heyday, but apparently "the Carleton" dance was a thing. And people, apparently, have been clamouring, ever since they knew he was going to be on DWTS, to see him incorporate it in some way. My Favorite Year seems the perfect place to do so.

Alfonso and Witney did not disappoint this week. Wow.

But despite those two dances which really blew my mind (Alfonso again taking the top of the leaderboard this week), these two were not my FAVORITE dance. That honor belonged to this:

Val and Janel doing the sexiest, steamiest rumba you're gonna see this season (although Cheryl and Antonio were also pretty hot recently). It was just beautiful and it kicked everything off. And more and more, Val and Janel are my favorite couple.

However, we also had this (the couple who actually received the most votes from me this week): Peta and Tommy Chong, dancing to Jailhouse Rock. With Peta as a policeman. With fishnets. It so worked for me, on so many levels.

And unlike another older contestant, Tommy Chong just keeps getting better each week.

Wanna know who was voted out this week? (Well, you probably already know, but it was:)

She was a little bit wacky, our Miss Betsey, but I did enjoy her dances, and the music she chose. Gonna miss her (in some ways). Also really gonna miss Tony. He's always fun and inventive.

That leaves at the bottom (literally and in my opinion) Michael and Emma (whom I thought would be leaving this week) and Jonathan and Allison. I really like Allison and I was rooting for her, but WOW was the dance they did this week terrible! No through line. More content, yay! But just awful to watch. And I had been so focused previously on her choreography missteps that I didn't before realize that Jonathan is actually a pretty bad dancer (compared to his competition, especially). So they will be going home soon (unless she really turns it around somehow). 

I hated almost everything about this dance. Except that it did have a lot of samba content. But the music was DREADFUL, the set and costumes were garish and horrible. It was just painful to watch. Just to clarify that I'm not the only one who thought this, they scored the lowest on this week. Even Betsey and Tony (who went home) got better scores on this night. Ouch.

And it's strange, because I really didn't love the music that Mark Ballas chose for his and Sadie's number. I would never listen to it on my own, and it's not even the type of music DWTS normally plays. But it fit. It was of a piece with the rest of what he was doing as a choreographer, and I think that is the difference. His choices were sublime, hers were... UGH.

I mean, I hate to say this, but I just don't think she gets what DWTS is about, exactly. She seems bound and determined to stay on her own path, and that road is currently leaving off the show soon, and that makes me sad. It really does. Her dance to Sia's music was brilliant, because she had none of these constraints. But darlin', that is what you signed up for: to choreograph these dances for these people in this way.

I do kinda get the feeling now that she never really watched this show before. Maybe she signed on cause she knew all the other choreographers, even having worked with some.

I think people may look at DWTS from the outside and dismiss it simplistically as just another reality dance show, but it really is a very complex, layered thing. 

Take Mark Ballas' amazing dance this week, in comparison. The theme was "My Favorite Year." His partner, Sadie, chose the year she first appeared on Duck Dynasty. Sure, lots of celebrities take that route. (Alfonso essentially did the same thing. Lea had done her homage to Back to the Future the week before, so she could do a more poignant dance this week.)

What can one do with Duck Dynasty? And the dance Mark chose was samba? Duck Dynasty and samba? HUH? What can one do with that?

Well, Mark took the time-honored pairing of a hunter and a duck (man vs. animal). He was the hunter, and Sadie (of course) was the duck. She was resplendent in her feathers. He was all bearded out, like the other male members of Duck Dynasty (some of them even onstage with him). And within that (up and around and over that), he wove together a samba which touched on all the content that the judges were looking for, as well as making a statement about Duck Dynasty, using a song which has LYRICS about Duck Dynasty. Boom, boom, boom. He hit every beat.

It was frikkin' beautiful. It was stunning and magical, and I don't even like Duck Dynasty.

That is, ultimately, how you do this: content (of whichever dance you are doing) + theme + stunning choreography + heart (if you can manage it). Making a statement through choreography, which Allison seems so badly to want to do. I suggest she really pore over tapes of Mark Ballas' dance this week for how to do this show right (and still maintain your edge as a choreographer). Now mind you, a winning (as in ALL 10s) dance has to have one more thing: it has to sweep away the audience and the judges, so that they are compelled to give it tens.

Sadly, Mark Ballas' dances too often don't get the 10s they deserve (he didn't with this, garnering only 37 out of 40, and it was brilliant). But, for my money, he's the most artistic choreographer on this show, and I so appreciate him for that. But Derek's Singin' in the Rain last week, Val's West Side Story last week, and Alfonso's Carleton (to Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual") were those showstoppers that garner 10s.

Derek's dance this week, although using poignant subject matter, was almost like a rest after what must have been immense stress from doing Singin' in the Rain. It really did nothing for me. Good thing Len was gone this week. 

Oh, and another thing. They've been having all these hokey guest judges standing in while Len is out of the country. (Last week, comedian Kevin Hart, next week Jazzy J or someone...). This week, blissfully, they let "America" vote in a new system where (well, let's just say the EAST COAST, anyway) voted right after they saw the dance. Cause they announced America's vote when they announced the judges' votes (and I know we West Coasters see it later than the East Coast). Nonetheless, it cut down on all the judges' chatter, which seemed to be dragging the show down (with four judges). "America" says nothing, just votes. I liked it immensely.

And AMERICA gave "the Carleton" a 10 also! It was awesome.

Miscellaneous notes about Week 4: Erin just looked spectacular. The most fun thing was when everyone on the balcony started doing the Carleton. Sharna choreographed a wonderful opening number. And the second most fun thing was the dance where Karina's crotch ended up in Keo's face, which Tom (ever quick on his feet) called, "a great getting-to-know-you dance."

 BTW, Val kept referring to his dance last week as "The West Side Story." It's actually called "West Side Story." (Unless he was adding a "The" to the title so it wouldn't be confused with... um, you know... that other one... In which case, that was brilliant.)

Lea and Artem scored high, but their dance also did nothing for me. Beautiful to watch, and I could tell it moved her quite a bit, but... eh... (Sometimes contemporary works for me, often it doesn't.)

Antonio's first job in NYC was a little Janet Jackson video that you may've seen. It was fun to revisit that, as well. And Cheryl makes a great Janet Jackson!

When is Len coming back? Next week, right? Next week (ooh, let's hold our breath!) is also "the Switch Up." The week that all the pros hate, and usually leaves the celebrities wanting to RUN back to their partners. Fun. Can't wait. Meanwhile, let's do the Carleton again... do it with me...

The Carleton, to Tom Jones' "It's So Unusual"

1. Val and Janel (rumba)
2. Mark and Sadie (samba)
3. Alfonso and Witney (jazz and "the Carleton")
4. Tommy and Peta (jive)
5. Antonio and Cheryl (samba)


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