‘Dancing With the Stars’: Team effort
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It’s the seventh week of the seventh moon of the seventh star of “Dancing With the Stars,” ballroom fans, and the pressure in the Rectagon has been cranked up to 11.
In addition to everyone’s individual dances, this week also marked the epic group dance battle of the season: Team Tango versus Team Paso. Who would emerge victorious, and who would be left smarting from the sting of lower scores? Although, initially, I thought the paso doble folks would be a shoo-in to win — mainly because the dance is a lot of high-energy stomps and showy chests and cape work — Team Tango (consisting of Joanna and Derek, Kelly and Louis, Donny and Kim) out-kicked Team Paso (Aaron and Karina, Mark and Anna, Michael and Anna, Mya and Dmitry) and were awarded a whopping 28 points for their synchronized efforts (Team Paso each got 24).
But we’re still facing double elimination and a dance-off come tonight, so let’s look and see how the individual competitors stacked up.
Sitting pretty in their plum position atop the leader board were Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough. And as a treat this week, we got to take a peek at what went on inside Derek’s head while he drummed up rumba choreography. Turned out a lot of it involved Joanna frolicking in a bathing suit and picnics on the beach (and ended with him good-humoredly making out with himself in the mirror). Luckily, the cheesiness of that fantasy sequence didn’t translate into their rumba, which was sensuous (well, with sudden jolts of movement) without venturing into the raunchy bow-chicka-bow-bow territory. Too bad about her tripping up on her skirt again, though (maybe she should hike up those hemlines?).
Bruno deigned Joanna “a love goddess” and Len commended her for ticking off all the boxes for a proper dance. Joanna and Derek received a 27 for their rumba, and added to their 28 for their stellar Team Tango routine, ended up with a combined total of 55 out of 60 points.
In second place were Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff. And color me surprised, because the pop star’s jive was far and away my favorite routine of the night. A big high-five to the guy at Elite Athletics for putting Aaron through the paces and really helping to hone the younger Carter’s footwork: The before and after difference were like night and day. His flicks were so quick and so clean and made the whole routine a joy to watch. Also a joy to watch: Karina’s ombre fringe dress. Not sure what was going on with her forehead decal (or his chin scruff – were these both a nod to the rebellious Twisted Sister song that they danced to?), but Aaron was fast and furious and full of, as Bruno said, “unstoppable momentum.” “That had enough energy to light up Hollywood,” said Len of their routine. “It was wild, but it was clean. It was fast, but it had control. It was fun and it wasn’t slapstick.” And the head judge even dusted off the old 10 paddle for their greatest score yet. And out popped Aaron’s ginormous forehead vein again! Carter should be careful: One more raucous, rock-star “waaaah!” and that thing just might burst. Aaron received a 29 for his jumpin’ jive and a 24 for his paso, for a total of 53.
Arriving just a point behind them were Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson. And while Lacey Schwimmer was getting headlines for being sidelined with the flu this week, it appeared Donny also had suffered a bit of illness himself – and I’m not just talking about the Osmond slouch. But despite the fact that he was fighting flu symptoms and bad carriage, Donny soldiered through his feelings of fatigue and produced a quickstep that was lively and fun. Though I did take issue with the fact that the entertainer put partner Kym in a costume that had so many free-flowing strips of fabric on it that the skirt resembled a sparkly mop. And the top looked like a floppy chandelier. Bruno made sure to point out Donny’s stumbles, while also saying that the entertainer “still sold the performance.” Carrie Ann said “it was good, but it was not your best.” And Len broke out his inner beat poet, spouting off rhymes such as “good luck for the pluck.” Donny and Kym received just a 24 for their quickstep but were boosted by the 28 of their group tango score, for a total of 52.
Also benefiting from the group tango: Kelly “I Am not Beige!” Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel. From the rehearsal footage, it appeared as though Louis changed from kissy-face Van Amstel Light to screw-tightening Van Amstel Heavy overnight, and Kelly was none too pleased with this transformation. And though there was that awkward, tearful and tense rehearsal period, you’ve gotta admire Kelly for moving past the BS and really hunkering down and starting to salsa. Loved how their dance continued to unearth layers and layers of dance depth and outfits (the fringe pants come off! The oil-slick skirt is shed to reveal more fringe!). Carrie Ann stood up and said she loved how Kelly was “unafraid of the dance,” Len also got up from his seat and commended her on controlling her nerves (though he also warned that the rest of her dancing needed to come up to a new level), and Bruno, not to be outdone, got up on the judges’ table, shimmied out his critique in hip grinds and ended up with Louis’ fringe pants draped around his shoulders. “You let it out,” growled the judge. “Flirty, a little dirty, sexy.” And did I hear wrong, or did he call her Christina? Kelly received a 24 for her salsa but was also helped by her part in Team Tango, for a total of 52.
Losing a couple steps in the rankings were Mya and Dmitry Chaplin. And to get back their mojo from last week’s low-scoring jitterbug, Dmitry trotted out Season 7 contestant Cloris Leachman – because she had, um, lived out the fox-trot age (Really? Seems like Dmitry’s aging Cloris before her time) and could give the couple some pointers. Still, Cloris was game, advising Mya to connect with Dmitry and regaling them both with (true?) stories about being turned down by Gene Kelly. But whatever the real backstory, the resulting fox trot ended up my second-favorite routine of the night. Stodgy Len didn’t care for the gimmickry (surprise, surprise), but I quite enjoyed their updated paean to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And I agree with Carrie Ann about their outfits: Mya exhibited great taste in costuming both herself and her partner. She looked like a chic ballroom diva in her dusty rose dress, and Dmitry evoked a dapper Tony Manero from “Saturday Night Fever” with slicked-back hair and white suit. “Sexy, sassy, beautiful,” said an admiring Bruno. “This fox trot perfectly captured the glamorous aura of Hollywood’s golden age!’ Mya received 9s from Carrie Ann and Bruno but a grumpy 7 from Len (crack is whack, man), which lowered her fox-trot score to a 25 (and, sadly, was just one point higher than last week’s jitterbug). And though they were by far the strongest couple in their Team Paso, they had to settle for the 24 score awarded to the team as a whole. Which left her with a total of 49.
Which was just two points ahead of Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova, who, for the first time in a small eternity, were not the lowest-scoring couple in the competition! For the last couple weeks, it appeared as though Michael had been on an upward trajectory, and Monday night’s performance only cemented his position in the running. Although he said he could “never [be] mistaken for Fred Astaire,” Michael’s fox trot with Anna was smooth and looked like tons of fun. Len called his dance “brilliant,” Bruno commended the former Dallas Cowboy on his improved musicality (though he reminded Michael to keep on clenching that nickel in his cheeks and keep his bum tucked under), and Carrie Ann said his performance was “gracious” and “fluid.” Michael also scored extra points in my book for his adorable explanation of why he used Barney purple for his and Anna’s costumes: “The last time I had this much fun I was watching Barney with my kids.” Score one for Barney, one for the purple outfits, one for the kids and one for Michael. The NFL Hall of Famer received a 23 for his fox trot, his highest individual score ever. Plus, he emerged as MVP for the Team Paso dance by playing moderator and peacemaker during the tense rehearsals. Total: 47.
Though now that Michael and Anna have moved up, someone else had to take the position in last place. This week, that fate befell Mark Dacascos -- who had the misfortune of losing pro partner Lacey Schwimmer midweek to the flu. And then had the unenviable task of learning last-minute routines with fellow pro Anna Trebunskaya, who graciously stepped in for the ailing Lacey’s place. Sadly, Mark and Anna’s samba suffered as a result of it. The “48-hour dance,” as host Tom called it, “was a mess,” said Carrie Ann. “It was completely…disjointed and there was no ease in the bounce.” (Though, to be fair, part of the disjointedness may have had less to do with their dancing and more to do with the awfully distracting version of Will Smith’s “Switch” that was performed.) Len said he “didn’t find it terrible,” but Bruno said “it was a little bit like watching Kung Fu Panda does the samba in the Planet of the Apes. ... Animal: Yeah. Brazil: No.” Discuss.
At least Mark and Anna redeemed themselves in the Team Paso competition. Mark brought out his wide-eyed fierceness and let it fly with his all-out knee slide and walk. But it still only gave them another 24 points, which, coupled with their dismal 19 for their samba, put them squarely in last place with a total of 43.
Which puts Mark and Lacey in a prime spot for elimination. Will their fans come out and vote them through to next week, or will the “Iron Chef: America” chairman be axed by his own misfortune? What did you think of the group dances? Who do you think will have to compete in the dance-off?
— Allyssa Lee