Saturday, April 1, 2017

DWTS Season 23 Finals, part 1: And Then There Were Three

It's finals time at Dancing with the Stars. We have four remaining couples at the beginning of the first night of finals (the three above and Jana and Gleb).

First up, Calvin and Lindsay dance a Viennese waltz.

I didn't like Lindsay at first, but season after season, she's grown on me. I really appreciate the professionalism she puts into her numbers, and this Viennese waltz was just packed with content. Plus, her and Calvin dance well together. Of all the people this season, I was really glad that they got into the finals. Her choreography is a main reason why.

Also, by and large, they seem to have a decent choice of music.

Carrie Ann deducts for Lindsay bringing her foot off the floor (no lifts!). (Carrie Ann is the Lift Police.)

Then, they continue the seasons-long trend of surprising Calvin by bringing out his two-year-old son from Atlanta. Very nice moment.

So, Gleb is very sick with flu during this finals week. He and Jana have the tango as their Redemption Dance. (She was in pain the first time they did it, he is in pain now...)

Personally, I really don't like Gleb and Jana, so this dance and its crappy music did nothing for me. But Bruno thought "it could give night sweats to a saint."

This girl, Laurie Hernandez, came into this competition, rolling with her medals from the Olympics, a shy girl of 16, not confident in expressing her womanhood in this crazy world of dance. And Oh My Goodness, look at her now! Their Redemption Dance was the paso doble (from Week 5). She is sure in a different place now.

What an incredible display of dance! This paso doble was amazing, and blew away the previous two competitors.

Then, Cheryl Burke dances with Artem, and Alan and Keo and some other troupe guy to a song by Train. Oh yeah, they perform it. Such beautiful costumes, such a beautiful dance.

Oh, I just love Sharna and James so very much. (See the tape on his glasses?) This foxtrot was just so wonderful. And the choice of music ("It Had to Be You") was also perfect.

And BEST OF ALL, they didn't rip off her sexy schoolmarm outfit during the dance. At the end, they are sitting and laughing and reading "The Hinchcliffe Code" on the bench. Very nice.

It's going to be a sad sad day when James Hinchcliffe is no longer on Dancing with the Stars. He brought so much joy this season.

Just noticed a cut to Florence Henderson in the audience. I do remember she was supporting the show up until the end. :-(

Tom Bergeron says to James: "Give up this racing and become an actor." Although James says, "I don't know about that," Tom knows what he's talking about. He's been around actors, and James SURE has what it takes. He could be a very successful Cary Grant-esque comedian and actor, if he wanted to. He's got such an easy flair for comedy.

Then, we had an amazing paso doble bumper with Keo and Allison, and Emma and Sasha. Wonderful.


1. Val and Laurie's paso doble

2. Sharna and James' foxtrot

3. Lindsay and Calvin's Viennese waltz

Next, the most exciting part of the whole season: The Freestyle Round.

Two things I'm really OVER on this show (well, besides Jana and Gleb) are songs from SIA and contemporary dance. I really really hate it. This was a ballroom show, and somehow all this contemporary has snuck in.

Also, the hokey devices which don't really mean anything (being attached during the dance) do nothing for me. When I watch this dance, I see the same basic thing I saw in their first ever dance, whereas the other three competitors have really (to me, anyway) grown and changed and matured in their dancing.

The Freestyle round is supposed to be spectacular. It's supposed to remind people of your journey during the entire season. Whether that is by using troupe members or just doing your own thing, it's supposed to take our breath away.

Everything about this Freestyle says that Jana and Gleb should be the next to go. It just seems like any old other dance, given on any other day, not a Freestyle.

And, they messed it up (made a mistake during the finals!). They got all 9s from the judges, which was overly charitable. But it's the first time in a LONG LONG LONG while that a finalist didn't get all 10s for a Freestyle.

Lindsay Arnold, OTOH, has been around this rodeo a few times. She knows that you have to pull out ALL STOPS for a Freestyle dance. She's got "jazz, jive, lindy, tricks and lifts." It's big, it's got troupe dancers, it's ASTONISHING.

They are rocking the Motown music for the Detroit guy, it's just wonderful on so many levels. Did I mention working treadmills? This dance could NOT have been more different than the last one. There were breathtaking lifts (ON THE TREADMILLS! while they were MOVING!), there were great costumes, there were amazing troupe dancers. Just an astonishing and memorable Freestyle.

OF COURSE, they get a perfect score from the judges.

Do you remember back in the beginning of the season, when they shot that incredible opening number at Griffith Park? And there were all these dancers, and swirling cameras and it was just an incredible spectacle, a love letter to LA? Well, it turns out that Dancing with the Stars and the almost-Oscar-winning Best Picture La La Land have something in common: its choreographer, Mandy Moore.

Mandy Moore has been creating spectacular dances for Dancing with the Stars for many years now, it's one of the reasons why #DWTS is a must-watch show, frankly. So, that opening number (on the first episode of Season 23) was spectacular and amazing. But we are also graced, in these finals, with an homage to La La Land, using the dancers of #DWTS, plus some others whom I wish were in the troupe regularly. Incredible.

The dancers, the production staff, the costumes, the music from La La Land (with Ryan Gosling singing!) all made this number just incredible to watch.

So let's just take a moment, shall we? to honor and applaud the wondrous force of amazing dance that is Mandy Moore. We are so very thankful for her talents, on La La Land, and most especially, on DWTS.

And remember that with all the stuff that happened this season, this was also the season that began and ended with love, and had an engagement on air in the middle. *swoon*

OK... then, back to the Freestyle as scheduled.

Now, Laurie and Val dance to a fun, energetic song called "Brand New." They have a playground, complete with slide, balance beam, and spinny thing. They jump and twirl and do cartwheels (incorporating a lot of gymnastics, but also dance moves; so skillful is Val's choreography). And the dance, like Lindsay's did with Calvin, incorporates much that is Laurie Hernandez as we know her, and her journey on this show.

But her main asset is that she's young and she can do anything, and this wonderful dance reflected that. Stunning.

Carrie Ann: "You brought tears to my eyes, just because I was so happy."

Not surprisingly, a perfect score from the judges.

James and Sharna take a different approach with their Freestyle.

James Hinchcliffe, a racecar driver, had suffered a horrific accident, which nearly killed him before he was on this show. He speaks in their package of blacking out during the crash, and that it was like a page in the book of his life which was blank. With this dance, they attempt to fill that page.

I have mentioned earlier my disdain for contemporary dance. What saved this somewhat was that it had balletic elements. It was really beautiful. I found James' voiceover at the beginning and end to be a bit hokey, and I much preferred the two previous Freestyles, which just relied upon song lyrics to get their messages across.

However, the judges were all gobsmacked with this one, giving all kinds of rave reviews.

Perfect score for James and Sharna.

Couple exiting tonight (and not a moment too soon for my taste): Jana and Gleb


1. Lindsay and Calvin

2. Val and Laurie

3. Sharna and James


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