DWTS 15 All-Stars: The Great “Previous Dance Experience” Debate – Melissa Rycroft Edition

 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?