Friday, December 7, 2012

DWTS: Season 11, Week 5 Brandy Rises to the Top

Dancing to America's Favorite Television Show Tunes

This week is the first time that Dancing with the Stars had their dancers perform to television show tunes and I hope they don't repeat it. As a concept, TV Theme Week looks like a fun idea but, let's face it, we heard the TV theme tune for only 20 seconds, maybe? Imagine listening to it for a minute and a half. Yeah...that was a problem. So was dancing to the theme. It just looked weird watching a couple dance a rumba while scenes from the show play in your head. In addition, there were five dance styles that were on display this week unlike the previous weeks.
This week we saw Brandy doing very well and taking the leadership position with a fabulous Quickstep. We also saw a big fight between Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, Florence as Mrs. Brady doing a tango to The Brady Bunch song, and Bristol Palin in a gorilla suit...this is why I SO love Dancing with the Stars!!!

Quickstep Couples

Brandy with Maksim Schmerkovskiy started the night off with a fabulous Quickstep to the tune of Friends. However, the Friends theme tune is from an actual song, I'll Be There For You by The Rembrandts. So the dancing was fast, their feet were flying but their upper bodies were still and Brandy's carriage has really improved, and she had such a pretty smile on her face -- you could tell that she enjoyed it. They covered the span of the dance floor with fast steps but they danced with elegance and lightness. The judges rewarded them well with the top score of the night and their best scores yet. Score: 27

Kurt Warner with Anna Trebuskaya did a nice job on the Quickstep with the Bewitched theme song. Because they were always in hold, they were able to get his big hands out of the way, and Kurt has improved in his performance, his face had a smile and it looked like he was enjoying the dance. His technique has become smoother, he was light on his feet, and his upper body posture has improved. Score: 24

Rumba Couples

Audrina Patridge with Tony Dovolani danced a Rumba to The Hills theme song, her own reality show. The Hills theme song is really a few lines from Unwritten. Audrina is very pretty and her long lithe body is great for rumba. Her technique is very good but the dance needs to be intimate, sensuous and passionate and theirs wasn't like that. Score: 23
Rick Fox with Cheryl Burke performed a Rumba to The Hill Street Blues theme tune and I thought they did a great job. The dance was sexy, intimate and romantic. For a tall guy, Rick performed delicate movements and was very smooth. His hip action was also very good. Chery put together a nice routine that minimized the differences in their height. Score: 24

Foxtrot Couples

Kyle Massey with Lacey Schwimmer danced the Foxtrot to the Charlie's Angels tune with Kyle as Bosley and Lacey as one of the Angels. Kyle's costume however reminded me of Isaac from The Love Boat. (Does anyone remember that show?). Their performance, as always, looked fun and was engaging. I saw improvements in his carriage and I thought he danced well, but the judges again slammed his footwork and one of the judges hated the 70s touches that Lacey added to their routine, probably because it took away from the traditional foxtrot. They received their lowest score to date. Score: 20
Jennifer Grey with Derek Hough as always, performed well in their dance, The Foxtrot, to the Married ...with Children show tune which is really Frank Sinatra's song, Love and Marriage. What was an eyeopener was that during their rehearsals, Derek was so frustrated with Jennifer for not getting the moves (she is 50, Derek, have some patience) that Jennifer objected and it blew up and resulted in Jennifer walking off her anger. She came back of course and went on to do well, but this is why I love watching this show. Score: 24

Tango Jive Couples

Florence Henderson with Corky Ballas danced a Tango to The Brady Bunch tune -- of course! I have to say, it was very strange to watch a tango to it, in fact I didn't know it was a tango until they said so. Florence wore a housecoat at first and quickly shed it to reveal a rhinestone encrusted light brown evening dress. The tango they performed looked jerky and it didn't look at all sexy although it was intense and they had fast spins. Score: 21
Bristol Palin with Mark Ballas danced a Jive to The Monkees tune, which is why at the beginning the two dancers wore gorilla outfits. They put them on because the judges were always criticizing Bristol about being more expressive and to have more engagement with the audience. In fact, Mark enrolled Bristol in a Clown School class. They spent so much time trying to help Bristol break out of her shell that I don't think they had enough time to practice their dance. It looked awkward peeling off the costume, she forgot the steps, she didn't bounce enough, and she was out of step. Score: 18

Scoring the Judges

The show started this week with an assessment of each couple's strengths and weaknesses, which is the first time I've seen this happen in Week 5. I think that the show has been getting feedback from the audience that the scores have been wideranging and inconsistent and has created a lot of dissatisfaction with the judges. This may be why they started the week 5 show with the judges' assessments so that the audience gets a better understanding of what criteria the judges use. Given that, I think the judges have been less opinionated this week -- it's an improvement. Too often they seem to have a pet peeve on one thing or the other and grade it based on that instead of the overall dance. This week I give the judges a score of 6.

Who is in Jeopardy?

The bottom three couples are Florence with Corky, Kyle with Lacey, and Bristol with Mark. Of the three, Bristol with Mark had the lowest score. She has been in jeopardy two previous times. It may be time for her to go, if not her, it may be Kyle if his fan base doesn't vote enough. Tune in Tuesday.

The Star Eliminated this Week is...

Florence Henderson with Corky Ballas?! This Results show outcome was a total surprise. Many viewers had expected Bristol Palin to go home, however, she apparently has a strong enough fan base that voted to save her so that she was one of the first dance couples saved. Kyle Massey's fan base also voted to save him. Florence had the third lowest score this week among the dancers but it was her personal best. Who were in jeopardy with Florence? It was Jennifer Grey and Rick Fox!
I and many in the audience and the dancers were sorry to see Florence (who will always be Mrs. Brady to me) go because she took such great pleasure in the dance and the show and worked so hard in rehearsals. It could be that many in the audience thought now is the best time for Florence to make a graceful exit because it can only get more physically demanding from here; next week, each dance couple will be expected to learn two dances. To the end Florence was a class act, she reiterated how wonderfully produced the show was and how all the people involved were the best to work with, especially her pro partner, Corky Ballas.

Originally published 10/19/2010

DWTS: Season 11, Week 4 Leader of the Pack

Acoustic Week and Double Score Showdown

Week Four of Dancing with the Stars, Season 11 saw the return of Jennifer Grey with Derek Hough clear above the fray with an almost perfect performance of their Argentine Tango while Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino with Karina Smirnoff dwells at the bottom despite the many lifts in his Argentine Tango. This week also featured a couple of new features to continue to make the competition more challenging. Only live acoustic music was used for the performances and the dancers had to dance on an elevated circular dance floor. These features made it difficult for the dancers because they have to listen to the music more carefully instead of depending on the song to create the high and low points of the dance and the elevated dance floor means that the audience can see the mistakes more clearly in the footwork. In addition, the dancers were scored on their technical execution of the dance and their performance so each dancer had two scores. The couples either danced the Rumba or the Argentine Tango.
The Rumba is a sensual, intimate, slow dance which involves a lot of hip action from both dancers. Corky Ballas described it as the vertical expression of a horizontal desire... or something equally embarassing. The Argentine Tango is an intimate, just repressed smoldering passion between two dancers; the dancers are allowed to do lifts.

Rumba Couples

Kurt Warner with Anna Trebunskaya. Kurt, being a Christian, was clearly uncomfortable acting out an intimate dance with a married woman who was not his wife, even though his wife was okay with it (she and Anna's husband visited to give encouragement). He had no problem with dancing to the beat, swiveling his hips and good footwork but his posture was not good, the dance lacked passion, and his arm movements still lack finesse. Technical: 15 Performance: 19 Total Score: 34
Brandy with Maks Schmerkovskiy. Brandy has beautiful lines and is very graceful and performed a sensual rumba with nice hip movements. The judges however, picked on her feet because it was unsteady and seemed to lack confidence. Technical: 22 Performance: 26 Total Score: 48
Kyle Massey with Lacey Schwimmer. Kyle worked very hard on his footwork and made sure to point the toes and improve his carriage. However, Kyle forgot that the rumba is slow and sensual and there was sometimes too much sharpness in his movements. Technical: 18 Performance: 22 Total Score: 40
Florence Henderson with Corky Ballas. Watching Mrs. Brady perform an overtly sexual rumba was embarassing--for me! It was like watching a favorite aunt doing something inappropriate on the dance floor. In addition there was not really any hip action to her dancing. Technical: 17 Performance: 18 Total Score: 35
Bristol Palin with Mark Ballas. Bristol, as a young mother, had to work on conveying sensuality in their dance. I thought she did fine for a beginner, she has improved on her technique since week 1, she definitely got her steps and hip movement right. The judges however slammed her for her performance because they didn't think that she engaged the audience. I thought it was a dumb critique, she is not an actress and I thought her focus should be on Mark because this was an intimate dance. Technique: 18 Performance: 14 Total Score: 32

Argentine Tango Couples

Rick Fox with Cheryl Burke. Rick did a fine job with the lifts, however he was clearly concerned about the elevated and round dance floor. Let's not forget that Rick is 6'7", his long legs can probably cross the diameter in three and a half paces which doesn't give him much room to maneuver if he needed extra room to balance Chery's weight during a lift. This concern is probably why he looked tentative on his performance. Technical: 19 Performance: 20 Total Score: 39
Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino with Karina Smirnoff. One of the judges described his dancing as "It was consistent. It was bad throughout." Unfortunately I agree. Mike had several lifts in his dance; because he was concentrating on his lifts and not dropping Karina, the rest of his dancing really suffered. He forgot several steps, his posture was bad, there was no footwork but he did the lifts really well and he didn't drop Karina. They have the lowest scores. Technical: 12 Performance: 16 Total Score: 28
Jennifer Grey with Derek Hough. This couple is clearly the best pair of dancers right now. Their Argentine tango was flawless, well executed, and conveyed passion. This is the kind of dance in which Jennifer shines. Together with her acting ability, dance ability, and Derek's original and intricate choreography, it was such a pleasure to see this pair dance. The judges agreed and gave them the highest marks and the first 10s of the season for performance. Technical: 27 Performance: 29 Total Score: 56
Audrina Patridge with Tony Dovolani. This pair needs to do a lot more work to catch up with Jennifer and Derek. Their dance was smooth and there were no missteps. However, it seemed bland and lacked intensity. The judges said she needed to work on extending her feet to have a nicer line. Technical: 24 Performance: 22 Total Score: 46

Judging the Judges

The judging was so inconsistent. They gave Florence a higher technical mark even though she had mistakes and lacked hip action than Kurt who had great hip action and nary a mistake. They gave Bristol a lower performance score than The Situation even though he was awful. Rick got a lower technical score than Brandy even though they said that her legs were not so confident. Kyle's footwork was better than Audrina's but got the same score even though they told her to extend her feet. Score on the judges: 5 on the scale of 10.
Who will be eliminated on Tuesday? It comes down to Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Bristol Palin, and Kurt Warner at the bottom three. I think it's time for Mike to go.

The Star Eliminated this Week

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, and I don't think this was a surprise. He and Karina had the lowest score and even though he did the lifts fairly well, there was not really any improvement in his dancing. They showed a clip of him in the confessional and he was upset at the low scores he got. He has a point. He got 4s from the judges for technical marks -- much too low I thought; he should've gotten at least a five for all those lifts. In the end, The Situation handled the elimination gracefully and it was clear that even though he might not have taken the competition seriously in the beginning, he had gotten hooked by it in the end.

Originally published 10/12/10

DWTS: Season 11, Week 3 Battling for the Top

This week, Audrina Partridge with Tony Dovolani has knocked off Jennifer Grey with Derek Hough from the top spot by performing a beautiful waltz. Two other couples, Brandy with Maxim Schmerkovskiy, and Rick Fox with Chery Burke have tied with with Jennifer and Derek for second place with Kurt Warner and Ann Trebuskaya not far behind. Struggling to get out of the bottom are Margaret Cho with Louis Van Amstel, Bristol Palin with Mark Ballas, and Florence Henderson with Corky Ballas. There were three dances from which the couples had to perform: Samba, Foxtrot, or Waltz. In addition, the dances have to tell a story because this was Story Week. This season's competition lacks a clear frontrunner unlike last season with Nicole Scherzinger. There are a good six couples who are trying very hard to become the early leaders in this celebrity dance competition and no one knows who will win in the end.

Samba Couples

First up were Jennifer Grey with Derek Hough. Their storyline is about a sexy teacher and her lovestruck student. This is where Jennifer, as an actress, shines. Her face is very expressive and when she dances you can see the story unfold. Derek's samba choreography was difficult and imaginative. In samba, you need to flick your hips and bounce well and Jennifer did a great job of doing that, however, since the choreography was intricate, there were a couple of instances where she flubbed. We expect good dancing with this couple, they need to constantly push the choreography in order to continue to amaze the audience. Score: 24
Margaret Cho with Louis Van Amstel continues to dance without any sort of comic touches, however, they did not improve from last week. Their theme was pride so there was a lot of rainbow colors in her outfit but there was no discernible storyline. Margaret's footwork needs improvement and she lost her timing at one point. The samba that she performed had too much bounce in the upper part of the body and not enough in the hips and there were times when the movement seemed awkward because she doesn't have good posture. Samba is a fast dance but it seemed that they were dancing it too fast and excitedly, almost like a jive. They had the lowest score of the night. Score: 18
Brandy with Maxim Schmerkovskiy did a great samba based on the the movie The Bodyguard but the story seemed more about the flirtation between the bodyguard and the singer rather than the bodyguard protecting the singer. So there was nothing much wrong with the dance, it just didn't tell a story. After Brandy being near the bottom last week, she had vowed to shut up and do as Max says which she did, and resulted in what looked like Max bullying Brandy in the rehearsals, so now she has loads of sympathy factor. I don't think she'll be in jeopardy tomorrow. Score: 24
Rick Fox with Cheryl Burke danced a samba based on a storyline where a basketball player didn't score the winning shot and let the team down so he goes to a bar to drink away his troubles. When you watch Rick at first, you are amazed at his height, but Cheryl has put together choreography that minimizes their height difference and shows off his long body as he dances. When he dances, it's clear that he's enjoying himself, has a good sense of rhythm, can bounce his hips, and secure enough to lead Cheryl. Score: 24

Waltz Couples

Florence Henderson with Corky Ballas had a storyline based on a couple who are in love and dance a waltz in a meadow a la The Sound of Music, in fact the song that accompanied their dance was Edelweiss. The waltz is the most classical of ballroom dances, the couple has to look like their gliding; this was something that Florence with Corky didn't do. The main reason was that it looked like dance moves that had a beginning and end and didn't flow from one to the other. You can see that Florence is thinking about her moves and seemed careful and hesitant. Score: 20
Audrina Patridge with Tony Dovolani performed a superb waltz based on the story of a soldier who had died and in the girlfriend's dream, he comes back to dance with her. Their dance had a floating quality and included spins that made for an ethereal effect. Quite lovely. Score: 26
Kyle Massey with Lacey Schwimmer as the youngest couple had the challenge of performing a waltz. You really can't help but like this charming couple, they danced the waltz very well but Kyle's face is too fun to watch because he's such a ham so it spoils the effect, however he still needs to improve his footwork. Their storyline was about two kids who meet and fall in love in a coffee shop. Score: 23

Foxtrot Couples

Kurt Warner with Anna Trebunskaya continues to improve. Dancing a foxtrot requires you to be lighthearted and have a smooth touch. Kurt is much smoother in his moves and is becoming more confident and it shows in their foxtrot. Their storyline is of a stranger who is trying to cheer up another stranger from her bad day. He has great rhythm and has great charm and performs well in front of the audience, however he still has some awkward arm movements and some lumbering footwork but that should be smoothed away over the next few weeks, he is definitey in contention. Score: 23
Bristol Palin with Mark Ballas did not improve, in fact their scores went down as compared to last week. She has to improve on the performance aspect of the dance; she has the dance steps down pat, but she needs to bring flare and expressiveness to her performance. Mark has incorporated more complicated moves in the foxtrot so she continues to be careful and correct but she needs to execute in a more engaging way. The storyline was about a homeless guy and a girl passing by and they decide to dance, there was not that much of a story . She is definitely in jeopardy tomorrow. Score: 19
Mike Sorrentino with Karina Schmirnoff improved slightly over last week but he still does not have any musicality, the footwork is bad, he moves awkwardly but he is trying very hard. Their storyline involves a couple going through a time machine and being a couple dancing. Score: 20
Who will go tomorrow? Even though he's trying, I think Mike Sorrentino aka The Situation should go because he really has to do a lot to improve, but I don't think he'll go yet because he has many fans from his reality show. It's probably going to come down between Margaret Cho and Bristol Palin. Come back tomorrow to find out.

Week 3 Elimination

After week 3, Margaret Cho with Louis Van Amstel will no longer dance. It's unfortunate that the funny lady was sent home. I don't think she was the worst but she probably had the smallest fan base and therefore the fewest number of fans to vote for her. We will see Margaret again at this season's finale.

Originally published 10/5/2010

DWTS: Season 11, Week 2 Contenders

This week, the fast dances continue to weed out the contenders from the rest of the pack. The Jive and Quickstep are fast dances which require agility, musicality, precision and endurance to execute well, especially endurance. The couples that are contenders are Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough (who again has the high score this week), Audrina Partridge and Tony Dovolani, and tied for third place are Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer and (Surprise!) Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas. For week 2 of the competition, Sarah Palin was in the audience so the security must have been unbelievably tight that evening.

Couples Dance the Jive

Rick Fox and pro partner Cheryl Burke started the competition with a cheeky performance and shows Rick able to dance well in spite of his incredible height and weak tendons that had effectively ended his basketball career and will continue to hamper execution of certain dance moves that will stress that area. Cheryl did a very good job of choreographing a dance that still enabled Rick to dance well enough to please the audience and the judges. Score: 21
Brandy and Max Schmerkovskiy are two very strong personalities that are already butting heads. It's obvious that Brandy wants to win badly and has the talent to do it. During their dance, Max choreographed a solo for her and did it well because she is a great performer, however their combustible partnership left an unfocused impression during their dance, it could have been a little tighter and more in sync. Score: 19
Michael Bolton and Chelsie Hightower had the worst performance of the night. It is true that Michael was stiff but I blame that on Chelsie's teaching ability. I don't think she is a good teacher or a good choreographer. However, Michael needs to relax more and enjoy the process instead of feeling so awkward. It's clear that he's not a smooth dancer but he's not as bad as Kate Gosselin and I think the judges scored him too low. Score: 12
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough had a wonderful night of dancing an exuberant Jive with many difficult moves. At the end of their performance, it was all they could do to stand up and in fact they just sat down during the judges' assessment. Jennifer is 50 but she danced like she was 30 years old and it was wonderful to see her really sink herself into the dance. The audience booed the judges because they thought the score was too low. The audience was right. Score: 24
Margaret Cho and Louis Van Amstel redeemed themselves from last week with a Jive that was done without any comedic touches whatsoever...thank goodness! Margaret can dance and did a fairly good job of doing the moves fast enough but needed to have more precision but it looked like she and Louis had a great time performing. Score: 18
Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya did all right on the jive. However, he is an athlete and the dance shows his endurance and agility but also his lack of grace. He needs to improve on that to be a contender and has the ability to do so. Score: 21

Couples Dance the Quickstep

Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas performed a Quickstep with comedic touches. It's clear that Florence has great dance ability and she also showed endurance. However the difficulty in executing the Quickstep is remembering all the steps and doing it fast. Agility was a problem (she is 76!) and she forgot some steps but she is a very good performer and the couple is fun to watch. Score: 19
Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani performed a wonderful Quickstep. Audrina is graceful but she needs to be more confident of her abilities which I think will grow as the weeks progress. Score: 23
Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer continue to be a favorite with the public because they are so darned cute together as a dance couple and so much fun to watch. Kyle's youth, exuberance and energy are well suited for the lively dance but he needs more precision in his footwork and needs a little more control when it comes to ballroom dancing. He's a great ham and needs to tone it down for ballroom. Score: 22
Mike Sorrentino (aka The Situation) and Katrina Smirnoff as a couple don't really mesh well together. He is pigeon-toed(!), lacks grace and precision, and lacks the elegant frame for the dance. It is Katrina's strictness when it comes to teaching that carried him through the dance. Score: 18
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas continue to do well. In fact, Bristol, as a dancer is such a pleasant surprise. She is refreshingly unassuming, and shows grace under pressure and performed very well for someone who is a normal person and not a performer. I'm sure that there are many in the audience and the public who want her to do badly because of who her mother is, but it doesn't faze her. Go Bristol! Score: 22
Who do I think should be eliminated? The Situation should go but he has many fans, more likely it will be Michael Bolton but we'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Week 2 Elimination

This week the couple that was eliminated was Michael Bolton and Chelsie Hightower. Frankly, I don't think Michael should have gone. He wasn't that bad in his second week of dancing and I don't think he deserved the mean words and low mark of 3 from Bruno Tonioli, one of the judges. I think Michael also suffered more from the bad teaching methods of Chelsie Hightower. Chelsie herself has been disrespectful towards her celebrity trainee on previous occasions and doesn't know how to present the strong points of her celebrity trainee.

Originally published 9/28/2010