DwtS 4 Finale: A Second Opinion

Game is definitely on for the DwtS finalists, as they take their last kick at the can. Will it be spectacular dance routines or dramatic theatrical numbers that win the viewers’ votes? After ten weeks of gut-wrenching competition, which celebrity has earned the distinction of claiming the ultimate in ballroom bragging rights? Here’s my take on the DwtS finals.

Joey & Kym
Mr. Entertainment set out with a plan to wow the audience and capture the whole enchilada. And wow them he did! Joey delivered a wonderfully entertaining Cha Cha and a technically dazzling Freestyle.

Joey’s flair for performance was evident throughout the execution of both routines. But his dramatic renditions elicited very different reactions for each dance; Joey negatively compromised his scoring with his Cha Cha, while he positively elevated his ranking with his Freestyle.

Was the end result enough to award him the Season 4 Dwts title? In my opinion, absolutely yes!

Joey’s Cha Cha was heavy on tricks and light on basic dance content. This pair’s crowd-pleasing routine contained more razzle-dazzle elements than the judging panel either expected or desired. The proliferation of non-Cha Cha movements might have showcased Joey’s theatrical flair, but it failed to adequately highlight his improved Cha Cha skills.

While the routine contained cheeky elements and some great footwork and turn segments, I would not have classified it as a particularly flirtatious number. Instead, it celebrated the fun and entertaining aspects of dancing and was more reminiscent of a Freestyle dance-off routine. Still, Joey executed the dance with outstanding confidence and competence. The sections where the pair danced as one were quite captivating. I awarded this couple the number two position for their ballroom round.

Joey’s Freestyle was amazing! From his spectacular split-jump off the stage to the multiple jaw-dropping lifts to the disco-flavored choreography. Kym’s skillful integration of past ballroom dance elements into their routine created a wonderful backdrop for the journey that Joey has undergone since his arrival on the show.

The number was energetic, entertaining, full of quick footwork, precise arm gestures, and great facial expressions. Joey and Kym really nailed this one and provided their adoring public with a polished, invigorating performance. For me, this was the hands-down best freestyle dance of the night.

Apolo & Julianne
The Apolo Express seized the inside track in this final round of DWTS. Apolo’s determination to be the first to cross the finish line was backed up by solid Rumba and spectacular Freestyle routines.

Technically, Apolo has mastered many basic ballroom elements. His footwork is fast and precise, his floor coverage is exceptional, his unison with Julianne is outstanding, and his confidence and energy are palpable. Apolo won first place according to the judges’ combined scores. I, however, have him placing a close second behind Joey.

Apolo’s Rumba landed more on the passionate end of the spectrum than the romantic one. Julianne crafted another routine that highlighted Apolo’s strengths: his fast footwork, high energy and superb synchronization. Again, this couple exhibited lovely lines in their poses and executed some wonderfully innovative choreography.

However, this interpretation of the Rumba was too fast and too fragmented to properly convey the sense of romantic interplay that the dance requires. The routine lacked flow and perhaps was guilty of containing too much content (if that’s possible). I failed to feel any connection between the music and the dance itself.

Although I thought Apolo competently performed Julianne’s technically challenging routine, I was not as impressed with this pair as I have been in the past. Their ballroom number ranked third on my score sheet.

Apolo’s Freestyle was an over-the-top ninja/hip-hop spectacle. The dance was fast, energetic and totally original. Talk about tricks! Julianne’s amazing choreography incorporated everything from break-dancing to back flips to blindfolds. The routine contained exactly what the judging panel expected to see in a freestyle performance, with the emphasis clearly on performance.

The number exemplified that signature “wow” factor for which this pair is renowned. It presented a showcase for Apolo’s speed, synchronization and wonderful musicality. What an Olympic triumph for this speed-skating champion! Apolo’s routine placed decimal digits behind Joey’s in my Freestyle ranking.

Laila & Maks
The Queen of the Dance pulled out all the stops in her bid for Season 4’s DwtS title. Laila was confident, energized, and brought everything she had to the table. You can’t help but admire her work ethic, perseverance and tenacity. Her beauty, elegance and magnetic sexuality are simply icing on the cake.

But unless her fanbase (and Maks’) exert Herculean efforts, I fear that Laila will not be the victor. Last night’s combination punch didn’t pack enough oomph to knock out her competition. The voters, not the judges, will ultimately decide who wins this bout.

Laila’s Paso Doble showed a vast improvement over her Round 4 version. This time out, the dance had fire, passion, quick twist turns, aggressive footwork and good arm extensions. Maks’ choreography focused more attention on Laila and her improved ballroom skills than on himself. Certainly, the more appropriate musical selection helped to sell the routine.

However, I had expected the dance to be a bit more polished. I thought that Laila’s head turns could have been sharper – in fact I think that she completely missed one half way through. Also, she could have been more aggressive in the way that she picked up her skirt during the dance, more precise in her foot placement and more diligent about pointing her toes. I recognize that these are minor criticisms, given the number of dance elements that Laila successfully mastered. But at this stage of the competition, pulling off the more subtle details is what separates the winner from the rest of the pack.

Still, after viewing her competitors’ submissions, I think that Laila’s Paso Doble was the undisputed winner of the ballroom round.

Laila’s Freestyle was an energized Michael Jackson-inspired number that accentuated her great hip action and superb fly-girl moves. The routine was playful, entertaining, and technically balanced. Laila confidently executed a number of crowd-pleasing tricks, fast footwork and great turns. Her ballroom technique and her unison with her partner have clearly progressed over the past ten weeks.

Unfortunately, Maks’ psychic abilities were not in tune with the judges’ expectations. Instead of choreographing a number that accentuated Laila’s natural elegance and sophistication, Maks opted to go for something different. But the something different that he chose duplicated an approach that was to be dominated by Laila’s talented competitors.

Although her Freestyle was great, it was not good enough to eclipse the performances of Joey and Apolo. It ranked third on my score sheet.

After Week 9’s impressive performances, I actually found the Finals rather anti-climatic. Although the Freestyle routines were amazing, the judges’ selections fell somewhat below my expectations.

I am delighted, however, that the best three celebrities ended up facing each other in the final round. Joey, Apolo, and Laila have been exceptional competitors this season. I think that they all deserve to win. Their dancing abilities have shown incredible improvement and greatly contributed to the increased popularity of the show.

I would not be disappointed to see any one of them hoisting that fugly mirror ball trophy into the air. But just for the record, my finishing order is Joey, Apolo, Laila.