William Levy – 9 (Not sure how you can improve your ass-shaking & shirt-removing technique a whole lot…)
Roshon Fegan – 7
Gladys Knight – 3
Jaleel White – 2 (Maybe if you consider witholding his crocodile tears an improvement…)
Sherri Shepherd – 1
Everyone – 1 (If only that were true )
Courtney: I don’t think this season’s “most improved” award was quite as clear for me as it’s been in previous seasons - I know when I voted in season 12, it was like “Duh, ROMEO!” and in season 13, “Of course it’s Rob!!!” This season, I found myself wavering a bit, as it seems like a lot of people started out being good and then stayed pretty good the entire season – and then there were others who were a bit up-and-down. In the end, though, I think the improvement was most apparent with Maria. I remember muttering “Yikes!” after her cha-cha in week one, as she looked downright terrified and pretty unsteady on her legs. Then she looked a bit more relaxed and in the zone in week 2, and a little more in week 3, etc. By the time classical week rolled around and she managed to get the first perfect 30 of the season, I was pretty impressed. As for Donald – I do think he improved, but it wasn’t quite as marked as Maria – plus he really never seemed to get the love he deserved from the judges, so I guess it kinda distorted things for me. It became a matter of “Is he really improving drastically, or are the judges just finally warming up to him?” I will credit Melissa with improving in her stage presence, but overall, I think her dancing only improved slightly during her stint on the show. I think Gavin could have improved quite a bit, had he stuck around a little longer – but his transformation in the short time he was on was enjoyable nonetheless. I feel the same about Roshon as I do about Donald – I don’t know that he was truly improving (I thought he was pretty good the whole season), but the judges just seemed to vacillate between lavishing praise upon him and absolutely ripping him to shreds from week to week, so I think it gave a false impression of him having all of these dramatic ups and downs. I thought Gladys gave it a good try, but only had a slight net improvement throughout the season; I thought Jaleel was down more than he was up; and I still don’t think I even saw enough real dancing from William to even determine if he improved greatly. I think his finale cha-cha looked better than his week 1 cha-cha, but that’s the only benchmark I have to compare to.
Vogue: Court, I’m with you again. When I first read this Poll, I was baffled for who to vote for “most improved”? With every season we’ve done this, I usually know straight away for who to answer with, but, not this time. After thinking on it, I voted for Maria. Looking back to her first interviews and first dances, she was weak and a little uncoordinated. She so nervous and unconfident. She was worried she wouldn’t be as good as Derek’s other partners which she voiced several times in interviews which, in turn, made me nervous for her too. Well, just like Derek said, he worked on her “walk” first. After that, he totally molded her into a confident dancer. Soon, we saw her relaxing and them playing off of each other’s humor and creativity. His Fox totem was hard at work and in tune again. He can “blend” into anyone to make a union work. It amazes me how he can do that season after season. It’s too bad Jack Wagner was sent home so early. I think he could have improved more with every show too.
Heidi: Yeah, I’d go with Maria. The problem with this category is that you pretty much have to totally tune out the judges nonsense and the crowd reaction to get to the heart of what is real – that’s very hard to do. Roshon started out good and stayed good – but it’s easy to think there is actual improvement when one week the judges are saying how poorly you did and the next week they are raving. It’s very easy to hear all that “noise” from them and have it start to sink in. As for Donald? The judges never liked him, IMO, and never “wanted” him to win (I think in the end their rank comes out in the scoring regardless), so when they finally started giving him credit it was like an epiphany. “Oh, he’s improving!!” Well, maybe – but not as much as Maria. The judges own bias turns into noise, which turns into false impressions for a lot of the dancers. But I think Maria truly went from “Bambi on ice” (per Derek) to a decent dancer. She’s not the best of his partners in terms of dance quality, but I think she did go the farthest in terms of growth.
*photo courtesy ABC/Adam Taylor