The Pros and Cons of the DWTS Pros – The Derek and Karina Edition

This is a part of the Pros and Cons of the DWTS pros Series. You can check out all the posts in this series here.

Derek Hough

Heidi: I don’t think it’s any secret that Derek is my absolute favorite pro – although I’ve tried so hard to hide it. LOL. Derek is my favorite for many more reasons than good looks. The boy has IT – that mystery quality. Charisma, charm – whatever it is. But besides that, he has a way with his partners, regardless of their talent or lack thereof. I’ve always gotten the feeling that he genuinely likes/loves all of them (obviously, some more than others lol). I don’t know what it is he does, but he manages to make what they do not only entertaining but very re-watchable. He just choreographs an entertaining dance while showcasing his partner very well. I think the reason why his dances mesmerize me is because he’s the most musical of all the pros. He choreographs TO the music – it’s like he sees the music and the corresponding moves that are required, in his head. When Derek says, “It’s the music’s fault” I absolutely understand where he’s coming from – I don’t think he has it in him to go against the music. Just watch that foxtrot with Nicole or his Paso with Jennie Garth – or any of the 3 or 4 dances that pissed Len off – he puts in these little finishing touches that I don’t know if most pros attempt. He’s very musically inspired in his choreography. As for his dancing? IMO, it’s the sharpest, crispest and just plain fastest of any of the men at least. In re-watching his Paso with Jennie, he starts the dance with a spin of such speed that I don’t know how it’s possible. Amazing. And hot. ;-) There’s at least one dance a season where he makes a move that is so fast and sharp that I’m compelled to re-wind to see it again.

John: Derek definitely is one of my favorite choreographers. He has a creativity in his choreography that is really interesting. I’d still like to see him choreograph on SYTYCD so that he wasn’t strapped by the rules of DWTS. It would be pretty cool to see what he might create. I guess we get it with the freestyle some, but that’s even more reason I’d like to see it. My biggest pain with Derek is when he gets up on his pedestal as “The Pro.” He had a few moments with Nicole that were a little annoying. Seemed out of character for the general happy go lucky easy going character that we usually see. Maybe the producers just cut him that way. Sure he’s in charge, but we’re not talking about Kate who totally gave up. Plus, Derek is often a little too politically correct for my liking. I’d probably do the same as him (Heidi thinks that about me I’m sure), but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to watch someone else tell me what they really think. Plus, Pure DWTS is more interesting with a little drama;-)

Courtney: What can I say about Derek that hasn’t already been said? :-) He’s truly a brilliant choreographer, he’s still in his physical prime and can execute all those lightening-fast turns and jumps, and I’m also impressed by his unexpected gymnastic abilities (I’m still floored by the tumbling pass he did during he & Julianne’s pro dance to Jennifer Hudson in season 7). I also have to give him props for thinking of clever ways to either showcase his partners’ abilities (such as Nicole’s PCD hair-flipping in her jive) or mask their weaknesses (hello, fringey pants on those with sub par hip action). And on top of that – he’s just a nice guy. Aside from his little meltdown with Shannon in the confessional after their rumba, he’s generally pretty even-tempered and charming in the press…but echoing John’s sentiments, he’s sometimes just a bit too PC for me. I’d like to see him get a little feistier when asked about bad calls made by the judges – lord knows there’s been plenty, and some of the other pros have raised hell about it. Other than that, my only other complaint is rather silly – the boy doesn’t have the greatest taste in women. I would highly recommend he stop going after the likes of Shannon Elizabeth & Cheryl Cole and go after a real gem – my PDWTS partner-in-crime, Heidi ;-)

Marianya: Without a doubt Derek is right up there when it comes to choreography. Taking celebs with any or no dance experience and making it look like they have some week after week is impressive. As much as I enjoy his dances at the moment that they are done, I don’t find myself watching them over and over again like many others seem to. Sometimes I feel like he focuses too much on wow and personality that the art of it gets lost… and once in a while I’d like to see the art of dance, something more subtler. But that’s me. He also seems to be one of the most even tempered of the pros, which although is really good I’d like to see him, as Courtney said it best, get feistier. Be a bit more out there, rather than just putting a cap on the personality factor and keeping a calm demeanor… maybe that’s what it is for me, as a person he just seems to be a blank canvas that a painter is trying to paint onto but doesn’t know what because he’s too afraid that he would create unnecessary controversy. Then again, there are moments, as John pointed out, that Derek goes, “I’m the Pro” and it turns him off completely. Or maybe it’s because I think of him as someone that I would love to meet and get to know, but is more like vodka… great in small doses but definitely not good for you in the long run.

Heidi: LOL Courtney – I’ll take him! Unfortunately, Cheryl Cole beat me too it – he’s in lurve. :-) My other response is – don’t mess with success. And when he gets all “I’m the Pro” – well, I’m sorry, but that’s HOT. :-) That’s what Dmitry should have done with Mya, actually. Seriously, though, he is too PC sometimes. Always saying the right thing, never getting mad at the judges, etc. Heidi puts on Psychoanalyst hat…remember his season with Shannon? When he literally blew a gasket in confessional?? I mean, he went OFF. At the time, it was a classic case of “You bastards made my girlfriend cry” syndrome. But I think he was sincerely horrified by what he saw on TV that week and vowed that he would not let it happen again. You do see glimpses of him getting angry – kicking the cd player, ripping his jacket off and throwing it – but it seems he’s learned a little too well from a previous experience. I heard he actually wrote personal “I’m sorry” notes to everyone in the cast in Season 6. There’s something else at work there, and I’m not sure what it is, unless it’s the Mormon upbringing trying to reassert itself. Or maybe he convinced himself that his temper cost his partner – which is ridiculous because Shannon was not going to win, in any case.

John: Him (or any of them) getting all “I’m the Pro” is not hot. Although, I guess we just learned something about Heidi now didn’t we?

Heidi: It best not be hot to you, John, or I’ll have to have a talk with your wife.

Marianya: Heidi, as many people have told me over the years… until there is a wedding band on that finger it’s open season. Not that I condone that kind of behavior mind you, but a lot of others seem to. :D Nice to know that you like the controlling side of Derek, now we know what kind of guy to send to you.

Karina Smirnoff

Heidi: I don’t think I fully appreciated Karina until she wasn’t there anymore. Because of my love of watching Derek dance, I took most notice of her when she danced with Derek in a Pro dance on Season 8 – to that little Disney girl whose name is escaping me right now. I think I have Maks to thank for that. :-) Anyway, when watching her dance with Derek I realized that she is probably Derek’s equal in terms of sharp and fast – she not only kept up with him, but I watched her as much as him. And that is saying something! For as much as Aaron Carter’s personality bugged me, she really got some good dances out of him – I think she actually taught him the steps and I never got the feeling (as far as I can remember) that she danced around him – many of the female pros have that tendency, unfortunately. But what has struck me on a few occassions about Karina is that she’s fearless – how many times on DWTS (and off) has she gone air borne?? There was an opening pro dance in season 5 or 6 where she flew off the stage to Maks and then was thrown to Tony – I remember gasping out loud. Same thing when she danced with Maks at the Emmys – good lord. She dances fierce, like the Queen of the Ballroom – and I mean that in a good way.

John: I remember when I first fell in love with Karina. I was just starting to blog about Dancing with the Stars (on the predecessor to this site called Something for Nothing) and I came across this picture of Karina dancing in a DanceSport competition (which I can’t find now). In the picture Karina’s bending her back into basically a U shape unsupported by her partner other than one hand. It’s one of the most unbelievable dance pictures I’ve seen and since then Karina’s back bends have been some of my favorites. Karina’s partners have been a bit lackluster for me ever since she had Mario Lopez. He was a great partner for her. Karina doesn’t change who she is for her partner and so that makes some of her partnerships seem awkward to me. Plus, I adore that she doesn’t hide anything on the show. When she’s in front of the judges she’ll either say what she’s thinking or you can see it right on her face. It’s beautiful. I’d be totally comfortable meeting all of the pros, but I have a feeling if I were to ever meet Karina (and Edyta) I’d be like a little school boy meeting a girl for the first time. Talk about being intimidated by a strong powerful woman. That’s Karina!

Courtney: Karina is a ballroom GODDESS. Prior to joining the cast of DWTS, she was the quintessential “IT” girl in the professional Latin ballroom scene – she’s the only woman to ever make the British pro final with three different partners, and her show dances were legendary. And homegirl has brought that with her to the DWTS stage in a big way – she is by far the best female technician, IMO, as she has this uncanny ability to really sqqqqeeeezzzze every last drop of juice out of every step she takes – those hips, those legs, that torso….she works all of them 110%, and with razor sharp precision. And she puts that work ethic on her partners, too – as Heidi mentioned, she refuses to let them stand there while she dances around them. She seems to make an effort to really make those guys learn their dances, and the technique behind them. And oooh wee – she dominates the pro dances. My fave was definitely the one to “Maneater” in season 8, when she danced circles around Maks, Tony, and Dmitry – not an easy feat. So why isn’t Karina more popular with the fans? I’m guessing it’s because she can often come across as cold or detached, and this seems to be a recurring theme with some of the eastern European pros (let’s face it, Americans are pretty vocal compared to a lot of eastern European cultures!). While she is prone to the occasional snippy comment or eye roll, I daresay she’s mellowed quite a bit since she started the show, and anyone who can deal with the mercurial moods of Aaron Carter is a saint in my book!

Marianya: Karina is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite female pro. If I ever danced ballroom, she’d be the female dance I would love to emulate. I mean just look at her legs as she presses her foot against the floor… you don’t get quads like that by just dancing, but by dancing if that makes any sense. Sure she seemed to turn off a lot of people at the beginning by her poutiness and demeanor, but considering she’s from eastern Europe I’m none to surprised. Plus she’s beautiful and is able to deal with the mood swings of other people… I mean come on, if she could deal with Aaron Carter and put up with Maksim’s antics for so long, that’s saying something. :-) If you want strong, classic, ballroom dancing you look at Karina without question, and that’s really what I like… good, strong, classic ballroom.

Heidi: Is Karina not popular with fans? Or is that a myth constructed by disgruntled Maks fans? I mean, seriously, the girl is amazing and she showed a lot of class over that whole mess. I don’t think she ever said a word in the press. And why is it okay for the men to be snippy and not the women? Look out – here comes my soap box: why does Karina get put down when Maks was the one spouting off to the press (and doing the eye roll and snippy thing too)?? Someone clue me in!! Although it could be as simple as the Eastern European thing – Anna suffered the same thing until last season. But I thought Karina was great with Aaron, and following her on Twitter she seems very sweet.

Marianya: Heidi, When Karina first started, she always had this look that was pouty or she rolled her eyes or when she had pursed lips when things seemed to not go her way… a lot of people read that in a negative light. This happened particular during results or while the judges were giving their critiques… so a lot of people read Karina as a brat (to use a tamer word) or elitist. So when news of the Karina/Maks pairing came to light everyone was so against Karina thinking that Maksim could do better. Honestly Karina could do better… but that’s just me.

Courtney: Yeah, I agree that Karina has gotten a bit of a bum rap due to the whole demise of her engagement to Maks.  But her slightly diva-ish behavior in earlier seasons didn’t help, either.  Again, I think Karina has calibrated to the rhythm of the show at this point, and knows that eye rolls and pouty lips are going to get her nowhere.  It’s kind of in the same vein as Derek’s temper tantrum in the confessional – he was still relatively new to the show, and I get the feeling that new pros are still under the (false) assumption that DWTS is like a real competition – technique takes precedent over flashiness, basics are more important than entertainment, etc.  We all know that DWTS couldn’t be further from being a real ballroom competition ;-) But at first, I think the pros don’t (consciously) know that.  Hence, the indignation, temper tantrums, & outbursts during their first season or two when basic ballroom “law” is made a mockery of…but then they get used to it, and they shut their yapper and just do their best to let it roll off their back when the judges act a fool. :-)

Heidi: Well, except for Maks. ;-)

Courtney: Hehe…good point!

John: I think Karina is popular because she hasn’t hid her feelings (or she’s tried, but partially failed). If she ever became the nice girl (like Chelsie) we’d all call her a fake and she’d lose all her fans. She is who she is and we love her for it.

Round Up:
Derek Hough

Heidi: Oh please – like you don’t know. :-)

John: Great choreography, mediocre interview.

Courtney: A huge bright spot on the show with a promising future…if he can just keep focusing on his career and not his lady friends ;-) (Heidi Note: From your lips to God’s ear)

Marianya: He’s like vodka, good to have once in a while… and even then only in small doses.

Karina Smirnoff

Heidi: Queen of the Ballroom!

John: Man…now that’s a woman.

Courtney: A goddess in the pantheon of DWTS.

Marianya: This woman descends all heights of ballroom godliness.