The Pros & Cons of the DWTS Pros – The Maks and Cheryl 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.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Marianya: Maks, Maks, Maks. The best thing since sliced bread… NOT! *evil cackle* Ok, all kidding aside, he’s actually a pretty good teacher, and is not that bad looking… as long as he keeps his clothes on. I mean seriously, the shirtless gimmick only works once and it’s over. Some people might like a few more times, but I think he’s sexy when a lot is left to the imagination. He is willing to work out of his comfort zone (as evidence to his freestyle with Erin last season, which I actually really liked), and he could handle pretty strong personalities (Laila and Mel B anyone?). That being said, Maksim (aside from some fairly recent partners) has actually done rather well placement-wise, however, add in recent placements then his average drops… que sera. since I don’t read any of the pros blogs or off the air antics I can’t, and won’t, comment on those… I’ll leave that to the other bloggers. That being said, he has done some decent choreography, but he tends to act like a big bratty kid when things don’t go his way… like crazy-Tom-Cruise-jumping-on-the-couch-only-on-a-ballroom-floor crazy. In any case, Maksim, in my opinion needs to grow up… and unfortunately I don’t see that happening anytime soon, and if he doesn’t grow up he’s going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths down the road…

Heidi: Maks is a dichotomy for me. And my opinion of him is like one of the big coasters at the amusement park. Up, down and all around. At the start of last season, I was on one of the high hills of the coaster – but the plunge came quickly. I thought that Erin brought out a catty, snotty side of him that I really didn’t care for. Don’t throw your damn clothes at the judges when you KNOW you screwed up. And when the camera is on you after someone else dances – CLAP. Unless you’re a freakin’ 12 year old. Then, at the end of the season he and Erin both were very gracious in their loss. Then in his most recent blog, he says a lot of stuff I absolutely agree with – like the constant need the producers have to change the show. Hell, most of his blogs have chunks of stuff I agree with – but then he swings back into a#*hole territory. Up…down…up. But he’s a much better sport (most of the time) than Louis, for sure. And Marianya – while I agree Maks needs to grow up, that jumping temper tantrum was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time – and you know he’ll pay for it because the show will use it over and over and over – they already have. :-) Dealing with Erin probably would have brought that out in me as well. :-) Now as a choreographer, he’s also on the roller coaster. I thought when he subbed for Derek with Joanna he did an awesome job. I think his Argentine Tango, while not as difficult as the others last season, was also very good. That leap off the stage that he got out of Erin was an example of how to use a gimmick or a risk to your advantage. It was very well played. The ONLY mistake was choosing to dance it again, up against Nicole and Evan’s ATs – who didn’t have big flashy leaps, but who were clearly much more technically difficult.  I also think that when he choreographed the tour he did a much better job than Louis did – more contemporary and entertaining. The Paso in that tour was EXCELLENT. But then he wasted a hell of a lot of time with Erin last season – lots of walking, menu waving and other non-dancing stuff. Len was right when he said that Erin was too good of a dancer for all that crap (he didn’t even get called on it half the time, either, but still complained). And you know, if you still want to do it and it fits the dance, fine – but don’t get mad when you get called on it. Grin and bear it. The anger just makes you seem dumb – because everyone knows that Len hates that stuff. As a dancer? Well, he doesn’t do that much for me, but he is certainly very talented.  I just get the feeling when he’s dancing that he thinks he’s tremendously awesome – and that puts me off a bit. I’ve seen people say that about Derek and Mark – but the feeling I get when watching them is that they’re having a hell of a good time. that has an impact. I’m actually really, really liking Brandy so I’m hoping that he does her justice and teachers her, and keeps his attitude in check. And his clothes on. :-)

Courtney: I think I can best sum up how I feel about Maks like this: I like him when he’s not all about some gimmick, be it on or off the dance floor.  In the same way I get flustered with Lacey “bucking tradition” for no valid reason, I get flustered with Maks – some of what he does in his choreography, especially like he did last season, does nothing to enhance the overall quality of the dance, and just seems like a waste of time. Heidi mentioned it – the menu reading, the stripping, the wasting of 6+ bars of music just walking from one part of the stage to another.  I know he’s got more up his sleeve choreography-wise than that! The guy has choreographed some great stuff in the past – my favorite is still his Argentine tango with Joanna when Derek was sick – fabulous, and just made that much more impressive by the fact that it was put together in the 11th hour.  If he could make every dance he did as riveting as that one, he’d be up there with Mark & Derek as the two strongest male choreographers on the show.  As for his attitude – it can be hard to swallow from time to time.  The ranting in blogs, on Twitter, and to various news outlets about how the show is “unfair”? The shirt-throwing at the judges? The loud fights with his partners during practice? All that combined, season after season, makes it really hard for me to like the guy as a person – but then, when he does have his moments of sincerity and sensitivity, it makes it that much more endearing.  I just wish those moments came more often! I’m actually really optimistic about this season though – from what I’ve seen of he and Brandy together so far, she seems like the best fit he’s had yet.  Not too feisty (like Mel B. or Erin), but not made of glass (like Debi or Denise) – I think she’ll be able to listen to him without letting him walk all over her.  I’m hoping with Erin gone that he reverts back to good, solid choreography and a more calm demeanor…because I actually do enjoy his dancing when he’s in that mode.

John: I must admit that Maks is probably my favorite male pro. I enjoy that he takes some risks in what he does. I agree that some of them may be dumb risks. I also agree that many of the risks often don’t work out, but I like that he’s trying to be unique and different. This blog wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if they all just came out and did basic steps. I love when they risk it and succeed and fail fantastically. I know many hated Maks’ choice to do contemporary for his freestyle. I loved the risk. The performance wasn’t exceptional, but I still loved that he was stretching himself and the pro in an attempt to do something special and memorable. One of these seasons someone else will do a contemporary and it will be fantastic. Just wait for it. I also I’m surprised by all this hating of him taking off his shirt. I’m a guy and so I couldn’t care less, but I have a feeling there are a lot of people out there that are happy to enjoy a shirtless Maks. We’ll definitely see in the comments to this post. Maks does have his good and bad moments (and partners), but every pro has that too. Although, I must admit that Maks and Mel B was probably the most powerful dance couple I can think of on the show. Them doing Paso Doble was the way I like to see a Paso Doble done. Off the dance floor Maks is a bit of a live wire, but that’s what makes him so interesting. You never know what he might say and I get the feeling he’s really saying what he thinks. I love the unfiltered opinions. I also can’t help but wonder how much Maks persona has been built by the producers. They have hours and hours of footage that they have to fit into a couple minute package. So, they have a lot of ability to shape the audiences opinions on pros for good or for bad. I’m quite sure every “bad boy” clip of Maks has been included on the show. It’s good TV to have a “bad boy” on the show. I know I like it.

Heidi: No, it’s not just that he’s edited that way, in my opinion. One only has to watch a lot of paparazzi video and read all his blogs…and follow him on Twitter. Maks is the only one who really complains about how he’s edited – but the camera can’t make stuff up, you have to remember it’s on you. Maks is not a bad guy, he’s just an often annoying guy. :-) I’ve never gotten the feeling from him, however, like I got from Louis last season – that he was being intentionally mean and nasty. He’s just very blunt – and then complains when people take his tone the “wrong way”. Ya can’t have it both ways – sometimes he knows that and sometimes he doesn’t. SAY what you think, Maks, by all means. But OWN it. All the time, not just some of the time. As for the shirt thing – well, it’s just been done too often and I probably wouldn’t mind if he just didn’t seem so proud of it. :-)

John: I also forgot to mention how much I liked Maks on The Superstars with Kristi Leskinen. He was competitive, but very likable. It was also fun to see him outside of DWTS and somewhere other than the dance floor. I also just read that he did some work with Le Reve in Las Vegas. Who would have thought he worked on a water based show.

Courtney: Yep, I actually did know about Maks’ work with Le Reve – Ashly’s little sister Afton & her partner Brett (remember them from the pro contest in season 8?) are actually cast members.  But I agree with Heidi – I don’t ever get the feeling that Maks is intentionally mean – just very, very blunt to the point of coming across as insensitive at times.  But never intentionally malicious. 

Cheryl Burke:

Marianya: The highest placed female pro of the cast… and second highest placed overall. Without Wayne Newton and Tom Delay she would have placed top overall on average, but alas she’ll have to settle for second. Those statistics alone is a credit to her teaching style/ability towards the celebs given to her, be it a boy band member, a football player, an actor, or anything in between, she seems to have this competition teaching down to a science. Before the dawning of the new young crop, she was the go to person for the sparkle front and center. So what happened?

Heidi: The Houghs and Ballas happened. :-) And really, if Derek hadn’t had Shannon, there would be no catching him in terms of numbers. And it’s not like he got way better partners than Cheryl – Joanna and Lil’ Kim had serious handicaps. Seriously though, not long after they showed up on the show, Cheryl really became a business woman – not that the two things were connected. Total convenient timing. That girl is *everywhere* – sponsorships, studios, attending all kinds of events – the list goes on. While I think it may have affected her on the show, I say good for her. Like Edyta has said recently – you can’t be a dancer forever. And this girl is making her mark and making a living. I’d be willing to bet that, for now, she is the wealthiest of the pros – if any of them qualify for wealthy. :-) I have a ton of respect for what she has managed to accomplish at such a young age. As a dancer and choreographer, I think she’s first rate. She’s also a class act behind the scenes – she never seems to say a bad word about anyone. She comes across as a little cool when presented with paparazzi – but Derek does too lately (thanks, Cheryl Cole), and I think they are both just tired of being harassed and don’t feel like they NEED that kind of attention. I respect that a lot too. Don’t kiss the parasites ass just to get ahead. I really have nothing bad to say about Cheryl at all. And really, put her and Derek together on a team dance and they can’t be beat. :-)

Courtney: Strongest and most consistent of the female pros, bar-none.  While her choreography may sometimes tend towards the fluffy and less complicated (Chad’s jive and Maurice’s quickstep come to mind) it always does seem to suit her partners well, no matter how inept they might be.  She also seems to strike a balance between being both tough & tender – she works her partners hard, but is calm in the face of their frustration, and she does seem to genuinely care about all of her partners.  I agree with what Heidi says about her being “cool” – nothing seems to ruffle her feathers, and she seems intensely focused on doing her best – it very well could be a by-product of her businesswoman side, which I also have to praise.  She’s only a year older than I am, and has already created an empire – dance studios, endorsements, sponsorships, etc.  I think she’ll definitely be someone whose name we’ll be seeing for a long time in the dance world, even if she’s not dancing herself.  If anything, the only thing that’s lacking for me on Cheryl’s part is a bit more personality – sometimes she’s just so cool and composed that it’s hard to tell if she’s happy, sad, angry, or confused.  I really wish I had more to write about Cheryl, but she’s neither pissed me off or given me goosebumps of excitement while on the show.  She’s just a very pleasant pro to watch, and I have a lot of respect for her :-)

John: I think Courtney just hit it on the head for me with Cheryl. I don’t hate her choreography. I don’t love her choreography. I don’t hate her personality. I don’t love her personality. I don’t hate her look. I don’t love her look. I don’t really love or hate anything about Cheryl. Initially I think I was partially biased towards Cheryl because she’d won twice and the American in me loves that the underdogs win or at least have a chance of winning. Of course, this was early in the show when I really thought it was more of a dance competition and less of a popularity contest. However, now that were at season 11, all of that has really worn off and I just enjoy being wow’d by a dance and the story lines of the show. I think I was also tainted a little by a short clip I saw of her early on in this highly ornate dance floor at her house. It felt like she’d kind of come from the golden spoon mentality. However, as time’s played out I don’t think that Cheryl has really played into the “I’m the champion” or “Golden Spoon” roles at all. She’s been amazingly humble when it comes to any discussion of the competition on DWTS. I also think that Cheryl does a really amazing job of making the star the star. She does dance “around them” sometimes in her choreography, but off the dance floor she does a great job highlighting and supporting her star partner. It’s almost never about her, but about the star.

Heidi: It is true that Cheryl is one of the females that has a tendency to dance around her partner, you’re right. And it annoys me at times, but then I figure what can you do with some of these guys? I kinda think the male pros have the harder job though, so I cut Mark more slack for it that I do Cheryl – I mean, the female in most of the dances has the harder moves and the male pros have to teach that. By the same token, though, the fact that the female partner generally is the one being showcased, might make it easier for it to seem she’s dancing “around” her partner instead of with her partner. Know what I mean?

John: There’s definitely something to say about the challenge being quite different for the female vs. the male pros. I’ve always been impressed that any of the pros can teach the opposite sex’s dance moves as well as they do. I agree it’s much easier for the girl pro to look like they’re dancing around the male star since in much of ballroom it is about featuring the lady.

Marianya: Well when I first started trying to figure out what to write about Cheryl, I really couldn’t think about what to say. I think after the Paso Doble and the Freestyle with Drew Lachey way back in Season 2, nothing from her seemed to wow me anymore. And then I saw the Paso Doble that she did with Tony Dovolani for Toy Story 3 and I realized that part of the reason that I really don’t know what to say about her is because she seems to have moved beyond Dancing with the Stars and as thus seems to stay above the behind the scenes drama that other pros seem to “suffer” from. In the process, she has developed into a savvy businesswoman who keeps a calm demeanor, plays it cool and collected with the cameras on and off the dance floor, and has no real drama with her pro, it’s almost like she’s the most adult of the professional dancers and she’s still in her twenties? Anyway, this development, I believe, keeps in line with wanting to keep a good reputation for her studios, especially since her name is attached to them front and center, and with the interests of the dance studios possibly in the forefront of her mind she probably feels a responsibility to be at her best behavior while on the show. Oddly enough, with all the publicity and air time on the show, Cheryl seems to come off as the most successful of the professional dancers thus far. Makes one wonder if she set off on this path of joining the show with the knowledge that she wanted to open studios down the road and as thus did what she felt she had to do to succeed. Now that she has, she just makes sure to keep that good reputation, because it’s more than just her now.

Round Up

Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Marianya: Keep the trap shut, the body covered and open up the mind, he might have a chance.

Heidi: What part of the roller coaster will we be on this season?? Jury is out.

Courtney: Cut the gimmicks, onstage and off, and you could win this whole thing.

John: Expect the unexpected, which is why I like him so much.

Cheryl Burke

Marianya: One of the youngest, while one of the most “adult”, now if only she’d “wow” me again.

Heidi: The entrepreneur – and I say that in a good way. :-)

Courtney: Cool, calm, composed, and classy.  I just wish she’d be a bit more sassy!

John: Neither here nor there. Just a solid dancer that supports her star.