Sunday, July 24, 2016

DWTS S22 Week 8: A Night of Breathtaking Dances, Groundbreaking Moments

There are moments, usually once the riff-raff is gone, and before the super competitive finals arrive, when the pro choreographers are able to strut some of their most artistic, and risky, stuff. Week 8 of Dancing with the Stars was such a week. We were graced with some literally breath-taking dances.

The full cast of Week 8
The above photo is funny, cause the pro dancers are still dressed from their (amazing) opening number (choreographed by Mandy Moore), and the stars are dressed in costume for their upcoming number. Quite an array ahead.

First up, Peta Murgatroyd and Nyle's paso doble.

One of the hallmarks of Dancing with the Stars is that it occasionally plays with color in camera. This bad photo from the TV shows the black and white stuff that happens (and is just stunning to watch).

And then, this section in the middle (Peta conceived, assisted by Maks), where the male dancers around Nyle dance without sound (so America could see what it's like for Nyle to dance every week). Incredible moment.

But let me just say this here and now. Much of what was given credit to Nyle this season was Peta's handiwork. This dance among them. Bravo to her, and to the other four male dancers who danced synchronistically in silence. Wow. Certainly one of the best moments of the season.

It ended with them putting her and him in a cage. Just stunning imagery.

Man, I love to watch Sharna dance. She and Antonio perform what he kept calling a "Vietnamese waltz" (*eyeroll*). How she created this beautiful choreography, after the previously stunning Viennese waltz she had just created (on Switch Up Week) blows my mind.

But she is just beautiful.

Photo of Sharna, not from this week
After their dance (and before their scores), we had this little blip of a thing. You know the things where the dancers show how to do some dance or another, takes a minute, boom, onto the next thing? The bumpers? Well, this particular one was choreographed by James Corden. I encourage you to seek it out (online or the link below).

Cause we had this:

and, of course, this:

Thank goodness Jenna, Hayley and Shannon are such good sports. It was pretty funny. The real choreography genius Mandy Moore is even in the video. (As well as Exec. Prod. Rob Wade.)

LOL Tom Bergeron is so perfect. Funny, funny stuff.

James Corden as choreographer

And then, back to the show!

Jodie and Keo Week 8. The photo says it all.
Next up, Jodie and Keo. Jodie (whom I love, and really wanted to win this competition) says in her package: "We're bringing in set design and props and troupe dancers to really highlight the great jive that we're doing." First of all, every single frame of this show already HAS "set design and props and troupe dancers." But when they bring it in for a dancer's individual dance, by and large, it means that you suck. And they are trying to cover that up with "set design and props and troupe dancers." You don't need all that hooha to "highlight" a great jive.

SEE Mark Ballas' great jive from last week. No props, no "set design," no troupe dancers. Yet, spectacular, and blew the roof off.

PRO TIP TO ASPIRING STAR DANCERS: All you EVER need is the dance. If you are good/great/wonderful, that is all you'll ever need. And if you suck, prepare to see a lot of other dancers around you. That is, truly, truly, how this show rolls. Jodie Sweetin was really in the clouds about what was really happening on this show, vis a vis her and Keo.

And, IMHO, it wasn't that SHE sucked, it was that her partner didn't really have what is needed in a pro. So, I felt bad when they were voted off later in this show.

"Holy DWTS" They do have a great prop department.
The judges scored this a perfect score (which made both Jodie and her mom happy), but it was too little too late.

To me, that was not a perfect score dance. The troupe dancers were essentially extraneous. The dance said nothing about the surroundings, the song was terrible. Ugh.

My kind of perfection is this.

This is a dance where everything: the minimal, but perfect sets; the lighting, the camerawork, the costumes, the snow blowing in at just the right moment, work perfectly in concert with the stunning dance that is being presented before us. Some dancers in this week were just trying to get their steps right. Mark Ballas had his partner EFFECTIVELY portraying being outside in freezing cold to a Demi Lovato song.

It stunned me then, it stuns me now, how incredibly good this dance was.

Peta and Nyle's dance was incredible for its technical brilliance. To my eyes, this dance is every bit as difficult and as brilliant. To have an untrained dancer go from this (movement, warmth) to this (coldness, statues) in the course of one dance is nothing short of stunning.

Truly. Over and over, it is Mark Ballas who blows my mind the most on this show. I live to see his choreography and his vision. And it's incredible to me that he can create this magic on DWTS, on ABC. Especially after last week's blistering jive that they performed. This week, Viennese waltz. Brilliant and beautiful.

Astonishingly, this dance of perfection did not get a perfect score, while Jodie and Keo's mess did. Ah well.

Next, I have a bias about Ginger Zee, which I've mentioned in previous columns this season. She is too nice. She is always nice, always smiling ear to ear, and so far, when she's had to perform a rough character, it's WAY out of her scope and ability.

She and Val are doing an Argentine tango. The women in this dance is usually always surly and angry and in command, all things that Ginger Zee is not.

However, astonishingly, we get this.

This is what you get when you have an excellent teacher, who knows what's required and makes it happen. Ginger Zee doing a hot Argentine tango? I seriously never thought that could happen. Yet, here it is.

In the moment, I was totally swept away by it. Watching it back now, I can see how camera angles and lighting conceal how much she may've burst into smiles along the way. And the one close shot, she did look rather "constipated" (her word). So, in this instance, I think it was Val's choreography and the DWTS artistry which carried her through this one. (Don't go into acting anytime soon, Ms. Ginger...)

But the choreography, as always with Val Chmerkovskiy, was stunning. Perfect score. No surprise.

Wanya and Lindsay are also a couple that I really wanted to win. This number, from the start, looked like it was going to be great. However, notice what I said earlier. Notice the sets, the props, the extra troupe dancers... hm... Add to that an errant bandana which nearly causes one of the dancers to fall out (for which I blame the costume department, not either dancer). And their scores are less than great.

Sigh. Sad.

That moves us into the Judges Dances. I think this is the second or third time they've done this. And it's kind of a useless exercise, cause all the judges always give each other 10s. This time, they've added the component of "America gets to vote," by which they mean the East Coast of America. *sigh* So that adds some variety. (Except this year, "America" voted 9 for all three dances. They might as well not even be scoring.)

But all of these judges used to be in the dance field in one way or another, so it is interesting to see what they choose to have the dancers do. Mostly, they indulge themselves.

Then again, what we did have here was pretty ground-breaking TV. For a Disney company. For ABC. For Dancing with the Stars, this was pretty landmark. In Bruno's dance, women danced with women and men danced with men. In, you know, a sexual way. And I promise you, we have never seen anything like that on this show before. And probably never would, if it weren't Bruno choreographing.

BRUNO: Peta and Nyle, Keo and Jodie

Mind you, this was all an Argentine tango to Bizet's "Carmen," so it had a very classical feel about it, but still... the ground was shifting here.

Quite something.

Len, on the other hand, chose to head in a different direction.

LEN: Valentin and Ginger, Lindsay and Wanya

Note the Len Stonehenge mask.
Something about two beautiful women on an island, and these wayward sailors discover them, and that they are surrounding King Len, and then they all samba together. It was a fun palate-cleanser, after Bruno's steamy "Carmen."

CARRIE ANN: Sharna and Antonio, Mark and Paige

This was a stunning paso doble, to the music of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Each of these Judges' Dances had featured a segment where the two non-pros (stars) danced with each other. This one, to me, was the most effective, and truly showed how far each of these dancers had come.

VOTED OFF: Jodie and Keo :-(

1. Mark and Paige (Viennese waltz)
2. Peta and Nyle (paso doble)
3. Val and Ginger (Argentine tango)
4. Lindsay and Wanya (jive)
5. Sharna and Antonio ("Vietnamese"/Viennese waltz)