DwtS 4, Week 4: A Second Opinion

The gap between the couples racing to the finish and those who are eating their dust widened significantly this week. All three judges "set their paddles to stun" and, by the end of the evening, had left several casualties limping off the dance floor. Were they justified in their harsh appraisals of the DwtS couples?

Full Speed Ahead

Apolo & Julianne
Another charming routine from the Dream Team. This couple’s Waltz embraced the romance of the dance, and once again their efforts brought a smile to my face. Their performance was elegant, smooth, and included several seamless breaks in their hold that were executed with remarkable grace.

Julianne looked beautiful. Her upswept hair, elbow length gloves and white gown were absolutely perfect for the performance, and helped convey a calm serenity that was almost palpable. Apolo and his partner deserve an Emmy for their wonderful success at "faking" the maturity of this dance. They are certainly holding their own in this competition and justifiably remain one of the front-running pairs.

Ian & Cheryl
Another consistent performance from the youthful Steve Sanders. I still find it hard to believe that he is 43 years old! Ian’s Waltz was filled with smooth footwork and well executed movements. 

However, I didn’t feel any romance or chemistry in this couple’s performance. Cheryl’s long hair extensions spoiled, at least for me, the aesthetic appearance of the dance. Watching her hair whip around during the routine’s fast underarm turns was irritating. The resultant visual impact only accentuated how lovely and effective Julianne’s hairstyle had been in contributing to the overall appeal of her performance with Apolo. 

Nevertheless, Ian & Cheryl remain firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of the field. Ian only needs to remember to breathe if he hopes to maintain his momentum to the finish line.

Joey & Kym
A remarkable repeat effort by the N’Sync alumnus. It was clearly the best dance of the night (as evidenced by the audience’s standing ovation). Joey’s performance was fiery, aggressive, passionate and totally convincing. This couple was also fortunate to have been blessed with the best music selection for the Paso Doble. Their gimmick-free performance certainly captured the Spanish flavour of the dance.

Several elements that caught my eye included Joey’s expressive hand and finger movements, his leap into the air, and his crisp, well synchronized footwork. Kym’s excellent choreography was resoundingly successful in depicting her role in the routine as the matador’s cape. This pair continues to improve and deliver captivating performances. Whether they have peaked too early may be of some concern. But they have certainly earned and proven their claim to the lead.

Moseying Along

Laila & Maks
A mediocre performance from the royal couple. A combination of uninspired music and Maks’s overly flamboyant showcasing has once again placed this couple nipping at the heels of the leaders. Their version of the Paso Doble did not live up to the judges’ or the audience’s expectations, given this pair’s strong routines from Weeks 1 and  2.

Their performance noticeably lacked the passion and fire that typically characterizes this Spanish classic. Although their routine did include several strong aggressive moves, I felt that Laila’s facial expressions took away from the seriousness and drama of their performance. Back to the drawing room for this pair! They need a breakout routine next week if they want to avoid being usurped by the Crown Jewels of the competition: Apolo & Julianne.

Billy Ray & Karina
An acceptable effort from the country crooner. Although Billy Ray stomped through the majority of his Paso Doble, he did display the aggression and intensity that the dance called for. His body language and fiery attitude certainly helped to sell his performance. But the dance included several awkward and strange elements. Even though the execution of Billy Ray’s routine was clearly superior to that of Leeza’s and John’s, Billy Ray’s version did not deserve to be ranked in the same class as Laila’s. Its receipt of an identical score was unwarranted.

While I seriously doubt that Billy Ray has the talent to be labeled a dancer (by any stretch of the imagination), I must admit that his on-camera confession of his limited abilities rang with sincerity and humility. His behind-the-scenes footage won some brownie points even though he was portrayed as both a challenging student and a slow learner. This old boy from Flatwoods, Kentucky, is safe for another week. Perhaps Karina should stock up on Kleenex (and Visine) if she plans to take Billy Ray down the home stretch of the competition.

Heather & Jonathan
A pleasing performance from the charity campaigner. Heather’s Waltz was wonderfully choreographed and successfully showcased her lovely lines. Heather’s disability was more pronounced in this routine, making her appear somewhat jerky and stiff in spots, but overall there was a fluidity to the number. The poignant music selection played a significant role in forging a subtle connection between the audience and this pair.

As for the romantic component of the routine, it was present in moderation. At least Heather managed to keep a straight face — which seemed doubtful after her rehearsal footage. Heather remains a hardworking participant in the show. Jonathan’s talent at crafting impressive routines continues to amaze me. These two competitors are well positioned at the middle of the pack, at least for now.

Roadkill

Leeza & Tony
A forgettable effort from the Tango Tramp. Leeza’s Paso Doble was awkward, wooden and uninspired. Her restrained movements were tentative and lacked conviction. In short the routine was "dull, dull, dull," as Len said — although her costume was great! I totally agree with Len that this was the couple’s worst dance to-date.

I suspect that this week’s routine will be Leeza’s swan song. It pleased neither the judges nor the audience. (Of course the terrible song selection didn’t help.) Leeza deserves a rousing round of applause for her efforts but she lacks the goods to go any further in this competition. Signora Leeza, it’s been…an experience!

John & Edyta
Missing: one wizard and one witch. Carrie Ann wasn’t the only one confused by Edyta’s choreography. So was I. The theme of this couple’s Paso Doble, as described by Edyta, was impossible to deduce based on their presentation. And not only did John do a great deal of standing and kneeling in this routine (as opposed to moving around), but his performance noticeably lacked conviction. In a word, this dance was disastrous.

It’s unfortunate that John’s mother had to be a witness to this dancing calamity. Yet despite John’s poor showing, Cheers fans will undoubtedly pull him through for another week. And to be honest, there were worse couples on the floor tonight. Like…

Clyde & Elena
A permanent time-out is on the horizon for this NBA star. Clyde’s version of the Waltz ranks as the most disappointing (and worst) performance of the evening. Coupled with his unflattering training footage, Clyde is definitely in danger of being ejected from the competition. Once again, Clyde danced small, his movements were restrained, and throughout much of the routine he appeared to be looking at the audience rather than at his partner. Even the most meticulous observer would be hard pressed to detect any hint of romance in this pair’s performance.

Elena seemed frustrated with Clyde’s failure to work hard and be punctual for his practice sessions. And the judges didn’t hold back in their dressing-down of this competitor’s attitude. Both Bruno and Len accused him of not putting in enough effort. While Clyde still has a long way to descend before he ends up in Master P’s class, I do agree that his dancing shows little improvement and exhibits relatively the same style no matter what the routine. I don’t think Clyde won any votes with his rebuttal of the judges’ comments. I believe his behind-the-scenes clips speak for themselves. I predict a bottom two placement for this laid back Hall of Famer.

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