Season 13 – JR and Karina. I remember not being overly impressed by this one at the time, possibly because I saw so many moves that I had seen in Derek’s previous dances, not that they belonged to him or anything. But in retrospect, it’s quite good and it’s certainly the best of the season. Loved the ending bit the most. Read more..
Okay, here’s part 2 – be sure to watch part 1 so you can get the full history.
Part 2 could be called the “Hough-Ballas-Johnson” Section. What I notice about Derek and Mark’s early Freestyles is that they craft something exciting but they still get a lot of actual dancing in there. I remember critics saying it was all lifts and no dancing….crack is wack, ya’ll. Looking forward to seeing both freestyles from them this Monday as they’ve both matured so much in both style and choreography.
Season 7 – Brooke and Derek. I loved this freestyle. It’s funny to watch now as Derek is a good bit smaller – you’ll also note that this is the beginning of his recurring back problems. What I loved about this freestyle is that, from Brooke, it was unexpected, I think. She was the best dancer this season and I remember thinking that there was no way she was beating Warren the showman – I think this dance might have done it for her. Read more..
All the talk about freestyles actually had me go back and watch quite a few of the winners and losers to see what the couples have to live up to on Monday. It’s a rather daunting task, to create one that is really good and, just as important, MEMORABLE. If you subscribe to the Derek Hough school of thought, you want it to be remembered more than you want the MBT. Which of the couples will manage that Monday night?? A couple of them have really good track records, for sure.
Season 1 – it’s rather shocking to watch season 1′s freestyles and remember that they did ACTUAL ballroom. You’ll note that once the Hough Ballas Crowd came along, the bar on the freestyles rose considerably. This one was not bad, considering the time frame, but there were a lot of mis-steps in it. Pay particular attention to the judges and how mellow they are and non-dramatic. This was before they became invested in being the stars of the show. Read more..
Bye-bye, gadawful switch week – helllloooo, Disney week! This may be the one good idea TPTB have had the entire season Sounds like a lot of you are pretty pumped about it – so why not get even more excited by compiling a song wish list and seeing if we might be able to predict what everyone might be dancing to, shall we?
Vogue & I came up with a list of the most popular Disney songs we could think of and divided them up by dance style – Deep Throat indicated that all the songs were probably going to be very well-known, so while I think it would be totes appropos to see Maks dancing to “Gaston” from Beauty & the Beast, it’s probably far more likely that he & Meryl have a song like “Beauty & the Beast” or “Be Our Guest”.
If you didn’t catch it yesterday, some of the couples revealed some clues about their dances in this media post Vogue posted yesterday. Some other clues, which I revealed on Twitter yesterday? Both Meryl & Charlie have eschewed the expected “Disney princess/prince” roles that some were hoping they’d assume this week, and are both going for “something different”. And because Peta is about as subtle as a sledgehammer (thanks, emojis) I’ll go ahead and throw out one song spoiler: James & Peta are, indeed, doing contemporary to “Let it Go” from Frozen. Happy Hump Day, kids
In his Access Hollywood interview from after Monday night’s show, Mark explained his reasons for “breaking hold” in he in Bristol’s quickstep – and he also insinuated that a few other couples also broke hold in their quicksteps this week, yet didn’t get called out by the judges. So it got me thinking: did the judges, indeed, turn a blind eye to some couples’ rule-breaking, while calling out others?
First, a little bit of background as to why breaking hold in quickstep is such a big deal. Earlier this year, I went into detail about it in one of my “Ask Courtney” posts – the basic gist is that quickstep is the only ballroom dance on DWTS that is only danced in the International Standard style, in which you cannot break hold at all, and they’ve carried that rule over to DWTS. I personally think it’s kind of a dumb rule, considering that DWTS is not a real ballroom competition (and never will be), and considering that you can break hold in the waltz, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, and sometimes tango (the last one is whole different debate). Read more..
First off, a bit of an apology for my week-long hiatus from this series – between my 9-5 and the heinous betch that Who Wore it Better? turned out to be, I was pretty well spent by the time I got home each night last week…and let’s just say my creativity wasn’t exactly at its peak. But I’m back now, and going to try and finish the last 4 editions (and a few other items) before the premiere. Procrastinators of the world, unite…tomorrow
For those of you playing catch up (or who missed the previous editions), you can just use the search box and type in “previous dance experience” – all of the previous editions should show up, newest to oldest. I’m just too lazy to link to the 9 previous installments
For Shawn’s best dance, I chose her cha-cha to “P.Y.T.”:
And for her worst dance, I picked her Lindy hop:
Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Shawn’s dancing – don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a great role model for young girls and a sweetie pie to boot. But rewatching all of her dances, I’m not just wowed by any of them – but thankfully, I’m not hugely let down by them, either. I guess the best way I can sum up my opinion of Shawn in season 8 is this: she was a hard worker & a good natural mover who, for the most part, seemed to let Mark drive the bus – she always struck me as very pleasantly going along with whatever theme/choreography/costume/etc. Mark threw at her, without really adding any of her own input. Disagree if you like, but I just felt like Shawn (maybe out of youth) was just a bit of a pushover that season – and consequently, I don’t think she ever really connected deeply with a lot of her routines. It could be the gymnast in her, too – kind of a poker face to get through each event. So I guess my primary hope for her this season is that she gets to give a bit more input into her routines, and can connect with them on a more personal level – and perhaps get a bit more mature with her choreo That said, I do think she is a good mover – she doesn’t seem to have any issues with timing or range of motion, and is one person that does seem to know exactly how to style her arms for each dance. However, I think she may face a bit of the same problem that Drew will: she’s just so LITTLE. At less than 5′, even moving with her full range of motion is probably not going to look as impressive and “big” as it will on someone willowy, like Melissa. Even in “P.Y.T.”, which I consider to be the best combination of dance skill & performance quality we saw from Shawn in season 8, her legs just can’t seem to get that same eye-catching bending & straightening action that makes cha-cha so appealing when a person with longer legs does it. I just hope Derek has some tricks up his sleeve that can help Shawn’s lines look as LONG as possible. As for her worst dance – I actually have to kinda blame that one on Mark. While I don’t think she really had any heinously bad dances on her season, I do think there were a few where Mark’s quest for eye-catching, creative choreo may not have showcased Shawn in the best way. Their Lindy was a prime example – he seemed to rely too heavily on her gymnastic skills, and off-the-wall tricks to sell that one. Too bad the judges weren’t buying it. I hope that Derek knows better than to do that this season, but with the level of competition as high as it is, I worry that all the pros may feel the need to “up their game” to stick around – and it may not always pay off.
Court’s verdict: If Shawn can mature a bit in her dancing and work on injecting some more of her personality into it (and Derek knows how to showcase her well), then she could be a contender.
So what are your thoughts on Shawn?
You guys know the drill by now – check out the Melissa Rycroft edition and you can backtrack back to all the rest of the previous editions Today we finish up with this season’s guys by taking a look at Gilles…
I picked Gilles’ Argentine tango as his best dance:
And as his worst dance, I picked his jive:
No doubt, Gilles has got the full package (no pun intended…): he’s got the stage presence, he’s got great technique, and he’s got an amazing personality to boot. I still think his Argentine tango is one of the most impressive we’ve ever seen on the show – and that’s a big credit, considering season 8 was the first season that Argentine tango was performed on the show (and consequently, some of the pros were left a bit clueless as to what to do), and Gilles & Cheryl’s routine wasn’t particularly flashy or chock full of lifts, like so many we’ve seen in recent seasons. What made it great was it was a good, simple, well-executed routine in which they really focused on the character of the dance, rather than going for every flashy, impressive step they could find. I think almost all of Gilles’ routines are the perfect example of how you don’t need a bunch of flash & trash to get good scores - if you’re focused enough on the dance itself that you can make every step speak volumes. Gilles is a technician – and he’s a HUNGRY technician, who is highly motivated to do well this season. While I think every contestant is going to need some degree of “hunger” to do well this season, I fear that Gilles’ hunger could end up hurting him in the end – such is the case with his jive. I think it’s apparent from the rehearsal footage that Gilles was just not having an easy time with the jive, and it was really getting to him. I don’t think it helped much that Cheryl seemed to throw everything but the kitchen sink into this routine, and wasn’t exactly a nuturing partner when Gilles was really struggling – but what became apparent in the dance itself was that Gilles was just pushing himself too hard, and I really think it ended up causing him to falter. The guy that was always in rhythm and in the pocket was suddenly off-time missing steps, and worst of all? He didn’t look like he was enjoying himself anymore. The dance just became a Herculean task to complete. And I think that’s one possible hurdle Peta’s going to have to contend with this season – Gilles’ tendency to push himself so hard that he stops enjoying himself. Gilles seems more determined than ever to win this time around – and it’s bordering on Brandy Syndrome (being so desperate to win that it actually becomes off-putting). Being so intensely focused on the end goal can often result in couples losing sight of what’s important – having fun. A couple can dance a routine flawlessly, but if they look like they’re getting a root canal while they’re doing it? Fuggeddaboudit.
In some ways, I think Gilles getting Peta instead of Cheryl may actually be beneficial – I know I’ve expressed some skepticism about the whole Gilles/Peta partnership, but after watching Cheryl’s demeanor in she in Gilles’ rehearsal videos (and watching footage of Peta with Donald last season), I think Peta may actually be more effective in keeping Gilles’ feet on the ground and reminding him to enjoy himself. I almost think a repeat Gilles/Cheryl partnership would be so determined to win that the end result would be kind of scary-focused on the dance floor – and they’d lose a lot of the appeal they had the first time around. I just hope Peta doesn’t get excited puppy syndrome because she’s got such a skilled partner, and proverbially pee all over the dance floor by trying to cram as many impressive & difficult steps into their routines as possible. Not everyone can handle a Nicole Scherzinger-level of choreographic difficulty.
Court’s verdict: Unlike many of the other contestants this season, I think Gilles’ biggest struggle is just going to be letting loose and not taking himself too seriously. It’s going to be up to Peta to keep him on the right track and enjoying myself, while forging a good chemistry and not trying too hard to choreograph a bunch of crazy stuff to get the judges’ and viewers’ attention. QUALITY, not quantity.
Now let’s hear your thoughts on Gilles. Do you think he can finally nab the MBT with Peta…or will he flame out in the process?
Let’s continue on with my analysis of this season’s contestants – today we move onto Melissa. Finally getting more into the ladies of this season! To check out any of my previous posts in the series, check out the Sabrina Bryan edition…there are links to the previous editions.
For Melissa’s best dance, I picked her samba – which I believe she performed about 3 times in a 2 week period:
For her worst dance, I picked her jive – which she never actually performed live, due to injury:
I think Melissa’s biggest asset could also be her biggest obstacle to overcome: her cheerleading background. It does give her a bit of an edge in terms of picking up choreography, having rhythm, and just having good movement quality – but I think it also tends to make her look a bit wishy-washy in terms of ballroom technique, judging from these videos. If my big complaint about Sabrina is that she hits everything too hard, my big complaint about Melissa is that she tends to hit everything a bit too softly and fluidly – perhaps even a bit generically. It’s the same problem I see with some of my friends who have gone on to dance for NBA & NFL teams: their movement takes on almost a robotic, inoffensive quality, which I guess does come in handy when dancing in sync with 30 other girls and no one is supposed to stand out. But blending into with everyone this season is definitely NOT something Melissa should be aiming for – so I think she’s going to need to sharpen up her steps and avoid any of the cheerleading “pitfalls”…are you listening too, Tony? Because I think the choreography is part of the problem, too. I can understand falling back on her high-kicking & piroutting skills the first week – poor thing only had a week to learn the waltz. But beyond that, I think Tony really should have avoided a ton of “cheerleader tricks” and really made Melissa focus on ballroom technique – and unfortunatley, I think the majority of their routines were less meat-and-potatoes ballroom and more “ok, you’re going to high-kick here, do a series of pirouttes there, and then do a split – and we’ll just shove some easy ballroom steps in between!”. I’m not saying he should totally abandon her obvious dance skills – I’m just saying he should probably figure out a better way to make them more “ballroom-y”. Some of the fundamental principles are the same – spotting turns, using your core to really elongate your limbs, etc. – and can be easily incorporated into a ballroom vocabulary. If she can do an underarm turn using the same principles she would use to do a piroutte – Melissa could have the best damn technique of any of the dancers on the show. But Tony MUST teach her how to apply it. Melissa IS a good jazz dancer – now she has got to become a good ballroom dancer.
Melissa’s injury also brings up an interesting point: how are injuries going to come into play this season? With the level of competition so high and all of the couples working harder than ever before to up their game, there’s bound to be injuries – the question is, who will be smart enough to avoid them, who will be able to work through them, and who will be sidelined by them? I’m inclined to think that those who got injured on their original season (Melissa, Gilles, & Pam all come to mind) may be at a greater risk to incur the same injuries – will they be able to work through them this time? Gilles’ performance in particular seemed to really suffer due to his shoulder injury. I think it will be interesting to see who is able to soldier through the pressure of this season, and whose injuries really affect their performance negatively.
Court’s verdict: Melissa’s a good dancer – but she needs to shake off the “cheerleader-yness” and focus on ballroom technique. Ditto for Tony – cut back on the high kicks & pirouttes and really drill that Latin technique into her.
So what do you guys think? Is Melissa a contender…or is she still stuck in cheerleader mode?
This season, we opted to do things a bit differently – as we have with just about every other regular feature we do each season, since the format is a bit wacky, to say the least First, we’ve divided WWIB into two parts – mainly to accomodate the fact that Kirstie & Maks’ and the 13th couple’s (who we now know to be Sabrina & Louis) promo photos have yet to be released, but also to buy us some time for the labor-intensive task of finding good pictures for some of these Secondly, we’ve included the couples’ promo photos from their original seasons for comparison as well. But as always, we’ve offered up our usual
snark commentary on each of the costumes, for your enjoyment
Battle of the turquoise & black lace corset dress/Kelly & Alec vs. Kelly & Val: Kelly & Alec’s season 1 promo pic vs. Kelly & Val’s season 15 promo pic vs. Edyta in the season 9 pro tango demo
Courtney: The Iceman cometh! Wow, even Alec’s promo pic screams “I have no emotions” to me. And while Kelly is a bit better, I still wish she’d actually smile in her promo pics – the whole “smoldery non-smile” she does just seems like she’s trying too hard to me. And I’m probably the only one that feels this way, judging from some of everyone’s initial comments on the promo photos, but I’m not really all that wild about Kelly & Val’s pic…you’ll see I’m not much of a fan of the couples that went the “smoldery” route with their promo pix. As for the costume itself – gotta go with Edyta on this one. Granted, it’s hard to hold a candle to Edyta in pretty much ANY costume, but I think I like it better with a lace skirt, as opposed to a fringed one. And while I was cursing under my breath while putting this edition together about how BAD some of the costumes have gotten since Randall left, I thank my lucky stars we’re not still stuck with Designs to Shine, who costumed the first season. Can we say “tacky”?
Heidi: Val sez, “You…are sooo sexy.” To which Kelly sez, “You are sexy, but I am sleeping with my cousin’s best friend’s husband’s brother and am simply toying with you as a cover to hide our true looove….” That is my long winded way of saying, Kelly is a soap actress…they only do smolder. Sometimes well, sometimes not – and Val is a huge step up from Alec in terms of emotion and Kelly has evolved to smoldering with her mouth *closed*. The dress you ask? I go with Edyta sans fishnets. Although I think it’s cuter in the shorter length.
The verdict: Just say no to soap opera smolder. Read more..
It’s that time of year again, folks – time for the newly-announced couples to pick a cheesy team name for the season Below are a few suggestions that you guys tweeted me, and I’ve also included the original team names of some of the couples who got their original partner. Feel free to keep adding your suggestions in the comments, and I’ll try to update the post every so often so we have a good list. Remember to tweet the link to this list to the pros & celebs when they start asking for suggestions – you never know if they’ll end up picking your suggestion!
Kirstie Alley & Maksim Chmerkovskiy (original team name from season 12: Team GMak)
Team GMak is BACK!
**Team KStick (according to Kirstie, this is their name for this season)
Pamela Anderson & Tristan MacManus
Helio Castroneves & Chelsie Hightower
Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Team Fat One
Shawn Johnson & Derek Hough
Drew Lachey & Anna Trebunskaya
Team 98 Degrees of Redhead
Team Red AmbiCheyOn
Team 99 Degrees
**Team TreLachey (according to Anna, this is what they picked as their official team name)
Gilles Marini & Peta Murgatroyd
Team Pecs & Legs
Kelly Monaco & Val Chmerkovskiy
Apolo Ohno & Karina Smirnoff
Team Fire & Ice
Team Smirnoff on Ice
Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas (original team name from season 11: Team Ballin’)
Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani (original team name from season 9: ?)
Team Pearly Whites
Team Brat Pack
Emmitt Smith & Cheryl Burke
Keep giving us your suggestions!