“Dancing with the Stars” was going to seem like it had lost a bit of heart this week, as the likable and classy Gladys Knight had been eliminated last Tuesday. But the remaining competitors had to forge on. And Week 7’s challenge was a tough one, as the celebrities were required to do a Team Dance as well as the usual individual performances. I was looking forward to seeing the stars dance to classical music, which would for the first time add a touch of elegance and—gasp!—culture to a reality show.
The drama was still there, however, as before Monday’s show, Melissa Gilbert blogged that her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, was injured. Would that hurt the often-troubled couple?
The show opened with a violin performance by Joshua Bell highlighting a Vivaldi Four Seasons tribute by the dance troupe. Next came the parade of stars. This time they didn’t walk down the long staircase — it’s Week 7, were they all just too tired to walk the extra mile?
Watch a Quick Recap of Monday’s Performances:
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: Rumba
I thought this night would definitely favor Katherine, as she is a classical singer, after all. They would perform to Canon in D and the songstress was claiming in rehearsal that this theme night would NOT benefit her, because she would have to marry the rumba to the music. The lady doth protest too much, every week! Her innocent kitten “I can’t dance” routine was more than stale. But anyway, on to their dance. Mark started it by brandishing a shield, looking like “Game of Thrones,” and then taking Katherine into hold. Her posture looked beautiful and it was like the heroic knight had found his maiden. They did a ballet-type move in the middle which showed her great leg extension and he ended with Katherine in his arms in a deep bend. It all seemed stylized and maybe too restrained, quite a change from last week. Judge Len Goodman said they kept it elegant and Katherine stayed on time. Bruno Tonioli remarked that some of her movements were so classical that they belonged in a frieze in Greece but it wasn’t sexy enough. Technically, Carrie Ann Inaba said, Katherine was perfect but she didn’t generate enough heat. Despite the criticism, it was three 9s, not too shabby. I would be shocked if she’s not in the finale.
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Argentine Tango
Maks had a cyst in his ankle, which was making dance difficult. He saw a doctor and decided his brother Val could dance with the “Little House” star if he couldn’t get it together for dance night. But on Monday, Maks was good to go. Melissa began the dance staring at a male mannequin at a wedding altar to the Marriage of Figaro–and then Maks appeared, grabbing the star and taking her to the floor. Uh oh. Melissa looked awkward again and the late 40-something star was wearing what looked like a swimsuit under her dress. At first, it resembled a diaper! Maks did a massive lift of Melissa, which caught everyone by surprise. She ended the strenuous dance back at the altar to marry the mannequin. The whole dance was beyond weird but the audience seemed to love it and the couple acted like they’d won a gold medal at the Olympics. Bruno said she tried very hard to keep up with the Mozart music but it got messy. Melissa looked confused and hurt. Carrie Ann said it was terribly wrong, with the Cirque de Soleil moves. Len was nicer, saying it was full on but lacked a little dance quality. A little? I would have liked to have seen a classier and more age-appropriate dance from Melissa instead of this broad, show-offy thing. Will this be Melissa’s going home week at last?
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: Viennese Waltz
The telenovela hunk has been almost trapped by his sexiness lately, so Cheryl said in rehearsal she would make sure they had plenty of content (and, probably, would try to tone down the heat after the judges thought they were over the top last week). William said he was a Cuban street urchin, so he didn’t know nothin’ about classical music. He was also worried about his injured ankle. They would dance to Ave Maria and a little girl professional singer sang live to the pair’s dance. William dragged Cheryl across a foggy floor and did a neat neck massage for her, rolling her head around as they glided along. He looked very elegant as he moved Cheryl’s extended leg around in a graceful turn and they ended the dance sitting on the floor and hugging, chastely instead of sexily. I loved it—what subtley and beauty, for once, instead of the shirtless moves and salivating female fans. Carrie Ann was smiling and said that was what she had been looking for from William, true dancing! “You bring the romance to life,” she said. Len wasn’t transported to Vienna but said it was at least Austria. Good one! Meanwhile, Bruno saw vulnerability in William for the first time—“the Catholic boy from Cuba was there.” They tied Katherine and Mark tonight—go figure!
Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Higtower: Argentine Tango
The dance duel survivors from last week were subdued in rehearsal and worried about dancing to classical, which wasn’t part of Roshon’s, er, demo. Still, he has pulled off the gentlemanly look before and Val Chmerkovskiy (yes, there he was again, obviously had time on his hands) gave Roshon some pointers in rehearsal. Okay, they were performing to a classical version of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, what a cool way of giving their dance a young nod! Chelsie did some skilled leg kicks and Roshon was with her the whole way. He kissed her on the hand at one point, lifted her in the air, and stayed in proper tango frame. His upper body looked really good and they created quite a serious mood. Len loved the transitions into the lifts but would have liked his legs to look stronger. Bruno said his lifts were seamless but Len was right about the legs (I had only been watching his shoulders and maybe that was why). Roshon got a big hug from Carrie Ann, which meant she approved. A 25—maybe a little stingy, but the youngsters should be happy.
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: Viennese Waltz
Last week, Donald underachieved, and the football star admitted in rehearsal he was frustrated because he wanted to be the best. But this wasn’t the football field, tiger! He didn’t look like he was bending enough in practice, and we would see what happened in the dance itself. They started the number sitting on elegant chairs, looking like a King and Queen, with a live singer performing Verdi behind them. I loved the side-by-side runs and the fast spin in the middle of the dance and how Donald ended it all by kissing Peta’s hand. Donald looked like he was back on top! In fact, it unleashed the night’s first applause in the press room. Bruno stood up and said he truly mastered the Verdi music. According to Carrie Ann, the dance had a regal quality while Len thought it was terrific and compared the dance to chocolate, which made the journalists backstage shake their heads in confusion. The judges were still holding back a bit, though, leaving Donald craving that elusive ten from Len.
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: Paso Doble
Their theme for the Paso was Romeo and Juliet, and this week, the goofy couple seemed a little cranky. Maria looked pissed when Derek seemed to diss how she looked. “I’m not attractive?” the hurt TV hostess asked him, the eternal tomboy refrain. For their paso, the orchestra began with the dramatic Prokofiev score and Maria was wearing vampire teeth and bared them at her partner. The two of them were so intense and into it and he cleaned the floor with her red dress in a spinning move. I couldn’t even describe how good and dramatic that was—it just WAS, the true sign of a great dance. Boy, their spins were so precise and Maria ended it by biting Derek on the neck. Her “acting” in the dance was terriffic! It told a story just like Derek’s Psycho dance with Ricki Lake last season. What a sexy vampire. “That didn’t suck!” Carrie Ann cried. Len called it sharp as a razor—wish I’d said that. Bruno called her the queen of the night. Maria was teary-eyed backstage and said she loved Derek. They got a perfect score! I was glad now the judges had held back because this couple deserved to be alone in first place. That was amazing and we have to give credit to Derek’s choreography again—will this propel Maria into the finale? It was clearly the best performance of the season.
Jaleel White and Kym Johnson: Viennese Waltz
Last week, Jaleel made a huge comeback with a solid cha cha. So, this week in the rehearsal, Kym gave the actor a stuffed Koala bear. It meant love and friendship from the Australian dancer. Kym’s abs looked incredible in the rehearsal studio—look out, William Levy! So they started with a singer trilling the theme from “Downton Abbey” and Jaleel dragging Kym romantically across the floor through the mist (DWTS mist machine working overtime tonight!). He was dressed as some sort of military man, I thought, but I couldn’t quite understand the theme. Was it like World War I to reflect the “Downton Abbey” music? The music gave a lot to the dance and they didn’t make any errors; in fact, it was very good and the audience members rose to their feet—but for me, it just paled so much in comparison to Maria and Derek. Len thought it had a lovely floaty feel to it, but the dance lacked footwork. According to Bruno, the content was there but it wasn’t as well executed as it could have been. Carrie Ann said he was definitely back in the game and their dance told a story—but I wanted to know what the story was, myself! Jaleel and his Koala Bear babe looked disappointed with three eights but the dance partners had nothing to be ashamed of. They’d just followed such a hard act.
Next it was time for the team dances and it was Donald, Melissa, and William on Team Paso Doble and Maria, Katherine, Roshon, and Jaleel on Team Tango. It seemed to me that having four on one team would favor the tango-ers. A lot of bleeping in rehearsal as the expletives flew for all the teamsters!
Team Tango started with all the dancers playing violins, which was very stark and dramatic. They all seemed very much in sync during the group part but curiously, Maria and Derek didn’t seem nearly as impressive in their solo team effort as they had in the individual dance. Jaleel and Kym were laboring a bit; it was just okay. Then Katherine and Mark took to the floor and she showed everyone what tango body should look like; I appreciated her fashion style, too, in the female tuxedo. I would love to see her ride a horse; I bet she’s a fearless equestrian, being from Britain. Roshon and Chelsie—this time I looked at his feet and had to agree it was a weakness for the Disney kid. Back to the four couples dancing together, which was the best part and the ABC cameraman took full advantage with an overhead shot like in those ‘30s musicals. Katherine looked the best, I thought, but Len disagreed with me, thinking Maria and Roshon were the standouts. Bruno praised the choreography and Roshon—“you killed it.” Carrie Ann weighed in, saying she loved the concept and also adored Roshon. Good for the youngster, even though I thought the classical singer had bested him and she was their team captain. The score left plenty of room for the next team to beat them.
Score: 27 for Team Tango
Watch Team Paso Doble’s First Dance!
Team Paso Doble looked a lot more relaxed, even though Maks was on this team (ha). They all seemed really tired, though, which might not be a good sign. Instead of taking a group nap, they buckled down with the choreography and discussed taking shirts off—Melissa yelled, “team shirtless!” Maks asked if people (William?) feared Maks’s abs. Whoa! A little machismo there. In the dance, the men dragged their red-dressed women to the center of the floor as the musicians sang live behind them. Melissa and Maks? It still looked after all these weeks like Maks was dragging Melissa too much, jerking her around and she couldn’t keep up. William and Cheryl, by contrast, seemed more in the spirit of the paso. Then Donald and Peta did their solo with the footballer leading her in a series of spins. Then Donald took his shirt off and was joined by Maks and William, who were also now shirtless! Someone sitting next to me giggled, Chippendales! Did the chests overshadow the dance? Not really; it actually worked. Maks jumped up on the judges’ table and the other two guys joined him next to Bruno, who must have been in heaven. Carrie Ann said that should be a fan favorite dance and Len said they had undressed to impress but he loved it … interesting for the usual stuffy judge.
Score: 26 for Team Paso