DwtS 4, Week 8: A Second Opinion

With the semifinals looming closer, the heat is on for each of the remaining couples to secure their spot on the dance floor. Once again the stars had to deliver two brand new dance routines, first Ballroom, then Latin. Several of the pairs had a difficult time trying to please the entire judging panel and opted to entertain the fans instead. Here’s my take on Week 8 of DwtS.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN

Apolo & Julianne

Another golden evening for the popular Olympian. Last week’s negative judges’ comments motivated Apolo to return to the dance floor as an even stronger and more determined competitor. Week 8’s double whammy performances definitively confirmed that Apolo is more than up to the challenge. There is no way that this Olympic athlete is prepared to concede his top spot without a fight.

Apolo’s Tango was intense, sharp and flawlessly executed. From my perspective, his floor coverage and footwork were exceptional, and the routine was jam packed with complex content. Julianne’s choreography was electric. I marvelled at how she managed to incorporate so many exciting steps into their number and at how Apolo executed them with such synchronization and polish. In my opinion, Len was totally off-base with his criticisms. I thought this routine was the best Ballroom dance of the night!

Apolo’s Latin routine, the Paso Doble, was dramatic, intense and totally deserving of a high score (maybe not perfect, though). The dance was full of energetic content, aggressive floor coverage and sharp movements.

Julianne is a master at designing routines that showcase Apolo’s quick footwork and excellent timing. He has certainly transformed himself into a competent ballroom dancer. Apolo’s consistently superior performances must be giving his competitors a goatee-ache!

Joey & Kym
A well-timed shift into turbodrive by the N’Sync showman. Joey continues to maintain his pace with the pack leaders. This week he delivered two solid, entertaining, and challenging routines that placed him in an ideal position to zoom across the finish line.

Joey’s Waltz was elegant, technically solid and chock full of content. I loved it, even though I broke out in a grin partway through, when the number almost verged on becoming cheesy. Once again Kym choreographed a lovely routine that fit Len’s desire for a no tricks, straight-up, professional performance. Joey’s execution was flawless, his floor coverage excellent, and his chemistry with Kym just short of perfection. Unfortunately, Bruno and Carrie Ann missed Joey’s razzle-dazzle touch. I thought the duo delivered exactly what they promised and deserved 9s across the board.

Joey’s Mambo was packed with intricate moves, clever underarm turns, and razzle-dazzle choreography. What a sharp contrast to his prim and proper ballroom routine! I thoroughly enjoyed this number. It was fun, fast and funky with lots of hip shaking thrown in the mix.

Joey’s relaxed attitude on the dance floor (thanks to his N’Sync roots) translates to an entertaining performance for the audience. Joey is clearly as committed as Apolo to being the first one to cross the finish line. However, unlike Carrie Ann, I don’t believe that he already has it in the bag!

Laila & Maks
A theatrical combination from the Last Woman Standing. Laila’s Week 8 routines clearly leaned more towards the entertainment spectrum than the purist dance one. Unfortunately, Maks’ interpretations cut valuable dance content from his choreography, in favour of viewer appeal. The judges did not appreciate his efforts, but the studio audience seemed receptive enough.

Laila’s Waltz was the epitome of elegance. It was classy, poignant and told a story from its dreamlike beginning to its touching ending. Laila’s extended hand kiss to her father, halfway through the number, was seamlessly built into the dance and provided us with a profound DwtS moment.

While the routine was beautifully executed and showed lovely rising and falling movement across the floor, I have to agree with Len that Maks wasted some valuable time by not including more content at the beginning or conclusion of the dance. Still, Joey and Apolo have been guilty of similar choices, without suffering excessively harsh penalties. Laila’s across-the-board 9s demonstrated that the judges’ critical comments were not unduly reflected in their scoring.

Laila’s Jive was fast, fun and spunky. In keeping with their more theatrical theme for Week 8, Maks opted to tell a story with his choreography. I thought the number was cute, clever and comically entertaining. There was lots of fancy footwork, quick kicks, and brazen playing to the audience.

Laila looked relaxed and well prepared, performing her steps with a natural ease that Ian would do well to emulate. Better Laila as a role model than Billy Ray! For once, I thought the judges’ scores were exactly right. This pair definitely deserves to advance to the semi-finals.

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

Ian & Cheryl
A less-than-perfect combination from the Beverly Hills 90210 perfectionist. Ian still didn’t look comfortable on the dance floor. Despite his luminous smile, he appeared stiff, his routines lacked authenticity, and he was unable to forge a tangible connection with his partner. With only five couples remaining, Ian is in serious danger of being derailed.

Ian’s Fox Trot was entertaining but lacked the smoothness that the judges were seeking. He seemed overly self-aware, his arm movements were underextended, his floor work was skippy, and his footwork was slightly off. I found the routine somewhat slow in spots and felt that he was forcing rather than feeling his character.

I did, however, notice that Cheryl filled the entire musical selection with dancing content. There were no gimmicks, walking together intros or walking apart endings that some of the other pairs throw in as filler to reduce the length of their routines. I thought Ian’s marks were rather low, considering the quality of the dance that he delivered and the scores that Billy Ray’s Mambo received.

Ian’s Latin number, the Rumba, was solid but average. Again, Ian failed to exhibit the passion and intensity crucial for realistic interplay with his partner. While his hip action was good, his footwork was competently executed and the pair’s poses showed lovely lines, the dance lacked naturalness that Ian needed to effectively connect with the audience. Instead Ian was rather stiff, his arm movements lacked extension and he seemed to overthink the steps.

Regrettably, Ian is just not in the same league as the top three contenders. And, at this point, I don’t expect him to pull through and complete the final circuit.

Billy Ray & Karina
Two more dreadful routines from the Crazy Bear. The time for Billy Ray’s hibernation has definitely arrived! Let’s face it — Hanna Montana’s dad cannot dance! No matter how much positive visualization he indulges in, the goods are just not there.

Even Bruno has turned against Billy Ray — in a boldly insensitive manner. I would sooner see the judges award the scores that the routines deserve rather than verbally demean the celebrities. Bruno crossed the line with Billy Ray by labeling what he did as "crap." While I may find his dancing appalling, Billy Ray deserved more respect than was conveyed by Bruno’s description.

The best thing about Billy Ray’s Foxtrot was the music. His delivery of the routine lacked content, rhythm, smoothness, and proper technique. According to Len, Billy Ray did everything the exact opposite of what was conventionally acceptable: he went up instead of down, used his heels instead of his toes, and danced the right steps at the wrong time. A good portion of the dance, Billy Ray spent walking around the floor, and another substantial portion was taken up with Karina dancing circles around him. The judges should have awarded him the 4s he deserved. This routine was scored way too high!

Billy Ray’s Mambo was almost painful to watch. His hip action was terrible; his footwork was awkward, with no rhythmic content; and his arm movements were simply sloppy. I could find no entertaining elements in his performance whatsoever.

Yet again, the judging panel opted to further this celebrity’s delusion by awarding him higher scores than his dancing deserved. Still, in some small way, I begrudgingly admire Billy Ray for having the courage to show up week after week and complete his simplistic routines. I just hope that Week 8 marks his last installment.

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