DWTS 14, Week 7 – Who’s Got the Edge in the Team Dances?

So we now know for sure what the team dances are (paso doble & tango) and who’s on what team (Katherine, Maria, Jaleel, & Roshon vs. William, Donald, & Melissa).  So who’s gonna win? Let’s see how they stack up.  I looked at several factors that could come into play in helping to determine who has the advantage – experience level of the pros on each team, experience level of the couples on each team, number of couples on each team, what dance each team has, and other miscellaneous factors that may affect the outcome.  So let’s get to it!

Pro Team Dance Experience

Derek: 6 wins (seasons 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13), 0 losses, 0 ties; average team dance score: 27.5
Cheryl: 4 wins (seasons 7, 8, 10, 13), 1 loss (season 11), 0 ties; average team dance score: 26.8
Kym: 2 wins (seasons 7 & 9), 1 loss (season 13), 1 tie (season 12); average team dance score: 25.75*
Maks: 2 wins (seasons 11 & 13), 1 loss (season 10), 1 tie (season 12); average team dance score: 25*
Chelsie: 1 win (season 8), 0 losses, 1 tie (season 12); average team dance score: 25*
Mark: 0 wins, 2 losses (seasons 8 & 11), 1 tie (season 12); average team dance score: 23.67*
Peta: 0 wins, 0 losses, 0 ties (never been in a team dance); average team dance score: 0

*Since there were 4 judges’ scores given for the team dances in season 12, I subtracted Donnie Burns’ score from the two team dances in that season in order to normalize with all of the other seasons, which only had 3 judges’ scores. 

Team Tango: I’d say their biggest advantage is having Derek – the guy’s undefeated, so he’s clearly figured out the formula for what works and what doesn’t work in the team dances.  Say what you will about team dances being a product of all the pros working together (I agree to some extent), but the only common denominator in every single team dance win has been Derek, regardless of what other pros have been on each team with him, what the dance style has been, etc.  Many of the pros have also gone on record as saying that they tend to let Derek take the lead when choreographing the group portions of the team dance, so I’d say he probably has a lot to do with the success of each of the teams he’s on, as the judges do tend to really harp on synchonization, interesting formation patterns, and overall performance quality in the group portion of team dances.  I’d say Kym is an asset as well – she’s been on a team with Derek twice before (one of those times was another team tango), and when she hasn’t been on a team with him, she’s managed to tie once, and the 1 team dance she lost was not really all that bad, IMO.  I don’t really know if Chelsie is battle-tested enough to say whether she’s good in the team dance or not – but I don’t get the impression that she is one to make waves, so she will probably be very cooperative and easy to get along with.  My only concern is Mark – he seemed rather volatile in the team dance rehearsals in season 12, and seems to have a penchant for very flashy, high-energy, in-your-face choreo…which doesn’ t always translate well in the team dances.  I’m hoping that he lets Derek take the lead on the group choreography, and really focuses on giving Katherine some good, solid solo choreography this week.

Team Paso: While I think they don’t have quite the same edge that Team Katherine does, I don’t think they’re super weak, either.  Both Cheryl & Maks have been on teams with Derek before, so they’ve probably at least picked up a few tricks and strategies – I would say Maks is probably the stronger choreographer, judging from what I’ve seen him do in other team dances and pro dances.  The big question mark here is Peta – we just don’t know how she’s going to fare, since this will be her first team dance.  I doubt she’s going to suck at it (I don’t think anyone has really sucked at it – except maybe the unfortunate souls in the team mambo in season 8…), but it may take her a little longer to really get a feel for how the team dances work and what to do for Donald’s solo.  I think she’s probably going to rely on Cheryl & Maks for the group choreo, and isn’t likely to make any sort of big fuss, since she’s the new kid on the block.

Who has the edge in pro experience? I’ve got to give this one to Team Tango - they’ve got the only undefeated pro, and each of the other pros has been in at least 2 team dances.

Number of Couples

We really only have one precedent for this, and that was the team dances of season 9 – and oddly enough, they were the same two dance styles the teams have this week: tango & paso doble.  Team Tango (Donny & Kym, Joanna & Derek, and Kelly & Louis) basically mopped the floor with Team Paso (Mya & Dmitry, Aaron & Karina, Michael & Anna D., and Mark & Anna), with a score of 28-24.  One possible explanation illustrated in the team paso rehearsal video? More people = more opinions = more drama:

And I kind of loved Louis’ explanation of why 3 couples were better than 4: “less egos”.  :-)

From a personal standpoint of being on formation teams myself, I also find that the more couples you have to stay in sync with, the harder it is to stay in sync.  One couple out of sync in a group of 3 is likely not going to be as noticeable as one couple out of sync in a group of 4.  Less opportunity for visual repetition = less opportunity to notice errors. There’s also the issue of spacing – it’s easier to give a little more wiggle room when you’ve only got 3 couples sharing a dance floor than when you have 4.  While you could be just fine stepping a bit too far to the left on a team of 3 couples, you could be bumping into a teammate if you’ve got 4 couples…and you might be ok doing a dramatic arm flourish on a team of 3, but you could poke a teammate’s eye out if there are 4 of you sharing the floor.  The more people out on the floor together = the more planning and practice it takes to pull off a good performance.

Who’s got the edge in number of couples? Team Paso, no doubt – far easier to work with 3 couples on the floor at a time, than 4.

Dance Style

So which is the better dance to have for the team dance: paso doble or tango? I wish there were an easy & straightforward answer to this :-P I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both, and similarities between both.  So first, why don’t we look at historical data?

Season 7: Team Paso beat Team Cha-Cha, 29-20
Season 8: Team Tango beat Team Mambo, 28-25
Season 9: Team Tango beat Team Paso, 28-24
Season 13: Team Paso beat Team Tango, 26-24

There have only been 4 seasons total where either dance was used as a team dance, and only 2 seasons where those particular dances were pitted against one another…and in those seasons, team paso one once, and team tango won once.  And if you take the average score for a team paso (26.33) and the average score for a team tango (26.66) – team tango only has a slight edge.  So I’d say that, on paper, one dance isn’t necessarily better than the other.  However, I do think that tango can be a bit more limiting, as the couples have to stay in hold the whole time (or at least most of the time), while those who are doing paso have the freedom to go in & out of hold and do open work.  That’s kind of a double-edged sword itself, though – those doing tango don’t have to worry about coming up with creative ways to go in & out of hold, while those doing paso may get called out on having sloppy transitions and too much open work.  I’d say the timing of paso doble is easier for the celebs to pick up, but unless you add some syncopations or complex choreography, paso can run the risk of looking a bit boring.

Who has the edge in dance style? I’d say they’re about equal, I’m gonna give just a TINY edge to Team Tango, as the tango seems like it may end up being slightly better suited to the team dance.

Celeb Dance Experience

Of the celebs on each team, only two on each team have already done the dance they’re doing as their team dance – Jaleel & Maria have both already done tango, and Melissa & Donald have both already done paso doble.  In addition, Roshon has Argentine tango as his individual dance this week, so he may be able to draw some parallels there.  Will it give them an edge? Possibly – it may save those particular couples a bit of time learning the basics of each dance, and they may recall a few steps from their previous routines that they can reuse for their team dance.  But I don’t think it will be a HUGE advantage for anyone, as they will still have to help bring their teammates who haven’t yet done paso or tango up to speed.  I think you have to remember that the entire team gets one score – one couple in particular may just totally knock their team dance out of the park, but odds are it’s not going to matter much if another team member totally bungles their portion.  The judges are going to be scoring the teams as a whole (or, at least they SHOULD be scoring the teams as a whole!), so one person having previous experience & doing well is likely going to have a minimal effect.

As for who the “good” dancers are – obviously Katherine & William are frontrunners, with Jaleel nipping at their heels now; Donald & Maria seem to comprise the next tier of dance skills, and Roshon & Melissa seem to be the two weakest dancers left – and I really onlythink Roshon is there because the judges don’t particularly care for him, rather than any actual weaknesses as a dancer.  I think the talent has been spread pretty evenly over both teams, and no one really has any dead weight to carry around, ability-wise; I might give a slight edge to Team Tango, for the simple reason that they have golden girl Katherine on their side.

Who has the edge in celeb dance experience? No one, really – both teams have experienced and inexperienced members, and they’re both going to have to work to get everyone on the same level.

Other Random & Miscellaneous Factors

This is the section where I rattle off any other random observations that could come into play, but aren’t necessarily a scientifically quantifiable factor :-) Things that are a bit more…subjective, if you will.

*I think we’ve seen that Katherine gets, by far, the greatest amount of love from the judges.  They seem very reluctant to critique her negatively, and have a tendency to “fluff” her scores a bit.  Not saying Katherine’s not a good dancer (she is), but I daresay the judges might be a bit more willing to forgive any mistakes she makes…and since Katherine’s whole team gets the same team dance score she does, her teammates might benefit from this “fluffing”.

*Conversely, Roshon seems to be the judges’ whipping boy this season – and they seem to just LOVE pointing out any mistakes he makes.  If he messes up, will they risk putting Katherine in jeopardy by docking points from the team dance?

*Bruno really, really loves William, regardless of how he dances – is he going to whip out the 10 paddle for him, even if his team dance is pretty weak?

*Maria is still somewhat injured, and we’re not sure of the status of Maks’ foot…is this going to hinder them in any way? William is also claiming to be injured, although we haven’t really seen any solid evidence of that.  Somebody dig up an MRI or x-ray and then we’ll talk.  ;-)

*Since it’s Classical Week, I’m pretty skeptical about the music they’re giving the teams – one or both of them could end up with a piece of music that doesn’t really fit their dance well at all.  Derek mentioned in one of the red carpet interviews that he & Maria were given a piece of music that was “all wrong” for their individual dance this week – what’s to say they won’t pick equally as sucktastic music for the team dances? :-(

Court’s overall take: I think it’s probably Team Tango’s to lose, given Derek’s track record in the team dances and the overall level of talent and experience on their team – but I think it will probably be a pretty close fight between them & Team Paso.  Likely no more than a 2-3 point difference between them – and I doubt that will be enough to ensure anyone safety from elimination. I wouldn’t be surprised if the person sent home is someone from the winning team.  It’s happened before…just ask Pam Anderson.

So who do you guys think will win the team dance?