Well kids, I’m afraid tonight was a prime example of how theme nights can really sabotage some (or most) of the couples – because I feel that almost every single couple was negatively impacted by their song assignments this week. Yes, it was kinda “fun” to have a Halloween week – but making the dancing suffer in order to fit theme? No thank you. But praise Jeebus, this week was the final theme week of the season – back to business as usual next week! Well, about as “as usual” as you can get when you’re thisclose to the finale
Thoughts on the team dances: I agree that team paso had the stronger routine of the two, however – I don’t think team tango was as terrible as everyone seemed to think it was. I think team tango was indeed better in their group sections – everyone managed to stay very in-synch, although there were a few spacing issues; team paso seemed a bit less in-synch when all 3 couples were on the floor at the same time, and it almost seemed like they tried to avoid a lot of synchronized work, which was probably a good idea. I was also a bit bothered by the fact that team paso seemed to have quite a few spots of what I like to call “empty space” in their dance – moments where, due to the phrasing of the music, they seemed like they were just waiting or stalling until the next accent or big move. I think team paso better captured the aggressive, haunting feel of both their music and their dance, but probably had the song with the more difficult rhythm; team tango had the song with the easier rhythm, but probably suffered due to the fact that it lacked a lot of the theatricality necessary for the tango. Team paso was leaps & bounds stronger in the individual sections – Ricki & Derek were their usual showstopping selves, Hope managed to keep up (although I could have done without such a long count of her on the floor while Maks kinda danced around her), and oh man – ROB. Rob was the MVP of team paso for me - he impressed the hell out of me with the way he kept up not only with Cheryl, but with Maks & Derek as well. I was shocked at how much better JR looked dancing the tango with his team than he did individually – guess it’s a testament to how a bad song can throw even the best dancers off their game. David seemed a bit wobbly, but was still looked decent to me; Nancy was clearly the weakest member of team tango, but man – she was out there giving it her all. Overall, I think the scoring was about right, and likely won’t cause a huge upset when all is said & done tomorrow night.
1.) Ricki & Derek – Alone at the top of the leaderboard once again, and she thankfully did pretty well on a night where everyone seemed to have a bit of a slump. I must say, I wasn’t completely wowed by her paso; I could kinda tell she wasn’t dancing full-out and seemed to be babying her rib, which I can’t really fault her for – I’ve bruised a couple ribs in the past and was in so much pain I could have sworn that I had collapsed a lung. I think Derek probably went a bit easier on her with the choreo as well, as it wasn’t exactly the same level of paso genius I’ve come to expect from him. But once again, when you’re working with a theme like Halloween – you’re kinda forced into thinking inside the box, because they’re expecting something spooky/scary/eerie/etc, and they want to see Halloween archetypes like werewolves, vampires, ghosts, etc. Add an injured partner on top of that, and you’re pretty limited in what you can do. Overall, though, a nice effort with a pretty good payoff for these two – I think it will be enough to keep them safe tomorrow night.
2.) Rob & Cheryl – For me, Rob was the ONLY contestant that really brought his A-game and knocked his dance out of the park tonight – that tango was just the right balance of technique, entertainment value, and theatricality. Then again, “The Addams Family” is a pretty kindergarten-y tango song, compared to…oh, I don’t know, “Ghostbusters”? Not trying to diminish Rob’s accomplishments (quite the opposite, actually), but he did get kinda lucky with his song – not only did it have an easy rhythm, but he actually seemed to relate to it a bit, what with that kooky family of his Speaking of which – it was refreshing to see just a handful of the Kardashian Klan in the audience tonight, and thankfully it was the reserved group that managed to politely clap and avoid heckling the judges (side note – anyone catch a glimpse of Rob’s nephew Mason in his Indian costume??? So freaking adorable! ). Anywho – Rob was the real bright spot of tonight’s show for me, and he’s proving to me more and more that he could be a contender for that 3rd finale spot – possibly moreso than David, and definitely moreso than Hope, at this point. And if anyone would have told me that at the beginning of this season – I probably would have told them they were batshit crazy and to STFU.
3.) JR & Karina – *sigh* Well, I guess this was the “slump” week they were setting JR up for, although I can’t say I really disagree with the judges a whole lot on his tango. Poor JR seemed unusually nervous when he was dancing this week – so terribly focused on the steps that it detracted from his performance value and actually seemed to make him foul up more. That’s where I really disagree with Len – I don’t think the problem was that he was too focused on the “performance aspect” and sacrificed technique as a result; I actually thought it was the other way around – he got his brain so wrapped around the steps that he went a bit blank. But I will say this: I do have to give Karina props for not holding back on the choreo. Of the two individual tangos and the group one tonight, JR definitely had the hardest steps to contend with – very intricate footwork, which I actually think he kept up with, for the most part. Again, I really blame song choice on this one – “Ghostbusters” is a shitty tango. The phrasing and rhythm are just inconsistent and wonky – hard even for pros to keep up with, let alone celebs. I’m hoping that JR fans realize that this week could be one of those nightmarish scenarios whereby another favorite inadvertently gets sent home because their fans assume they’re safe, based on their record so far – remember, kids, the team dance (regardless of score) actually makes it EASIER for someone at the bottom of the leaderboard to creep up on one of the favorites, because it decreases the margin between points. Vote, vote, vote, kids – and don’t be surprised if JR ends up “in jeopardy” tomorrow night. I bet TPTB are practically having a wet dream over how the chips fell this week, because now they can really storyboard the hell outta this one…
4.) Hope & Maks – Well, I guess Hope did well this week – compared to how she usually does. I would not really call that a “good” samba, but hey – when you’ve got someone who’s really had a rough go of it for pretty much the entire competition, and you’re stuck doing a werewolf-themed samba to a song you’re more likely to hear in a honky tonk than in period London, I guess the standards are kinda low I finally figured out what Hope’s big problem is: her knees. She NEVER STRAIGHTENS THEM. Seriously – go watch that samba again. Her knees are just so damn bent the whole time, it looks like she’s in a constant plie. If she could manage to alternate between bending & straightening them, she might actually have some good Latin technique. She also seemed to suffer from the rookie samba problem of getting rushed, and losing time in a few spots. I’m gonna strongly disagree with Carrie Ann – I did not think this was better than Toy Story (which I still say is the most relaxed and focused I’ve ever seen Hope), but it was an improvement over last week. Ted must’ve done something right – and yes, I did just say Ted, because Hope clearly seemed to be to be quite a bit more at ease and on the same level with him in rehearsals than she is with Maks. Ted’s teaching style seems to really suit her well – kinda makes me wonder what would have happened if Ted had been brought on as a new pro instead of Val. He’s caught my eye, that Teddy V – I expect to see much bigger & better things out of him in the future. I think there’s enough cushion from Hope’s team dance score this week to keep her safe, but I’m still not convinced she’s material for the finale – we shall see.
5.) Nancy & Tristan – Poor Nancy gets my sympathy award this week, for “worst shafting by the music department in song assignment”. As some of you saw me tweet, “Devil Went Down to Georgia” was cruel and unusual punishment – not only for Nancy & Tristan, but for the band, the audience, those of us stuck watching at home, etc. To give you an idea of just how BAD this song was for a jive: I’ve been dancing ballroom for almost 10 years, and I couldn’t keep time to this song! Even the band seemed to have a hard time keeping the tempo, as did Tristan. God bless Nancy, she gave it a valiant effort, and kept smiling no matter how lost she got – but man, this was not a good dance. Once again, I’m blaming this one more on a really crappy song than on the dancers themselves, but unfortunately – those damn judges can’t (and won’t) really discern the difference. So Nancy is likely going to be the victim of bad theme night music, but at least she had fun. But there is a possible stay of execution: this week is actually a good (or, rather, less bad ) week to fall to the bottom of the leaderboard, because as I mentioned before, the addition of the team dance points actually decreases the points spread and makes it a lot easier for someone at the bottom to climb back up. The question is: will it come at the expense of a better dancer?…
6.) David & Kym – I’ve got a bad feeling that David may have gotten lost in the shuffle this week He & Rob were my biggest concerns this week, as neither of them are juggernauts like JR & Ricki, and they don’t have the sympathy vote on their side like Hope & possibly Nancy. But unlike Rob, who really shined this week, David…was just kinda there. He did okay on his cha-cha, and he did okay in the group tango; and what really stinks is that he’s been a little bit shielded for the past few weeks, either by good scores or other dancers which very bad scores. I’m not sure if his fanbase has really grown since his bottom 2 scare back in week 2…again, he’s been a bit shielded. And it sucks, because I’m really starting to like David!!! He’s fun, he’s funny, he’s playful, and he’s entertaining. His dancing is still a bit iffy – there was little to no hip action in that cha-cha, and he seemed to get a bit lost from time to time – and I worry that he may not be able to hack it much longer…but I’m really, really hoping that I’m wrong about this one, because I do think it should be either David or Rob in the finale with JR & Ricki. Let’s hope I’ve jinxed myself and it’s NOT really David going home, because he makes me giggle
So how did you guys feel about Halloween night? Who do you think could be in trouble? And who are your picks for the encore? I’m sure it will probably be the team paso, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t holding out for Rob & Cheryl’s “Addams Family” tango instead