DwtS 4, Week 7: A Second Opinion

After ten weeks of training, the DwtS couples were faced with their most demanding night yet. The fight was on to deliver two winning dance routines, one Ballroom and one Latin. And it seemed that the judges were expressing their encouragement (though they label it as appreciation) by being remarkably generous in their scoring. Here’s my take on a night that defined Season 4 of DwtS.

A FEW GOOD MEN (AND ONE GOOD WOMAN)

Laila & Maksim

A winning combination from the boxing superstar and her Maks-nificent coach. Two rounds is all Laila needed to deliver her knockout punch. This regal pair deserves another coronation after Monday’s stellar performances.

Laila’s Quickstep was light, energetic and filled with fast-paced, intricate footwork. Laila looked relaxed but determined as she effortlessly moved around the dance floor. Her mischievous attitude was readily conveyed through her luminous smile and candid facial expressions. Even Maks joined in the fun, playfully shrugging his shoulders and grinning at the audience.

While Laila gazed downwards during some of their routine, had a few minor posture problems, and, about halfway through, made a slight misstep (or had an awkward transition) in their setup up for a quick cross-floor run, overall this duo gave a resoundingly solid performance. Their fabulous routine earned them both well-deserved praise and high scores from the judging panel.

Laila’s Samba was sizzling hot and totally deserving of its perfect score. For once, Laila managed to completely outshine Maks on the dance floor, or at least she totally captured my attention.

While I may not have been a fan of the lime-green costumes (the colour, not the design), this dance was unbelievable! Laila moved like nobody’s business. That girl can swivel and shake her booty as well as any of the pros. Even Maks’ choreography was fun, sensual and managed to seamlessly incorporate the Laila factor. Once again this couple has managed to kick some serious butt and undisputedly regain their leading edge.

Joey & Kym

Two top-notch performances from the Razzle-Dazzle team. Joey continues to nip at the leaders’ heels and confesses to having a game plan that sees him overtaking his competitors on the last leg of the competition. So far, so good!

Joey’s Foxtrot was right on the money. Joyful, entertaining, and even managing to seamlessly incorporate a magic trick. This time, the gimmicks worked for me. This duo’s irreverent routine showed great unison, excellent floor coverage and crisp footwork. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and Kym should be commended for her innovative choreography.

Joey makes dancing look like fun and his innate musicality totally captivates the audience. He exhibits that elusive “it” factor that Ian is desperately seeking. Joey really hit the proverbial nail on the head when he declared that if you take the competition too seriously, you become Ian Ziering (too funny!).

Joey’s Latin number, the Jive, unexpectedly eclipsed his Ballroom routine. The dance was an absolute delight and certainly worthy of its standing ovation. Joey’s snappy footwork, wonderful leg kicks, and electrifying moves are precisely what earned this duo their Razzle-Dazzle nickname. Once again Kym designed an excellent routine that showcased Joey’s fun personality and improved dance skills (not to mention his acrobatic abilities). All I can say is Just keep to the plan Joey, because you’re certainly on a winning track.

Apolo & Julianne

Two solid contributions from the dynamic duo. Apolo continued to battle for his position in the winner’s circle. However, after Monday night’s performances, Apolo had to reluctantly surrender his top spot to a couple of his closest and most dangerous competitors.

Apolo’s Foxtrot was another smile-worthy performance. The routine was dreamlike, extremely well executed, and showed great musicality. Apolo certainly fits the profile of a well-prepared athlete. And his delivery of Julianne’s demanding routine demonstrated wonderful unison with his partner.

I continue to find this pair an impressive team on the dance floor. And you can’t discount the value of their cuteness factor. While I admit that their Foxtrot lacked the sizzle of Week 5’s Samba and the sparkle of Week 6’s Rumba, I still found the dance quite engaging. Unfortunately the judges (particularly Len) seemed to hold Apolo to a higher standard this week and awarded him slightly lower scores than I thought he deserved.

Apolo’s Mambo was full of difficult choreography and innovative moves. Once again, Apolo delivered an energetic, confidant and captivating performance. Apolo brings the full package to every dance – complex footwork, excellent floor coverage, animated facial expressions and great synchronization. For a non-dancer he has progressed at an unbelievable rate.

While this number managed to score better than Apolo’s Ballroom routine, I thought that the pair should have received a combined score that would have placed them higher than Ian and Cheryl. However, I am confident that Apolo’s quest for the gold will turn up another notch by the time he hits the Week 8 starting gate.

Ian & Cheryl

Two noticeably improved efforts from Billy Ray’s latest protégé. Ian managed to insert a little more vitality into this week’s dances — just not enough to categorize them as “break-out” performances.

Ian’s Tango was passionate, technically sound, and efficiently executed. His clipped movements, sharp turns and crisp footwork were all first-rate. However, I could have done without his “mouthwash” step.

Ian seemed marginally more relaxed during this routine, but still not as comfortable on the floor as most of his competitors. He exhibits such determination and intensity in his practice footage that I’m surprised he doesn’t have an ulcer. Still, it was heartwarming to see Ian’s 90210 alumni (Tori, Jason and Jenny) cheering him on from the sidelines.

Ian’s Latin routine, the Mambo, was more energetic and appealing than his first number (even though it received the same score). Ian demonstrated great rhythm, sizzling hip action, terrific shoulder shaking and dynamic footwork. He seemed to have a slight hiccup in his performance at the very end of his routine that the judges completely ignored.

Once again Ian seemed more relaxed than usual, but still not completely uninhibited. It’s quite apparent than Ian is giving it everything he has. I just hope it’s enough to convince voters to place him amongst the top four couples. He is certainly more deserving of that position than either John or Billy Ray.

REMAINS OF THE DAY

John & Edyta

An entertaining but doomed blend of dances from our geriatric representative. Tonight’s two routines will likely epitomize John’s DWTS swan-song, but what an admirable way to go.

John’s Fox Trot was smooth, competent, and showed respectable floor coverage. His infectious enjoyment and actor’s ability to sell a performance continues to make John’s efforts pleasurable for viewers. Rather than play directly to the audience, I noticed how intently John watched Edyta throughout the entire dance, much the way one might expect couples to relate to each other on a dance floor.

Unfortunately, considering the big boys still remaining in the competition, John is now blatantly out of his element. Still I admire his commitment to prepare and present a well-rehearsed number. And I agree with Carrie Ann that the Fox Trot was one of John’s best-performed dances to-date.

Unfortunately, John’s second routine, the Rumba, lacked both passion and hip action. In fact it was rather boring. Once again John exhibited some decent footwork and looked relaxed on the dance floor. But his version of the Rumba was neither seductive nor romantic.

Even the judges could find few praiseworthy elements in John’s routine. Instead they focused on his improvements throughout the competition. In Week 2’s article, I commented that John was the most talented senior to compete on DwtS, and Carrie Ann seconded my opinion on Monday’s show. But the time has come for this participant to retire from the field. The competition (with the exception of Billy Ray) is just getting too tough.

Billy Ray & Karina

Two cringe-worthy performances from our self-proclaimed “Heel-billy.” DwtS’s newest and least qualified choreographer offered up a dance combination that should finally liberate this team from the competition (as long as his fans are willing to set him free).

Billy Ray’s version of the Waltz, like the majority of their routines this season, was designed to showcase Karina. Well, Billy Ray succeeded in his objective. Again this week, Billy Ray was able to resurrect his pole role, requiring him to remain mostly stationary on the dance floor, while Karina basically danced around him. The few steps that Billy Ray executed in this “unconventional” waltz were more reminiscent of walking than dancing.

How the judges can evaluate the routines that Billy Ray performs, at the Week 7 level, as high as they consistently do blows me away! This is a dancing competition, and Billy Ray’s efforts should be judged accordingly, regardless of the charismatic factor that he supposedly brings to the table. Sad, sad, sad!

Billy Ray’s Latin number, The Samba, was marginally better than his Ballroom routine. The dance had slightly more content — meaning that Billy Ray executed a few more steps and covered a little more floor space. On the downside, Billy Ray was stiff, totally lacking in rhythm and missing any recognizable hip action (pelvic thrusts don’t count!)

Personally I see little improvement in Billy Ray’s dancing after ten weeks of training, other than that he no longer counts the dance beats aloud. Billy Ray is one competitor who has coasted along in this competition far enough; it’s time to put his Chevy love mobile on the blocks, permanently!

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