DwtS 5, Week 1: A Second Opinion

Season 5 of Dancing with the Stars is off and running. After two nights of surprisingly competent performances, it’s clear that the ladies have blasted out of the starting gate, while the men, with the exception of Helio, are still finishing their warm-up laps. Here’s my take on this season’s field of celebrity dance teams.

TURBOCHARGED

Sabrina & Mark
This Cheetah Girl totally delivered the fresh edge that she promised, courtesy of a dynamic and explosive Cha Cha Cha routine. This number was the hands-down best performance of both nights. Sabrina exuded confidence and high energy with her sharp crisp actions, strong hip movement, and precision footwork. Her partner, Mark, was no slouch either. Their great synchronization and infectious smiles captivated the in-house audience and earned them a well-deserved standing ovation.

Mark’s decision to incorporate hip-hop into the routine’s demanding choreography was a resounding success and certainly added to this duo’s appeal. In fact, their fierce performance likely won them a whole bunch of brand new cheetahlicious fans. Clearly this pair has already gelled and is well positioned to go the distance, leaving many of their competitors in the dust!

Jane & Tony
Dr. Quinn’s prescription for a Foxtrot that embodied the English Rose was beautifully filled by Tony’s charming routine. Jane was elegance personified, as she effortlessly floated across the dance floor. Her lovely arm extensions and delicate yet expressive hand movements showcased this pair’s enchanting performance.

Tony’s superb choreography incorporated a wonderful balance of steps in hold and steps apart. Their well-rehearsed delivery and graceful synchronization secured them a first place position for the Foxtrot. This is another well-matched team that is likely to qualify in a number of heats before the quarterfinals.

Helio & Julianne
This charismatic Indy champion reaffirmed his racing expertise with a bewitching Foxtrot performance. Helio was the only male celebrity to deliver convincingly on the dance floor. He was surprisingly relaxed and smooth, not to mention personable.

Once again, Julianne’s choreography shone through. The chemistry between this pair was tangible, and their performance contained just the right mixture of playfulness and elegance. Even their facial expressions deserve accolades, right down to Julianne’s nose twitching at the end of their "Bewitched By You" dance number. As Len proclaimed, Helio is firing on all four cylinders. And, based on his racing history, this challenger is determined to claim the checkered flag.

Mel B & Maksim
Scary Spice flaunted her feline prowess with both a leopard print dress and a feisty Cha Cha Cha number. Mel B’s energetic delivery included all the key fundamentals characteristic of this Latin dance: crisp movements, good hip action, smooth turns, and cheeky interplay. Mel displayed a strong sense of rhythm and movements that were well synchronized with her partner. This Spice Girl’s entertainment background gave her an experienced edge that promoted a relaxed and confident performance.

My only negative observation pertains to the choreography. Too much of this pair’s routine was reminiscent of Maks’ partnership with Laila. Even though the steps were competently performed, the number came off, for many returning viewers, as somewhat stale. Still, this duo certainly has the horsepower to maintain a leading position.

ON CRUISE CONTROL

Jennie & Derek
This "Yummy Mummy" delivered a pleasing and competent Cha Cha Cha routine that was overshadowed by the outstanding performances of Sabrina and Mel. Jennie’s rendition of this dance was what viewers typically expect on the first night of the season. Her hip action was adept, her turns relatively smooth, her synchronization fairly solid, her footwork slightly unsteady, and her arm placement proficient.

Despite being the first competitor on the floor, Jennie managed to control her nervousness and appeared relaxed and comfortable. Consequently, Derek’s choreography, while somewhat complicated, was well executed and produced an overall good performance. Jennie’s partnership with Derek, though not as stable as some of the leading couples, showed promising potential. Even though she’s not one of my favoured contenders, I expect Jennie will last a few more laps before exiting the field.

Marie & Jonathan
This Osmond entertainer who was "a little bit country" has definitely moved uptown! Marie’s performance of the Foxtrot was classy, playful and elegant. She moved confidently around the ballroom, demonstrating mastery of the basic steps, with beautiful lines and nice arm extensions.

Jonathan, of all the male pros, consistently does a superb job choreographing numbers that showcase his partners. His efforts with Marie produced a smooth and pleasing routine that created a beautiful story on the dance floor. In addition, Marie’s infectious smile, charming wit, and natural rapport positively enhance her popularity. Hopefully, this duo will garner enough votes to keep them in the race for a few more heats.

Cameron & Edyta
This All My Children heartthrob lived up to his charismatic reputation by delivering a competent first performance. Canadian cutie Cameron danced a Foxtrot that rated midway between a Rolls Royce and a Volkswagen. The number included a mostly pleasing combination of hits and misses. For the most part, his posture was good but not perfect, his foot placement was adequate, his arm extensions were commendable, his floor coverage was satisfactory, and his execution was relatively smooth and relaxed. Cameron’s first night routine was another performance that fulfilled typical audience expectations.

Cameron and Edyta are an enjoyable pair to watch on the dance floor. They have lots of potential, providing Cameron’s shooting schedule does not significantly interfere with their practice time. So far this duo can safely cruise along in the middle of the pack.

Mark & Kym
This bionic billionaire was another competitor who successfully embraced his inner dance essence. Mark’s Foxtrot was amusing and relaxed, and displayed a good sense of musicality. Although not one of my favourite off-the-dance-floor celebrities, Mark executed an unexpectedly enjoyable routine that featured more showmanship than anticipated. While Mark’s posture may have been a bit lacking, his footwork slightly off, and his lip-syncing annoyingly distracting, overall he was smooth and light on his feet.

Mark still needs to tone down his overly exaggerated facial expressions and work on his technique. But for a first-time performance, Mark definitely earned a passing grade. The Kym and Mark partnership forms another team that can coast around the track for a couple more laps.

Albert & Anna
Did this Abercrombie & Fitch model get lost on his way to a Chippendale audition? Albert’s pulsating, gyrating, and hip grinding movements were more characteristic of a stripper’s routine than a classic Cha Cha Cha. But whatever the explanation, Anna’s choreography certainly captivated the audience. This entertaining and amusing number was a real crowd pleaser and one of the more memorable entries of the night.

Technically, however, there were a number of flaws. The transitioning sequences were weak, the movements were jerky and the Cha Cha Cha elements were few and far between. Still, the performance was energetic and Albert was totally committed to its delivery. Perhaps some tweaking under this car’s hood will diminish the high-octane output that rendered Carrie Ann practically speechless.

STUCK IN FIRST GEAR

Josie & Alec
This "deceptively unfit" supermodel looks fantastic on the dance floor…until she starts dancing! To put it kindly, Josie is not the most coordinated of competitors. Her rendition of the Foxtrot was jerky, tight, and lacked control. Alec attempted to conceal his partner’s weak dancing skills by performing most of the routine in hold but was quickly called out by Len.

Despite Josie’s shortcomings, she appeared relaxed and animated throughout her performance. The pair looked good together and displayed some lovely lines. On an optimistic note, Josie comes across as quite witty and personable. Here’s hoping that Alec’s Boot Camp produces some rapid results, otherwise this entry may be deemed no longer roadworthy and quickly put up on blocks!

Wayne & Cheryl
Mr. Las Vegas may be a singing icon but his dancing abilities fall more in the Average Joe category. While Wayne’s enthusiasm and work ethic are commendable, his Cha Cha Cha routine lacked flow, commitment, and overall appeal. Wayne’s movements were tight, his hip action was lacking, and his foot placement was weak. Furthermore, Wayne lacked the confidence and aggression exhibited by several of the other celebrities.

Unfortunately for Cheryl, injecting a flirty flavour into this dance was difficult and, for the most part, unconvincing, given the age gap between the two. Also, Wayne’s physical condition appears questionable. Judging from his sweat-soaked workout clothes, it seems that Wayne’s chassis is in need of a major overhaul. I don’t expect that this competitor packs enough under the hood to carry him very far in the race.

Floyd & Karina

The World’s Best Boxer faces a steep uphill climb in his pursuit of this season’s coveted trophy. Floyd’s performance of the Cha Cha Cha was not nearly strong enough to position him anywhere near the winner’s circle. His posture was all over the place, his synchronization was more off than on, and his partnership with Karina lacked chemistry and visual appeal. Although Floyd delivered in the energy and rhythm departments, his aggressive performance did little to complement his partner’s efforts.

Given Floyd’s demanding off-the-dance-floor commitments and Karina’s rather abrasive attitude, I have serious reservations about this competitor’s longevity. Retiring this entry from the field might be the most realistic and compassionate step.

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