PureDWTS Season 26, Week 1 – Power Rankings

So with night 1 of our abbreviated season on the books, we’re already 1/4 of the way through the season! 😛 It definitely felt weird for me to live tweet and blog this time – I haven’t had a 5 month hiatus from this show since I started blogging it back in 2009.  And given that I’m currently in the midst of working full time, going back to school, juggling a new relationship, and helping my sister plan her wedding – I can’t say I’m too disappointed that this season is a shortened one.  It’s everything I enjoy about DWTS, just condensed into a shorter time frame 🙂

I wish I could say that I didn’t notice some of the budgetary “fat trimming” the show had to do in light of breaking the bank on Idol – the lack of a live band seemed the most obvious, as some of the pre-recorded tracks were painful to the ears…like those cheapo Party City CD’s with covers of popular songs.  The costumes also seemed to get back to basics, with most of the ladies’ Latin costumes following the same basic fabric & crystal scheme, and it looks like the hair & makeup looks stayed pretty basic across the board – I didn’t see as great a degree of creativity with bold eyes & lips, as if the makeup team was told “Just make them look good on camera.  Doesn’t have to be particularly unique or bold, just get them camera-ready.” Also saw a few recycled set pieces – shout out to the house set from Alek’s jazz in season 21, which made a repeat appearance for Jennie’s foxtrot last night.

In light of this abbreviated season, I already see some debate about who the contenders are – from where I stand, Adam is likely a shoo-in for the finale, with Josh being highly likely as well; I’m not entirely sold on Mirai, as I found her a personality a bit grating and have to wonder if others did as well, plus I wonder if Alan has the choreographic chops to really make her shine in the long term.  Then again, there’s supposedly four couples in the finale this season, so I guess Mirai is highly likely as well.  As for the fourth spot – at this point in time, I could see either Chris or Tonya duking it out for the last spot…but hey, it could change in a heartbeat, if Arike or Jennie has a breakthrough, or people decide they just really, really like Kareem 😉

1.)  Adam & Jenna – I think we were all expecting these two deliver, and they did – I think they were the one pair that struck the best balance between content & technique, creativity & showmanship, and charisma…uniqueness, nerve, and talent 😉 I think Jenna may have found her muse in Adam – she was able to throw a ton of cha-cha content at him, while at the same time peppering in some voguing and waacking, without having to worry if he would be able to pull it off.  The quirk to Adam’s dancing that I think he (and Jenna) need to be aware of is his tendency to carry his body weight high – he has so much lift through his torso, that it can make a more grounded, hip-centric dance like cha-cha look a bit…wishy-washy. I’d like to see him get a bit more down-n-dirty with the next Latin dance he gets, and really sink into those hip movements. But other than that – hope these two keep up the good work, because I think they’re the strongest contenders for the win right now.

2.) Josh & Sharna – At this point, I think it’s entirely possible that Josh could play spoiler to an Adam/Mirai final two – there was enough charisma in that cha-cha to rival Adam and possibly outshine Mirai a bit, even if his technique isn’t as good as either of theirs.  If I had to compare Josh to another football player that has done DWTS, I’d say he’s more of a natural than Donald…but not as clean as Rashad…and has a bit of a goofy streak, like Jacoby…while having just the slightest bit of cockiness, like Terrell. He’s a born showman – and I think that’s what’s going to take him far this season.  He could definitely stand to tighten up some of his footwork, and smooth out some of those turns and transitions…but the raw material is there for Sharna to work with.

3.) Tonya & Sasha – To everyone that was trying so hard to convince me that Tonya would be the first out – nice try, thanks for playing 😉 If you’ve learned anything from this show, it should be that the biggest lightening rods for controversy (i.e. Bristol Palin, Ryan Lochte) are seldom the first to get sent packing – remember, kids: even bad attention is attention nonetheless. And for anyone that was hardcore gunning for Tonya to fail miserably with her dance last night – y’all do realize that once upon a time, she was a skater just like Mirai & Adam, right? I never thought she was going to suck – and really, she did the best of the four couples that got saddled with ballroom dances last night: she wasn’t stiff like Jennie, she wasn’t clipping her lines like Jamie, and she wasn’t bobbing around erratically like Johnny.  I also have to tip my hat to Sasha, who struck a nice balance between content and flash – and he also did (and has been doing) a stellar job of being exactly the kind of cheerleader that Tonya needs: someone that doesn’t care about her past, and only wants her to have the best experience she can while on the show.  That floor spin move he threw in? Totally not necessary for the content of the dance, but I think he knew that SHE needed to do it – she needed to show everyone that she was still capable of dazzling crowds.  I loved the dance, and I’m eager to see more.

4.) Mirai & Alan – Mirai did well – which was to be expected, given her background.  She actually seems to be able to handle the lifts & flexibility tricks very well, which I was a bit surprised by, given that she doesn’t skate with a partner and likely doesn’t have a ton of experience doing them. Here’s where I think she has a problem: she doesn’t always seem to know what to do with her legs, and consequently, there were a few awkward moments where she looked a tad off-balance & squatty, and seemed to be locking her knees a bit, which made some of the transitions a bit stilted. The way she moved in the salsa actually reminded me a lot of how Aly Raisman moved on the show: she never fully got the hang of bending & straightening her knees in the Latin dances. Additionally, I actually have to agree with Len on this one – it seemed like Alan sacrificed a bit of content in favor of throwing in more tricks, which I have to wonder was done in order to conceal some of her legwork issues. Jenna had it all over Alan in the choreography department this week – she was able to jam a ton of actual cha-cha content in with some extra stuff, as opposed to Alan’s omission of content in favor of more fluff.  In the end, I think Mirai will probably make the finals, but I’m not convinced she has the juice to win – she just seems to be lacking that extra little “something” that Adam has, personality-wise.

5.) Chris & Witney – Chris was one of the personalities that actually stood out to me at the cast announcement – he just seems like a fun, charming guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously, and it showed during his dance.  Chris is definitely not a natural dancer, but what he lacks in technique he makes up for in showmanship – he started the dance off looking pretty nervous, but about 20 seconds in he seemed to hit a stride and started having fun.  I think Witney went the same route Alan did and threw in more tricks and lifts to conceal some of her partner’s technical shortcomings, but it was still an entertaining dance nonetheless.  I think I actually preferred Chris in the individual sections as opposed to being in-hold – he actually seemed to do more on his own than he did while in-hold with Witney. There’s some definite potential here – eager to see what else Chris can do, and I could see him possibly bumping out a better dancer for a spot in the finale, if he can maintain this momentum.

6.) Arike & Gleb – I’ll admit that my expectations were pretty low for these two – I had seen so little of Arike, due to the restrictions the NCAA had put on her doing press for DWTS, and in the little press I did see, she seemed bewildered and totally out of her element; additionally, I didn’t really sense that she had a ton of chemistry with Gleb, which can be problematic for a partnership.  But I was pleasantly surprised with how she did – it wasn’t the best performance of the night, but Arike does have some natural musicality, and maybe even a bit of showmanship as well.  I have to chide Gleb a bit, as he seemed to get a bit sloppy with the choreography and didn’t seem to put a whole lot of basic salsa in the routine – he’s still got some growing to do as a choreographer. I guess I just hope between Arike’s crazy schedule and Gleb still trying to find his niche as a pro, they can stick around for a bit this season – I don’t see them winning, but I think they could have some longevity.

7.) Kareem & Lindsay – Here’s another “nice try, thanks for playing!” for those who were also adamant that Kareem would be first out 😉 No way in hell that one of the biggest legends in NBA history was going to get sent packing in week 1, regardless of how he did – and I’ll be honest, he didn’t do a whole lot.  I think Kareem, as the tallest celeb in DWTS history, suffers from the most extreme form of what I like to call “tall man syndrome”: he just occupies so much space that he ends up moving extra carefully, so as not to disrupt anyone around him…  particularly when it comes to his hands, which he didn’t quite seem to know what to do with. Whatever Lindsay did with Calvin to get him past his “tall man syndrome”, she needs to do with Kareem – because really, the little did do wasn’t bad: he stayed on-time, he has some musicality, and he did look like he was having fun.  I’m not sure that he’s got the juice to last through next week’s show, unless he really brings it, but I’m enjoying him while he’s here…he’s Mama Spence’s fave 🙂

8.) Jennie & Keo – I really wish had more to say here – but unfortunately, Jennie is another easygoing, low-key personality this season, and when I sat down to write these rankings, I found myself writing about every other couple…and then Jennie. Her dance was pleasant, but not technically perfect and not particularly memorable – and she’s from a relatively less mainstream sport, which she retired from 8 years ago, and has lived a quiet, low-key family life since then.  I don’t think it helped that she & Jamie danced back-to-back, either – fans seemed to already be confusing the two prior to last night.  Jennie also came across pretty nervous & stiff, and overall, her dance seemed to be a minor blip situated between more memorable dances last night…she may be headed home after next week’s show, unless she really has a breakthrough.

Thoughts on the eliminated couples:

Really & truly, I don’t know that Jamie & Johnny’s exits were due to anything they did wrong, per se – I think they both just suffered from the problem of being two very chill, easygoing personalities in a sea of more dynamic ones…with a running order/voting constraint kicker to add to their troubles. The fact that I was able to predict their exit 17 days ago (before we knew what dances they were doing, or what the running order was going to be, or how the voting was going to work) speaks to the fact that they got a bit lost in the shuffle – when you’ve got the proudly flamboyant Adam stealing the show, Chris & Josh charming the hell out of everyone, and Tonya inadvertently causing controversy, it’s hard to really make a mark if you’re a relatively quiet, non-problematic, laid-back personality. Additionally, I don’t think either one really had a stellar night with their respective dances – Jamie seemed pretty stiff & nervous, and Johnny seemed to get a bit of “excited puppy” syndrome and was hopping through his foxtrot a bit erratically. Johnny also had the added downfall of following arguably the most memorable dance of the night (Adam), while putting Jennie & Jamie (two blondes, with similar-sounding names, from less-mainstream sports, doing ballroom dances) back-to-back likely wasn’t a boon for the latter. I applaud them both, though – they did an admirable job, and made very gracious exits…and if nothing else, having someone else that was eliminated first along with you is an easier pill to swallow than being the cheese standing alone on elimination night.

So what are your thoughts on the first night of our abbreviated season? Did the right couples go home? Who are you seeing as early contenders for the MBT?