Sunday, November 23, 2014

DWTS SemiFinals: Plugged and Unplugged Brings Surprises and Tears

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd dancing one of their best dances.
The Dancing with the Stars Semi-finals are upon us. It's down to the wire with the last five couples, and everyone is producing great work.

Sadly, Tommy Chong ended up going home, but danced two of his best dances before that.

The theme of the night was Plugged/Unplugged, where couples would dance first to an electric version of a song, and then dance a completely different style to the unplugged (acoustic) version of the same song.

The keys to this night are two things: creativity and a great song.

Janel and Val doing a paso in their plugged version.
My favorite of all the amazing dances in the Plugged section was Janel and Val's paso doble. They proved clearly why they could easily win this competition. (And if they win, I sure hope that Maks is on hand to give the trophy to Val. Cause that would be awesome.)

Bethany and Derek danced an incredible samba to "I Want You Back" (with help from fellow dancer Sasha).

Bethany and Derek, plugged, to I Want You Back.
Derek's choreography is so amazing, with so many little touches that make it perfect. Bethany isn't quite the actress she needs to be, but the dance steps are flawless. And Derek and Sasha kiss at the end! Bonus! Ha!

Mark and Sadie did a great quickstep. I'm really loving what the costuming department is doing with Sadie, too. They seem to have hit a groove.

Sadie and Mark do their plugged version. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing with the Stars
Mark's choreography is so stunning, I just love watching his numbers over and over.

Tommy and Peta did a great jazz number to "Tainted Love" (can't ever go wrong with that).

Alfonso has been injured (since doing the crowd-favorite Carleton), and he looked visibly in pain during their Argentine tango. Costumes were fantastic, though.

Witney and Alfonso (much in pain) dance an Argentine tango. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing with the Stars
1. Val and Janel (paso doble)
2. Derek and Bethany (samba)
3. Mark and Sadie (quickstep)
4. Tommy and Peta (jazz)
5. Alfonso and Witney (Argentine tango)

Sadie and Mark unplugged. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing with the Stars.
Now the challenge of this evening is to do the same song, but with a totally different arrangement, and different style of dance.

My favorite in the Unplugged section (by far) was Mark and Sadie (the judges, as usual, did not agree with me). But here's the thing. The Argentine tango (again) is a very passionate dance. A dance about sex and romance and steamy hot passion. Hard to do that with a teenaged conservative woman who (probably) hasn't known sex or passion. But we have Mark Ballas choreographing.

And what he comes up with is no less steamy a dance than Alfonso and Witney did in their Plugged version. But instead of instilling passion between them, he uses the prop of a guitar, so that it's the guitar which is instilling the passion. So beautifully done, so creative. Truly a stunning dance. I loved it so much.

Normally, I'm like Len, I hate all the frou-frou props and whatnot that dancers use, but in this case, it was just stunning to watch, and totally worked.

The other really stunning thing about this dance is that there is a move (wish I knew what it was called) where the woman sticks her leg in between the guy's legs (it's part of what makes the dance so sexual, that move). It's like invading the sexual space with a leg, very hot. Well, in this dance, ALL of those moves were done by Mark instead of Sadie, which was really interesting and appropriate (and still sexy). I really dug that.

But then... THIS... this dance made me cry.

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd do a rumba.
Tommy playing the craftsman, Peta his music box ballerina who comes to life. Beautiful dance. Every part of it: the costumes, the set, the arrangement, everything was superb.

Val and Janel do an Argentine tango. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing with the Stars
The surprises weren't over. Val Chmerkovskiy, in case you don't know this, used to play the violin. He graces us with that skill at the beginning of this dance. (Quite wonderful!)

And that foot move is back to the woman doing it with this dance, and it was appropriately sexy and sensual. Val and Janel's Argentine tango was very sexy and steamy.

It was the night, apparently, for dancing amazingly with props. Derek and Bethany's unplugged routine involved a picture frame. I can't even describe it. Seeing someone in a picture frame that you loved, the song, "I Want You Back." You are part of the picture, then not. It was just stunning. Contemporary.

Bethany and Derek dance contemporary. Courtesy of ABC
At a different part of the season, this would've been my top pick. Beautiful dance.

Alfonso and Witney also danced contemporary (my least favorite dance style).

1. Mark and Sadie (Argentine tango)
2. Tommy and Peta (rumba)
3. Val and Janel (Argentine tango)
4. Derek and Bethany (contemporary)
5. Alfonso and Witney (contemporary)

It was very sad to see Tommy Chong leave. I really truly enjoyed every dance he danced, even when he really couldn't dance. But here's the thing, Tommy. No one who really couldn't dance ever won Dancing with the Stars (since I've been watching it, anyway). So it was time.

Peta and Tommy say Goodbye.
We will miss you, old man. And it's true what Len said. No one your age is ever going to get this far again (unless Betty White decides to dance). But, boy, are we going to miss you.

Tommy Chong dances with Sharna and Peta.
So, we have four contestants left. Here's what I see at this point.

If it were me, I would have two couples guaranteed of the finals: Mark and Sadie and Val and Janel. They have consistently, without misstep, danced amazing dance after amazing dance this season. Val has never won a Mirror Ball (amazingly). Mark hasn't won one in awhile.

So when you're voting tomorrow, please consider all that. Also the judges haven't been scoring Mark and Sadie with as good scores as they deserve. Let's help make up for that, America!

The two wild cards (to me) are Bethany and Derek and Alfonso and Witney. Derek's choreography is phenomenal. And he is one of the choreographers who builds in little grace notes to the whole season once he gets to the freestyle (on Tuesday). I love when they do that. But he has won a lot recently. So I wouldn't be sad to see he and Bethany go home either Monday night or Tuesday. They've done great work, but so has everyone. (But compared to Val and Mark, Derek has been a bit off this season.)

Alfonso and Witney I thought could take this thing when they danced their first dance. Along the way, there have been lackluster dances, and dances where he seemed like he couldn't move cause he was in pain. Yes, he's a pro, and he's toughing it out, but this is when America is his mother, and sends him home so he doesn't have to continue on and injure himself.

My personal choice, for that reason, to go home Monday night would be Alfonso (and Witney). Not because he couldn't do it, just because he SHOULDN'T do it.

Also, if Alfonso went home, it would be a three-girl final. How cool would that be?

1. Val and Janel
2. Mark and Sadie

I would really be happy with either of these two couples winning the Mirror Ball this season.
3. Bethany and Derek
4. Alfonso and Witney

What do you think, America?


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