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..
We’re finally here! Premiere day at last If you haven’t yet, go ahead and check out Heidi’s “Who’s Dancing What…And When?” post to get the low-down on the performance order tonight, the voting phone numbers, and possibly a few spoilers on the music some of the couples are dancing to
Today, I take on the final (and most recent) celeb on my series examining the highs & lows of the all-stars’ original seasons – Kirstie Alley. And if you want to get all fancy and read all the previous editions before the premiere (overachiever ), you can check them out here.
For Kirstie’s best dance, I picked her cha-cha:
And for her worst dance, I picked her jive:
I know some of you are thinking “But Kirstie’s cha-cha wasn’t even her highest-scoring dance!!!” But I have always thought of it as Kirstie & Maks’ magnum opus of season 12 – a dance that showcased not only Kirstie’s dance skills but also her incredible ability to entertain. She may not have been the best technician (but she certainly wasn’t the worst that season, either), but what she lacked in technique she more than made up for in performance – even in her worst dance, she still managed to stay entertaining & fun to watch. And very theatrical One thing that always astonished me about Kirstie in season 12 was that, despite acknowledging that she was overweight and out-of-shape, she always seemed so light on her feet and still moved with a ton of precision – it kinda reminded me of Warren Sapp, who was a BIIIIIIG man but who was often more graceful than some of the men half his size. Just because you may not have the perfect body, does not mean your movement quality has to suffer
However, there was one drawback to Kirstie’s physical condition that did seem to hinder her, and that I worry might still be a problem this season: endurance. I think we all were dreading the week in season 12 that Kirstie got jive, because we had seen how winded she got doing much slower dances, such as the samba. And unfortunately, I don’t think those fears were unfounded – Kirstie did seem to struggle with keeping up with the speed of the jive, and never seemed to really get the bounce in her step that makes jive so fun to watch. The choreo probably wasn’t the best, either, but that’s one dance where I can’t really blame Maks for taking so long to get into the dance – if your partner has bad endurance and probably won’t make it through a full-lenth 1:30 routine, try to put as little jive into it as possible, and as many rests into it as will fit. I know Kirstie’s in much better shape this time around, but is she going to be able to contend with seasoned athletes like Apolo, Emmitt, and Shawn? Or younger, more resilient contestants like Kelly & Melissa? I’m not so sure. Thankfully, she will get jive out of the way early this time – so if she does struggle with it, she may still be safe.
So what has Kirstie been up to in the year & a half since her original season? She did sponsor a “100 Days of Dance” campaign for her organic food line, Organic Liasion, last summer. Here’s a video of her dancing a Viennese waltz with “Johnny Boy”…I’m a bit partial to it for obvious reasons :
Court’s verdict: Kirstie’s off-the-wall antics and showmanship could keep her in the competition for awhile – but she will need to work on endurance and her overall physical fitness in order to give some of the athletes a run for their money.
We’re mere days away from the premiere of the all-star season – who’s getting pumped??? I find myself surprisingly excited about it, given that I was feeling pretty ho-hum about it only a few months back. Be sure to keep a close eye on Heidi’s “Who’s Dancing What” post – you never know when someone’s cha-cha song or dance order or phone number might pop up #justsayin
Anywho, if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can view all of the previous editions of this series here. Now buckle in, kids, because I’m about to tackle the ups and downs (but mainly just downs…) of the most polarizing contestant in DWTS history: Bristol Palin.
For Bristol’s best dance, I picked her tango:
As her worst dance, what else could I pick but that god-awful monkey suit jive?:
Ok, I will admit that Bristol is not the worst dancer we’ve ever seen on the show (I think’s a dubious honor reserved for Master P, with Kate Gosselin as the runner-up). On the contrary, I actually thought she was relatively good the first few weeks of the competition – I even threw a few votes her way in week 1. I think what ended up getting to me as the season wore on, though, was the fact that all the other contestants seemed to be improving by leaps & bounds…while Bristol just seemed to barely muddle through some of the dances, and hit a bit of a plateau in terms of improvement. To add insult to injury, we were losing MUCH better dancers each week that Bristol remained – and by the time the finale rolled around, Bristol seemed to have developed a sense of entitlement, and copped an attitude when she wasn’t getting the 9′s and 10′s she felt she deserved. In the end, she just left a bad taste in my mouth, even if some of her dancing really wasn’t all that bad. SOME. In rewatching a lot of Bristol’s dances, I noticed that she tended to do MUCH better when she was able to stay in-hold for the bulk of it – so most of the ballroom dances she did went quite a bit more smoothly than the Latin ones. I don’t know if Mark holding onto her and leading her so directly helped improve her confidence or what, but she moved a lot more cleanly & clearly in dances like the tango – no missed steps, she stayed on time, and had pretty good posture. And I blame Mark for the silly air guitar break in the middle
On the other hand, in dances where she had to separate from Mark and do some of the dance on her own, she either barely muddled through or seemed to fall apart completely – case in point? The dreaded monkey suit jive. Right off the bat, she seemed to blank on a good 10-15 seconds of side-by-side jive choreo. Then, once the suit came off (and even that was pretty rough), she never seemed to get 100% into the groove of the dance, and always seemed like she was 1 step behind or ahead of Mark. And although we kind of expected it, based on her complete lack of experience in performing, Bristol wasn’t exactly the best at connecting with the character of a dance – and when she didn’t know what to do, she seemed to resort to an expression that reminded her of back home in Alaska: deer in the rifle sights Maybe this time around, she’ll be a bit more comfortable and will be able to let loose and have fun. Or not…who knows. I’m still of the opinion that she likely won’t last past the midpoint of the competition, this time around – she’s up against much better dancers with much bigger fanbases, and I daresay she’s lost a bit of that “single teen mom” appeal she had 2 years ago. Will be interesting to see what Mark is able to conjure up…
Court’s verdict: Probably the weakest all-around performer/dancer this season, and Mark needs to work on getting her performance value up to snuff…as well as making sure she knows her choreography and is confident enough to not forget it. She should probably also work on her media presence – she needs to be as likeable as possible if she wants to stand a chance against some of the more popular contestants.
For Pam’s best dance, I picked her famous “9 to 5″ quickstep:
And for her worst dance, I picked her waltz:
I’ll be honest: I don’t think Pam is a GREAT dancer. I’d even go so far as to say that, besides Kelly & Bristol, she is probably one of the weaker dancers this season. But there is something about her that is just so FUN to watch – she may have been totally missing steps and getting off-time in that quickstep, but to see her bobbing around and smiling so big and having a great time doing it, I was mesmerized. Ditto for any of her other dances – she got so into the character of her cha-cha, foxtrot, rumba, paso doble, and Argentine tango that it didn’t seem to matter as much to me if she was wobbling awkwardly or missing steps. She was just fun to watch. That’s not to say that I was completely able to overlook her snafus, though – on the whole, I really liked Pam, but she always struck me as a bit of a stiff mover, even though she was really quite flexible. And when she wasn’t able to completely connect to the character of her dance (such as in her waltz), she seemed to look a bit aloof and lost. Her waltz, while not technically bad, just felt bland and chilly to me. I get the feeling that she’s someone whose performance hinges greatly upon playing a character – and if she can’t really play one, she’s just kinda…there.
Now unlike some of her cohorts this season, Pam has actually done something in the past year to hone her dance skills that I think may come in handy. As Vogue (and reader Carlos) reported last summer, Pam competed on the Argentine version of DWTS, Bailando por un Sueño, with Damian – here they are doing what looks to be a paso doble:
Granted, they did withdraw in week 4, but I still say that any contestant this season that has somehow managed to do some dancing within the last year or so (even better if they did more ballroom) is probably going to have at list a little bit of a leg up on those who haven’t danced at all since their original season.
Court’s verdict: Pam’s not the strongest dancer, but I do think she’s fun to watch – and that could keep her around for at least a little while. Bonus points if she can connect well to both the dance and her partner.
What do you guys think of Pam? Is she going to stick around awhile…or be out early, as she was in the Argentine verison of the show?
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 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.
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?
I debated even reporting on this, given that I am done with SYTYCD now that it has become a bona fide popularity contest and that least skilled dancer this season is probably going to win (and just as I feared, both ballroom girls were cut back-to-back just before the finale), but alas, it’s not Dmitry’s fault and he is part of the DWTS family – so here it is.
Dmitry tweeted that he is going to be choreographing for the upcoming performance finale next Tuesday:
Also choreographing on SYTYCD for next week and stressing about it lol. So please wish me luck!
Can’t blame Dmitry for being nervous – seems like the ballroom routines this season have had about a 50/50 chance of getting ripped apart by the judges…so much for debunking the blatant anti-ballroom bias on that show. Dmitry may also be having flashbacks to last season, when Nigel picked apart the cha-cha Mark choreographed for the performance finale. Let’s hope Nigel isn’t looking forward to a repeat “My show is better than DWTS!” pro-roast this time around…
Anywho, everybody cross your fingers for Dmitry that he doesn’t become the next victim of Nigel the Ballroom Meatgrinder next week. I just find it funny that he seems to think his show has so much more street cred than DWTS, due to the many dance styles they portray and all the Emmy nominations they amass – yet his show has turned into a complete popularity contest, while DWTS at least maintains some degree of integrity by making the results 50% scores and 50% votes. Enjoy those Emmy noms, Nigel – because with your ratings hitting an all-time low this summer, this may be your last hurrah.
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?
Let’s continue on our journey through this season’s couples today with a look at the fan-appointed 13th contestant – Sabrina Bryan. And if you want to refer to my previous editions of the series, check out the Helio Castroneves edition – there are links to all the previous posts at the top.
I picked Sabrina & Mark’s perfect-scoring paso doble as her best dance:
And as her worst dance, I picked her foxtrot, which was the dance that ultimately sent her home:
Echoing Len’s sentiments after Sabrina’s foxtrot, the thing that jumps out at me in both dances is that Sabrina just hits everything so HARD – which is sometimes good (in dances like the paso doble & tango), but can often be bad (in slower, more fluid dances like the foxtrot). The impact she gives each line & step seems to be a product of her hip-hop training from the Cheetah Girls, possibly mixed with some jazz/Broadway musical-style training. If having really sharp, flashy hands is considered “jazz hands”, then I think Sabrina might have an entire jazz body – which could be problematic. Obviously it’s a huge advantage in very aggressive dances like the paso doble (which is why I think her paso doble is her best dance), but when you’ve got a dance like the foxtrot that is supposed to be slick & fluid, and you’re hitting each line with the force of a sledgehammer – it’s time to dial back the aggression. If she can overcome that, she’s obviously got some good musicality and stage presence for Louis to work with…but the question is: will he know how best to utilize it? Even in Louis’ stronger seasons (like Kelly Osbourne’s), I find that he often doesn’t seem to know quite how to choreograph to his partner’s strengths and weaknesses – and even though Sabrina might be his strongest partner yet, it won’t mean anything if he doesn’t know how to tap into that talent.
So obviously, like Joey, one thing that may give Sabrina an edge in this season is the time she’s spent in the Vegas show prior to now – she’s been dancing for 3 months already. Will it help? Well…I’d say yes & no. I’ve said it before, but I think anyone that’s been doing any kind of onstage performing the past year or so will likely have a bit of an edge, just due to their performance skills not getting rusty. However, as with Joey, I think Sabrina spent a good deal of time in Vegas doing stuff that wasn’t “strictly ballroom” – she did quite a bit of more jazzy, hip-hop influenced stuff, and even her paso doble with Ryan DiLello felt a little watered down to me. Is Vegas really going to help when it comes to remembering the finer points of samba & foxtrot? Probably not. And you also have to keep in mind that Sabrina was doing the same routines, night after night – if they looked fabulous, it was because she had had weeks to perfect them. Will she be able to adjust to back to the breakneck pace of the tv show, where she only has a few days to learn a dance?
Court’s verdict: Sabrina’s got potential – she’s a good dancer and a good showman. But if she wants to be a contender, she needs to soften her lines, and make sure she’s “strictly ballroom” – no hip-hop or jazz infusion. And Louis will have to deliver some great choreography to really make her stand out.
What are your thoughts on Sabrina? Is this her season to win, or could it just be a repeat of season 5?