"Dancing With the Stars" Season 16's semifinals are upon us, ballroom fans! And we were treated to two full dances from the five remaining couples — one a regular dance, and one a never before seen dance chosen for each couple by a Twitter republic. We got Afro Jazz! The Lindy Hop! A Flamenco! A tie for first place! And a whole slew of perfect 30 scores! Who has the Mirrorball in their court, and who is primed to get their sparkles ripped from them just one week shy of the finals?
It was almost two perfect scores with their Afro Jazz. The Needham, Mass., native showed her dedication and commitment to gymnastics at an early age, and her parents, her coach and Olympic teammates
Godfather Allen Woods said Jacoby Jones' story "is the story of a thousand kids in New Orleans that needed a chance. And he made it." Turned out Jacoby had wanted to play football even as a baby, but his small size kept him from even making the team in high school when he first tried out, and he was a walk-on in college. And he didn't let a muffed punt as a Houston Texan dissuade him from coming back as a Super Bowl star. Even when he got kicked out of the horn section of the Harold Wheeler band Jacoby didn't lose his mojo. Jacoby delivered a Lindy Hop that was full of energy and verve and style, and one which won Karina a great big hug from Bruno at the end. Len said Jacoby "got on the wrong foot early on," but "that was full-on and fabulous." Bruno called it "a frantic frenzy of electricity. You got everybody powered up, including me." Carrie Ann deemed Jacoby "the number one entertainer of Season 16." The routine had Jacoby fighting for breath. "Right now I am not joking. I'm half dead," he panted. But he got up to do his shoulder shimmies of joy when he was awarded two more 10s in the sky box. Total: 59.
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough were still stinging a bit from last week's smackdown from Len. So Derek took care to make sure all the arm placement and footwork were as traditional and correct as possible for their two dances. And their Argentine tango was absolutely stunning. Those initial silhouettes against a red background created elegant, sexy pictures that were stylistic and cool. The dance had grumpy Len smiling. "That was a mix of pride and joy," the head judge said. "Pride in the technique, joy in the performance." Bruno likened Kellie to Chita Rivera and said, "that silhouette section was like watching two people become one… and your split second turn is just incredible!" Carrie Ann couldn't believe the country singer could attain that level of attention. "It was perfection," the judge said. And so was the score: Kellie and Derek's first perfect 30.
Kellie's backstory was a heartwrenching one. Her mother had abandoned her when she was little and her father battled addictions and incarceration, so Kellie was raised by her grandparents in Albemarle, N.C. She was working at a fast-food joint until her "American Idol" audition changed her life. "That 5-foot-nothing little girl has conquered mountains," her husband, Kyle Jacobs, said. And she has also conquered the flamenco as well. Sure, at times she seemed a hair behind — "This dress weighs 5,000 pounds," she revealed. But that flip and a half at the end ended the whole thing on quite an impressive note. "You're small, but I'm telling you your talent is huge," Len said. In his opinion, "You just booked your place into the final." Bruno said Kellie got the "pride and the fiery heart of Spain" of the flamenco, but "there were a couple of moments when you tightened up." Carrie Ann agreed. "You look so beautiful but halfway through you tensed up," she said. She and Bruno both gave her 9s ("I picked up the wrong paddle!" Bruno said), and Len gave her another 10. Total: 58.
Zendaya and Valentin Chmerkovskiy tried to rev up their quickstep by going speed racer on it. And it started in this kind of Grand Prix mode and just went nonstop full throttle all the way through to the top of the grand staircase. Bruno called it "a quickstep for the next generation." The judge appreciated the concept, but "it was so fast and furious … you lost your frame and you lost your footing a couple of times." Carrie Ann had her sober face on, and declared there was "trouble in paradise." "That was kind of a mess," she said. "It kind of felt like you were dragging each other through the dance." Len said the "speed was so intense, it had so much attack … the style went out a little bit." I didn't think it was as bad as the judges made it out to be, but maybe they were holding back on scores to shake things up a bit.
It was a good thing Zendaya had her hip-hop to fall back on. And her natural ability: Her parents and
Which leaves Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson, who are considered the underdogs as we go to the semifinals. But Ingo does have a couple things going for him: His fervent determination, his adorable hatted son Peanut, and his ability to look great in a shirtless vest. And while I didn't get the backstory Kym had assigned for her and Ingo's samba (about lovers who had had a fight), he was still pretty sexy, and Kym had a bunch of hair on. "Oh my darling, I love your determination," Bruno said. Too bad he forced it so hard he lost timing. "I've never seen more fervent hip rolls in my life," said Carrie Ann. Though she said Ingo had to "step it up a hair more…it's a bit inconsistent." Len thought Ingo "did a good job with a difficult dance." What it lacked, however, was "a little more rhythm." And Len apologized to "viewers of a sensitive nature…for all those hip thrusts." Ingo and Kym received a 24 for their samba.
We got to find out a little more about Ingo's background. He's German and competed as a skier before his family moved to live off the land in a farm in Australia (that explains the Euro-Australian accent). He bought the house in Hawaii so as to not be a typical Hollywood actor, and his friends and family all extol his doggedness and his intensely positive bent. And Ingo and Kym's Charleston had a really fun sepia-toned start, like one of Gatsby's parties. If I was a judge, I would give it all the points simply for using "Fat Sam's Grand Slam Speak Easy" from "Bugsy Malone" — only the best teenage gangster movie ever. Sure, the timing seemed a bit off, but Ingo's champagne-like fizziness was infectious. Bruno called the routine "frothy, bubbling, inebriating" with the "slightly mind-bending devil may care spirit of the Roaring '20s." Carrie Ann said Ingo "hit a grand slam with that one…. You had a few boo-boos, but it worked with the dance." Len called it Ingo's best dance: "bubbling and full of fizz." It got Ingo his first 9s. Total: 51.
Despite his bubbliness, adorable offspring and imminent watchability, Ingo's lagging technique and lack of perfect 30 scores places him a step below the other remaining contestants, and may leave Peanut's dad sparkle-less come elimination Tuesday.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Who do you think will make it into the finals?