Three cheers for an opening pro dance that I actually enjoyed! Thought it was cute how they worked in a Halloween theme. At the very least, it wasn’t a bunch of female bumping & grinding & hair-flipping…or Pitbull.
So Len was back, and as I kind of predicted – he was grumpy, and Julianne kind of reverted back to being the level-headed judge. Carrie Ann is still the airheaded judge; I can’t even really remember anything Bruno said. Overall, I don’t feel as though the quality of judging improved much with Len’s return – so I’m fine if he doesn’t want to come back next season. Hell, I don’t really care if ANY of the judges come back next season
Kinda had an inkling that Antonio was toast the minute the judges started laying into him for a dance that really wasn’t that bad, in my opinion – it was probably Antonio’s best, and though he’s still kind of an awkward mover, he seemed to smooth things out quite a bit better this week. But I’m guessing that he just wasn’t connecting with viewers – I felt like we never really got to see the real Antonio. Wish he would have given us more of a peek into his work or family life.
1.) Bethany & Derek – Bethany was given great scores and great choreography this week, but here’s the odd part for me: in both her individual and team dance, there seemed to be moments where she just wasn’t…fully present. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like she went into autopilot both times – not sure if she’s just really tired or burnt out, but she just didn’t seem as invested as she was in her tango last week. Thought the concept and setting of her paso was great, and Derek gave her some great choreo in their team dance – but she just didn’t grab the bull by the horns like she normally does. She wasn’t bad by any means – she was just not as dazzling for me as she usually is. Maybe it was just this week and having to learn two dances – hopefully she’ll be back to 100% next week. But she can leave the Maleficient/Queen Amidala hair – wasn’t loving that.
2.) Alfonso & Witney – I have to commend Witney on giving Alfonso a really solid, pure rumba – definitely a good idea for Len’s first week back. I think the stripped down staging worked well to showcase just how skilled Alfonso is – and I really enjoyed that this week, we got to see how great he is at partnering: he really was there for Witney every step of the way, which is something I look for from the guys I see doing rumba. The rumba is the woman’s dance, so it’s really the guy’s job to deliberately blend into the background a bit and just “be there” for his lady. And Alfonso did just that Another thing I also love about Alfonso’s dancing: he’s a little guy that knows how to move BIG. One of the few things Carrie Ann said tonight that I agreed with was that Alfonso really knows how to stretch his arms and legs and really extend nicely. So well done, Alfonso & Witney.
3.) Sadie & Mark – As I said on Twitter – I see we’re back to Sadie getting underscored and nitpicked. Really makes one wonder if she’s getting a TON of votes…especially since this dance wasn’t nearly as bad to me as some of the judges were making it seem. Did the staging distract from the dancing? Maybe a tad, but I actually thought parts of it were genius – LOVED the section where Sadie was facing the zombies and doing work with her skirt. Thought she maybe had a little too much of a willowy-ness to her carriage, which made the paso look a bit funny on her at times, but overall she handled it pretty well. Definitely did NOT deserve any 7’s – I would have given it 8’s across the board. There was definitely content in it – saw lots of paso basics. Still love Sadie
4.) Lea & Artem – Here’s the thing about Lea: she’s got a lot of natural talent, and the potential to be a really great dancer on this show. She herself just needs to believe it I think that’s the only thing that really held her back in her Argentine tango tonight – she seemed to lose a bit of confidence at times, and what could have been a really sharp, impactful step often came across as a bit soft & uncertain as a result. This was a good Argentine tango – with the potential to be GREAT. Saw some nice leg lines, and some moments were she was really committed to the dance. She just needs to let go and enjoy the experience. Stop worrying about Alfonso, Bethany, Sadie, etc….just do YOU, Lea. You’re good…believe it
5.) Janel & Val – After they finished this dance, I said on Twitter “I bet you anything Len complains about lack of steps in hold.” And sure enough, he did – while I actually enjoyed the overall production of the dance and didn’t really mind the PLL theme, I did find myself saying “Wow…this is a LOT of open work.” Would have liked to have seen a bit more done in-hold, but I didn’t hate what I saw out-of-hold. I also found it to be a bit stop-and-go, which kinda interrupted the flow of Viennese waltz – I think if Val would have upped the in-hold work by about 30% and resisted the urge to stop and have “moments”, he probably could have gotten a 9 out of Len. The 7 was Len basically saying “I’m back, bitches!” and making an example of Janel & Val.
6.) Tommy & Peta – Oh Tommy – he needs his tea breaks to get through rehearsal I’ve gotta say – Tommy seems to have really brought out the best in Peta this season. I was a pretty vocal critic of hers, not sure that she could hack it with a partner that wasn’t as naturally able-bodied or spry as she has gotten in the past. But I think Tommy has brought something out of her that we haven’t really gotten to see yet: she’s just enjoying the experience for what it is. Love the dynamic between these two, and the way she just loves Tommy, flaws and all. And this was actually a respectable effort for the quickstep – sure, it didn’t have a ton of bounce (76-year-old knees, y’know), but Tommy was pretty good in-hold, and seem to be having a good time. Glad Peta kept it simple for him while still making identifiable as quickstep. REALLY glad he didn’t go home this week
7.) Mike & Emma – Honestly, I didn’t really think it was Mike’s time to go until this week, when I saw how stressed out Emma was getting trying to teach him the jive. As I told someone on Twitter – the reason I think Emma keeps getting partners that aren’t so naturally good is likely because she does so well with them – look at Bill. Look at Billy Dee (had he not dropped out, I think he could have gotten the votes to last another week). And really – did anyone think Mike was gonna make it this far? Sure, he hasn’t really improved a ton – but I think Emma has helped endear him to the audience and showcase the (few) dance skills he does have naturally. But watching this jive was really kind of painful, y’all – Mike just seemed so lost, and Emma was just trying in vain to backlead him. Granted, the song was terrible – and it seemed more like a polka than a jive – but I’m afraid Mike has just plateaued in this competition. It’s been a good run – but I think it’s his time to go. Still love these two – just think they’ve reached the end of their journey
Thoughts on the Team Dances:
Ok, here’s the thing: the judges seem to score based on how in-sync the couples are on each team – that seems to be the one factor that really determines the score. That being said – the team that’s most in-sync is not always the team that’s most entertaining to me. And that was the case tonight – while the choreography was clean and cool and edgy and well-executed on Team Itsy Bitsy, it almost seemed a tad robotic to me. Maybe it was the song that did it – but I just found myself saying “Ok, from a technical perspective, that was great – but I just don’t CARE about it.” Seemed like each couple (with the exception of Mike & Emma, who I’m guessing were pressed for time and just rehashed their Argentine tango from last week) kinda did the same thing for their individual section. Was really hard for me to get excited about Itsy Bitsy, although I will say that Lea was 100% the MVP – for someone that was front & center for a good part of the dance, she had a lot of pressure on her shoulders to get every single step perfect…and she did. I only wish she had had that same confidence for her Argentine tango While Team Creepy may not have had choreography that was as difficult or had Itsy Bitsy’s synchronization, I found myself more entertained by them on the whole – everyone just seemed to be having such a good time, and I loved how every couple’s individual section was tailored to them: Antonio & Cheryl were doing lifts (smart, cause that’s what he’s really good at), Alfonso & Witney were doing kind of a hip-hop jive (also what he’s really good at), Sadie and Mark were doing their quirky duck moves, and Tommy & Peta were goofing around and going steps that were quintessentially Tommy I guess the best way I can describe the difference between the two teams is this: Itsy Bitsy was more of a “one-size-fits-all” display of incredible synchronization, while Creepy was more of an offbeat carnival of varied delights. I think Creepy was underscored by about 2 points, though – the lack of synchronization was NOT 4 points worse than Itsy Bitsy, and it was really only Tommy that was out-of-sync.
So those are my thoughts…what are yours? Which team dance did you like better, and why? And who’s on the chopping block for next week?