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DWTS 14, Week 4: Thoughts On How the Team Dance Selection Will Shake Out

I know most of us are pretty absorbed in speculating about who will get sent home tonight, but I think there’s something else going down tonight that could be a game-changer: the selection of the teams for the team dances.  Let’s explore, shall we? :-)

As Tom stated last night, the two cumulative highest scorers (those who have amassed the most total points so far this season) will be appointed as team captains, and will be alternating picking other couples for their teams.  In this case, it will be Gilles & Shawn.  If history is any indicator, I’m guessing the highest scorer (in this case, Gilles) will get first pick. Semi-interesting side note: prior to this week’s dances, Sabrina was actually in the lead for cumulative points – she had .5 points more than Gilles, who in turn had 1.5 points more than Shawn.  Given that Sabrina danced before Gilles last night, in order to stay at least tied for the top 2, he would have had to get at least a 36 on his Bollywood routine.  To break the tie & edge Sabrina out of the top 2, he would have had to get at least a 36.5.  And to surpass Shawn to secure the top spot (and the first pick in the team dance), he would have had to score at least a 38.5.  And even more interesting: had Shawn actually gotten a perfect score, Gilles would have needed at least a 39 to maintain his high scorer status. Draw your own conclusions, but that 39.5 for a sloppy Bollywood routine doesn’t seem so ridiculous if you take into account that they may have wanted to ensure that Gilles would get first pick in the team dance (for whatever reason).  Just food for thought. ;-)

So we’ve got Gilles & Shawn as team captains, with Gilles (probably) picking first.  The interesting thing about the team dances this time around is that they’re freestyles – so we may see some picking going on that would seem unsual in a regular season (with a team dance like the cha-cha, tango, or paso doble), but makes sense this season, given that the captains will (or at least SHOULD) also be taking into consideration which pros are good at freestyle choreography.  For that reason, if Bristol is still around, I could actually see her being one of the first ones picked – not necessarily for her dance skills, but for Mark’s freestyle skills.  I think Derek may be willing to bite the bullet and have a weaker-dancing celeb on his team (hey, he managed to make Hope look semi-presentable in the season 13 team paso!), if it means getting Mark’s creative energy to work with.

Something else that could come into play when choosing the teams? Ego. :-P Gilles seems to have a large one; Shawn seems to lack one altogether.  I have to wonder if Gilles would be willing to set aside any bad blood he has with Mark (and possibly Apolo) and pick one of them for his team…and I think both would be very strategic picks.  But my gut tells me he’s going to continue being a bit of a diva, and may snub those two in favor of someone fairly neutral who hasn’t yet called him out on his bullsh*t – possibly Melissa.  I also wonder how much the influence of Gilles & Shawn’s pro partners is going to affect their picks – once again, I wonder how much Gilles’ ego is going to come into play, and whether that will nullify any persuading Peta might be trying to do.  The only pick Peta might have any hope of securing is Kirstie & Maks, methinks…since Gilles seems to be the one driving the bus in that partnership :-P I think Shawn, on the other hand, is going to listen to Derek and any strategy he might have, and won’t let any interpersonal issues with the other cast members (if she even has any) influence her decision-making.  Very similar to Derek’s philosophy :-P

I’m having a hard time shaking the feeling that, given what I’ve mentioned above, we may end up with one team comprised of the Chmerkovskiy Faction (Gilles & Peta, Melissa & Tony, Kelly & Val, Kirstie & Maks…picked in that order) and the other team comprised of the Hough-Ballas Alliance & some “independent contractors” (Shawn & Derek, Bristol & Mark, Apolo & Karina, and Emmitt & Cheryl…feeling fairly certain that Sabrina will be leaving us tonight).  If that’s the case (or at least comes close to how things will shake out), then I’m almost convinced that Shawn’s team is just gonna mop the floor with Gilles’ team.  Shawn’s team already has an edge – they have Derek, who remains the 7-time undefeated champ in the team dance.  Poo-pooh that if you wish, but he has delivered a win every season that he’s been in the team dance…I doubt that’s just a coincidence.  If I were any of the other couples (besides Gilles & Peta and Shawn & Derek), I’d be crossing my fingers that I’d get picked for Shawn’s team, because that’s a pretty sure bet.  It’s not guaranteed safety from elimination, but it sure doesn’t hurt, either :-P

So how do you guys think the team dance selection will play out tonight? Do you have a “dream team” you’d like to see? Or a “nightmare team”, for that matter? :-P In the meantime, just contemplate the following: in a battle royale of dance skills, which of the below candidates wins?

This one…

…or this one? :-D

I rest my case. ;-)

October 16, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

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

Ok, so for a NORMAL season, this is the time where I’d usually cull videos from YouTube that show our new crop of celebrities doing dance-related things in their past that may or may not help their performance on DWTS, and then Heidi, Vogue, & I would point & laugh and generally have a grand ol’ time offering our commentary :-)  But obviously, this season is not following that pattern – there’s not much point in looking at videos of Kirstie dancing around in the kitchen scene of Look Who’s Talking or Drew Lachey gyrating onstage with 98 Degrees when we already have footage of them dancing on DWTS…so why not take a look at some of their best & worst performances from their original seasons, and see how they stack up? In addition, I’ll try to add videos of any dancing the celebs have done SINCE their season, that may or may not help them this time around.

Today we’ll start with the ladies, and we’ll start at the very beginning: season 1, which Kelly Monaco won.  For her best dance, I picked her freestyle:

And for her worst, I chose the waltz:

Ok, first thing that jumps out at me here: the bar has definitely been raised quite a bit since season 1 – the level of the dancing is much higher now than it was in Kelly’s season, which could pose some big problems for her.  I’m always a bit reluctant to pick someone’s freestyle as their “best dance” (because I think freestyles are usually pretty universally-pleasing, since the couples can do whatever they want), but in this case, I feel like it actually had quite a bit of ballroom content and thus was more on-par with what she was capable of in a regular dance.  With that being said – it’s still a pretty weak freestyle, when you look at the freestyles we’ve seen since season 1.  Kelly’s getting off-time, missing steps, and generally looking pretty wobbly on her feet – it may have gotten a 30 back in season 1, but I’d be surprised if it would have gotten anything more than a 23 in a more current season…and I think she’d be lucky to even break into the 20′s during the all-star season, if it’s going to be as competitive as I think it is.  As for her waltz – it was during the first week of the first season, so there was undoubtedly some major nerves at work and I think she just ended up very stiff & scared.  And did I just see some pretty blatant lifts in there??? I don’t necessarily think it was bad…it just wasn’t very interesting to watch.   But there isn’t going to be any room for nerves on this season, so Kelly’s going to have to overcome those pretty quickly if she wants to stick around.

So has Kelly been doing any dancing since season 1 wrapped that might help her this time around? Well…yes and no.  She did a brief stint in the burlesque revue Peepshow in Vegas back in ’09, along with Mel B (WARNING: It’s slightly racy…avert your eyes if you’re offended by pole dancing, lingerie, and gyrations):

Ok, so it looks like Kelly didn’t do a TON of real dancing in Peepshow…seems like just a lot of gyrating suggestively and being a sexpot.  So while it might not necessarily help her with her actual dancing, I do think it might help her stage presence in that it will help her evoke a more confident, sexy, smoldering character for dances like the rumba & Argentine tango.

Court’s verdict: All things considered, I think Kelly’s unfortunately one of the weaker contestants this season, and has got a lot of hard work ahead of her if she expects to stick around – the fact that there are several non-winners (Joey, Kirstie, Melissa, even Pam) on this season that are quite a bit better than Kelly in terms of dance skill tells me she’s got some tough competition.  However, she’s also still young and in good shape, which could give her an edge over some of the older contestants.

What do you guys think? Does Kelly have the juice to go all the way, or will she flame out early?

August 8, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS 14 End-of-Season Award Winners – Which Dance Was the Best?

Lesson Court learned from putting together these awards: perhaps the “other” option should be eliminated, starting with next season’s end-of-season awards :-P I got an insane number of write-in responses for the “best dance” and “celeb you most want to see on the all-star season” categories, and let’s just say it was no easy task weeding through all of the write-ins 8O I also learned that some people are too lazy (or inattentive) to click “read more” and vote in the other categories, and as a result we got almost double the number of votes for the “best dance” category than we did everything else.  I love our readers, but sometimes they drive me a little bit bonkers :-P

Other responses:

Donald & Peta’s freestyle – 23
Melissa, Maks, & Val’s samba trio – 10
Katherine & Mark’s Argentine tango – 8
Maria, Derek, & Henry’s samba trio – 4
Katherine & Mark’s jive – 4
Maria & Derek’s rumba – 3
Roshon & Chelsie’s freestyle – 3
Katherine & Mark’s freestyle – 3
Maria & Derek’s Viennese waltz – 3
Katherine, Mark, & Tristan’s cha-cha trio – 3
Sherri & Val’s foxtrot – 2
Team Paso Doble – 2
Maria & Derek’s Argentine tango – 2
Katherine & Mark’s 2nd paso doble – 2
William & Cheryl’s samba – 2
Gladys & Tristan’s cha-cha – 2
Tristan & Karina’s waltz demo – 1
Tristan & Chelsie’s DaD samba – 1
Melissa & Maks’ paso doble – 1
Katherine & Mark’s samba – 1
Roshon, Chelsie, & Sasha’s paso doble trio – 1

Courtney: Can’t say I’m too surprised at the results – the two that I predicted would do well ended up on top, and the rest got a small share of votes, likely from diehard fans of that particular couple.  I do think the jive trio was the dance of the season – the fact that they took a dance that was hard to do with only 2 people and managed to create something fun, energetic, and proper with 3 people was beyond impressive to me.  And the fact that they DIDN’T get a perfect 30 for it??? APPALLING.  I seriously think people don’t realize how HARD it is to lead 2 women – and Donald’s the only one that took on that challenge in his trio dance, and he KILLED IT.  I didn’t see Roshon or William trying to lead two ladies.  Maria & Derek’s paso was good – for this season.  I just can’t seem to get too excited about it, though, because it just wasn’t up-to-snuff with the paso choreography I’m used to seeing from Derek.  As for all the other responses – I think they all were those couples’ best dances, but probably not the best dance of the season.  Write-ins? It’s the usual smorgesbord of random dances, and I usually find myself shaking my head reading some of them, and saying “Really? You REALLY think that was the best dance?” But alas, different strokes for different folks.  :-) The only one I’m gonna comment on is Donald & Peta’s freestyle…and I guess Katherine & Mark’s, too.  I always shy away from including those as options in the “best dance of the season” category, because it seems that, unless a couple REALLY picks a dud, it’s a dance that most couples do well with, and the scoring is pretty inflated – it almost seems like too much of a gimme.  That said, I did really enjoy Donald’s freestyle – but I didn’t think the level of difficulty was as high as his jive trio was.  And I thought Katherine showed better endurance in her jive than in ther freestyle.

Vogue: Court, you took the words out of my head this time. My favorite dance of the season (and the dance I thought was the best) was Donald and Peta’s Jive trio. Donald’s fast leg and footwork amazed me at the time. So much so, I screamed to my husband in the other room to come watch (and we had to replay it after the show several times …which I don’t ever remember doing with him as long as I’ve been watching this show). Our mouths literally dropped to the floor especially when Donald jumped over the top of both girls. 8O A blow away for me as well was their Freestyle. I also loved their Paso Doble and Argentine Tango with the amusement ride twirl. Other stand out dances for me that I thought were the best were Derek and Maria’s Bollywood Trio dance and Paso Doble. Looking back now, I will remember Derek and Maria’s Bollywood Trio dance the most of their dances even though it probably wasn’t her best dance technically, but, it was different, so creative, theatrical, and entertaining. Another dance I have to give props too is also William and Cheryl’s Argentine Tango. I loved all the passion in that dance. William was so into his character and I loved his tails which is when he looked the sexiest in my opinion. :) Anyway, great poll and results!!

Heidi: Yeah, I agree with the top two – by a MILE. Say what you want about the “talent” this season, but Donald and Maria were the two most memorable. As for Derek’s choreography –  I think that Maria was one of his least naturally talented partners EVER (she’s in a club with Joanna and Shannon and wouldn’t have gone as far with ANYONE else), yet his dances with her were just as memorable as anything anyone else did. That’s quite an accomplishment for both of them. He has a way of doing that. He was really challenged with her – she wasn’t naturally talented and she was pretty injured the whole time.  Poor Derek though – he’s set his own bar too high. :-)  But the Bollywood Samba I also loved, and their rumba just because they were so into it.  As for the write ins?  Sad to say I don’t actually REMEMBER a lot of those dances. Most of Katherine’s dances have left my brain. Oddly, several of Willy’s I remember out of sheer disgust.  Someone wrote in DaD?? All I remember is Chelsie almost getting blown off a table. :-)

 

 *photo courtesy ABC/Adam Taylor

June 11, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS 14 Week 10 – Power Rankings for the Finale

For a second there, I was sure this night was a complete wash…and then Donald reaffirmed my faith in humanity with one of the most adorable freestyles I’ve ever seen on the show :-D

Not a whole lot to say that most of you haven’t already said on Twitter – there was definite overscoring going on (William), and definite underscoring going on (Donald), but in the end, I doubt the scores are going to matter a ton…because this seems like it’s going to be the fanbase battle royale for the MBT.  And if the response I saw after one couple’s freestyle was any indicator – I think they’re a shoo-in for the MBT ;-) Let’s do things in reverse tonight, starting with who I’m predicting for the 3rd place finisher…

3rd place: Katherine & Mark

Honestly, it were up to me, these two would be a definite 2nd place – but I’ve got a gut feeling that they may have gotten a little lost in the shuffle tonight, in between the judges’ golden boy and the charismatic dark horse.  I thought her paso was pretty damn good – she definitely danced with more assuredness and confidence than her first paso, and the choreo was clean, proper, and exciting.  My only complaint: it seemed to highlight Mark more than Kath, but I guess I can’t fault them too much, as paso is really the man’s dance…which just further drives the point home for me that the judges kinda screwed her a bit when they gave her the paso in the first place.  As for their freestyle – I have to commend Mark for returning to the tried-and-true formula for freestyle success: he picked something that was relevant to his celebrity, he made sure it was high-energy, and he included quite a bit of actual ballroom steps to please Len.  I think it would have been a strong competition for Donald, if only Kath hadn’t lost a bit of steam in the middle and gotten a bit stuck in the lifts.  But I liked the flapper theme, and thought Kath singing at the beginning was a great way to really make the routine relevant to her – I just wish Mark had toned it down a bit, so she could have actually made it all the way through the dance with the same high level of energy.  Ok, so they’ve got the high score – but it’s only one point more than the other 2, so it may as well be nothing…and I’m sorry, as gorgeous and talented as I think Kath is, I don’t think she can compete with the raging hormones of Willy’s fans or the magnetic personality that Donald’s fans are drawn to.  Like Ricki last season, who also had the high score after the first night of the finale (and also the first dance of the 2nd night), I think Kath may be relegated to 3rd :-( However, I would love to be wrong and have her take 2nd…provided it bumps Willy into 3rd ;-)

2nd place: William & Cheryl

I guess hoping that the overscoring would stop in the finale was wishful thinking, as I was not particularly wowed by either of Willy’s dances tonight…and the fault for that lies more with Cheryl than anyone else.  William didn’t mess up, and what he did in both of his dances was technically good – he even looked liked he was having fun, which was something I had yet to see from him this season.  But here’s the problem: the level of difficulty for both of his routines was pretty pathetic…and I genuinely feel sorry for the guy, because I think Cheryl really let him down with the choreography tonight.  Their cha-cha just felt like a recycled version of their first cha-cha, which wasn’t very impressive in terms of choreography – his hip action seemed better this time around, and he seemed more relaxed, but there was nothing particularly impactful or exciting about it.  He could have handled more – but Cheryl didn’t give it to him.  And I’m sorry, but if another contestant pulls a Miss Cleo and predicts exactly what you’ll do in your freestyle (Donald knows what’s up), then you’re probably a one-trick pony without much of an edge.  Sorry, but this freestyle was a cop-out – I’m all for picking something relevant to your partner, but this felt like nothing different than what I’ve been seeing the past 9 weeks: a bunch of gyrations, dips, ass shaking, and vaguely salsa-y moves.  Even the lifts were pretty elementary - William’s a muscular guy, and he could have handled more heavy lifting.  He didn’t mess up, and he seemed to have fun – but the choreography didn’t show me that he was really a great dancer. Overall, at the end of it, I was just kinda left saying “So what else is new?” But I’ve got a feeling that hormones will prevail tomorrow night, and at least carry William into the final two…with his complacent partner, who probably didn’t even bother choreographing anything truly innovative, because she knew they’d be overscored anyway – just like they’ve been all season.

The Winner: Donald & Peta

The last remaining couple untainted by the fishy overscoring of this season – and thankfully, I think they came across as the most likeable, as well :-D While I SOMEWHAT agreed with Len that their Argentine tango was a tad on the safe side, I still think it was underscored, given that William & Cheryl just regurgitated their first week cha-cha (which is probably the ultimate “safe” move), and the first go-round, Len bitched that their Argentine tango “lacked content”.  So they gave him more content…and now it’s “too safe?” Poor Donald just can’t win with Len.  Whatever.  Len sure couldn’t bitch & moan after that freestyle they did, though – it was EASILY the best of the night, as the energy was through the roof and stayed there the entire routine, and Donald totally pwned those lifts.  And really – who would have guessed that Donald would pull out the country card and get out there and line dance? That was fresh & unexpected – yet somehow still strangely relevant to Donald, as I think it really showed us how multi-talented he is…and a goofball, at that :-P I’ve got a good feeling about tomorrow night, that justice will somehow prevail and the grand plans of TPTB will be squashed by a legion of fed-up fans voting for the little Quickie That Could…suck it, Univision merger ;-)

So who do you guys think will walk away with the MBT tomorrow? And how do you think this “24 hour dance challenge” will turn out? If they don’t rank the routines (30, 28, 26), I’m totally predicting they cop-out and give all three of them 30′s, just like instant samba last season.  But aside from that…which returning stars are you most looking forward to seeing? I’m all about some Jack, Gladys, & Roshon, myself ;-)

May 21, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

Mark Ballas Autographed CD Giveaway – Courtesy of Mohegan Sun & PureDWTS!!!

Thought that might get you guys’ attention ;-) Yes, friends, the rumors are true: we have in our possession a copy of Mark Ballas’ album HurtLoveBox that is signed by none other than Mark himself! And we know there’s several of you out there that are probably just DYING to get your hands on it…

…so how can you win this fabulous prize? Well, we’re gonna make you guys work a little harder for it this time.  In order to enter, you’ve got to play “Impossible DWTS Trivia” – the questions will all be about Mark & DWTS, and you will be able to find all the answers somewhere on PureDWTS.com.  But you will have to do a little bit of digging ;-) Each correct answer will count as one entry into the contest, and the winner will be chosen randomly from all the entries – so the more questions you can answer correctly, the better your chances of winning. No good at trivia? NO WORRIES! There are other ways to enter, too.

So here’s what you have to do:
. Read more..

March 8, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS13 End-of-Season Award Winners – Which Dance Was the Worst?

Other responses:

Hope & Maks’ rumba – 6

Ricki & Derek’s jive – 3

Hope & Maks’ first jive – 3

Chaz/Any dance from Chaz – 3 (Another one I’m tempted to throw out, because this seems a bit mean-spirited…and it doesn’t follow the directions)

Hope & Maks’ paso doble – 2

Elisabetta & Val’s cha-cha – 2

Ricki & Derek’s samba – 1

David & Kym’s rumba – 1

Ricki & Derek’s freestyle – 1

Rob & Cheryl’s samba – 1

Nancy & Tristan’s rumba – 1

Chaz & Lacey’s rumba – 1

Ricki & Derek’s paso doble – 1

Too many to list – 1

Courtney: Again, no big surprises here – looking back, I really do think Ron/Metta & Peta’s cha-cha was pretty hard to watch…and just kind of bizarre.  Hope & Maks’ tango, while very “clunky”, didn’t seem as bad to me – she was at least trying, where I felt like Ron just said “f*ck it” and was out there just winging it.  I have to give Nancy & Tristan’s jive a bit of a free pass, considering they got what I think could be the WORST jive song in the history of the show.  Chynna  had a brain fart – yes, it was hard to watch her crash & burn out there, but after seeing their encore performance during the finale, the dance itself didn’t seem quite so bad.  I would say that Rob & Cheryl’s Viennese waltz the first week had the potential to be as bad as Ron’s cha-cha, but Cheryl is such a pro at this point, I think she managed to conceal more of Rob’s flaws with backleading than Peta did with Ron’s.  JR & Karina’s cha-cha – yeah, it was a pretty hot mess, but I found that JR’s dancing in the finale was generally not up to snuff with the other stuff he had done all season…chalk it up to injury, I guess.  David & Kym’s jive was another hot mess, but again – he at least looked like he was trying.  It’s funny how effort can make or break a dance for me – a dance can be a hot mess, but I tend to cut it a bit of a break if I feel like the celeb is at least TRYING.  Likewise, a dance can be pretty good, but if I feel like the celeb is not really trying  or doesn’t really care (think Kate Gosselin) – I cannot bring myself to like it, no matter how great it may be.  Rounding out the write in category, I’ve got to raise my eyebrows at some of the responses, unfortunately.  Regardless of how one feels about Chaz’ life decisions, I don’t think all of Chaz’s dances were the worst ones this season, by any stretch – in fact, his cha-cha and samba were both pretty good, in my eyes.  And regardless of how one feels about Ricki and/or Derek, I don’t think any of their dances came close to being the worst, either – I think they may have gotten excessive praise for a few of them, but I don’t think any of them are inherently bad.  Hell, I was actually surprised that no one brought up their 80′s foxtrot – if any of their dances seemed even remotely qualified to be the worst of the season, it was that one…but again, I blame a crappy song and theme.  It’s funny that people bring up Hope & Maks’ rumba – with all the drama that followed it that week, I think it may have colored some people’s opinions of that dance for the worse; however, I actually kinda liked it, because Hope actually seemed to let go and show some vulnerability that week.  I just hated those damn flat boots she had to wear :-)

Heidi: Heh. I forgot Ron was even on this past season, so it would be difficult for me to call him the “worst” – maybe being utterly forgotten is worse than being the worst. :-)  I always laugh when someone throws in Ricki and Derek for a “worst dance” category.  She was not Derek’s best partner ever, but worst out of this group? LOL – I think a bit of envy is at play here.  I will also freely admit that Maks’ and Hope’s behavior toward the end of the season completely colored my thoughts on their dancing and, frankly, them as people.  But you know what? That is the risk you take when you persist in that type of behavior with no apologies. You have to own it.  Be responsible for it.  Like it or not, you’re on TELEVISION and what you do will have an impact on people, either positive or negative.  Now, I’ve had a negative opinion on Maks before and he turned it (and me) around with Kirstie. He may be able to do it again. But how many times can one keep making the same mistake before they just get written off?  So, at the end of the day, that is likely what you’re seeing in the number 2 ranking for Hope and Maks – unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your POV) I’m rarely alone in my opinions or reactions. I’m just not that unique. :-)  As for Tony and Chynna – I think people are very sympathetic with someone just blanking on someone and then feeling awful about it. Sympathy plays a huge part in this show, as we’ve said time and again. Plus, I think most people can see the difference between forgetting ones steps and being a “bad” dancer.  I don’t think she got voted out for blanking, I just don’t think she had a fanbase to begin with and her previously good scores had been protecting her from elimination.

Vogue: Wow, I’m shocked to see Maks and Hope’s Tango scoring so high for worst dance? 8O But, looking back at it again, I was quickly reminded of her “attitude” which was turning a lot of fans off at the time including myself. I also thought Tony and Chynna’s Tango would have scored higher as “worst dance”. In the end, I agree with who won in this catagory. Ron didn’t even seem to care and Peta seemed to have given up as well on him which I didn’t fault her a bit. If she comes back this next season, I really hope she gets a good partner. I’d really like to see her given a good chance to teach.

*photo courtesy ABC/Adam Taylor

January 16, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS13 End-of-Season Award Winners – Which Dance Was the Best?

You guys voted…now it’s time to reveal your picks for the bests and worsts of season 13!

Other responses (keep in mind I am paraphrasing, as there were some…creatively-written responses ;-)):

JR & Karina’s freestyle – 11

JR & Karina’s waltz – 7

Nancy & Tristan’s rumba – 4

JR & Karina’s rumba – 4

JR & Karina’s 1st jive – 4

Ricki & Derek’s rumba – 3

Ricki & Derek’s quickstep – 2

JR & Karina’s instant jive – 2

Rob & Cheryl’s tango – 1

Elisabetta & Val’s quickstep - 1

Ricki & Derek’s paso doble – 1

Ricki & Derek’s portion of the team paso doble – 1

Rob & Cheryl/JR & Karina’s instant samba – 1

Kristin & Mark’s samba – 1

Kristin & Mark’s quickstep – 1

JR & Karina’s “Vietnamese” waltz – 1 (I assume you meant “Viennese”? :-))

Chynna & Tony’s rumba – 1

Derek & Mark’s dance w/Charm – 1 (one of the results show dances)

Chaz & Lacey’s rumba – 1

Carson & Anna’s Vogue – 1

GET NANCY OFF THE STAGE – 1 (I have half a mind to toss this one out completely…)

None really impressed me to say they were the best – 1

Courtney: Can’t say I’m too surprised – choreographically, I think Ricki & Derek’s tango was really the strongest dance of the season, and the execution and performance value were there as well.  It’s also a great example of how a less-than-desirable song/theme isn’t necessarily a death sentence, if put in the hands of a creative pro – in fact, a challenging song can often push a pro to really rise to the occasion and crank out something incredible.  JR & Karina’s samba was fun & well-executed, but maybe not quite as creative; ditto for Rob & Cheryl’s samba.  Gotta say – I was kind of rooting for Carson & Anna’s cha-cha.  It has yet to get old for me :-) Nancy & Tristan’s foxtrot and Hope & Maks’ quickstep were both fun & light, but I actually think Hope & Maks’ foxtrot was a stronger dance, both performance-wise and technique-wise…but I feel like it got overlooked because it was wedged between two weeks where Hope didn’t do so great.  The quickstep happened during her “breakthrough” week, so I think it comparison it may have appeared better than it really was. Hope looked to me like she was holding on for dear life in the quickstep, but seemed much more at-ease during her foxtrot.  I dunno…it is what it is.  Other responses: I liked JR & Karina’s freestyle a lot, but for some reason (which I can’t really put my finger on), it’s lacking a certain something for me that would really qualify it as the best dance of the season.  I have to raise my eyebrows a bit at the fact that 4 people (or rather, 4 different IP addresses ;-)) really thought Nancy & Tristan’s rumba was the best dance of the season…I mean, the dirty glance Tristan tossed Carrie Ann’s way at the beginning was hot, but other than that…Nancy was kinda lifeless in that dance, at least for me. As I recall, the judges weren’t too keen on it, either.

Heidi: I think JR was up and down an awful lot for someone who won the show, actually – and their freestyle??  I know we discussed it at the time but I can’t put my finger on it either.  There was nothing really technical in it beyond the one or two lifts – I always seem to prefer the freestyles that stick to a lot of ballroom moves but break all the rules in terms of lifts and hold – which explains why I am a Derek fan. He generally puts a lot of ballroom in his freestyles.  Tristan and Nancy?? Just no.  I liked them as a couple, and Tristan is a cutie – but the jury is still out on his choreo skills.  Nothing I saw from them was “wow” – although I adored the Spamalot dance just cuz it was Spamalot. :-) And I’ll give credit to Maks’ fans for being loyal at least.  Best dance of the season? Nope. Their dances were just too awkward looking most of the time.

Vogue: I don’t think I’ll ever forget my jaw dropping during and after Ricki and Derek’s Psycho performance. I love it when that happens. I’m a huge fan of theatre-like dance productions anyway being a huge fan to Madonna and Lady Gaga. Derek covered all of his bases not only with the dance itself, but, with the costuming and the brilliant backdropping. This performance will go down as one of the ‘most memorable’ on Dancing With The Stars. I’ll never forget it. I also loved Maks and Hope’s Quickstep. I felt they were both finally starting to find their element with this dance. It was good to see her finally relaxing. Whatever the case, their Quickstep gets best costuming. :D

Keep watching in the coming weeks as we reveal more of the results of your voting! :-)

January 11, 2012 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS13 Finale Week Power Rankings – Who Will Win?

Gotta say – going into tonight, I couldn’t recall a time I was THIS EXCITED to see a finale since maybe season 10.  Nor have I ever felt this invested in the outcome of a season of the show as I am in this one…seriously guys, I might lose my faith in humanity if JR does not win.  Fair warning. ;-)

Anywho – as much as I hoped this would be a good, clean, honest finale, there unfortunately seemed to be some shady business afoot.  DEFINITE overscoring, and I think you all know who I’m referring to.  Overall, the “last unlearned dance” round was pretty underwhelming & lackluster, and the freestyle round only slightly made up for it for me.  But let’s get on with it, shall we? Gonna do things a little differently tonight – I’m gonna start with 3rd place and work my way up to the winner, and I’m going to try to guesstimate how things are going to pan out tomorrow night.

3rd place: Rob & Cheryl

As much as Rob may have endeared himself to me this season, methinks he wasn’t as good as his scores would lead us to believe this evening.  The waltz was pleasant – if not a bit goofy.  That whole “run towards one another and I’ll run around Cheryl as she spins” move made me chuckle a bit…my mom busted out laughing, and said “It looks like he’s going around the Maypole!” And I had to laugh too – because that’s exactly what it looked like.  :-P Some footwork & timing issues as well, but overall I wouldn’t say it was painful to watch…just…goofy. :-) Now the freestyle.  *sigh* I liked the idea of it, I really did.  And I thought it was smart of Cheryl to go with something that seemed to play on Rob’s strengths.  But that was by no means a 30-worthy routine.  Seemed like Cheryl did most of the tough stuff (it was like Gilles’ freestyle all over again), and it just took too long to really go anywhere.  Rob did the best he could with what he was given – little imp.  Got a bit scared when he was spinning around with Cheryl on his shoulders, though – thought I was gonna have to use my physics minor to calculate tangential velocity as she flew across the room.  I think Rob really likes going around in circles, hehe. Cute idea &  choreography – but it was just lacking in content for me, and I don’t think I’m completely alone.  So why, then, did the judges give it a 30? *shrugs* Who knows.  Part of me thinks they might be trying to shake up the top 2 by displacing Ricki or JR; part of me thinks this could have been a strange strategy for spurring Ricki & JR fans to vote even harder.  I honestly can’t give you a theory that’s 100% sound or reasonable.  But I am gonna put my faith in humanity (god help me) and say that Rob will probably get 3rd in the favorite dance round tomorrow, and won’t get the points to overcome JR or Ricki.  But it’s been nice seeing Rob evolve from kind of a douchebaggy guy to a goofy but kinda lovable guy that managed to emerge from the shadow of his harpies-er, sisters. ;-) Read more..

November 21, 2011 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS13 Freestyle Retrospective: The Top 10 Worst Freestyles in DWTS History

So every season, as we draw nearer & nearer to the finale, it seems like the question on everyone’s lips is “What are they gonna do for their freestyle?” We debate which pros are the stronger freestyle choreographers, which celebs can handle the lifts, who’s got the most dance skills, who is going to struggle, etc. So Heidi & I decided to tackle the big question: what makes a good DWTS freestyle?

While everyone may argue over what works and what doesn’t, with 12 seasons under our belts, we have enough historical data to see some patterns – and there are definitely some things that all good freestyles seem to have in common, and some things that the bad freestyles have in common. Today we’re starting with the worst – these are examples of what this season’s finalists should likely avoid, and of which they should probably try to do the opposite :-)

A little insight into how we arrived at this list: I made a list of my own, and then bumped it against a list Heidi made and we looked for similarities. I also asked for suggestions on Twitter, to see if my finger was on the pulse of the more dedicated viewing audience; I polled my co-workers (likely more representative of the average viewer than most of us lurking on the Net ;-)) as well to get their thoughts. Turns out, most of you guys came up with the same examples of good & bad – which is good, since it shows that opinions on freestyles seem to be pretty universal. But without further ado, I give you the top 10 WORST freestyles in DWTS history:

10.) Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas, season 12

Courtney: This was one that a lot of you seemed divided on – some of you loved it, some of you hated it. I ultimately decided to include it in the “worst” list because it seemed to have something in common with a lot of the other freestyles on this list: it wasn’t reflective of the celeb it was meant to showcase. Yes, it was high-energy, it was well-executed (for the most part), and it was entertaining – but what did it really have to do with Chelsea? While she managed to keep up with Mark fairly well and got through the choreography, I never really got the feeling that it was a routine she really felt connected to, or that she even would have picked for herself. It was as if she had given Mark carte blanche with the routine and he chose everything – the music, the costumes, the theme, etc., and Chelsea was just along for the ride. I think choosing an obscure song didn’t help, and the choreo seemed to showcase Mark more than Chelsea – the poor girl just seemed to be trying to keep her head above water. Add to that some bland costumes and a wardrobe malfunction, and you’ve got a freestyle that’s overall just “Meh.” Definitely not 30-worthy, IMO.

Heidi: Well, this one I would have put in “dishonorable mentions” but it’s almost in that pile anyway, at slot #10. :-) The problem here, like you say, was Chelsea wasn’t connected to it (and similar ideas appear throughout this post). Not only that, but the music didn’t really match the costumes and none of it matched the choreo. It seemed all mixed up to me. It had a latin flavor, yet they were doing a light hip hop type choreo (I don’t really know how else to explain that) and their costumes matched neither. Then – why the lights and the bike?? I feel like I missed something on this one. There was also a section where it seemed like they just went from one cool trick to the next. The best freestyles (including some of Mark’s) had a good bit of actual ballroom dancing thrown in in places. This one is just a bit weird for me.

9.) Evan Lysacek & Anna Trebunskaya, season 10

Heidi: PEOPLE, unless your pro is Dmitry – do NOT argue with them about choreography. At all. Geez. That said, this is another freestyle that was good on paper, but in execution just didn’t work for some reason. Clearly it worked in person, since the studio crowd loved it…but the dance didn’t seem to fit either Evan OR Footloose. When Derek did Grease with Brooke, there was a clear, but brief, homage to the movie. The dance went with the song and it worked perfectly for Brooke. When he did a song from Dirty Dancing with Jennifer – again, a subtle, brief homage to the movie and it worked for Jennifer because, of course – she was in the movie. I think by the time they get to the freestyle the pros are just drained and they forget to really tie it altogether – and if you pick an iconic song, you have to really tie it altogether so that the dancing fits the iconic song but also works for your partner. It seems like this dance doesn’t fit either. He didn’t dance it badly by any stretch, but neither did Gilles in their Flashdance freestyle. That doesn’t make it good.

Courtney: I was always a bit puzzled as to why they picked Footloose – did one of them really, really like the movie? Or was it just another easy, dance movie theme to go with? I think that’s the one big difference between a freestyle like Jennifer’s and a freestyle like Evan’s (or Mya’s, or Gilles’, or Stacy’s – see below) – relevance. Dirty Dancing was relevant to Jennifer; but was Footloose really relevant to Evan? I want a freestyle to basically sum up a partnership for me – I want it to feel like both the celeb & the pro connect to both the dance and each other, and for the routine to feel like a nice closure to their season together. For me, going with Footloose as their theme left more questions than answers. Ooh, and can I just say that I think bringing in an outside choreographer is the absolute kiss of death? It doesn’t see to mesh well with the chemistry the couple has forged over the course of the season, and usually leads to coupled being led dangerously out of their comfort zone. And both Evan & Anna seemed uncomfortable with this one – almost pained, at times. Read more..

November 16, 2011 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

PureDWTS Rants & Raves: To Lift or Not to Lift?

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed me “getting up on my soapbox” the past few weeks regarding something that has been debated from several different angles around PureDWTS: lifts.  We’ve casually kicked around the pros & cons of them: do they enhance the routine, or are they just filler? Should they be required? Should they be prohibited? Are they safe? What exactly constitutes a lift, anyway? Well here it is, kids – the place where we can really get down to the nitty-gritty of lifts.

My sudden fixation with the topic started about 2 weeks ago, while watching a movie with my boyfriend (who, as many of you know, is a pro ballroom dancer/teacher).  He kept squirming around, trying to get comfortable, and failing.  Finally, getting annoyed with all his wiggling, I asked what was wrong.  “Oh, I just strained my neck a little bit doing a lift with one of my students today.  It’s just a little sore.” Seemed benign enough – minor soreness from doing a new lift.  But over the course of the next week, the pain intensified, to the point where he was unable to turn his head to the right AT ALL, and had to turn his whole body to face me when I was talking (which was actually kind of cool, since it made me think  he was just really listening to me intently ;-)) and had to institute a temporary ban on lifting at the dance studio. He iced it.  He put a heating pad on it.  He stretched it. He used a special neck pillow. He took some Tylenol. He went and got 3 massages in one week – all to little avail.  Things were starting to take their toll on both of us, as my bf was in too much pain to ride his motorcycle, sit upright for very long, or do any sort of vigorous activity. Finally, at the recommendation of one of his students (and me, as I had been HOUNDING him about it), he finally went to the chiropractor last Friday, and after taking one look at my bf’s x-ray, the chiropractor exclaimed “Ooh, no wonder you’ve been in pain – your C4 & C5 vertebrae are wayyyy out of alignment!” A few minutes with the TENS unit and some adjusting with the chiropractor later, he was FINALLY experiencing some relief.  That was a week ago – he’s been to the chiro a few more times since then, and he’s probably 85% better. But the no-lift rule at the studio still stands until he’s back to 100% and gets the all-clear from the chiropractor.

So the most obvious question brought up by my bf’s dilemma is “Are lifts safe?” The answer: no.  Read my lips: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “SAFE” LIFT. Sure, there are techniques to make them safer, and some are clearly safer than others, but all lifts are inherently dangerous, as there is always going to be the risk of injury from falling or being fallen on, as well as other sprains, strains, and even breaks from trying to correct a fall that is already in motion.  In fact, the very appeal of lifts is in the danger – the awe-spiring risk of doing them in the first place, and often the romantic notion of the delicate lady being in harm’s way, but protected by the strong arms of a handsome male lead.  No wonder all of my boyfriend’s students want lifts in their showcase routines! ;-)

Which brings up the next question: should they even be doing lifts in the first place? Obviously, it’s always going to be safer for a couple already experienced in lifting to be doing lifts (check out Eric Luna & Georgia Ambarian, the current world champions in the theater arts division), and it’s a downright TERRIBLE idea for two inexperienced individuals to start attempting them without the guidance and supervision of someone with experience (this is a good example of people that should NOT being doing lifts!).  But both my boyfriend’s predicament and that of the couples on DWTS is a bit more of a grey area – the situation where only half of the couple is experienced. In this particular case, I’m a firm believer that the more experienced member of the partnership is the one more likely to get hurt, regardless of gender.  Since they’re experienced, they’re going to be more likely to be hurt by the rookie mistakes of their partner, and more likely to try & protect their partner from harm…and possibly injure themselves as a result.  My boyfriend is a good example of this, as his neck injury was the result of him compensating for a student who couldn’t quite get the right leverage to get up onto his shoulder; Kym’s neck injury this past season is also a good example, as it was Hines who lost his balance and fell onto Kym, likely due to pure inexperience.  Toni Redpath (a former Australian ballroom champion & a frequent guest judge/choreographer on SYTYCD) did a great video blog a few weeks back (thanks for pointing this out, Evaine! Quite timely ;-)) which did a good job of explaining why lifts are allowed in ballroom routines on SYTYCD but not on DWTS – and the biggest reason was *drumroll* EXPERIENCE.  All the dancers on SYTYCD have some experience with dance, which makes the transition to lifting quite a bit smoother for them than a celebrity with zero dance experience. Not only does it make life a bit easier on the celebs, but it keeps the couples safer, too. 

But let’s say experience is not an issue.  From a choreographic standpoint, should everybody be peppering lifts into their routines? I certainly don’t think so.  Heidi always brings up an interesting argument whenever someone starts comparing ballroom on SYTYCD to ballroom on DWTS and the subject of lifts comes up: when used in excess, lifts tend be a bit of a cop-out, choreographically. It can often let bad dancers get away with not really dancing, and results in a routine that is more “flash & trash” than meat-and-potatoes dance steps – and can end up looking NOTHING like the dance it’s meant to portray.  The best example of this that I can think of is Channing & Philip’s samba from season 6 of SYTYCD.  While not inherently “bad”, the routine only has a few basic samba steps in it, and the rest was a lot of shimmying and (rather clumsily-executed) lifts.  Of course the video cuts out before the judges give their commentary, but I distinctly remember Adam actually calling out the choreographers on this one for making the routine “too lifty”.  I feel like lifts can also interrupt the “flow” of a dance if not placed properly – for a lift to work choreographically, I think it has to have proper timing & musicality, and have very fluid transitions in & out of it.  Otherwise you end up with routines like Channing & Philip’s, which feels jerky & disjointed – “Look I’m doing samba, I’m doing samba, I’m doing samba…ooh now I’m stopping samba & doing a lift…aaaaaand I’m back to dancing samba…STOP! time for another lift-and more samba….” It’s just visually…displeasing. Now don’t get me wrong – a few well-placed, well-executed lifts can enhance a routine.  A great example is Riccardo Cocchi & Yulia Zagoruychenko’s samba showdance from the 2009 America’s Ballroom Challenge (does the move at 1:06 look familiar? Derek used it at the end of his samba with Nicole ;-)).  Only one lift, and they ended up winning the showdance category, over 5 other couples – most of whom had more lifts. IMHO, you don’t need lifts to make ANY routine on DWTS (including the freestyle) look good.  Derek had no choice but to come up with alternatives to lifts in season 11, when Jennifer made it clear from day 1 that her neck injury made lifting an impossibility – and they still managed to win, and create some very memorable routines while they were at it. Their lift-minimal Argentine tango still stands out to me as one of the best we’ve ever had on the show.

So the bf & I were talking about lifts at-length the other night, and he said something that stuck with me: “You know, DWTS is great for the attention it has brought to ballroom dancing & all, but it’s really left some people with an unrealistic idea of what ballroom is and isn’t.” He went on to explain that he gets new students in the studio who are frustrated upon finding out that they won’t be dancing eye-catching routines like the ones on TV right off the bat, and many of them seem more concerned with costumes & music than technique & solid choreography.  I can imagine it gets very frustrating for dance teachers like him – especially when the demand for flashy nuances like lifts necessitates them risking their own safety.  The format of DWTS has actually forced my bf’s studio to start doing more showcase routines with their students (as opposed to focusing on good technique for competition) – and as my bf puts it, “every single one of my ladies wants lifts in her routine – and if they think one of the other ladies has more/better lifts, they’ll ask for more.  It’s KILLING me!” And me as well, since he often comes home cranky & sore and barely able to move…let alone do other activities. ;-)

So I’ve said my piece with regards to lifts…what do you guys think? LAY IT ON ME :-D

August 9, 2011 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!