Sunday, October 30, 2016

DWTS S023, Week 6: Latin Night Not as Steamy as Promised

It was billed as "the hottest night of the season." Well, it wasn't. It's Latin night at Dancing with the Stars, so normally that means a lot of hot dances. Still, the hottest night so far this season was when Jana and Gleb came out on Night 1 with that STEAMY Viennese waltz. You heard me. (So it was steamy and inappropriate. On this night, when it is appropriate, their dance wasn't so steamy.)

This dance, Week 1, was HOT. (But it wasn't supposed to be.)

Old favorite Pitbull kicked off the show (with two other guys) and all of the female pros, plus a bevy of Pitbull's own female dancers. The number (as his numbers usually are) was all over the place, using every bit of stage. The best thing about it? Having Allison Holker among the dancers really made it sparkle. Although Sharna and Witney were really his arm candy...

What Latin Night REALLY is is complicated. It's Week 6, the rubber has hit the road, and if you're still here, these steps get complicated. The Latin dances, one of the biggest staples of the ballroom circuit, have been scaled back in recent years, adding more (*shudder*) Contemporary and less proper samba. But on Latin Night, everyone is on a Latin dance.

Really, what you see is not so much HOT as struggling with a lot of steps (for the most part).

This starts right out of the gate with these two: Ryan and Cheryl. For all the times Ryan reminds us that he has "Cuban" heritage, he doesn't seem to have the Latin rhythm in his blood very much. The whole samba, they are taking each other's clothes off, but it doesn't seem sexy at all. In fact, at the end, they end up in bathing suits under a black light (and he has glow-in-the-dark kneepads, which really kill the mood).

JUDGES: 30 (out of 40)

Also, another crazy thing that happened on this show is that, well, Pitbull hasn't been on as a judge in a long while. So he forgot the whole system and just blurted out his score as the judges are giving their comments. AWKWARD... They set him straight for later judging... sheesh.

I love Sasha and Terra with a passion that I've only felt rarely on this show. The connection they have, the chemistry, the singularity of movement--all of that is huge. But really, the magic of these two (shown again in this paso doble) is the way that Sasha takes the elements of the dance, and molds it to her unique needs.

I would've been giving these two all 10s weeks ago. This dance is no exception. Between the music (they consistently have the best music), the costumes, the sets and lighting, and mostly Sasha's stunning choreography, these two are sincerely my favorite on this show. Sasha did this thing this time around...I don't know what the step is called, but often there is a step in paso where the man is on his knees (and usually he bounces up quickly). In this dance, he stayed down on his knees for quite a bit, and it made it feel more intimate because now he was on Terra's level. Very powerful.

Just stunning. They blow me away, week after week after week.

HOT OR NOT: Not (but WHAT a dance!)
JUDGES: 30 (out of 40) (Boooo!)

I am so over Amber's whiny madness. Although I love to see Maks dance, I was quite happy to see these two get voted out this week.

They cha cha to a song called "Blah Blah Cha Cha." Quite fitting. One thing that really bugged me (other than Amber's overall attitude) was the whole trope that if a woman drops a handkerchief (first of all, which woman carries a handkerchief anymore?)... the man will immediately swoop down and pick it up. So dated, so old. That part didn't work for me.

Another thing that bugged me about Pitbull's commentary is that he constantly was referring to things people did in rehearsal. You're supposed to be judging just what's in front of you, dude. On show night. Grrrr.

JUDGES: 28 (out of 40)

James and Sharna are another of my top favorite couples, week after week. James speaks in his package about his alter ego, Ricardo, who brings the sexy. But he's fooling no one. Everyone knows that Canadian guys are the sexiest guys on the planet.

And this week, they are doing the sexiest dance: rumba. Not sure who thought up this sexy lace number of a shirt for James to wear, but wow. (Way sexier than Ryan Lochte's kneepads, I'll tell ya.)

All this nonsense about James "not being an actor," is just crazy. He invented a persona called Ricardo, for gosh sakes. If that's not acting...

Julianne says that James is "hands-down, the best male dancer we've ever had on this show." :-0 Pitbull misses his cue when they give the scores. The voiceover announcer actually has to say: "Pitbull" twice. *shakes head*

HOT OR NOT: Muy caliente (as Ricardo would say)
JUDGES: 38 (out of 40)

Marilu and Derek is an interesting work-in-progress. Derek made an interesting comment in the package about Marilu's legs, and how he didn't want to look at them cause "she's my mom's age." But hey, go for it. Lots of older ladies are pretty darn sexy, Marilu among them.

Their salsa continues on last week's dance evolution of Marilu.

JUDGES: 34 (out of 40)

First, Gleb is a bit full of himself. He posits that this Argentine tango is going to be the "hottest one ever" on DWTS. (It isn't.) In point of fact, to my eyes, it's not even as hot as the first dance they did this season. Certainly NOT the hottest Argentine tango on this show (just a quick pause brings to mind not only a couple that Val did, a couple that Maks did, but also one steamy one that Sharna did. Plus at least one that Mark Ballas did. All WAY sexier. And that's not even pausing to think about it.)

Here's really the gist of it. Let's use Gleb's dance and compare it to last season's sexiest Argentine tango (by a country mile): Mark and Paige, the dance with the white shirt.

Gleb's starts out with a bed center stage. (Gag. Can we say "on the nose"?) With black satin sheets on the bed. (Double gag.)

Mark Ballas, on the other hand, had a progression of passion. As the dance progressed, it got hotter and hotter and hotter, clothes were being taken off, but they were still dancing. There was a table involved, but it was all a dance of passion.

Jana is already darn near naked at the start. Plus, they are dancing to Selena Gomez (not the sexiest song).

Then, there's this. Their big set piece. Did no one mention to him that taking a cold shower usually means dampening hot lust? Not amping it up... So yes, it's got a gimmick that no Argentine tango has had before, but it didn't in any way make it hotter. The dance itself is supposed to be what makes it hot. Ugh.

These two really bug me. The judges (since Len is not there, especially) really loved it. I did not. Gleb throws his wet shirt at Bruno (cause if Bruno is aroused, he always gives good scores, so good way to get a 10). But then, during the comments, Pitbull says to Jana (completely inappropriately): "If you want, you can go ahead and toss that dress over."

Really, ABC? Really, Disney company? You have this guy judging? It was so rude, it was unspeakable. I really hope they never have him back as a judge again. This incident was a fiasco.

JUDGES: 40 (out of 40) (gag)

We come out of commercial to a rumba bumper by Allison Holker and Keo Motsepe (to "Light My Fire"), which to me, was way hotter than the dance everyone was just raving about.

Artem and Maureen, Week 6. Courtesy of Just Jared.
Maureen and Artem and troupe. Courtesy of Just Jared.
Then, Maureen and Artem do a splashy samba, with lots of color and troupe dancers. And streamers! But this one seemed more of a strain for her, although I enjoyed watching it.

JUDGES: 31 (out of 40)

For my money, this Argentine tango, danced to "Hotel California," was just as hot (or even hotter) than Jana and Gleb's version. No shower scenes, no bed in the middle of the set. Just a nice Argentine tango. And I personally like Calvin's connection with Lindsay more than Jana and Gleb's.

Lindsay knows how to get there: through amazing choreography, with some stunning lifts, but just straight up Argentine tango. No gimmicks. That's what this competition is supposed to be about. Here's hoping that Lindsay and Calvin get further in this competition than Jana and Gleb. Because they deserve to.

JUDGES: 37 (out of 40)

Val, in his package, preparing Laurie for Latin Week: "There's going to be a lot of men ripping their shirts off." (beat) Laurie: "Don't you usually rip YOUR shirt off?" Val, to 16-year-old Laurie: "NO!"

So Val got around the whole hotness thing by packing the dance full of salsa content, which Laurie executed wonderfully.

HOT OR NOT: She's 16, not applicable. Good salsa though.
JUDGES: 37 (out of 40)

1. Terra and Sasha (paso doble)
2. James and Sharna (rumba)
3. Calvin and Lindsay (Argentine tango)
4. Laurie and Val (salsa)

1. Ryan and Cheryl
2. Jana and Gleb
3. Marilu and Derek

NEXT WEEK: Different Era Dances and TEAM dances


Sunday, October 23, 2016

DWTS S023, Week 5: Stars Get Emotional in 'Memorable Year' Week

60-piece orchestra and pro dancers
The ode to My Most Memorable Year kicks off with a truly memorable sight: a 60-piece orchestra in the ballroom at Dancing with the Stars. And the dance (to "My Heart Will Go On") kicks off with our favorite lovers (Sasha and Emma) swirling around the ballroom, soon joined by the other pros. Just wonderful. (Choreographed by Mandy Moore, of course.)

My Most Memorable Year is always a dicey week at DWTS. Sometimes, it's a sobby mess of emotion. Other times, it's more like, "Oh, you got that show that year. Yay, you." But usually, no matter what, we get to see an emotional side of the stars that they wouldn't otherwise access in their dances, and the dances from this point forward are always the better for it.

Maureen and Artem. Courtesy of Just Jared.
Maureen and Artem. What a revelation! I just love watching them. Their wedding day foxtrot was lyrical and beautiful. Nice choreography, nice movement, just a joy to watch.

And who knew (I didn't.) that Maureen McCormick had a cocaine addiction? But look at her now! Her and her loving husband. Just amazing. As Carrie Ann said, "You are slow and steady. But you know what they say about slow and steady? It wins the race."

Maureen seems to have the most amazing husband, and they seem very much in love. The whole thing even brought stoic Artem to tears (and btw, Artem, tears are a GOOD THING).

Family usually plays heavily in successful Most Memorable Years. But sometimes, it's sports. This one was both. Calvin Johnson (aka Detroit Lion "Megatron")'s most Memorable Year was the year he "broke Jerry Rice's record." To football fans, I'm sure all of that means something.

They also showed how when he did this, he walked off the field to hand the football to his dad.

When they do the jazz dance, to a Motown song, to Megatron's surprise, he is thrown the ball (in the dance) by Jerry Rice (the actual Jerry Rice), and he then leaves the floor to hand it to his dad. So there was a very nice symmetry there. Also, Calvin had never before met the actual Jerry Rice, so that was nice to see.

These two (Calvin and Lindsay) are definitely a couple to watch. Lindsay just keeps getting better and better.

And Erin Andrews, God bless her, is such the perfect host when they have football players on. I'm not a football fan, but you could tell that she handled the appropriateness of these two football giants quite well. Jerry Rice (apparently, I don't remember this; it was back in Season 02) had been on DWTS previously. And once you're DWTS family, you're always family.

Jana's Most Memorable Year saga was guaranteed to be a tear-jerker. Nothing tops an abusive ex. The year she chose was the year she had her baby (this year). Gleb and Jana did a contemporary dance, which ended with a cute picture of her baby. Awwww....

Then, some pros did some dancing to showcase their upcoming tour (around Valentine's Day in LA). Tom has a bit of fun with the title. DWTS upcoming tour.

As much as I love the addition of the Charleston to this show, I equally LOATHE the addition of so dang much contemporary to this show. Really really hate it. The judges, however, loved this piece from Cheryl and Ryan. There was a nice bit at the end, when Ryan is standing alone on a gold podium with gold flakes twinkling down on him, bathed in gold light. Very atmospheric and nice.

Laurie and Val's paso doble was, as usual, quite wonderful. But the judges hit on what may be their Achilles heel: lack of connection. Since she's 16 and never had a (romantic) relationship, how could she possibly do that whole connection thing with Val? But, at this point, that is their only weakness. (Costumes, as you can see, were gorgeous.)

Marilu and Derek had a breakthrough this week. She owned up to the fact that she was afraid of him, and wanted to be perfect for him. (Part of what was making her so tense.) They obviously worked through that, because she was much more free-flowing and fluid in this week's Viennese waltz.

And there were tears. Marilu was talking about her mother's death (just before she got Taxi). Ryan Lochte had been talking about his happiest moment (when he first broke a world record in 2008), and teared up. Lotsa crying by the celebs this week. Some of it good... some of it...

Let's just say that I don't think Amber Rose is emotionally cut out to do DWTS. "It's hard!" "It's so much harder with heels on!" and on and on... Her favorite year was the year she had her son, but the song she chose she wanted to be an anthem for women... um... and moms... *eyeroll*

James and Sharna continue to be one of the couples I look forward to every week. This tango was amazing. The fact that he suffered a major life-threatening injury (2015) and is here doing these incredible dances is astoninshing.

Well, yes, I know I said I hate contemporary. On the other hand, Contemporary gave us this. Her year was 2013, the year her father passed, and the year she got her big show. Sasha, in this dance, portrayed her dad. It was beautiful and poignant.

Sasha does such amazing and innovative choreography with Terra. Just a joy to see. And the angelic version of "Stand By Me" was stunning, too.

No elimination this week.

1. Terra and Sasha (contemporary)
2. James and Sharna (tango)
3. Laurie and Val (paso doble)
4. Marilu and Derek (Viennese waltz)
5. Maureen and Artem (foxtrot)

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Ryan and Cheryl
3. Amber and Maks


Monday, October 10, 2016

DWTS S023 Week 4: She Said Yes, and Cirque du Soleil Enhances the Dances

There was a vice presidential debate. There was a double elimination. There was a Cirque du Soleil event with clowns and bicycles and juggling and lots of stuff. For my money, not a thing on TV this week was more important (and better TV) than this moment. Sasha Farber and Emma Slater, two of our favorites from Dancing with the Stars, and quite possibly (it seems anyway) two of the nicest people around, got engaged in front of us all.

I was wondering when she knew something was up. Maybe the fact that they were asked to dance together to do a bumper (not a common occurrence). Maybe when he kissed her on the forehead at the beginning. Maybe when he kissed her on the lips at the end. Maybe when suave Tom Bergeron mentioned what "great chemistry" they both have (not a common statement from him). Surely, by the time Tom backed away and said he was letting Sasha "host for awhile," she had figured it out.

I think it was about that time that I, and the rest of America and the ballroom, started crying. The big sign behind them, flashing "She said YES!," the confetti streamers falling around them, the rest of the cast surrounding them with congratulations. It was an epic DWTS moment.

So so happy for you both. What a great couple. Ah, but back to the matters at hand...

We also had this this week: Cirque du Soleil! First time ever in #DWTS history. Of course, we had the regular dances, but Cirque du Soleil was there, in and around and through all of them. And cast members got to visit the shows that they were portraying (whether in Vegas or NYC) for inspiration.

One of the best things about Lindsay Arnold is that she seems to have single-handedly brought (and kept) the Charleston in this competition. It is often her go-to dance, and thank goodness for that. Here, decked out in their Kurios steampunk costumes, they do an amazing Charleston.

I really love Maureen and Artem. Maureen is trying so hard. I just love to watch them dance. This week, they had an Argentine tango (not the easiest of dances) to Mystere. It was beautiful.

I also have to commend the costume department for these lovely and amazing costumes (this week, but really all season long). The materials they are using make for incredible visual experiences, as you can see above.

Jana, who's in the mode of "Oh, poor me, I have so many other concerts and things to do" (while I should be rehearsing for this TV show I committed to), aka, you get no sympathy from me... performs a passable foxtrot from The Beatles' LOVE ("Here Comes the Sun"). Bruno calls it, "magic hour in Malibu in 1962," which is inaccurate, cause this song wasn't written yet in 1962, but picky picky.

They had fire! They had flags! They had the paso doble. You would think this would be a stunning dance. (They also had troupe members.) But as the judges alluded to, Marilu seems to be too much in her head. She really hasn't let loose in any of the dances she's done, even though she seems to be getting the steps completely accurately. So, I dunno. I liked them in the beginning, but I even liked Jana and Gleb's dance better this week. :-(

Maks, in the package, says this dance "is gonna be too hot for TV." Um, no. Too hot was Gleb and Jana's first dance. Too hot was Mark Ballas last season, with that white shirt. That's too hot. This was, at best, mildly hot. Course, they are doing Zumanity. Still, Amber is too wrapped up in her own sexuality, and not enough in the dance. She, too, like Marilu, really hasn't let loose this season yet. (Although the Booty song was close.)

There is also a dustup with her and Julianne. Awkward.

(To this moment, cannot find a pic of Ryan and Cheryl dancing in Week 4...)

Ryan and Cheryl are tasked with (of course) O, the aquatic Cirque du Soleil project. Although why? Other than to get some shots of Ryan Lochte in the water (like we haven't seen that before), it didn't make any sense. They are dancing a Viennese waltz. It was merely OK.

Well, I've said before that I just love Allison Holker and her choreography. And I've enjoyed watching her and Babyface, even though he doesn't quite keep up to her often. This week, they are also dancing a song from The Beatles LOVE ("Come Together"). Unfortunately, the trick that they have to maintain is hitting a series of spotlights as they are turning (a complicated move, even for a professional dancer). So, while I enjoyed watching it, the dance as a whole didn't quite come together, and they ended up getting the lowest score of the night (18!). Hard to come back from that. Allison did not look happy.

So we just slogged through five dances where people were too much in their head, not hitting marks, too wrapped up in themselves, blah blah. Don't worry, folks, Terra and Sasha are here to save the day.

HOLY GOD, was this amazing! Terra Jole rocked that salsa like nobody's business. She reminded us what this whole "dancing" thing is supposed to be about. Hip action? Sweet Jesus, was there hip action. I cannot believe this dance. It was so incredible.

Sasha and Terra get the first 9 of the season.

But, as it turns out, that amazing performance by Terra and Sasha was just a warm-up for the best performance of the night: Val and Laurie, doing jazz to Michael Jackson ONE. And I'm going to call it right here and now in Week 4: Val and Laurie are going to win this season's Mirror Ball. (I would love to see it be Terra and Sasha, or James and Sharna...) But they are destined to win. They are knocking it out of the park with every dance.

And as fantastic as Laurie Hernandez was, let's not forget that Valentin Chmerkovskiy is Michael Jackson in this dance. They were both spectacular. Not surprisingly, they get the first perfect score of the season.

Unfortunately, this was next. Vanilla Ice, who had five concerts in six days, and thus no rehearsal time. Oh, and they were doing a Viennese waltz, to La Nouba. You guess what happened. I have no sympathy for people who don't take this show seriously.

How much do I love love love James and Sharna? They are amazing. The choreography was stunning. The costumes were awesome. Great number. They quickstepped to Paramour, which they actually went to see on Broadway. Just wonderful.

1. Val and Laurie (jazz, Michael Jackson ONE)
2. Sasha and Terra (salsa, O)
3. Sharna and James (quickstep, Paramour)
4. Lindsay and Calvin (Charleston, Kurios)
5. Artem and Maureen (Argentine tango, Mystere)

1. Laurie and Val*
2. James and Sharna
3. Terra and Sasha
4. Calvin and Lindsay

* Prediction to Win (Week 4)

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Ryan and Cheryl
3. Marilu and Derek

(Please forgive my lack of accents. My machine doesn't do accents.)

All is right with the world.
So, let's get back to what's really important of these two nights. (See above.)

Oh, and the double elimination.

First, though, we had a performance by DNCE, with dance assist by four couples, all pros (except for Alan).

Then two couples are safe...

Come back from commercial, and we have a bumper to show us Contemporary dance, with these two. Oh man, was this wonderful.

Then, we had a package about all the stars' superstitious rituals, while everyone onstage was crying and congratulating Sasha and Emma.

There was a beautiful dance by (almost all) the male pros, plus Alan. Moody and atmospheric, notable for dueling Chmerkovskiys on opposite tables. Very nice. (Can't find a picture, sorry.)

Then, another "safe" or "in jeopardy"? moment...

Maureen and Artem are safe, unfortunately Allison and Babyface are the first elimination on this double elimination night. I am sad about this.

Then we have a little package about how rough it is to be a pro.

Then Derek (as he does sometimes) choreographed (and played drums and danced in) this number.

More results. Then some chick sang while dancers (including Witney) danced.

Then, this final elimination, with Vanilla Ice and Witney finally going home. I was really tired of hearing about how his schedule is so taxing, so I'm glad he now has more time to devote to just doing concerts.

NEXT WEEK: My Most Memorable Year