First off, a bit of an apology/explanation: some of you may have noticed me being a bit quiet and scarce both on Twitter and here at Pure the past few days – that was due to a rather intense bout of the stomach flu which had me sidelined for 5 days. I’m feeling much better, but still not 100%…and thus I’ve just been taking it easy, saving my energy for things like the cheese and power rankings. Thanks for hanging in there with me
…I find myself repeating a lot of the “guidelines” Heidi & I set forth about a year ago when we did our Top 10 Best & Worst freestyles in DWTS history, after watching the freestyles tonight. I feel like only one couple really knocked it out of the park, and the other two made some pretty amateurish mistakes…one in particular showed us just how green he is in the freestyle arena. And I’ve decided that I just HATE the “favorite dance” round, since it’s nothing really new, and I think it’s seldom a vast improvement on the original performance…and I think it can often turn out WORSE. Can’t we just go back to the redemption routine, where it was completely new choreography, new music, and a clean slate?
Gonna do things differently tonight, and start off with 3rd place and work my way up…
3rd place: Kelly & Val
I’m left with mixed feelings for both of their dances, overall. The paso doble started off very promising – lots of attack, and not a single falter UNTIL that rather noticeable slip of the hand and momentary loss of connection, which I have to assume was due to Kelly’s nerves. I seriously thought she might pass out, as anxious as she was looking beforehand. But she did manage to regain her footing, and I was actually impressed that she managed to do her whole turning sequence without getting dizzy or off-balance this time. But she just looked so SCARED, and while she corrected the problems from last time, she had problems with a different section this time. Was it an improvement? Sure. But I don’t think it was perfect, and I kinda wish Bruno had docked her half a point as well – if you’re going to point out an obvious error, I think you should adjust your score accordingly. Len may have given her a 10, but at least he did it WITHOUT also pointing out the mistake she made. Moving on to the freestyle…*sigh* This is the part where I chastise Val for making the rookie freestyle mistake of kinda copping out with a movie theme that is SO iconic that he & Kelly had no hope of ever living up to the original – and then even going as far as to copying some of that iconic choreography, so it makes the contrast to the original even more obvious and just makes the copier pale in comparison to the original. Historically, dance movie-themed freestyles on the show have not gone over well - examples that come to mind are Mya & Dmitry’s Hairspray freestyle, Gilles & Cheryl’s Flashdance freestyle, Evan & Anna’s Footloose freestyle, Stacy & Tony’s Saturday Night Fever freestyle, and Bristol & Mark’s Chicago freestyle. Why? They’re almost always cheap, generic knockoffs of the original, and we’re kinda just left feeling “meh” about the whole dance. I think this was the biggest flaw of Kelly & Val’s freestyle – the overall theme (and choreography) was a watered-down, lukewarm copy of the show-stopped Swayze & Grey number from the end of Dirty Dancing. Did it have relevance to Kelly & Val’s relationship? Ok, maybe – but I think they would have fared better had they stayed away from such a recognizable piece of music and the choreography associated with it, and done something more unique to them. As for the dancing itself – as with many of their dances, it felt like it took a long time for them to finally start dancing, and there seemed to be a few stutters and what I call “empty space”: gaps in the choreography where more dancing could be fit in, but instead we had…standing around. The lifts were decent, but I think they paled in comparison to both Melissa & Shawn’s; I thought the troupe rushing in like a disorganized herd of elephants was a BIG mistake, though. It was at that moment that I really lost sight of Kelly, who should have been the focus for the whole routine. The choir? Ok, cute touch, but I think it too distracted from Kelly. Overall, just wayyyy too many people onstage for her dance, and if they were going to copy anything, they should have copied the section of Tony & Cheryl’s DD routine where the group comes in, because it was far more organized and not nearly as distracting. Yes, Kelly & Val had great chemistry – but has that ever really been a problem? I guess I’m just glad they didn’t go the route of over-the-top mush, so I will give them props for that. Was it a good routine? Mehhh…they danced what they had well enough, but I just think the content (and theme) could have been much better thought out. In the end, I think Kelly will likely end up in 3rd - especially if things end up like I think they will after the instant dance. I’m guessing it’s going to be ranked, in which case I think the judges easily give her 3rd place; and “soap fanbase” or not, I think Shawn has always had her beat, and I think Melissa’s more buzzworthy at the moment.
: Shawn & Derek
I would LOVE to be wrong and for these two to win – I think they deserve it. But part of me just can’t shake the feeling that there are too many people riding on the “Melissa & Tony have never won before so they should win this time” train for Shawn & Derek to overcome – especially since they got reamed for their quickstep, which I’m feeling on-the-fence about. As I said earlier, I kinda hate the whole “repeat your favorite dance again!” concept, because I feel like the routines only have a small margin for improvement…and even if they don’t improve, the judges tend to cop out and give them inflated scores anyway. But that said – I really wish Derek would have given my nerves a rest and just tweaked the choreography a bit for a few more points. I think they still have the opportunity to slide into at least 2nd place – but I’m just not sure that the rule-breaking was worth the risk this time. The rule-breaking left the door WIDE open for those judges to storyboard the crap out of this week, for them to lowball Shawn, the early frontrunner, in order to give the impression of it being “anyone’s game”. The routine was spectacular once again – but I thought it was only maybe a tad better than the original, since there wasn’t really a lot of stuff to improve upon, other than the choreography itself. I would be resting a lot easier tonight if they had just picked their mambo and knocked it out of the park again - which makes me wonder, like Heidi, if these dances were chosen FOR them, as opposed to being chosen BY them. As for their freestyle – I may have a colorful and varied vocabulary, but I believe the best response to this once was “OMG.” STUNNING tricks, especially the counterbalance stretch at the beginning and that insane falling-face-first-towards-the-floor-from-my-partner’s-shoulders-but-gracefully-ducking-into-a-roll-at-the-last-possible-moment stunt that left me holding my breath. I officially crown that the most ambitious stunt ever attempted in DWTS history, because that was some seriously dangerous sh*t, kids. Loved the fact that Derek included bits & pieces of their mambo, bhangra, Argentine tango, and a few other dances in their freestyle – he knows Len just eats that stuff up. Also loved the Fab 5 backing Shawn up – so cute seeing them gyrating in their matching black costumes, and nailing the choreography as only a squad of Olympic gold medalists could Overall, if it were up to me, these two would walk away with the MBT tomorrow night – because they have danced flawlessly, entertained me week after week, and have brought something new to the table each time they hit the floor. That, to me, is what the champion of the all-star season should be…I’m praying I’m wrong about the results tomorrow night!
The winner: Melissa & Tony
In the end, I won’t be upset if these two win – they’ve been working hard and giving us good, drama-free dance each week, and dammit, they’re likeable I think both of them have stepped out of their comfort zone quite a bit this season and have really grown, and even though they may not have been the most technical or the most entertaining dancers each week, I still enjoyed watching them. But I do think they were a bit overscored tonight, and maybe lacked a little bit of the panache of both Shawn & Derek and Kelly & Val. Their samba – I actually think it was a little bit of a backslide from the original, because it didn’t feel as fluid to me this time. Rather than Melissa just moving through it effortlessly like she did last time, it felt a bit more…I don’t know, stop-and-go this time? As if Tony had maybe focused a bit too much on having her really accentuate each step, and the end result looked a bit too isolated. It defintely wasn’t bad, but I just preferred the original myself – seemed like she wasn’t under as much pressure and enjoyed the dance more. Then we have their freestyle – as a side note, I have to wonder if Tony was drawing inspiration from Eric Luna & Georgia Ambarian, an incredible theater arts champion couple, when he was choreographing this routine – because a lot of these lifts had a very Eric & Georgia feel to them, and even Melissa’s costume reminded me of one I’d seen on Georgia before. Anywho! I’m a little bit torn on this one – I normally complain about routines that are too lift-dependent, and I feel like this routine was almost entirely lifts. But I will say this: Tony is still the best lifter we’ve seen on the show, and I think Melissa may have given Julianne a run for her money as the best liftee tonight – because the lifts they did were just stunning. It was a beautiful routine – and I do feel like it was a good homage to Melissa’s routine on the show. But I think going with such a slow song was a bit of a gamble…the only precedent we have for a freestyle done to more of a ballad was Erin & Maks’ in season 10, and it only seem to read lukewarm with fans. I think Melissa’s was definitely better, but I wonder if she might have a more competitive edge against Shawn & Kelly with a more uptempo song. In the end, I won’t really mind too much if Melissa wins – she’s nice, she’s worked hard, and I think she & Tony have had the right attitude about this season. Guess we’ll have to see how things pan out after the instant dance…
So who do you guys think will be walking home with the MBT tomorrow night? And which returning stars are you looking forward to seeing?