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:
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?
After a brief hiatus to accomodate all of the hoopla of the revealing of the 13th couple, I’m back with another edition of my series examining the highs and lows of our all-stars’ original seasons. As always, if you’re playing catch-up, check out the previous editions with Kelly Monaco, Emmitt Smith, Drew Lachey, Joey Fatone, & Apolo Ohno Today I take on season 5 winner, Helio Castroneves.
I picked his Mask-inspired quickstep as Helio’s best dance:
And for his worst dance, I chose he & Julianne’s bizarrely chilly rumba:
First, I feel like I have to get this off of my chest: I do not think Helio was the best dancer on his season, and I actually think he was one of the weaker champions we’ve had, in terms of dance skill. The one big advantage he had, though, was personality – in BUCKETLOADS. 😀 I think that’s ultimately what won him the MBT over Mel B. – while she herself was a big personality, I feel as though he managed to endear himself to viewers a bit more, and generated a stronger chemistry with Julianne than Mel maybe had with Maks. I think his quickstep is a perfect example of how his chemistry with Julianne & his personality carried him through to the end – he was just so FUN. Plus, he seemed to really excel at the ballroom dances, which seems to be an area in which even the best male contestants seem to falter. However, when you take a closer look at his quickstep, you’ll see that he sometimes tends to get so carried away with the character of the dance, that he loses a bit of the technique – a problem similar to Joey’s. And judging from he & Julianne’s rumba, in which he couldn’t really play a character, his weaker technique seemed to stick out like a sore thumb…and his chemistry with Julianne also suffered. To date, I still think it’s one of the strangest, least romantic rumbas we’ve ever seen on the show…and as I recall, the judges seemed kind of horrified by it. I think he & Chelsie are REALLY going to have to work on their chemistry, first and foremost, if they want to stick around – and if they can forge a good chemistry, then I think it’s on Chelsie to strike a balance between making Helio focus on technique, and still giving him the opportunity to be a showman. I do think they’re going to have to make a big splash, though, and they’re going to have to do it soon – because they’re kind of becoming this season’s “forgotten” couple for me: the couple that I always struggle to remember when I’m listing off all of the couples this season, because they haven’t yet made a huge impression on me.
Court’s verdict: I think Helio’s success this season is seriously going to hinge upon whether he’s able to really connect with Chelsie – and if she’s going to be able to choreograph to suit both his technical weaknesses and his strengths as a showman.
What’s your take on Helio? Is he going to struggle this season…or will he & Chelsie surprise us all?
For Apolo’s best dance, I picked his samba – which I still think is the best samba from a contestant that we’ve ever seen on DWTS:
For his worst dance, I picked the ill-advised Pulp Fiction jive he & Julianne did:
I think the most obvious advantage that jumps out at me when I watch these videos is chemistry – Apolo & Julianne had FANTASTIC chemistry, and I think that helped carry them through week after week. The question is: can he forge that same chemistry with Karina? If he can, then I think these two could be frontrunners this season. Apolo’s obviously got some natural rhythm and is comfortable moving his body, so Karina’s definitely got something to work with. However, Apolo’s Achilles’ heel (hehe) does seem to be really refined footwork – I saw instances in both his samba & his jive (ESPECIALLY his jive) where he just seems to put his feet wherever they feel comfortable, and the end result looks a bit confused and purposeless. POINT YOUR TOES, APOLO! I also think his showmanship could use a little work – Apolo mentions in samba rehearsals that he’s used to keeping a “poker face” in speed skating, so it’s hard for him to really use his face to emote. He did pretty well in season 4, but I still saw a few instances of “poker face” – especially if he wasn’t quite sure of what he was doing and was trying to regain his bearings…I noticed it in his jive, whenever he seemed to foul up. With such big personalities like Joey & Kirstie around this season, I think Apolo is going to have to really work on projecting a BIG personality on the floor – he’s got the range of motion, now he just needs the range of personality I also hope that Karina is able to strike a nice balance between dancing well and not outdancing Apolo – as much as I loved Julianne with Apolo, I do think there were times that she really outshined him, and I noticed it big time in their samba. I do think Karina is a pro that is able to find that right balance, though, so I think that’s an advantage.
Court’s verdict: Definitely one to watch, especially if he can forge a good chemistry with Karina & clean up his footwork – and if he can bring enough personality to the table to compete with big personalities like Joey & Kirstie
So what are your thoughts on Apolo? Does he have the juice to go all the way?
Today I continue my series with season 4 runner-up Joey Fatone – for those who want to play catch-up, check out my previous editions featuring Kelly Monaco, Emmitt Smith, and Drew Lachey
For Joey’s best dance, I picked his 2nd jive to “Jump, Jive, & Wail”:
And for his worst dance, I picked his 2nd cha-cha to “Groove is in the Heart”:
Without a doubt, Joey sure has got the showmanship portion of dancing down pat – to this day, I still think he’s one of the most entertaining celebs that have ever graced the DWTS floor. And he moves big – he always seemed to do a really good job of using the entire floor and stretching each step to its limit. However, the big caveat that often comes with moving big is moving sloppy – and I think Joey, being a bigger guy, sometimes loses a bit of technique & precision in the process of “moving big”. I find it a bit interesting that he & Drew seem to have the opposite problem: Drew has the precision, but not the size & degree of motion; Joey has the size & degree of motion, but seems to lack the precision. And unfortunatley, when it comes down to it, I think the judges will (or at least SHOULD) favor precision & technique over size & impact. With strong technicians like Gilles in the competition, I think Joey’s going to have to work on really refining his movements, while not sacrificing the big entertainment value he brings to the stage. I’m also noticing another possible problem – and I actually think the fault lies more with Kym: some of their choreography in their original season seems to favor style over substance. I’m guessing that Kym was trying to really choreograph to Joey’s strengths as a showman, but upon close scrutiny, it seems like there’s a lot of “fluff” and not a whole lot of basic steps in some of their routines – I think they got called out for it big time in that 2nd cha-cha. They may have been able to get away with excess “fluff” in their original season, but with so many talented, strong technicians this season, I don’t think they’re going to have any choice but to buckle down and give Len some good meat-and-potatoes choreography.
So now comes the obvious question: how is his time in the Vegas show going to give him an edge this season? Well I think obvious benefit is just being in the “swing” of being onstage – as I said in my post about Drew, I think anyone who has been performing on stage within the last year or so is probably going to have a bit of advantage in that they are still in the groove of performing, and are likely feeling confident in their stage presence.. Given that Joey has actually been doing ballroom for the past few months in the DWTS Vegas show, too, I daresay he is a lot less rusty than some of the others who haven’t done any dancing since their initial seasons. In particular, he seems to have cleaned up his technique and become quite the lifter:
All in all, I think it will be a big advantage for Joey, given that it’s actually given him time to sharpen up his skills. But I do see a few possible drawbacks, the biggest of which being burnout – Joey has already been dancing for a little over 3 months straight in the Vegas show, and although he seems to have a bit of a break between when the Vegas show wrapped earlier this month and when rehearsals begin in the next week or so, I think its entirely possible he may just get exhausted by the middle of the season. We’ve seen how celebs meltdown after only a few weeks – can you imagine a few MONTHS? And keep in mind that the pace of the tv show is pretty breakneck compared to the Vegas show – Joey really just had to repeat the same routines night after night out there; now he’s gotta go back to learning & performing new ones (and performing them well!) in only a few days. Keep in mind, too, that the Vegas show is a lot less “strictly ballroom” than the show – there was quite a bit of hip-hop, jazz, disco, and other genres thrown in out there. It was what I like to call “watered-down ballroom” – and we all know that’s not Len’s cup of tea. Will Joey be able to make the transition?
Court’s verdict: Joey will definitely be one to watch this season, but he’s going to have to clean up his technique quite a bit if he wants to be a real contender. Kym is also going to have to focus on giving him routines with a lot of basic steps and without a ton of fluff, so they don’t get called out for lack of content. Overall, though, I see him lasting quite awhile, and possibly even making it to the finale 😎
So what are your thoughts on Joey? Big contender, or overrated?
So far, we’ve taken a look at both Kelly Monaco & Emmitt Smith’s original seasons on DWTS. Today, we backtrack a bit to take a look at Drew’s original season
For Drew’s best dance, I waffled back & forth between he & Cheryl’s tango & paso doble…but I ultimately picked their famous “Thriller” paso doble, as I think it best shows off how Drew was the total package of skill & showmanship:
And while I noticed that Drew & Cheryl didn’t really have any truly terrible dances in their original season, per se, I ended up picking their week 1 cha-cha as their worst dance, because Drew looks a bit awkward and unsure of what to do with his hands:
Ohhh, how I DON’T miss the days before the show began broadcasting in HD 😛 Once again, I’m struck by the same thing I see when watching Emmitt & Kelly’s dances: the quality of dancing on the show has improved drastically since the first few seasons. Even though I think Drew was much better than Kelly & Emmitt from a technical perspective, I still think he’s going to be hard-pressed to match up with the skill of Joey or Gilles (two guys who didn’t even win their respective seasons), right out of the gate. I also think the choreography back then wasn’t as good as it is now – and that could prove problematic for all 3 of the early winners (Kelly, Drew, & Emmitt), as the pros have all stepped their game up quite a bit since those seasons. It could be a bit jarring for them to go from easily handling the choreography on their own seasons, to having to fight tooth and nail to just get a decent score each week of the all-star season, with the bar being raised so much. On the plus side, Drew seems to have a good deal of “attack” to his dancing – he isn’t hesitant or wishy-washy, and goes for everything 100%. Seems very confident out on the floor, and doesn’t seem to have any glaring timing issues. But man – I had forgotten how short Drew is. He moves “big” for his size, and does seem to extend his limbs impressively far, given his stature – but I’m picturing him next to the very willowy Gilles, who had quite possibly the most fantastic extension in his arms & legs of any guy I’ve ever seen on the show (except maybe Roshon, but I swear that boy was made of rubber!)…and I’m just imagining that poor Drew is just not going to measure up, no matter how far he stretches. Not his fault – but it’s unfortunately the hand he was dealt by nature. Part of me thinks he may have been physically better matched with Chelsie, since she would have given him an extra 2″ of leeway, but I do think he may actually have an advantage with Anna – these two seem to have really hit the ground running with “getting themselves out there” since the announcement of the cast. They are tweeting up a storm, have set up an official Facebook page which they are updating frequently with videos and pictures, and just seem to have forged a really great partnership – I seriously can’t stop smiling when I see these two!
So what, if anything, has Drew done since season 2 to keep his dance skills sharp? Well, he has been practicing for the 98 Degrees reunion tour, and they actually performed on the Today show yesterday:
Ok – admittedly, 98 Degrees was the boy band of the 1990’s that did the least amount of dancing…and the little they did do was pretty basic “work the mic, jazz square here, hand gesture there”-type stuff. But Drew actually seems to be taking this choreography, no matter how cheesy it looks, pretty seriously – he’s snapping his head nicely, making good eye contact, and staying on time. And as crazy as that sounds – I think that may actually be an unexpected advantage he has this season. I know everyone seems eager to point out that Joey being onstage in the Vegas show is huge advantage this season, and it is – but I would argue that really ANY contestant that has been onstage in some song & dance capactity within the last year or so has probably got an advantage. Gotta keep those performing skills sharp!
Court’s verdict: Drew is obviously going to have to step up his game quite a bit in order to compete with more recent contestants like Gilles – but he could be a bit of a dark horse this season, given his work ethic and the chemistry he has forged with Anna. He is probably the most skilled of the “early” champions, and if he’s willing to put in the effort (and Anna can give him some good choreography), he could give some of the favorites this season (Gilles, Joey, Shawn, etc.) a good run for their money. One to watch, for sure!
So what do you guys think of Drew? Possible dark horse…or a possible dud?
UPDATE: Thanks to @BeerBabeSuzi (an NKOTB friend of mine who also runs a fantastic 98 Degrees fan sitethat’s been around for 10 years!), here’s some video of 98 Degrees performing at the Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Pennsylvania over the weekend – and it looks like Drew has been practicing his Latin hips 😉 The song is “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” and it starts at about the 2:50 mark. Check out Drew on the right, getting pretty into his dance moves 😉
So last week, we took a look at Kelly Monaco’s best & worst dances from her original season. Today, we’re gonna skip over Drew (he’s coming later – and there’s a good reason why ;-)) and move onto season 3, which Emmitt won with Cheryl – and he’s partnered with her again this season. Let us reminisce…
For Emmitt’s best dance, I chose his mambo, which got a 29:
And for his worst dance, what else would I pick but the infamous, comically bad “Simply Irresistible” tango?:
Ok, is it just me, or is Emmitt kind of a “small” mover? I mean, he’s a big guy, but in both of his dances he strikes me as a bit cautious in the way he moves…I’ll admit I wasn’t a religious viewer back in season 3, but rewatching a lot of his stuff now, I have to think “Wow…and he won his season???” Like Kelly & Drew, I think his big struggle is just going to be “catching up” to the rest of the contestants from more recent seasons – because the choreography, the energy level, and the overall performance value have all gotten A LOT tougher. It’s also been 6 years since he last danced, and while 43 isn’t terribly old, it can sure feel that way for a former football player with 20 years of wear-and-tear on his body – he may find that it’s not as easy to move now as it was 6 years ago. On the plus side, Emmitt’s got a fun personality on the floor – he seems like he has a great time out there, and isn’t afraid to cut loose and shake his stuff. He’s also got a great personality, which never hurts.
Court’s verdict: Like Kelly, I think Emmitt’s biggest struggle is just going to be catching up to the caliber of competition the show has reached since his original season – and unfortunately, everyone this season (with the exception of Bristol) is a pretty decent dancer, so there’s not going to be a ton of bad dancers to burn through to shield Emmitt from elimination. He and Cheryl are both going to have to step their game up – and he may find that he needs a bit more time to practice than some of the younger, more mobile contestants. He’s got the personality factor working for him, but in order to stick around, he’s going to have to pair that personality with some more difficult choreography. Will be interesting to see what he & Cheryl pull out!
So what do you, our PureDWTS readers, think of Emmitt this season? Will he repeat the success he had in season 3 – or be sent packing early?