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Dancing With The Stars: Competition Round 2

IN THE March 30 ISSUE

FROM THE 2011 Articles,
andBooks & Tales,
andHeather Parish
SECTIONS

by Heather Parish

Heather is going to be sharing with KRL readers each week an overview of each Dancing with the Stars episode and her thoughts! Check back each Wednesday night.

Ralph Macchio still tops the leaderboard on Dancing with the Stars

This week’s round of Dancing With the Stars was ‘redemption night’. Producers were so upended last fall when David Hasselhoff was sent packing the first week, all of this season’s celebs got a second chance to impress judges and viewers Monday night, before one of them gets the hook on Tuesday.

So, hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke (sporting an appropriately stark and modest black dress with a high neckline) kept things business-like, diving right into the action. This week’s scores are combined with last week’s, giving the contestants a chance to move slightly up (or slightly down) in rankings before viewer voting commences.

Sugar Ray Leonard, with partner Anna Trebunskaya, tried to bring some of his boxing background to his jive to “Sweet Soul Music”, but it still didn’t translate. Judge Len Goodman thinks Sugar Ray’s performance “lacked any refinement, any true dance quality.” From where I was sitting, Sugar Ray improved upon his posture and still brought a lot of personality to the dance floor, but he’ll need viewer votes to avoid being in jeopardy for elimination. He is awarded a total of 33/60 points.

While Sugar Ray takes it on the chin, Kendra Wilkinson has had too much reality even for a reality TV star. Terrified of how much work it takes to “be ladylike”, Wilkinson breaks down into tears.

“[Pro Louis Van Amstel] is on me to be a lady; it is so stressful — I’m like losing it!” former Playmate Wilkinson wails during her taped rehearsal bit.

“Everybody thinks I’m that Playboy sexy girl that’s confident — and I’m not that, you know!” she sobs in self-pity.

Ultimately, she comes out looking every bit like a Barbie doll, and dancing like one, too. Stiff, awkward, and holding on to Van Amstel as though he were body-armor in a war zone. All of the judges are surprisingly kind to her, probably because she seems so confused about what’s being asked of her. They speak of her difficult choreography, how she has to breathe into the movement and find that ladylike grace.

But does she really understand what they’re saying to her? She’ll only have time to figure it out if she becomes more sympathetic and likeable to the audience. If she survives, her storyline could get interesting. Wilkinson is given (a very generous) 38/60 combined score.

Next up is pro Mark Ballas and Disney star Chelsie Kane– both decked out in avant guard mime make up and punk-clown wedding costumes. Yes, Mark Ballas is the Picasso of the ballroom on DWTS– everything is there but not always in the right place and often there’s too much of it.

His Jive with young Miss Kane is theatrical, entertaining, over-the-top, and difficult to pull off. The audience loved it. I loved it. The judges hated it.

Video highlights on YouTube

The jive elements– of which there were many– were disguised by the style of the number. Mostly, the judges seemed to resent the risk-taking so early in the season. In performance terms, though, Chelsie Kane broke away from the pack, standing out as a fearless performer willing to embrace anything that’s thrown at her. In Ballas’ hands, we may have seen a glimpse of a finalist here. Kane is awarded 39/60 combined points. I think she deserved at least one more for the risk level.

Next up, we find out that Chris Jericho’s WWE trainers got nothin’ on 26 year old pro-dancer Cheryl Burke for discipline and tough regimens. When they take the floor for their dance, the audience sees right away that it is working for Jericho. His performance and technique levels rose considerably in one week resulting in a charming, classic, dashing quickstep.

Jericho revealed himself to be a gentleman competitor, respectful of the discipline needed in the rehearsal room and able to show a lighter, dashing side of himself. He’s rewarded with a major upswing in points– a 23 score, which combined with last week’s, puts him at high ranking 42/60. The second week ‘redemption’ round certainly worked in his favor.

Supermodel Petra Nemcova began to overcome her fear of falling (and thus, injury) this week to work on her jive with partner Dmitry Chaplin. Donning a glamorous hat and sundress she looked beautiful at the beginning of the routine.

Then she fell prey to one of the tropes of DWTS– the tear-away costume. (I always feel so badly for the designers and seamstresses who worked on those costumes for hours, just to have them thrown away in the first 10 seconds of a routine). In this case, the act doesn’t work for them as her new skimpy outfit simply highlights her lack of technique and inability to commit to the jive steps. She might have been better off if she’d left the dress on.

But the judges are unyieldingly kind to her; her sweetness seems to get her a pass as her lack of connection to her moves and her inability to attack the dance go unremarked, but her beauty is universally admired. She gets a 36/60 for her combined score.

Actress Kirstie Alley and her pro Maksim Chmerkovsky are the early audience favorites this season. The couple’s taped segment delves into Kirstie’s issues with her weight and her body-confidence. “Do really skinny girls — your skinny partners — has it been hard for them too?” Kirstie asks “Maks”. He assures her that it is hard on everyone, which seems to shore her up.

Kirstie Alley and partner Maksim Chmerkovsky stand before the judges

But the fact that we don’t entirely believe him makes the audience even more sympathetic to Kirstie’s cause. Once she’s out on the floor, though, Kirstie proves that she can skip and glide like she’s sliding on ice (Kendra Wilkinson needs to take notes). Kirstie’s performance is as boisterous as she can possibly deliver, although she does trip up and slow down at the end. While stamina will certainly be an issue for her, Kirstie held her own for the second week in a row, earning 43/60 points.

“It’s jive or die time,” Loveline co-host Mike Catherwood says; he and partner Lacey Schwimmer finished last week at the bottom of the points heap. His jive is pigeon-toed and flat-footed but he delivers it with gusto and good humor making it a crowd pleaser. Unfortunately, it also puts him at the bottom of leader board with a combined score of 30/60. I don’t think that pro Lacey Schwimmer’s knack for choreography or solid teaching technique will be able to get him much farther.

Music artist Romeo seems to be trying to make a connection with his partner, the young and straightforward Chelsea Hightower. His approach seems a little off, though. Rather than buckling down to listen to her, he tries to connect by getting her to feel his muscles. A lot. In the end, though, his technique on the quickstep is better than last week’s and he’s praised by the judges for his potential and growth. Suddenly, he seems to think that DWTS might be a worthwhile effort. He’s awarded a total of 42/60.

Earning the award for “Celebrity the Quickest to Get Over Herself”, Wendy Williams came storming into training determined to bring more of her personality to the process.

Video highlights on YouTube

Her quickstep was classic, cheeky and full of good humor, which helped her out a lot, since her technique only improved a smidge. But she and partner Tony Dovolani were complimented on their performance by the judges and encouraged to keep going in this direction. I cannot but agree– Wendy could give Kirstie a run for her money in the Miss Congeniality competition as she has the American woman’s empathy for all of the same reasons: humor, quirkiness, and a public reckoning with her issues. She gets a total of 31/ 60 points.

Last week’s top-of-the-leader board celeb Ralph Macchio returns with his drive toward perfectionism– and his ability to over think in the rehearsal room– to do a high energy jive.

While Macchio’s two taped segments have convinced viewers that the upcoming dance will be a train wreck, Macchio then comes out and succeeds in embodying a dance so fully, you can’t believe his Ray Romano act for a moment. Is this part of the strategy? Lower expectations in the taped segment so you’ll be blown away with the dance?

If it is, it works because I loved the jive. His footwork, energy and ability to perform the style of the dance were through the roof. And, as it is with such cases, the judges decide to nail him for it. Criticizing his jive for being “too frenzied” and “too energetic”, the judges dropped his scores from 8s last week to 7s this week– a turn I found appalling seeing as how other stars who aren’t performing at his level in WEEK TWO don’t get nearly the demerits he got during judging. Bad form, judges! But even they have to admit he’s pulled ahead of the rest and he’s awarded a total of 45/60 points, putting him back on top of the leaderboard.

The final couple is Hines Ward with his partner Kym Johnson, who are the couple with the most legit chemistry in the competition. They have little in common outside of this competition, he being reared in the American South and she in Australia. They’ve bonded over learning each other’s slang and a down-to-earth sense of humor. As a result, their dances seem truly organic, like a talented real-life couple having fun at a party. Their quickstep is nice, light, classic in feel but contemporary in style. The judges bestow the title of “twinkle toes” on Ward and he’s given a total of 23 for this dancing, bumping his combined total to 44.

Video highlights on YouTube

As a result of a second round before voting eliminations, some of the leader board placements did change. For this week’s performances alone, Ralph Macchio dropped to fourth behind Hinds, Jericho and Romeo, but with the combined scoring, Macchio remains in first by only one point. The combined scores for the top of the leaderboard look like this:

1. Ralph Macchio
2. Hines Ward
3. Kirstie Alley

with Mike Catherwood still at the bottom in position 11 with 30 points.

***
The Dancing With the Stars Results show: Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The first elimination show is always the trickiest, because of the strange number of factors. How well did you dance (obviously)? But also, how well did you connect to the audience? Do you have your own fan base? Did you do or say some tiny, weird thing that set the audience against you? And while solid scores can help you buy security, they aren’t a guarantee– performers at the top of the leader board have been put in jeopardy via voting before.

But not this week: All five celebs at the top of the leader board (Macchio, Ward, Alley, Jericho and Romeo) were safe, because it was the leader board that drove the voting this round. Well, a little name recognition with those artists couldn’t have hurt!

Radio’s LoveLine co-host Mike Catherwood, who was at the bottom of the leader board, was the first to be eliminated from the 12th season of Dancing With the Stars. His improvement in score on his jive and willingness to work seriously on the competition just wasn’t enough for audiences, apparently.

Mike Catherwood and pro Lacey Schwimmer stand ‘in jeopardy’

Talk-show host Wendy Williams and boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard joined Mike in the bottom three and under the red “in jeopardy” lights.

But in a twist 12 seasons in the making, fans didn’t seem to care that Mark Ballas went all avant guard on Chelsie Kane as she was safely voted into the next round– something that probably wouldn‘t have happened just two years ago. A ‘high concept’ dance often put good dancers under the red light in the earlier seasons of DWTS. Could this show be having the added impact in educating the public on more theatrical forms of entertainment? Or is the audience just more diversified?

As for the rest of the Results episode, I tuned out on principle when the controversial-yet-again Chris Brown performed. Like host Tom Bergeron and dancer Cheryl Burke, I am not a fan of domestic violence nor Charlie Sheen-like outbursts.

The 10 remaining contestants will do it all over again next week for your viewing and, they hope, voting pleasure.

Dancing With the Stars airs on Monday nights with Eliminations on Tuesday nights on ABC. Follow commentator Heather Parish’s real-time thoughts on DWTS via Twitter, Monday evenings beginning at 8 p.m. PST.

Check back here Wednesday evenings for more of Heather’s thoughts and an overview of the week’s episode! Check out last week’s intro article in KRL!

Heather Parish is a contributor to our Area Arts & Entertainment section & a part of KRL’s editing team. She is a freelance writer & theatrical director. Originally from Visalia, she is the artistic director for The New Ensemble in Fresno. Heather can be found on Facebook.

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