‘Dancing With the Stars’: Music malfunctions, conspiracy theories

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Like many Americans, I find that these are troubling times. My confidence as a consumer is at an all-time low. Conspiracy theories seem more and more appealing. I just want someone to blame.

So maybe this is why I want to know who’s to blame for the music on “Dancing with the Stars,” since I don’t think it’s the stars. I think that only one or two of the Week 5 dances were performed to appropriate music. And what is appropriate music? Well, as with art or pornography, I know it when I encounter it, and the music this week was more like what I’d hear at the dentist’s office. Also, I consider myself something of an expert on the rumba and the samba, as these were both buttons that I could press on the keyboard I had in the mid-1980s.

I’m beginning to adopt broader conspiracy theories as well. For example, I suspect the judges of inflating the scores of the other contestants so that Kristi Yamaguchi doesn’t seem to be running completely away with it. I know, I know –- sounds crazy, doesn’t it? More on this in a moment. Let’s get on with this week’s dances.

The opening of the show promised us the “sexiest night of competition,” and indeed, when we see the stars take the stage, we see an even-larger-than-usual number of midriffs and bare chests. (I sometimes want to blame the wardrobe department too.) But despite this alluring teaser, I wouldn’t call this week’s performances overly sexy, though the stars are clearly losing weight. Many of the rumbas were slow to the point of ennui, and for some reason the chemistry seemed off in many of the couples. The standouts were, once again, Kristi and Mark, who scored another 29/30. Mario and Karina staged something of a comeback, tying Jason Taylor and Edyta for second place this week (each with 27/30).


While I expected Priscilla Presley and Louis (who bears something of a resemblance to Spencer Pratt of “The Hills” in the jaw, if not the worldview) to mount a formidable challenge after last week’s disappointing results, they didn’t come through. They missed a turn, and the judges commented on their rumba’s “lack of spontaneity,” which, frankly, could reasonably be translated as “tedious.” (Kudos to Priscilla for doing the splits, however). Score: 21/30. They seem the most likely to get the ax this week, fans, though I’m interested in hearing about convoluted alternative scenarios that could result in their staying (i.e., conspiracy theories).

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony would seem to be the other couple most likely to land in the dreaded, red-lighted bottom two in the results show, but they performed a solid samba this week. The judges actually liked it better than their paso doble last week, but they’d kind of painted themselves into a corner by dispensing all those eights, so they gave eights again this week despite much more laudatory comments. Len says something about their samba having more “bounce to the ounce.” Score: 24/30, solidly ahead of Priscilla and Louis, and we know Marissa has some devoted fans out there. As an aside, there was an amusing bit in the practice scenes where, in order to feel the Brazilian spirit, Marissa goes about her daily life in a massive Carnival headdress.

The big disappointment this week was Shannon Elizabeth and Derek. Well, I should say that the judges were disappointed by their samba, though I thought it was quite entertaining and well done. So did the two people I was watching it with, and isn’t that a statistically valid sample size? Maybe we were just entranced by Shannon’s leggy good looks and tiny, sparkly costume, as if we were magpies. It really seemed as if they were going all out –- there were lots of nifty moves by Shannon -– but the judges cited a lack of hip action and imperfect timing.

Shannon looks totally crushed while she receives the feedback. Score: 23/30. Also, I thought this was a joke at first (since last week Derek was knocked out of rehearsals by a sprained neck or something), but we learn that Derek had food poisoning and was hospitalized earlier in the day. Since Derek is the youngest pro and ought to be healthy, we can only assume someone (perhaps even a cabal) is out to get him. I look forward to next week, when Derek will be recovering from slashed tires or a letter bomb. (FBI, please note that I am joking.)

The best part of Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl’s segment this week was when, in the practice scenes, we see Cheryl tell Cristián that the rumba is passionate but soft, and she encourages him to think of it as a seduction scene in a movie. We then cut to a fake seduction scene in a movie, which I just tried to write out in a way that would do justice to it, but I utterly failed, so if you’ve got it on your DVR, just skip to that part. Their rumba is another one that’s just kind of, well, yawn. It almost seems as if he’s not really doing anything, and Cheryl’s movements can be so sharp that it just doesn’t seem to hold together in either movement or chemistry. Len calls it “competent, not fantastic,” though “not gruesome.” Bruno suggests that they “caress the floor” during the walks. Score: 23/30.

Marlee Matlin and Fabian start out the week going to Guadalajara to get deaf children fitted with hearing aids. I admit to getting a tear or 20 in my eye as we watched children get hearing aids and hear their mothers’ voices for the first time. Wow. We then cut to the practice scenes, where Fabian tells us that the samba is probably the hardest dance for if you can’t hear the rhythm, and their performance does suffer. There were multiple errors, including a pretty major one at the beginning that caused Fabian to grimace almost angrily as he tried to get Marlee on the right track. To her credit, she didn’t quit. I would have, but only after I had vomited from shame. She also looked quite good in her little red number –- really, these stars are firming up admirably. To my great pleasure, they did dance to a normal samba song. Score: 22/30, which may have even been a bit generous, given the overt errors.

The most noteworthy things to me about Jason and Edyta’s rumba this week were, first, that Jason appeared to be wearing business casual, in stark contrast to everyone else’s lounge-act attire, and, two, that the judges’ comments were again so adulatory. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good dance -– it was certainly solid –- but it was another rumba where the man didn’t seem to do much. It was particularly stark in this case, since when Jason was standing still, Edyta was doing some really crazy contortionist stuff. Len tells them to tone that down, but he, like, Bruno and Carrie Ann, thinks it was very strong. They do temper their actual scores, however, and give a 27/30, down a bit from last week’s 29.

This week, Mario seeks counsel from Stevie Wonder (future ‘DWTS’ contestant?) to get himself back in the game. Stevie tells him to follow “the incredibleness of his singing.” And he did do a very good job in the samba, although (attention, wardrobe people) the low-riding/yellow-ostrich thing (no other way to describe it) on Karina was so distracting that I forgot to look at Mario for about half of the dance and had to rewind. He looked calmer, I would say, and the dance was clean. It was performed to “A Tisket A Tasket,” which may not have been strictly samba music but was acceptable to me and my fellow viewers. Score: 27/30.

Finally, Kristi and Mark nailed it again. They made me realize that the rumba could be engaging instead of sedate. In rehearsals, Kristi tells Mark that she wants them to take on alter-egos in order to step into the world of the dance, which Mark describes as “a vertical expression of a horizontal desire.” She chooses the alter-ego Mercutio for him. Mark, who apparently does not read Shakespeare, assigns her the name Kristiana. In a charming scene, Kristi’s husband and two cute daughters come to watch her practice. Their performance contains lots of spins by Kristi and some solid acting. Mark unclips her hair early in the dance, and Kristi works the loose hair for the rest of the performance. Bruno refers to her as Kristi Yamilicious. How long had he been sitting on that, do you think? Score: 29/30.

Tuesday night: James Blunt and some more dancing kids. See you after the show.

-- Sarah Rogers

(Photo Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska courtesy ABC)