Sunday, November 29, 2015

DWTS Season 21 Week 9: Showstopper Week Show's Stopped

Normally, Dancing with the Stars starts with a splashy wonderful opening number. This one did not. This one started with each dance team coming out (note: Val and Tamar had been last all season, this had been the same lineup all season long). You will note that there is just Val there, at the end, shuffling uncomfortably.

That's because this episode could be subtitled: Tamar's Hospital Drama. At the beginning of the show, she wasn't there because she was actually at the hospital, having fallen ill. Her doctors warn her that she should just stay there, but since she would automatically lose/be eliminated if she misses both dances, she rallies back to get there for the last one (against her doctor's orders).

Some would call that Showbiz! But I think it was just willful and stupid. Oh, but we'll get back to all that. Let's start instead with the competitors who actually, you know, competed.

We had this from Alek and Lindsay, which was notable mostly for this:

Not just that the troupe women danced with them, but that they also waxed his chest for this number.

Carlos and Witney did an Argentine tango, that I quite liked, but the judges didn't so much. I think both Lindsay (Lindsay even moreso) and Witney this season suffer from making themselves look good, and their partner, not so much (Lindsay all season, Witney more at the end of the season).

But nonetheless, I liked this dance.

Sharna, on the other hand, does well by her partner, pushing him to new boundaries, and making both herself and him look great.

Great dance. I mean, it's the 9th week, most people are going to look pretty good by this point.

I should add that Val and Tamar had what would have been a stunning number to Wicked Game. The judges had to judge the dress rehearsal footage, so I will post no picture of it.

But let's talk about the top two individual dances of Week 9.

My second favorite was danced to music created by "Alexander Jean," which is Mark Alexander Ballas and his girlfriend, BC Jean. It's just a stunningly beautiful song, and Derek and Bindi danced an amazing Viennese waltz to it.

The costuming, as all throughout the season, was stunningly beautiful. On camera, it looked like this classic dusty rose gown, just gorgeous.

I swoon when I even think of them performing that song, it was so beautiful.

But still, my favorite individual dance from this evening was the contemporary from Alexa and Mark. Mostly because it was so brave to perform. She talked in the package about her struggle with bulemia, and this dance was essentially Mark playing bulemia and chasing her.

Don't know if you caught the vomiting parts in there, but they are in there.

Mark Ballas' artistry and stunning choreography are, to me, one of the main reasons I regularly tune in to this show. This bulemia dance was no exception. Solid 10s from all the judges. So well-deserved.

1. Mark and Alexa (contemporary)
2. Derek and Bindi (Viennese waltz)
3. Sharna and Nick (quickstep)
4. Witney and Carlos (Argentine tango)

Now, what should've happened at this point in the competition, is that Tamar stays in the hospital, and thus gets eliminated. Instead, she races back, against her doctors' orders, and decides to dance anyway.

This is where the Showstopper Week comes in. All of the remaining six couples are whisked off to see actual live shows (great idea, btw!). They will then incorporate the dance moves into their dances (three sets of two couples each).

They have the first two teams perform first, since Tamar is rushing from the hospital to make it for her (now last) set.

I was just talking with someone over Thanksgiving about how DWTS is odd, in that it never has males dancing with males or females dancing with females (other than in trios, or in a troupe thing). This, I suppose, is the closest we'll get.

And it was alright, but no great shakes.

Carlos Witney Lindsay Alek and black lights
Witney and Carlos and Alek and Lindsay choose to go on a cruise to watch "We Will Rock You," the Queen saga. Fun fact: Bruno used to work with Freddie Mercury.

Mark and Bindi and Alexa do Fosse
Bindi and Derek and Mark and Alexa go to NYC to see a version of "Chicago," to recreate some Fosse steps.

Bruno's comments on the Fosse recreation: "The Maestro himself and the divine Ann (Reinking, of course) would be pleased at this." (High praise.) They all received perfect scores. They had received perfect scores for their individual dances, so they all walked away with 60 for the night.

Now, let's recap. Here we have someone (Alexa), who shows up, who works hard, tries hard, and on this night, got perfect scores for both of her (amazing) dances. I cannot begin to even explain how angry I am about the outcome of this evening... but let's proceed.

Nick and Sharna and Val and Tamar went to Las Vegas to see the Beatles Love extravaganza.

Tamar, amazingly, is here, is performing this dance. (She goes, right from this dance back to the hospital, btw.)

Here's Tom, explaining that since she made it through that final dance (and what about the first one, which she missed?), she is still in the competition. Oh, and guess what? Though she's sick and reeling, and really should be in a hospital, SHE and VAL are safe.

Instead, we have this.

This should NOT have happened this way. Alexa goes home. Tamar is safe, but then, I'll clue you, at the beginning of next week's episode, we learn that she's too sick to compete anymore and has to quit the competition ANYWAY. Meanwhile, Alexa is robbed of her chance in the finals.

And that was just wrong, all wrong.

Here's hoping that next season the casting directors have the foresight to cast a person without ten million commitments, so Val can actually do what he does best and create great dances with someone who can actually show up. This Tamar situation this season was a travesty and they should be ashamed of themselves for letting her do this.

Meanwhile, we sadly (seriously, I was crying at the end of this) say Goodbye to a competitor who left too soon. I love everything you did this season, Alexa.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

DWTS Season 21 Week 8: Inspire This!

This week on Dancing with the Stars was My Inspirational Hero, or My Favorite Icon, or something. (Lame). Andy chose Stevie Wonder, though he really brought it back around to his mom (even though the tear-jerking parents week was earlier in the season). This dance (to "Isn't She Lovely?") actually had further resonance since Allison had announced earlier that she's pregnant.

They ended up getting voted off this week. So I'm sure she's a superwoman, but nonetheless, I'm glad she could now rest up and not do these strenuous dances every week.

Carlos chose Marc Antony, who taught him salsa (sort of).

Apparently, he has never done a salsa in his life. He made a big deal out of this, saying it over and over again in his package. Which was pretty confusing to me, cause I know he has done about 1000 Viennese waltzes in his life... To say nothing of zipping around, doing Argentine tangos all day long. What you are talking about, man? You've never done ANY of these dances, right?

Dunno. Maybe he meant it because as a Latino, he should have done 1000 salsas. As Marc Antony said to him, "It's in your blood, man!" Once he whipped his shirt off, I believed him.

Also, the lifts Witney had in this were stunning, not the least because it looked like he was damn near dropping her a few times.

Our train hero chose a war hero, Chris Kyle (whom I choose to see as a murdering savage and have no respect for, but to each his own).

Alexa went all Biblical and chose David (of David and Goliath fame) as her hero. Alexa, at this point, is my favorite to win, but she does seem to have a lot of insecurities. But I just love everything about them. I love the grand scope of the execution of his dances. I love his choreography. I love the music he chooses (Mark Ballas always has the best music selections; Coldplay, and we know LA loves Coldplay). I loved the little kiltie thing he was wearing. I love Alexa, fighting through her own demons with every dance.

Yeah, this was my favorite dance of the night. Argentine tango to fight Biblical demons. Rock on, Mark and Alexa!

Nick veered us back into the emotional territory, with another stunning dance, this time picking his wife as his Inspirational Icon, and talking about how they've been trying to have a baby, and now she's pregnant. So Sharna did a fabulously choreographed contemporary dance which illuminated that. (The picture above is how it ends, with him patting her baby bump.)

There was also this emotional moment, after he pulled his wife out of the crowd, and brought her backstage. They learned the sex of their baby. Can you guess what it is?

So which one of these will be the Mirror Ball winner? Any guesses?

I am predicting that it's going to be one of these, but it for damn sure isn't going to be the "best dancer in the competition" (self-proclaimed).

What Ms. Tamar doesn't understand is that this competition is won on two things: 1. the scores of the judges and 2. the voting from the fans. So you can get all 10s consistently from the judges, if WE don't like you, you don't win. That's it. Valentin knows this, painfully, having seen the backlash from his brother Maks saying whatever he felt like it into a microphone seasons ago.

Because what the fans respect the most is what Valentin now oozes (way more than Maks ever did): GRACIOUSNESS. When he won the Mirror Ball finally, his first reaction was to face the camera (and the fans) and say: THANK YOU. Cause he knows.

But it was essential to backpedal this tremendous faux pas. So in their package, Val says something like: "I slept on it, thought about it, and yes, you are the best, cause all of my partners are the best."

But, dear Valentin, the point is: she shouldn't have said it, and once said, you can't take it back. You have to ride that humility train all the way to hoisting the Mirror Ball, or you don't win it. Simple as that.

I will say this. I believe that this season, because of other projects he's doing or whatever, Valentin is surely the best dancer in this competition. He has never been more electrifying to watch. If not for the Tamar meltdown, he could've been hoisting another Mirror Ball (IMHO).

But no, no, no. For me personally (don't know how many other fans), she lost me with that comment. Done.

Her Inspirational Icon was ostensibly her sister, Toni (Braxton), but she didn't really speak to that. The music they chose for their paso doble felt like a giant FU to the fans. Tough. I was born this way. (Lady Gaga's) Fine. You go keep your arrogance that you were born with. GOODBYE.

OK. I'll turn over my cards. Here who I think is actually going to win the Mirror Ball.

Not only because Derek is arguably the best dancer in the competition, but also the most creative with those Freestyle dances. Part of me would like to see Sharna and Nick win (because Sharna has yet to win a Mirror Ball, and she's been doing stunning work all season, and last season, for that matter). But I think Bindi and Derek are going to pull it out because Bindi is so darn cute, she's the world's sweetheart and she also does all these punishing dances that Derek gives her, without missing a beat. She's been consistently amazing.

It's also kind of funny to me, how at the beginning, there may be one who stands out (and certainly Bindi did), but many seem equally good. But then, there are always things which derail people. Their own ego, their body, their schedule, whatever.

Break a leg, Bindi!

Oh, for this particular week, as soon as she said Grace Kelly was her Inspirational Icon, I knew which dance they were going to be dancing to. They did not disappoint.

1. Mark and Alexa (Argentine tango)
2. Carlos and Witney (salsa)
3. Bindi and Derek (foxtrot)
4. Val and Tamar (paso doble)

1. Bindi and Derek
2. Nick and Sharna
3. Carlos and Witney
4. Alek and Lindsay

So they had this other nonsense on this show. I really hate this crap. Some judges hooha, and you get extra points, blah blah.

This was a "Dance Off." I'll spare you all the boring, time-filler details. The only relevant detail is that the top couple (by judges' points) were given immunity and couldn't be voted off (also didn't have to participate in this lame dance-off thing). That couple was Nick and Sharna, but like last year (when Derek and his partner won it), they weren't in danger of being voted off anyway.

This was the best moment of the Dance Off, when Carlos spontaneously picked up his competitor, Bindi, and all were laughing. That, truly captures to me what Dancing with the Stars really is. Love this picture.

So, goodbye Allison. I love your dancing and choreography. I look forward to the day when you finally win the Mirror Ball. But this was not that time.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

DWTS Season 21 Week 7: Halloween Scares Up Some Ego, New Team Dance Champs

There are some truisms you can say about a Dancing with the Stars Halloween show. The cast really gets into it, someone plays Halloween pranks on everyone and Derek's team always, and I mean always, wins the Team Dance. (To be fair, last year, Val's team TIED with Derek's. So the record was still never broken.)

This year, we have NEW winners. More on all that in a moment.

The other significant thing about this show (very significant to me) was this statement. Take a guess at who said it. "I'm probably the best dancer in the competition." (It was one of the stars, not the Pros.)

If you guessed...

...Tamar Braxton, you'd be right.

Let me just say this about that. Rampant ego doesn't play well on reality TV. Unless you want all of America to hate you, you don't say a thing like that into the camera.

Val kinda (understandably) went ballistic when that little tidbit aired, but SHE DID SAY IT.

"The best dancer in the competition." :-0  Oh my, oh my. Dear, this is Week 6. There is a long way from here to there (and let me clue you now, she DOESN'T win the competition). Nor would she have.

Don't know about the rest of America, but what that little statement did for me was completely SUCK all the votes which would have gone to her and Val out of my phone-dialing hand.

Oh, another thing about ego, btw. She was on this ego high because they had gotten all 10s last week for their amazing Rhythm Nation recreation. When the judges were commenting on the dance, they said, "Excellent choreography!" And Tamar said, "Thank you." Last I checked, it was Val who was the choreographer here. (And an amazing choreographer at that. The only reason she's ANYWHERE in the competition is that Val is her partner.)

 Valentin is the reigning champion, a dancer in fine peak form, a stunning choreographer. He's a joy to watch and has an incredibly creative mind. Ms. Tamar is only along for the ride here.

And while I'm on my anti-Tamar rant, my other DWTS pet peeve is when stars sign up to do this show and they have ten other commitments as well. Oh, sorry, I have to go do this book tour. Oh, sorry, I'm touring with my band. Oh, sorry, I have to go co-host this daily talk show. WTF? Casting directors? Can't you get people who are out of work, who have the time and energy to devote to doing this show? WTF is up with these losers who try to do six things at once, then bitch on the show about how tired they are?

You don't see folks on Survivor leaving in the middle because they have a book tour or have this obligation in Vegas or whatever.

I have NO sympathy for these folks, and totally vote them down whenever the bitching starts. So Ms. Tamar has a few black marks on my dance card from that. But, for me, Valentin Chmerkovskiy can do no wrong, I will vote for him many times in the future, but Tamar Braxton lost every vote from me, starting with this week. "Best dancer in the competition," my ass. (This week Tamar received 24 out of 30, one of the lowest scores.)

Ah, but let's get back to something positive. The truly best dancers of this week, my favorite of Week 6: Alexa and Mark. (Who did receive a perfect score of 30 from the judges.)

Alexa, is, for my money, at this point in the competition, the one I want to win. Mark Ballas is just a genius with choreography and costuming and story, and every week, I look forward to what they do.

This gorgeous paso doble homage to Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands was just beautiful and so well done. I love watching them, every time.

The person I truly believe is the best dancer in this competition, and very likely to win it is Bindi Irwin. It helps, of course, that her partner is Derek Hough, who can do no wrong with his dances.

But this was a very beautiful and well performed Argentine tango. And those kicks and flicks were kickin and flickin (from both participants). Really amazing. And they received a perfect score for the effort.

Or this...

Alexa's husband Carlos is not shabby in the dance department either. Another paso doble, to Carmina Burana, for gosh sakes! And his ego was the opposite, insisting that last week the judges "overscored" him. Julianne insisted she did not. Refreshing.

The gold standard, though was amazing paso that Mark and Alexa put forth, which was so stunningly good, so this one that Andy and Allison presented was... well, not that.

Where Mark and Alexa's lines were sharp and clear, these... um... ugh.

And Andy Grammar, too, in his package, was commenting about how everyone had pretty much written him off as a dancer at the beginning, and then they got all 10s and... well, NOW we can see... etc. Let's just take a moment to remind Mr. Grammar that they got 10s because the dance (from Singing in the Rain) was complex, involved a lot of props, and is more than the usual DWTS dance. And they performed it well. Still doesn't mean he's a great dancer, cause for the record, I don't think he is.

Turn on the table, then lift up the raincoats, then go up, then down these stairs, then jump on the first couch, then the second... etc. Lotsa steps and things to do.
So, he wasn't as blatant with his ego tripping as Tamar, but it was out there.

This paso doble received only 26 out of 30.

Another rampant ego was from our hero Alek, who went all ballistic because the judges gave him bad scores last week, when he "performed the steps perfectly." Luckily, they brought in Artem to show Alek a thing or two about what he's missing. And his dance this week was much better.

So enough about the petty squabbling about who's better among these fine dancers. Let's get to the important stuff: the Team Dances!

I loved this team dance, from Team Nightmare. Exquisitely done. Every person performed well. Great concept, great music, well done.

They also received a perfect score from the judges. (They performed first.)

Team Who Ya Gonna Call? didn't meet their high bar.

So, for the first time in ELEVEN seasons, Derek's team did not win the Team Dance!!!!

It was quite an evening, all in all.

I really want to echo Derek's stated sentiment, that all of the people who work on the costumes, hair and makeup for this show really deserve to be commended. These costumes and props and sets and everything going on here were just first-rate, the highest caliber.

Could have really done without all the smoke machine nonsense, but other than that, it was amazing.

Lastly, for the past two weeks, Leah Remini has replaced (as in stood in for, she's nowhere near as good) Erin Andrews as cohost. Mostly it's been good. (I can't imagine Erin being willing for Tom to sling her over his shoulder in a Dirty Dancing parody thing. Quite funny.) But I really wish someone could tell dear Ms. Leah to STOP hitting people in the face with a microphone. She did this the last time she cohosted, and it's not only annoying, it's abusive. She needs to STOP IT.

1. Alexa and Mark (paso doble)
2. Carlos and Witney (paso doble)
3. Bindi and Derek (Argentine tango)
4. Andy and Allison (paso doble)
5. Alek and Lindsay (Viennese waltz)


Saturday, November 7, 2015

DWTS Season 21 Week 6: Famous Dances Week a Misstep

Dancing with the Stars has certain things you look forward to every season (if you've been watching for awhile), like the Trio Dances, or the Group dances, or the My Favorite Year segments. Then sometimes, they create new things, to see how they fly. One they did this season, the Hometowns featuring the Pros (not just the Stars) was a choice of brilliance.

This thing this week, really, not so much.

Tom Bergeron, guest host Leah Remini and Karina Smirnoff, who recreated the Flashdance opening number.
See, the premise of this show (really far afield from it now) is that the "stars" have never really danced before, and somehow, stumbling and struggling, these pros would make them DANCERS by the end of the season! Well, in truth, many of the stars have had at least some form of dance training, since they are, pretty much from Week 1 now, expected to perform at a top level. So, we audience, who are kind of in on the joke now, put up with that.

But this choice this week? Ugh. They are all asked to recreate "a classic famous dance." I really hated this idea. I'm sure it's great for the dancers, who get all jazzed by this idea. But the stars? Oh my.

Let's start with the first one, shall we? And let's also mention that guest judging this week is Miss Olivia Newton-John herself (who looks like she's had more than a little work done). But no matter. She's wonderful.

First couple to dance is 15-year-old Hayes. In their package, Emma is enthusiastically telling him that the dance they are tasked with (right in front of Olivia Newton-John herself) is from Grease. To which 15-year-old Hayes says, "What?" (As in, he's never heard of this Grease thing. "Danny who?") Oh my, it's going to be a long, long night.

Another bizarre sexual thing was the choice of "The One That I Want" (for Emma and Hayes). Sure, I know that eventually all things lump into the non-sexual mainstream void, even if they started out sexual... and you can't really be SEXUAL with a 15-year-old partner, but come on...

Anyone will remember (and trust me, Hayes, EVERYONE around the world knows Grease) and will remember that in the story, Olivia Newton-John's character is beautiful and shy and normal (wearing prim dresses) until one day, she decides she really has to have John Travolta's character, and thus busts out the super tight vinyl one-piece. That clings to her every sexy curve. And they are recreating the dance. To fine effect. They just leave out that pesky sexuality piece. Ugh.

Dancers, of course, are going to hold these iconic dances dear. The stars, mostly, couldn't care about them. And the degree of difficulty to really pulling them off, even for the Pros, was pushing it.

Like this...

Derek, the maestro, the Emmy winner, said he has never done a lift like this one (from Dirty Dancing, of course). He mentions that in rehearsal, they only complete the lift "50% of the time," although they do it successfully on show night. (Of course.)

And for practice, they had Derek and Bindi cavorting around in smelly swamps to practice. Please, producers, a dance studio is JUST FINE. Enough with the craziness.

(They also had Jennifer Grey in there for a hot minute for really no reason.)

Another problem for some of the dancers is that the iconic dance in question was danced ALONE, and they then had to incorporate not only a partner, but the steps/moves from whatever dance they were dancing. (Remember that? People actually DANCE a particular dance each week? Yeah. That often gets lost in the shuffle, especially this season.)

Like this dance.

Which brings us back to some sexuality craziness. This "dance" wasn't really notable for a dance (in the same way some of these others--like the Singing in the Rain dance, which was iconic AS A DANCE). It was iconic because Britney Spears was young and hot and dancing with a snake. I mean, it was a dance on an awards show, for heaven's sake. What's next? The Madonna kiss thing?

So, for me, as much as I love Alexa and Mark and want them to win.. I think this was my least favorite of all her dances. She just seemed lost. Although she did handle the snake well.

Her husband, OTOH, who last week danced a very solumn and prayerful number to "Amazing Grace," this week was...

Um, doing this... to great effect, I might add. It was a great dance. But again, is there a woman in this iconic dance? No.

Well, now there is.

Alek and Lindsay did this.


Well, at least Alek knew who Elvis Presley was.

Just a bad concept (this Week), badly executed (in some cases).

OTOH, when it succeeded, it was pretty stunning. You know Derek and Bindi's Dirty Dancing recreation was pretty wonderful. Andy and Allison's "Good Morning" routine (which, in the original, had THREE people in it; although I'd like to think the spirit of Gene Kelly was dancing it with them) was pretty amazing and spot on. It's one of my all-time favorite dances, and they did it justice.

But it just seemed like they were screaming, HEY! Give us more Emmys! For our sets and our costumes... and makeup...

Well, any dance which has costumes like this AND Anna and Karina, you know I'm all in. Sadlly, Paula Deen (thankfully, finally kicked off on this episode) is no Madonna.

Nick and Sharna showed off a pretty good Saturday Night Fever homage. And Sharna's additional choreography made this samba really work.

But really, the showstopper, and I bow again to Valentin's amazing choreography skills (whether or not he had help with this) was the final dance.

Yeah, you might recognize it. Val gave a shout out to the original choreographer, Anthony Thomas, for changing dance for decades.

This dance was a dance that had to be perfect, and it was. And it received a perfect score to show for it.

It's interesting to me that they used to make a big deal about introducing the troupe, and other than Tom's introductions of them after some numbers, they go nameless this season. I must commend the troupe for the Busby Berkeley dance in between numbers. This effect with the overhead cameras they are using was pretty stunning.

I REALLY love whoever came up with the leaderboard showing in the middle (or so) of the show. That feels like an organic move that is really welcome, cause it's easy to lose track of.

Miche's Favorite Dances of Week 6
1. Valentin and Tamar ("Rhythm Nation")
2. Allison and Andy ("Good Morning," from Singing in the Rain)
3. Sharna and Nick (Saturday Night Fever samba)
4. Derek and Bindi (Dirty Dancing)
5. Carlos and Witney (Magic Mike)