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Dancing with the Stars Janel and Val
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Dancing with the Stars Michael and Emma

Well that’s exciting, dance fans! During the opening segment on this week’s “Dancing with the Stars,” each new reveal is more thrilling than the last: Dynamic Duos! Immunity for the highest score! A Dance-Off?! Wow!

Yes, the contestants all portray some of history and pop culture’s greatest couples, from Bonnie and Clyde, to Adam and Eve, to Batman and Robin. The couple with the highest score gets immunity, and the six remaining couples have to duke it out two by two in a dance-off. After Janel and Val win immunity with their beautiful contemporary (which of course makes it into my Top 5, below), the couples dancing against each other make perfect sense, though there’s supposedly strategy involved. The two older men battle each other (Tommy vs. Michael), as do the two young newbie dancers and their similar partners (Bethany and Derek vs. Sadie and Mark), while the two veteran dancers go head to head as well (Alfonso vs. Lea).

I really appreciate that the producers seem to do more to make it less of a popularity contest and more about the dancing. They almost insure that Michael will go home: it’s highly unlikely his scores will be high enough to win immunity, and he might not win the dance-off either, so even if he has enough votes to keep him on again, it won’t be enough.

There’s also lots of fun filler throughout the evening. Longer rehearsal packages with side bits that have nothing to do with rehearsals, extra moments like the Dynamic Duo Q&A, which is really entertaining; these things all help fill space as the number of couples diminishes. Even if it feels like they’re killing time, it’s still lots of fun.

And now, here’s my Top 5:

Janel and Val’s “Romeo and Juliet” Contemporary: This is absolutely gorgeous. The lovely pause in the music when they first sit on the bench, followed by those first stretching movements as the music comes back, gives me chills. It’s emotional and moving—even without going for the tragic death ending—with interesting choreography (that cool move on the knee). They have great connection. It’s a sweet, stunningly beautiful routine. Absolutely worth the four 10s they receive.

Sadie and Mark’s “Adam and Eve” Contemporary: This one is tough—but not for any fault of Sadie or Mark. I like the concept, I like the dance, and I love the song—but the singer is awful. I’m not familiar with BC Jean, I had never heard of her before, but she is so horribly flat and nasal, she completely ruins the song, and makes it near impossible to watch Sadie and Mark. I had to rewind and watch it again instantly while trying hard not to hear the music.

The routine is quite nice though, if a bit long, with good, difficult choreography (it can be hard to sustain a piece centered on one prop). Sadie dances beautifully with a new maturity. The camera men seem to be having an off night though: both here and in Janel and Val’s contemporary, there’s a moment where they change the camera angle at just the wrong time, and we miss something. But camera and vocal problems aside, Sadie and Mark are great.

Alfonso and Witney’s “Batman and Robin” Cha-cha: Carrie Ann is totally right: it’s kind of a bizarre thought to have Batman and Robin cha-cha together, but there’s something about this that just works, really well. The zipline works perfectly, fortunately; fun song, terrific abstract costumes, great choreography executed cleanly, and Alfonso is the consummate entertainer. He’s so smooth, with style and energy and flare.

Bethany and Derek’s “Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo” Salsa: It’s so cheesy but so cute! The pair is adorable and dance well (Derek is so sexy!). There’s a bit too much fluff in the routine, with at least 16 counts of drumming and wiggling, but the rest of the dance is fun, and they look good together. She has had a tremendous journey, as the judges point out, developing into an impressive dancer.

Alfonso and Witney vs. Lea and Artem Dance-Off (Jive): I’m listing this in my Top 5 partially because it’s interesting and new. It’s the first time they’ve done something like this and Alfonso and Lea are both great. She’s a skilled dancer, with terrific legs, but Alfonso definitely wins this round. His jive is fun, flirty, and flawless, with better use of the music, and a confidence Lea needs to get back.

The Rest:

Lea and Artem’s “Bonnie and Clyde” Jazz: I love the idea behind this, but the music is too slow and the choreography too basic and gentle. I can also see what Julianne means about the choreography being dated; it’s a bit 1980s. Lea needs to get her chutzpah back and really hit it with some force.

Michael and Emma’s “Tarzan and Jane” Fox Trot: I mostly remember the elaborate backdrop (and that this version of Tarzan is also Disney-owned), but Michael is much better in this dance. He needs to stand up taller and make his movements more fluid, but it’s definitely better.

Tommy and Peta’s “Johnny Cash and June Carter” Paso Doble: I really love Tommy. He’s a fascinating guy, and a natural mover—but this is not his best dance. Peta is very obvious in her calling and giving him direction, but it only helps him so much and they get off track. But I love his attitude, and I’m glad he’s still around.

Sadie and Mark vs. Bethany and Derek Dance-Off (Cha-cha): This is a very tough call, as the judges admit. Both couples dance well, with different strengths and weaknesses. Sadie is cute, but needs to clean up her footwork. Bethany is clearly nervous and makes some little mistakes, but has a slight edge over Sadie. Len looks pained by the idea of having to choose between the two youngsters, but his vote decides the tie: Bethany and Derek win this round.

Tommy and Peta vs. Michael and Emma Dance-Off (Rumba): I went in expecting Tommy to win by a landslide, so I’m pleased that it’s a harder choice than I expected. Michael does well with a fairly smooth rumba (though that first move is gross), but Tommy is still the better dancer. I love those moments of Argentine tango Tommy throws in, recapturing that natural ability and comfort he has—even if it’s a little like cheating because it’s not rumba.

So finally, we bid adieu to Michael Waltrip. I’m sure I won’t shock you, dear readers, by saying that I’m glad. He seems like a sweet, funny guy, if a bit lecherous, but he’s not a great dancer. His time had definitely come, and gone.

So what do you think, dance fans? Do you enjoy the Dance-Off as much as I do? Which are your favorite dances? Chime in below.




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