It’s week 2 on Dancing with the Stars, and the men and women will finally be competing head to head. The dances this week are the jive, the quickstep, and the tango, which are all difficult styles in their own right, plus they’ve only had four days to prepare – so this should be an interesting show. Len is MIA this week, but filling in is guest judge Baz Luhrmann, the man behind Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia, and the fabulous reinterpretation of La Boheme on Broadway. Luhrmann isn’t a former dancer per se, but he “grew up around ballroom” and is credited with making ballroom dancing “cool” thanks to the smash film Strictly Ballroom. If you haven’t seen it, please stop what you are doing and go rent it immediately. Let’s go to the dances!
Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough – Jive: Feet are the most important part of the jive, particularly in the execution of the many kicks this dance requires. With that in mind, Joanna needs to work on hers. Oftentimes her feet weren’t pointed, and she and Derek weren’t always kicking in sync. And as with last week, Derek’s choreography kept them in one place for the whole routine – I would love to see them use the stage more. Carrie Ann and Bruno agree with me – both praised Joanna’s energy but criticized her footwork. Ever the film director, Baz says the dance was good but that Joanna and Derek need to relate to each other more. Scores: 6-7-7 = 20.
Natalie Coughlin and Alec Mazo – Quickstep: The quickstep has two major rules: Keep Your Back Straight and Don’t Have an Asthma Attack. Natalie, despite holding her breath underwater for a living, has trouble breathing in rehearsals but manages to make it through the live performance with a big ol’ smile on her face. It was a decent routine, although she needs to make sure she points her toes during her extensions, and she seemed a bit stiff at times. Bruno and Baz tell her to relax, and Carrie Ann deems Natalie one of her favorite contestants. Scores: 7-7-7 = 21. And not a chicken dinner in sight.
Chuck Liddell and Anna Trebunskaya – Tango: The tango is a masculine, aggressive dance with one major rule – Do Not Break the Hold EVER. The tango definitely plays to Chuck’s strengths, and this was his best dance so far by a mile. He’s a little flat-footed, and his shoulders would creep up at times (in other news, I am turning into Len), but this was a great routine. Extra kudos to Anna for the great choreography. However, I must deduct kudos for the shirtless-and-suspenders outfit. Note to the wardrobe department: The shirtless suspenders look does not work. Ever. Not on Maks, not on Chuck, not on anyone. Sincerely, My Eyes. Back to the judges – Baz calls it fantastic, Carrie Ann calls it impactful, and Bruno calls it “sudden and primeval” (not unlike the Primeval Whirl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom). Scores: 6-7-6 = 19. This seemed low, considering the comments.
Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Ballas – Jive: I think the jive is Mark’s favorite dance, because it gives him license to be a total and complete ham. The problem with this is that you have to match his energy level, which is more or less impossible even if you were to drink 19 Red Bulls before going onstage. Thus, Melissa Joan looked downright lazy at times. Her technique was a little sloppy, but the bigger problem for me was that she looked as though she was struggling to keep up. Strangely, Carrie Ann praised her high energy, Bruno praised her energy but called her dancing frantic, and Baz agreed that she needs to watch her feet. Scores – 7-6-6 = 19. Sounds right to me.
Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova – Quickstep: After getting smacked down last week for bad dancing AND bad choreography, Michael and Anna needed to nail this dance big time. This performance was a huge improvement over last week, even if there were technical flaws here and there. Bruno praised Michael’s huge improvement, Baz called him out for sticking his tongue out while he dances, and Carrie Ann called it a touchdown. Scores: 7-7-6 = 20.
Debi Mazar and Maksim Chmerkovskiy – Tango: Debi says in rehearsals she thinks her love-hate relationship with Maks puts them at an advantage with this dance, and I’m inclined to agree. Maks “Dancing is Not a Democracy” Chmerkovskiy also continued his streak of making his partners cry in rehearsals, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Debi. She looked amazing in her outfit, and it was a particularly bold move to make them dance to “Tango de Roxanne” from Baz’s own Moulin Rouge. The problem, of course, is that Debi is no Nicole Kidman, and looked like she was being dragged around most of the time. Baz began his critique by quoting his own movie and called it a fantastic performance, Carrie Ann called Debi “the drama queen,” and Bruno loved her character but told her she needs to keep it constant throughout – even when she’s unsure of her steps. Scores: 7-7-7.
Louie Vito and Chelsie Hightower – Jive: Full disclosure – Chelsie and Louie are my favorite couple. I think it’s my residual love for Chelsie from last season and her stint on So You Think You Can Dance coupled with their overall adorableness, but I think they’re serious contenders in this competition. Louie is still very green, but keep in mind Chelsie is a fantastic teacher and a smart choreographer. This jive started off with a HUGE flip off the stage from Louie and was just oozing charm the whole way through. It was definitely the best routine of the night so far, and you can’t help but smile when these two dance. Carrie Ann says she loved his joy but called him out for having moments of visible confusion (fair enough). Bruno couldn’t contain himself, so he stood up and said there wasn’t enough jive content and Louie shouldn’t be skating (boarding?) by just because he can do crazy tricks. Baz thought it was a tremendous routine that captured the spirit of the jive. Scores: 6-7-6 = 19. These scores seem crazy low to me – it seems the spirit of Len is with us tonight.
Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff – Quickstep: Things are tense in rehearsals, with lots of shouting and whatnot, but they seem to have patched things up and ….. OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING WHY ARE THE MUPPETS HERE. This is incredibly unfair for two reasons: 1. Dancing to the Muppets theme song automatically makes your dance better than everyone else’s 2. You cannot have Animal guest star in one routine and not offer the other couples the same deal. I mean, Tom DeLay is basically a Muppet anyway, but that’s not to say his performance wouldn’t be enhanced by Rizzo’s antics. And we all know Donny Osmond would be great at waka-waka-waltzing with Fozzie. And as for Len? We can just replace him with Sam Eagle. Back to the dancing – this was an incredibly clean routine and a great performance from Aaron. In any other number, the fact that he was dressed like a leprechaun (and it takes a very secure man to wear sparkly green shoes) would seem strange, but not tonight. Gonzo joins the panel to hang out out with our resident gonzo, Bruno, who proclaimed their dance “spectacular! spectacular!” and said they’ve set the bar very high for themselves. Baz called it clever and inventive, and Carrie Ann called attention to their technique (props for the hold!). Scores: 9-9-9 = 27. Holy Statler and Waldorf, those scores blow everyone else away.
Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel – Tango: Kelly is nervous about her tango and has worked herself into a tizzy worrying that she can’t measure up to last week’s incredible Viennese Waltz. This routine was, sadly, a big step backwards for her. Louis’s choreography was difficult and she made a few mistakes throughout the dance, including one right in front of the judges’ table. Baz and Carrie Ann both acknowledged that she made mistakes but are still fans; Bruno is a bit tougher on her but none of the judges critique her over anything in particular. Scores: 6-7-6= 19.
Kathy Ireland and Tony Dovoloni – Quickstep: This was probably the easiest quickstep of the night, but it was danced clean. Kathy is still really stiff, which is appropriate for this style of dance, but I wish she had more grace and fluidity in her movements. Carrie Ann said the routine was too careful and there was too much space in their hold, Bruno said Kathy wasn’t engaging enough, and Baz, in his polite Australian way, called them boring. They could be in trouble tomorrow night. Scores: 6-6-6 = 18.
Mark Dacascos and Lacey Schwimmer - Quickstep: Mark has great posture, so he should be a natural at this style. Rehearsals seem to indicate otherwise. But wow – they pulled out a majorly classy, incredibly entertaining, glamourous routine. Huge props to Lacey for her awesome choreography – the other couples need to keep an eye on these guys. Bruno called it a great performance but said Mark needs to watch his footwork, Baz called it an incredible comeback (Mark slipped early on), and Carrie Ann called it clean and tight and praised his quick recovery from the slip-up. Scores: 7-7-7. Personally, I think there should have been a few 8’s in there.
Mya and Dmitry Chaplin – Jive: The jive is not traditionally a sexy dance, but Mya and Dmitry performed a sassy, sultry, totally original routine. I rewound the DVR so I could watch it again – the personality was through the roof in this routine, and as frequent viewers will note, personality will get you very far on this show. No surprises here -the judges are ecstatic. Baz called them the real deal and loved that they told a story, Carrie Ann praised their energy and synergy, and Bruno jumped out of his seat and compared them to Josephine Baker and Clark Kent (a compliment). Scores: 9-9-9. Well deserved.
Tom DeLay and Cheryl Burke – Tango: The tango is the dance d’amour, so prepare yourselves for Tom DeLove. It turns out Tom is such a dancing fool that he’s suffered pre-stress fractures in his feet – whether this is foreshadowing for a more dramatic injury later, only time will tell. As for their tango, Serious Tango Tom is much more palatable than last week’s Wild Thing Tom, and he did a very respectable job … until he almost dropped Cheryl on the floor at the end. Carrie Ann finds them alluring (uh?), Bruno said he almost pulled the routine off and gave them credit for doing a proper tango. Baz commented that Len would have been pleased with their performance. Scores: 6-6-6 = 18.
Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson – Jive: Donny appears to be having problems in rehearsals with the physical stamina that the jive requires, but it didn’t matter – he delivered a very controlled, fun, personality-filled performance. Points off for the velvet suit, but Kym gets extra credit for delivering another smart, balanced routine that catered to Donny’s strengths. Bruno saved his best critique for last – “Secret Agent OsMANd! Mission accomplished!” Baz called them a joy, and Carrie Ann called their routine a testament to why the Osmonds are such a powerful force in entertainment. Scores: 8-9-8 = 25.
So who’s going home? My money is on Kathy and Tony. See you back here tomorrow with the results!
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