Welcome back, dance fans! We’re already at the halfway point of “Dancing With The Stars” Season 17 (as they reminded us many times), and only eight couples remain. The season is flying by as fast as the dancers in tonight’s incredible opening number. It’s not surprising the techno “Sing, Sing, Sing” number was so great: Benji and Lacey Schwimmer choreographed it.
Last night had many twists in store too, not the least of which was that no one was eliminated. Because of a technical glitch in voting last week, they decided to throw out the votes and not eliminate anyone. Considering it was coming down to Bill and Jack, I’m really glad they decided to keep them both.
The bigger wrench, for the contestants at least, was the brand new Switch Up Challenge: an additional dance where four couples would dance simultaneously. For the first time on “DWTS,” the couples had to improvise their steps to four different unknown excerpts of music.
This is a wonderful idea, and it’s about time they did it. Ballroom dancing is social dance; it was done socially before it was done for competition, and social dancing is based on improvisation. When teaching ballroom dance, it’s extremely important to teach leading and following techniques and not just sequences or choreography. Kudos to the show for extending that part of ballroom dancing to the contestants—who, by the way, all handled the challenge famously.
Here’s my Top 5 of this week’s performances:
Bill and Emma’s Tango: Emma points out what “DWTS” does frequently, especially with tango and Paso Doble, but the pros rarely mention it: Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is not a tango. If anything, it’s sort of a slow swing or fast fox trot. Those music choices sometimes makes me crazy—but they actually made this work. Emma incorporated a lot of good tango content into the choreography, and the turning triple steps fit the music nicely (though I suspect that’s what Len meant by “a little bit skippy”). Bill danced it well. He clearly enjoys what he’s doing.
Elizabeth and Val’s Cha-cha: I was very touched by Elizabeth’s story about “Showgirls,” which I haven’t seen myself. It does have some cult following, I believe, but I wonder if she knows about that. Regardless, she presented a strong cha-cha that showed what she can do, and she completely wowed the judges, earning the first perfect score of the season.
Brant and Peta’s Tango: This was quite nice, with good choreography and strong dancing, and as Len pointed out, no gimmicks. While his frame was very strong, I actually wanted him to relax his elbow just a little. He also looked angry, again, and while it fits well with tango, there’s a difference between portraying attitude and looking angry.
What’s up with Len lately? He must be taking happy pills or something, because he’s been quite generous with the 10 paddle lately.
Nicole and Sasha’s Fox Trot: I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Nicole is absolutely adorable. That said, she also showed a different maturity in this number. This smooth fox trot, more reminiscent of Gene Kelly than Fred Astaire, worked wonderfully for her, and she danced it beautifully. She could even out the skips a little, but she had gorgeous lines. She seemed a little disappointed with the scores though; I think she hoped for a 10.
Corbin and Karina’s Viennese Waltz: I knew I would love this routine before I saw it, because the “Game of Thrones” music is so exhilarating. The challenge with music that is so strong and exciting, not to mention well known and already associated with something visual, is that it’s easy for the music to overpower the dance. Corbin and Karina didn’t quite defeat that challenge, but they still danced a wonderfully passionate waltz that captured the drama of the show while paying homage to it. Just ignore the spoiler, if you haven’t seen season one.
So what did you think, dance fans? What were your favorite dances tonight? Are you happy everyone’s staying to dance another day? What did you think of the improvised Switch Up Challenge?