PureDWTS Season 27, Week 2, Night 1 – Power Rankings

Two hours down – two more to go this week! While I still love DWTS, I gotta admit: these (2) two-hour show weeks are a bit much to watch/write about sometimes – so I can only imagine how hard it’s been on the contestants.  It was likely frustrating enough having to learn two routines last week, only to be told “Hey, only half of you are actually going to have to perform the second routine!” Now this week, it’s two different styles, and everyone’s gotta dance again tonight.  Adding to the tension is the fact that tonight is allegedly a double elim, so the stakes are getting pretty high, pretty quick – everyone dancing this season has my respect for dealing with some pretty tough stuff, so early on in the competition.

Last night was also our first theme night, which means there was the usual shoehorning to get certain dances to fit certain New York-themed songs that aren’t necessarily ideal for the dances they’re being played to. It’s something I try to keep in mind anymore when I feel like something doesn’t necessarily fit – sometimes it’s not really the pro/choreographer’s fault, so much as it is the music editor’s fault. Keeps things in perspective.

One variable that I’m not quite sure how it will play out in this week’s results? Last week’s revelation of the bottom 6. We might see the voters rally for those particular six, as a result of their being in danger last week; we could see some of the couples that were safe last week suddenly in jeopardy, as the lack of exposure on night 2 last week could have made them fade in viewers minds.  Or maybe some of the folks who just weren’t getting the votes last week, still ain’t getting ’em this week – and so they’re still in danger.  Who knows. We haven’t really had a situation like this before, so there’s no precedent to help us predict how it’s going to shake out – and I’m 100% cool with that.  Remember, after 9 years of blogging this show – I just want to see something unexpected 🙂

Other observations? I would have been just fine without the bumpers from Kelly & Ryan and the GMA crew – particularly the latter, which included the omnipresent Ginger, once again using it as an opportunity that she, too, did DWTS (2.5 years ago, mind you – time to get a new schtick, gal). Also feeling a bit optimistic about seeing Jesse Tyler Ferguson in the audience – sure, he was just there promoting Modern Family, but given that it’s now in its final season, dare I hope that his schedule clears up enough that we might see him on a future season…? 😉

1.) DeMarcus & Lindsay – Just as a reminder: the power rankings are not about who danced best; they’re about who has the potential to stick around and avoid elimination.  So with that in mind, I think DeMarcus is statistically the safest again this week – and barring some PR disaster (such as biting the head off a bat onstage, a la Ozzy Osbourne), I think DeMarcus & Lindsay will likely continue to be statistically the safest couple for awhile.  I mentioned it in my preliminary thoughts post, but here it is again: I don’t think DeMarcus has to be the best dancer to win this thing. I think he just has to be decent, show improvement, and be charming – ’cause he’s got demographics on his side. He had another solid dance last night – there were a few issues with the frame and he may have been a bit stiff at the beginning, but he is improving, and he’s still got an amazing, charismatic stage presence. I was also VERY impressed with his footwork, which is usually a weak point for bigger guys with big feet – he was doing heel leads, he was giving rise and fall…and that’s incredibly hard to teach. He also moves big while not being out-of-control (hello, Bobby) and stays in step nicely with Lindsay.  No complaints here – just keep up the great work, and keep charming the audience 🙂

2.) Tinashe & Brandon – I think these two get my award for “best overall execution” of the night – I think Brandon brought it with the choreography, and Tinashe delivered with the technique.  Len may have been bitching about it not being a “traditional” Argentine tango, but given that the song was anything but traditional, I think the choreography had to go in a more modern, edgy direction in order to make the dance work.  And work it did – some of the unique transitions Brandon threw in (along with that slo-mo cartwheel out of the lift) gave me “Ballas/Hough: the early years” vibes; as someone on Twitter mentioned, I think Brandon sees the value of choreographing for the crowd sometimes (as opposed to choreographing for the judges), which is something I think Mark and Derek learned early on.  As for Tinashe, she made it all look so easy and fluid – there weren’t any stutters or hesitations, and she just powered through the dance fearlessly.  My only concern about these two at this point is this: I think they’re still coming off a bit too laid-back and cool – I’d like to see Tinashe start to show a bit more vulnerability, or at the very least, start to show us more of who she is as a person. DeMarcus is already mentioning his kids, Joe is bringing in his girlfriend, Alexis has talked about her mom – if season 24 taught us anything, it’s that you’re probably better off wearing your heart on your sleeve early on, particularly if you’re on the ringer-y side. Gotta endear yourself to the audience with more than just your dancing.

3.) Milo & Witney – Wow, Milo has been one pretty unexpected pleasant surprise so far this season.  This kid has IT – the charisma, the stage presence, the charm, the dance chops, all of it.  I love that he’s another tall guy that isn’t afraid to really use his height to his advantage and move BIG – and he really seems to understand posture well, which is harder than you might think.  He knows when he needs to stand up super straight, and he knows when he has to bend over a bit (like he did in his Charleston last night) to get the right technique.  His legs and feet were also fantastic, and he always looks like he’s having a great time out on the floor.  Great musicality, too – he FEELS the music, rather than just moving to it. And really, I love him when he’s being interviewed as well – he’s just so at ease and honest.  I’m getting a Frankie in season 25 vibe from these two – except I think he will probably be even better than Frankie, skill-wise. Seems like he could be an ideal celeb for the tour – particularly if he can earn himself a spot in the finale.

4.) Evanna & Keo – I’m still rolling my eyes at Len’s comment last week, which did seem to bother Evanna – “foxtrot doesn’t really suit you”.  Ummm…ok. I thought she was actually pretty good last week, aside from maybe a bit too much enthusiasm from Keo rubbing off on her.  So I’m glad that she got to redeem herself somewhat last night – she got saddled with probably the hardest dance last night, and she gave it an extremely admirable effort.  I liked that Keo stuck with samba basics (and didn’t throw in any samba rolls – they’re not standard samba fare, regardless of what the DWTS fandom would have you think, and they’re extremely difficult to do well), and Evanna seemed to try her best to really sell the dance.  There were a few sections where I think she could have hit harder, and been a bit more committed to her movement, but really – a very nice job, and entertaining to watch.  I just hope she & Keo continue on an upward trajectory, because I do think she’s got the charm and the basic skills to do well this season.

5.) Juan Pablo & Cheryl – I’m having a hard time with this one: Juan Pablo is a great dancer, and a great showman – but I find myself remembering him last, when going through my mental list of this season’s contestants in my head. The only thing I can think of is that he maybe comes across a bit too rehearsed when he talks, and it can read as disingenuous. Who knows – all I know is that he’s not really resonating with me.  The dance itself was pretty good – he handled quickstep certainly better that Joe, John, and Nancy, but there were a few moments where his frame got a bit wonky and he may have overpowered Cheryl through one of the faster sequences of steps to the point where she got off-balance. Timing was good and the general vibe of the dance was on-point, though, and there’s potential there. I guess my only question is “Can he stand out?” We’ve got several good dancers this season, and several of them also have big personalities.  I don’t think JP is in danger yet, but I think he needs to start creating an arc for himself, and showing us some more of who he is.

6.) John & Emma – I know some folks are bound & determined to not like John, due to other factors not related to his dancing; but guys – he did pretty damn well last night, and I think he could stick around for awhile.  The dude has definite musicality – he stays on-time, and seems to feel the music organically; he also has some showmanship skills, and knows how to sell a performance.  While I would have liked a bit more basic Charleston in his dance, this was another song that somewhat dictated the actual choreo of the dance (too many breaks for spoken word sections) so I think Emma did the best she could – and John doing the Charleston basic was probably the weakest part of the routine, so I guess it’s good she kept that to a minimum 😛 Part of me thinks the dance may have been better-received as a jazz or a Broadway routine, but really – even as a Charleston, it was a pretty respectable effort.  I’m interested to see how he fares with the jive tonight – and also how he fares with the Latin dances.  That could potentially be his Achilles heel, but for now – I’m entertained 🙂

7.) Alexis & Alan – This one’s a tough one for me. Alexis has got some serious dance chops, and seems like a lovely girl.  Additionally, Alan seems to be really trying to showcase her talent to the best of his ability.  However, it seems like there’s a few outside forces that are tripping them up – last week, it was the fact that Alexis is pretty unknown to the general viewing demographic of the show; this week, it seemed to be music and costumes working against them.   For someone like Alexis, who has ballet training, the pas-de-deux-inspired sections were a dream; however, when you try and fuse the graceful flow of ballet with the more staccato, intense vocabulary of Argentine tango, things can feel a bit…uneven. And I don’t think it helped that there was a wardrobe malfunction with Alexis’ skirt that resulted in the more ballet-esque front half of the dance feeling a bit too separate from the more tango-y back half. Alexis also seemed to miss a few steps in the struggle to get her skirt under control, and was maybe a bit too soft and graceful (and ballet-esque) doing some of the foot and leg movements in the tango section, so the overall result was a bit…subdued.  Pretty, and talented…but subdued. And that’s unfortunately how I think a lot of the audience sees her – a pretty girl that’s a pretty good dancer, but a quiet girl that keeps to herself a bit; this can be the kiss of death when you’ve got a cast full of big personalities, like DeMarcus, Bobby, John, etc. Alexis is probably the second best dancer this season – but I worry she may get sent packing sooner rather than later, unless she can start showing more personality.

8.) Mary Lou & Sasha – Mary Lou is another contestant who, like Juan Pablo, I just can’t seem to care too much about, even though her dancing is decent. The dance last night was pleasant – she moved well, stayed on-time, and seemed to connect with it – but at the end of the night, like Juan Pablo, I’m just left saying “meh.” I don’t know if it’s her personality, or Sasha’s choreo, or what…but she’s just not leaving a huge impression on me.  There’s potential there, skill-wise – I think Sasha needs to work on her neck placement in the ballroom dances, though, and some of her arm movements can come across a bit gymnastic-y – but I think she needs to make more of a splash, personality-wise. Kinda wondering if she might be in jeopardy tonight, just by virtue of her having a more slow, sleepy dance, while most everyone else had more upbeat and memorable ones.

9.) Bobby & Sharna – Oof.  I think Willard may have sh*t the bed last night, what with his unplanned, end-of-dance celebrations – Sharna did not seem pleased. I think both Heidi & I said that Bobby could go one or two ways with his behavior: the audience will either eat it up, or they will be completely turned off by it. I think last week, it was the former; but this week, I fear he may have segued into the latter – the schtick is wearing thin, and what was genuine exuberance last week is now disingenuous showboating for attention this week. The dance itself wasn’t terrible – sure, there were frame issues, and Bobby’s overdancing at times runs the risk of throwing Sharna off balance (or even striking her in the face with a rogue arm flail); but you can tell he’s really trying, and he does have some skill as a showman. I guess the big question mark for me as far as Bobby’s concerned is how his behavior is going to be received – at this point, it’s a turn-off for me, but I’m willing to be there are still plenty of folks who are all about it.  Time will tell…

10.) Joe & Jenna – To Joe’s credit, he did look better this week.  Keyword being “look” – because I’m not convinced he actually improved a whole lot since last week, so I tend to think the perceived improvement was more a result of Jenna simplifying choreo, doing some heavy-duty back-leading, and shifting the focus away from Joe using time-wasting tricks like lifts and walking.  That foxtrot was slooooooow – and Jenna was doing quite a bit of keeping Joe stationary while she maneuvered herself around him.  He still looked pretty unsure of himself on the brief section of actual foxtrot basic moving down the floor – I’m thinking Joe is simply just not cut out for dancing, which is fine.  It’s not for everyone.  But I do wonder just how much longer we’re going to see him – the Bachelor fans seem to just eat him up, and seem willing to put in the votes for him; however, I think the judges aren’t really fans, so I think they’re going to continue dropping the hammer on him, score-wise.  Who will emerge victorious? For now, I think it’s the fans – Joe will hang around for awhile, while the other low-hanging fruit gets picked off.  But once we get down the the final 6-7, where everyone’s pretty good? All bets are off.

11.) Nancy & Val – Y’know what? I really like Nancy.  And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Val is actually coming across as likeable and compassionate this season (thanks, Jenna?) So it pains me to put them this low – especially since I think Nancy did a pretty good job last night with that cha-cha, and I liked that Val stuck with pretty basic cha-cha steps, as opposed to the dramatic dips and high kicks we’ve seen from him in seasons past.  Nancy looked at ease and confident this week – I only saw one minor goof, but for the rest of the dance, she looked like she knew what she was doing, and was having fun doing it.  My worry is that her laid-back nature is making her fade into the woodwork a bit – she’s not a big personality like Bobby, or a fan fave like Joe, or an unexpectedly good dancer like John.  Are people remembering to vote for her…? I would love to be proved wrong on this one.

12.) Danelle & Artem – Poor Danelle just can’t seem to get past the “6” paddle 🙁 I really feel for these two, because they’ve got a whole difference set of circumstances to deal with this season that no one else is really having to contend with.  I loved that Artem decided to incorporate her walking stick into the routine as a bit of a solo at the beginning; just would have liked Danelle to embrace it a bit more. I also wish she would trust Artem to guide her a bit more, as it seemed like she was fighting him a bit on the shadow sections he was trying to lead her in.  Part of me worries that this is the best it’s gonna get for her this season, and that she heads home just to spare her future frustration; but part of me also wishes she’d stay and keep fighting, and perhaps even get her therapy dog into a routine 🙂 It’s a tough one.

How do I think things will shake out tomorrow? I’m thinking Danelle is definitely out, and Nancy probably out, with an outside chance of Bobby or Joe sliding into the danger zone (assuming there’s a double elim). I think Alexis gets called “in jeopardy” initially, but called safe later, to stimulate votes; I think Evanna gets put into faux jeopardy, just because.  What do you guys think?