Dancing With the Stars: Jump, jive and wail
There's nothing like the frenetic pace of the jive or quickstep to shake things up in the ballroom.
The Season 13 competitors were feeling the heat on Monday's Dancing With the Stars, which was mostly evident in the rehearsal footage.
Elisabetta was cross; Nancy had a little mental breakdown (not to mention a wardrobe malfunction); Chaz had a physical one; Rob was feeling fat (nice to know it doesn't happen just to women); Chynna was swearing (with apologies to Jesus). And when all was said and done, almost everybody improved in the ballroom with just a couple of exceptions.
Here's how it all played out for me, with couples listed from my most to least favourite:
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: I don't blame Brooke Burke for asking J.R. after his jive whether he's ever had dance experience. It's hard to believe he's never done this before. He was in synch with Karina every step of the way, but he wasn't just going through the motions. J.R.'s got the precision and lines of a dancer. Too bad that Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman decided to be a couple of poops and dock his marks. Carrie Ann first growled then groused, "It was great, it was fantastic, but there was a lift." Yeah, a very well-done one with J.R. flipping Karina sideways over his arm. Len's problem was that there was more Lindy hop than jive in the routine. At least Bruno Tonioli called it "the most satisfying overall perfomance of the night.... You're born to dance," he told J.R. As J.R. somewhat defiantly noted afterwards, "The judges gave their opinions, but the crowd loved it and we loved it." Precisely, which is why J.R. won't be going anywhere on Tuesday night. Score: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 8; total, 22 out of 30
Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: She may have 16 years and some pounds on the slim-hipped Mr. Hough, but Ricki was one hot commodity out there. She was sexy, sassy and hit the stage with an infectious energy that didn't flag throughout her jive. And as Bruno pointed out, she correctly did the pesky kicks and flicks that kept tripping up her competitors. She certainly brought more vitality to the performance than some of her younger counterparts. Carrie Ann called it the best jive of the night. Len was more measured in his praise since he didn't like a couple of steps in the routine (he didn't say which ones, but I was thinking that Ricki leaning back on Derek only to have him thrust her back up with his pelvis then be pulled up in turn by his belt buckle probably isn't a traditional jive step). Len did say she'd improved since last week. Duh. Score: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8; total, 23
Hope Solo and Maks Chmerkovskiy: I didn't expect to like this jive as well as I did, since Maks looked nothing like sex on a stick in those goofy shorts and head band (shudder). But Hope is as cute as a button and had good energy, even though her kicks needed work and her shoulders sometimes crept up towards her ears. The routine brought an Ali G-style "Booyakasha!" from Len, though he found Hope had lost her timing in places. Bruno gave her a lecture: "I know your feet and you've got thighs that could crack a walnut, but all that power is not enough. You have to now be precise and accurate. You lost it so many times, yes you did." He also told Hope, who's been juggling dance rehearsals with soccer games, that she has to put in the time to perfect the routines. Score: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 7; Bruno, 6; total, 19
Kristin Cavallari and Mark Ballas: I find Kristin a little bland and Marilyn Monroe imitations are usually a non-starter with me, but I give her credit for improving both her technique and her performance level with this quickstep. She didn't completely hit the mark as far as her "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" shtick, but she was trying. And Bruno was correct: she did lose her frame at times by leaning forward, but the overall effort wasn't as grim as Len made it out to be. Carrie Ann praised Kristin's "great transformation." Score: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 7; total, 22
Chynna Phillips and Tony Dovolani: Chynna let down the over-40 contingent a little by pulling punches in her jive. Certainly, she was feeling the pressure of learning the fast-moving dance. We saw her chastising herself in the third person and swearing in rehearsal. "Sorry Jesus, I have to curse," she said to Tony's amusement. The end result shows that Chynna's still one of the more technically accomplished dancers in the competition, but this routine called for her to get down and dirty, and she didn't do that in a convincing way. Carrie asked if she was injured (she isn't), adding, "I kind of felt like you played it a little safe." Len described the routine as "good, but it wasn't great really." And Bruno said Chynna needs to release her inner sexy siren. "Once you go full bore you're gonna be extraordinary." Score: Carrie Ann, Len and and Bruno, all 7; total, 21
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Kardashians in the ballroom, I think Rob might have been the most improved dancer on Monday. That doesn't mean he's good, but Carrie Ann fanned the flames of sibling rivalry by telling Rob he's better than sister Kim, who got bounced in Week 3 of Dancing With the Stars Season 7. Rob, meanwhile, endeared himself to me slightly by bemoaning his man boobs and stomach fat in rehearsal. Yet he was smiling, animated and mostly on top of the music in his jive. Too bad he sometimes just stood there waiting for the next step to come. All the judges were full of praise for Rob's improvement and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. "You have the dancing gene, honey, and it is coming out," Carrie Ann told him. Score: Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno, all 7; total, 21
David Arquette and Kym Johnson: David put so much heart into this routine and seemed to have so much fun doing it, you were almost able to overlook the sloppy technique; almost but not quite. Then again, Kym is so gorgeous, David kind of needed that gold pimp suit and white hat just to get us to notice him. I doubt he has the technical ability to stay in this for the long haul, but I also doubt he'll go home this week. Carrie Ann and Len both liked David's enthusiasm if not his lack of control. "You were like a runaway train. The problem is you were on the border of derailment all the way through," Bruno told him. "But the good thing is that you're starting to find your persona and youre performing with confidence, so next week you'll get the technique right." Score: Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno, all 6; total, 18
Elisabetta Canalis and Val Chmerkovskiy: Based on the rehearsal footage, things looked grim for Elisabetta's quickstep. Val accused her of not wanting to learn, while Elisabetta complained he was treating her like she was in kindergarten and also like a word that ABC bleeped out. But when it was performance time, Elisabetta seemed to have the steps down, even though she's still lacking in musicality. The other thing is that she's so charisma-challenged it's hard to care whether she does well. Len (a.k.a. Mr Scrunchy Face, according to host Tom Bergeron) was in the minority whe he told Elisabetta the routine was "not great, but it was better than last week." Bruno spouted some nonsense about Elisabetta having the ability to "to get some lines as good as any Lamborghini" and Carrie Ann said she'd nailed the steps. Score: Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno, all 7; total, 21
Carson Kressley and Anna Trebunskaya: Okay, I get it, Carson is funny, now how about some dancing? I have to give him credit for working hard to master the quickstep -- Len said he did more practising than anybody else last week -- but the end result was uninspiring. Carson's steps lacked precision and finesse, his frame was collapsible, he danced with his mouth open and the "Pee Wee Herman goes to the prom" scenario, as Bruno called it, wasn't particularly funny. "If I held my knife and fork like you held Anna I'd starve to death," Len said. "The trouble is that the worst dancers on this show are the most fun to watch and that's the problem. I want to see you come back." Bruno, in his best quip of the night, said, "I got Silent Scream all the way through," referring to the famous Edvard Munch painting The Scream and Carson's open mouth. Score: Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno, all 6; total, 18
Chaz Bono and Lacey Schwimmer: Chaz got off to a promising start last week, but his knees had other plans for him this week. "I'm afraid I'm literally gonna pass out or blow my knees out," he told Lacey in rehearsal. Drugs meant Chaz was able to perform, but Lacey had to take out the so-called "flashier stuff" and slow the pace to what in quickstep terms was a crawl. Despite that, Chaz still has a lot of charisma. And frankly, I'd rather watch him dance badly than Nancy Grace dance well. Bruno said the routine was "like watching a little ewok dance with Princess Leia. It's cute and it's lovely: the problem is the quickstep has to be fast." Carrie Ann added that "your charm takes you so far, it can't cover the fact you didn't dance so quickly." Still, all that being said, Chaz got nothing lower than a 5, which I found a little surprising. And by the way, where is Cher? If Courteney Cox can show up every Monday to cheer on her estranged husband, why isn't Cher there to boost her son? Score: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 6; total, 17
Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus: If my rankings were based solely on technique, Nancy would be a little higher up the food chain, but I just don't like her. She put poor, patient Tristan through the ringer, refusing at one point in rehearsal to practise the steps or even to speak, turning her face to the wall. Apologies and hugs were exchanged, Tristan's cheek was stroked, and eventually Nancy turned in a reasonable facsimile of the quickstep. It wasn't bad, it wasn't great. It ended with the buxom legalist apparently slipping partway out of her dress. As Tom helped her adjust, the camera panned to an unsmiling section of the audience that was not applauding, so I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't like Nancy. The judges were mostly full of praise, with Len awarding his highest marks of the night since Nancy and Tristan did a "proper" quickstep, i.e. didn't break hold partway through. Bruno praised her for being "vivacious, alive and confident." Carrie Ann never really finished her comments since she and Len got into an argument about the merits of quicksteps with "razzamatazz" that had Bruno hiding under the table and Tom chiding, "Kids, we're doing a show, just relax." Score: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 8; Bruno, 7; total, 21
So Ricki's at the top of the leader board, Chaz is at the bottom and there's a big pileup in the middle. We find out Tuesday which dancer goes home, CTV at 9 p.m. I'll be watching and blogging. And I'll also catch up on Battle of the Blades Tuesday night.
(The photo of J.R. and Karina is by Craig Sjodin for ABC.)