DwtS 4, Week 3: A Second Opinion

This week’s routines weren’t as impressive as last week’s performances, and the judges were noticeably more critical in their comments. But, once again, the 7 and 8 paddles were given a thorough workout. Of the thirty paddles waved, twenty-six were either a 7 or an 8. No wonder the field is so tight!

Technical Knockouts

Apolo & Julianne
Another delightful, lively, entertaining performance. Apolo & Julianne definitely win the cutest couple award. Even their antics on the speedskating track made me chuckle. Their Jive routine had lots of fun, innovative moves and I found myself watching their entire dance with a grin on my face. Despite a few missteps and breaks in unison, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.

However, I have to agree with Len that there was too much "messing about" on stage at the beginning of the routine. And even if this pair was channeling John Travolta and Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction, Apolo’s hairdo almost made me miss his bandana from a couple of weeks ago. That being said, the chemistry between this energetic pair is almost tangible and I’m confident that they’ll continue to enchant and entertain us for several more weeks.

Cheryl & Ian
A bootylicious performance from the 90210 star. Cheryl & Ian’s behind-the-scenes footage was pure gold this week. I’m really beginning to enjoy these out-of-the-studio excursions (and tonight’s eye candy was exceptional!) Ian’s exposure to all that hip wiggling and booty shaking certainly paid off in spades. I thought this couple’s Jive was the best dance of the night: quick, fun, energetic, lots of kicks, bum-wiggling – a real pleasure to watch. I have no idea what happened in the last couple of bars of the song, when the camera panned away, so I’m just ignoring that brief gap in their performance. Ian is out to win this competition and he’s doing an admirable job. This pair will certainly move on to the next bout.

Joey & Kym
A triumphant "Return of the Joe-i." This couple’s Star Wars-themed Tango was a campy, charismatic and captivating routine. All of the required dance elements were present – the sharp turns, clipped movements, and flexed knees stance. The limited use of well-recognized props like lightsabers and Jedi robes added to the overall charm of their performance. I thought this pair did a great job and presented us with a solid, well-executed dance. Kym is really getting the opportunity to showcase her choreography this season and I think she’s doing a fantastic job. The force was certainly with this couple tonight and will easily propel them to the next round.

Heather & Jonathan
Another unbelievable performance from the incredible Heather Mills! I had really expected Heather to have problems with the Jive but her determination is amazing. This pair’s infectious routine, full of crisp movements and fun choreography, even made Carrie Ann want to jump up and dance. Once again, Heather outshone several of her competitors with two feet. She has great musicality and a natural exuberance that effortlessly charms both the judges and the audience. I am also becoming increasingly impressed with Jonathan — both as a choreographer and a dancer. He has done a fantastic job designing routines around Heather’s disability. This pair deserves to continue on in the competition. They are truly remarkable.

Split Decision

Laila & Maks
A surprising setback for the reigning couple. Apparently dancing rules are not just for the little people — even the King of the Dance and the Queen of the Ring have to follow them! Although this couple’s Tango was well received by the studio audience, the break in the middle was a serious rule violation. The judges verbally chastised and marked down Mario & Karina for the same violation last season. Surprisingly, Laila & Maks’s break was even longer than that of the Season 2 runners-up.

From a pure entertainment point of view, I loved this pair’s Tango. Their hold, passion and intensity were all first rate. Laila & Maks are fascinating to watch, and Laila looked beautiful and moved effortlessly on the dance floor. How lucky is she to have had a double dose of the Chmerkovskiy testosterone in her practice sessions! Despite their low marks, I think that this pair is strong enough to regain their throne, even though they may be a little battle weary.

Leeza & Tony
A stepped-up performance for the Tango Tramp. This couple’s Tango showed surprising improvement over previous weeks. Leeza seemed much more comfortable and fluid on the dance floor. She clearly had the head swiveling down pat and her unison with Tony was exceptional. Their routine may not have been as difficult as other competitors but its clean execution made up for its lack of complexity. I thought they did a fabulous job and I’m delighted to see Leeza more relaxed on the dance floor.

Since I complained about Apolo’s hair, I’m also going to mention that I really wasn’t into Leeza’s headgear – her hat was hideous! Despite Leeza’s much improved performance, I still don’t think this pair deserves to be ranked amongst the leaders of the pack. But they’re putting up a good fight and I hope they have enough voting support to stay in the competition.

Shandi & Brian
A noticeable improvement, but still no sparkle. Shandi’s Jive contained crisp, bouncy footwork with good unison between her and her partner. However, Shandi’s free arm flopped around — like laundry on a clothesline, according to Len — throughout the entire routine, spoiling the visual impact of their performance.

This pair still has a lot of ground to make up, particularly in the popularity department. Fortunately, this week’s behind-the-scenes clips showed a more subdued couple whose focus was firmly directed on perfecting their dance steps, rather than on each other. This new attitude, combined with their improved dancing, will likely win them some points with viewers. It might be just enough to allow them to squeak through another elimination round.

On the Ropes

Clyde & Elena
A disappointing effort from this light-footed goliath. Clyde’s Jive fluctuated between lukewarm and cold. The routine included sections where the footwork was lively, quick and totally in unison, and sections where Clyde either lost his focus or just missed the beat. Technical errors included failure to point his toes, dangling arms and lack of precision. Clyde still does not own the dance floor. His constrained movements give him the appearance of being stiff and uncomfortable. I agreed with Len that this week’s performance represented a step backwards for this NBA Hall-of-Famer. I question whether Clyde’s fan base will be enough to ensure that he has another opportunity to redeem himself. Maybe thinking about dancing as an art rather than a procedure would help!

John and Edyta
A less than stellar performance from this season’s senior celebrity. John seemed to have lost his "machismo" attitude somewhere between the movie theatre and the dance studio. This pair’s routine lacked the clipped, staccato movements that characterize the Tango. John’s head swivels were out of synch with his partner’s and didn’t conform to the Tango’s distinctive quick, sharp turns. If there was any intensity or passion in their performance I must have totally missed it. Unlike Len and Bruno, I did not think that John sold the character of this piece. In fact, I thought the judges were overly generous with their scores, given this routine’s technical and dramatic shortcomings. But John remains a positive and personable competitor, and I imagine he will ride out this backslide and reappear in next week’s lineup.

Billy Ray & Karina
A barely average performance from Hanna Montana’s dad. Despite the judges’ enthusiastic praise, I remain unimpressed by Billy Ray’s dancing. He may have been connecting with his inner cowboy, but he left his sense of rhythm and good posture in the saddle. Billy Ray continues to look uncomfortable and sluggish on the dance floor. While he has moments of clarity, overall his routines are peppered with missed footwork, broken frames, and poor synchronization.

It is apparent that he is making an effort to improve but I just don’t think he has the genetic make-up to be a dancer. He reminds me a little of Harry Hamlin from Season 3. The will may be there, but the goods are missing. I certainly thought that the judges’ scoring of this pair was seriously overstated. I would not be disappointed if he moseyed off into the sunset on Tuesday’s elimination show.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you thought of the dancers (and the judges’ scores) this week!