After eliminating Melissa Gilbert and Roshon Fegan last week, “Dancing with the Stars” promised the strongest semifinal ballroom battle ever. Season 14 has featured the best dance quality in “DWTS” history, and the final four of Donald Driver, Katherine Jenkins, William Levy, and Maria Menounos were sure to “bring it,” as they often say backstage after the show.
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: Tango
The hunk of the season was mumbling and grumbling in rehearsal about the tango, but he has always been pessimistic before his dance! They began the dance, to “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” with Cheryl making all these intense tango faces and William looking just as serious and determined. At the start of the dance, he didn’t seem to be doing anything that terribly difficult, but was very fluid and moved Cheryl swiftly across the floor. His kicks were good but I was so-so on this performance—it looked like everything he’d already done before instead of being groundbreaking. Cheryl ended the dance almost doing the splits in front of William. The applause was surprisingly tepid for a semifinal, confirming my theory it wasn’t Will’s best dance. However, Judge Len Goodman gave a shout out to season 14 as being the best semifinal ever and told him, “Overall, it was terrific.” Bruno said William was full of animal magnetism, totally in command. Carrie Ann Inaba said he dances so beautifully, but had a couple of quibbles on technical things I didn’t understand. One ten from Bruno!
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: Quickstep
I had been taking potshots at Katherine all season for being a possible ringer, but she was so sweet in rehearsal and never got angry, as usual. You cannot NOT like her! She started the dance coming out of a cage or a fence, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but maybe she was a flapper on the run from the law, given her ‘20s outfit. Again, K. looked like a dance star and in fact, I could easily see her play Roxie Hart in a production of Chicago after “DWTS” is done! There seemed to be a lot of difficult Charleston steps in this, much tougher than in William’s dance (which looked like mere posing in comparison), and it had a light, fun quality. She and Mark got a standing O! Bruno called it perfection and explained she had played a gangster’s moll—thanks for that, Bruno. Carrie Ann said she brought her A plus game and even said it might have been the best dance ever on DWTS. Whoa—I didn’t agree with that and neither did the DWTS journalist regulars backstage. It was great but not the best ever; don’t get carried away like JLo on “American Idol,” people! “You can dance,” Len told Katherine in a massive understatement.
Katherine Jenkins Breaks Down in the Ballroom After Falling in the Semifinals!
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: Waltz
The ultra-competitive Donald and Peta continued to hope for dance domination in rehearsal and they were noisy and intense as they have been all season. So, then, their light dance caught me off guarad. Donald looked like a romantic hero with his hands on Peta’s head and his arm extensions were lovely in the waltz. Peta acted the dance well, too, with her eyes closed and an ecstatic look on her face (perhaps thinking of her rumored boyfriend, Maks Chmerkovskiy?). Their spin and soft dip at the end gave the dance an ending that was so totally unlike football! It was my favorite of Donald’s dances so far, but Carrie Ann said his footwork wasn’t right, although she loved his emotion. Len praised his elegance, beauty, and charm but the judge said his head needed to be more to the left. I didn’t understand these weird criticisms, as the dance had held together so well. Bruno wasn’t standing (uh oh)—but then he did stand, just slightly, and said he liked Donald’s lines. So, a very mixed bag of comments from the judges! Brooke Burke mentioned (again) that this was the strongest group of semifinalists ever. One ten from Bruno again!
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: Argentine Tango
Maria told Derek in rehearsal she wanted to stay on the show and make her family proud. The young pro was shown throwing things in rehearsal, which was a surprise to viewers who have only seen Derek as the golden boy all these years (and a shock to me, too). He just couldn’t come up with a decent routine! This emotional couple had a huge heart-to-heart with Maria crying again and they pulled it all together in rehearsal. Derek has always done great tangos, and as they began the dance, it all looked terrifically skilled again. Derek lifted Maria off the stairs and later, spun her around in a lift with her legs extended that looked very hard to do. The “Extra” host’s legs had never looked better. Applause in the press room and the audience after this precise tango was done! It was a much better tango than William had pulled off. Bruno said it was so enticing and as the judge began to gesture,running his hands down his body, Len had to step aside in disgust! Carrie Ann talked to Maria as the star started to get teary- eyed—the judge said it was great though her critique got all confused. Len didn’t appear to have the time to weigh in. Get it together, judges! It was the semifinals—and this was the best semifinal in DWTS history, memba! Maria was very quavery backstage to hostess Brooke, babbling about how bonded she was with Derek. Would there be post DWTS counseling? Just wondering! A perfect 30! The golden boy had done it again!
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: Samba
Uh oh—didn’t we do this on the show this season already? It was sob story time again with the contestants talking about experiences which had formed them. William’s kin talked about how there was not a lot of food in Cuba when he was growing up and he recalled seeing dead bodies on the street. His stepdad was a political prisoner and they came to the U.S. and lived in a crappy apartment, the door of which was also shown (too bad for the people who live there now!). William remembered that he couldn’t speak English (can he now? Ha) and modeling agents weighed in about how handsome he was and that at the time, he only owned a tank top (okay with us!). His beauty financially helped his whole family in Miami. On to the dance, which was tailor-made for William. Wearing more than a tank top this time, he nevertheless shook his butt for dear life. I loved the white shoes and pants and hot pink shirt—very Miami. It all looked like basic samba, however, well done but just like his first dance, not particularly difficult or special. The telenovela star encouraged the audience to clap for him toward the end. Not surprisingly, Bruno foamed at the mouth, saying he was going to die of “bum envy.” Carrie Ann said William had her at hello—and admired his, er, “thrust” during the dance which took it to a new level. And Len said the junk in the trunk was working and the rhythm was fantastic. Did he deserve 10s, though? I thought he had coasted a bit on physical charisma. But the judges disagreed, giving him a perfect score for shaking that fine butt.
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: Salsa
KJ did her first performance in public when she was four years old, she told viewers, and later went to the Royal Academy of Music to hone her skill. They showed her singing like an angel and being praised by fellow Brit Piers Morgan. She was engaged to a TV personality but they split up. The singer was so broken up about it, she said, but DWTS had put a smile back on her face. Piers Morgan gave her more of his testimonial, too! Finally, on to the dance in which K emerged from a basket like a snake. This was sure the season for exotic dances, like last week’s Bollywood! This one was very cute with Katherine looking like a snake charmer and shaking it on her knees and all was going well– but suddenly, they had a bad bobble/fall at the end and Katherine was teary-eyed! The dance came to a shocking halt. It appeared like she just lost her balance and Mark kept saying, over and over, “I’ve got you.” Carrie Ann said it was so fantastic and she was sorry the dance ended that way. Len said she was Katherine the great. Then Bruno affirmed she’d unleashed the harlot within–and she shouldn’t beat herself up about the stumble/injury. Unlike last week, the judges didn’t give her 10s for the flawed dance—they were satisfied with giving her three 9s, which was proper. Backstage, the journalists were treated to some backstage action during commercial break—K said she didn’t know what happened and drank water as she told setsiders in the red room that it was her lower back that was hurting. “As I went back, I felt like I lost something. It was so quick,” she told producers who hovered over her. Yikes. She got marked down for it, sadly. Tom said later that she was going to seek medical attention.
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: Samba
Story time again–Donald’s dad was in prison and his family was homeless for a time. Sports were Donald’s way out of an atmosphere of crime; Donald admitted he sold drugs as a kid. He was a troubled kid. But then, he met the love of his life, took her on a first date to McDonald’s (!) and found football success. So, anyway, it looked like Donald and Peta were starting the dance like sexy businesspeople but Peta disrobed into a sparkly dress, natch. Dancing to “Mr. Big Stuff,” the couple really worked the crowd and moved fast this week. Donald showed an easygoing charm and his spins were perfect. Peta went under his legs in a kick ass move. They missed each other’s hands at the end, though, too bad they would likely be marked down for that. Len said the bottom line was, he liked it. Bruno said he did it his way and it worked. Carrie Ann thought it was A plus game. What was with the A+s this week? Not a perfect score, but close. Still not a ten from Len!
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: Jive
Maria was crying (again!) about how hard her family worked, how poor they were, these Greek immigrants who have been in the audience all season. She recalled how she went to journalism school and her boyfriend Kevin Undergaro talked about her, too. The dance began with Maria on a hospital table and being brought back to life by Derek (by a defribullator?). A journalist wag commented, “she tried to kill herself.” Ha. We were finding her tears annoying by now. Derek slid under Maria’s legs and danced on the table and they slid their feet in a circle around the floor which was a move I hadn’t seen on DWTS before. For me, there wasn’t anything to criticize—they hadn’t put a foot wrong and the Golden Boy’s choreography couldn’t be beat! Bruno mentioned the quirky and unexpected details—yes. That was what I was trying to say. Carrie Ann called it another stunner and Len liked the footwork. Len said she had a stumble and the TV hostess said no I didn’t. Ooh—not good to contradict the judges. Len knocked them down now but otherwise, fab score for the most creative pair in the competition.