by Heather Parish
Week four of Dancing with the Stars brings us classical culture and heightened emotion.
This week, it’s Dancing with the Stars‘ first-ever classical week, complete with a 46-piece orchestra, opera singer Katherine Jenkins, and hostess Brooke Burke dressed as Aphrodite. I wish I’d have known there was a dress code! Added to this array of classic culture-clash, is David Garett, a classical rock violinist, who opens the show doing an electric violin version of Beethoven’s Fifth.
The ultimate lesson of this week’s competition: don’t underestimate your need for a classical education. . . you never know when a reality TV show is going to make you think about something other than sports and sex. The biggest thing that freaked the contestants out this week is the pros’ informing them that the music “has no lyrics and no discernible beat”. Well, in some cases the lyrics are just in Italian and in most cases there is a beat– you just have to listen for it a little harder.
Romeo kicks things off with a paso doble replete with choreography that economizes his moves and maximizes his “bad-boy” face. He works very hard to play the big man in the dance, and he gets to bare his chest at the end. Judge Len Goodman is tired of talking about his muscles, but Judge Bruno Tonioli likes Romeo’s six-pack and Judge Carrie Ann Inaba likes his swagger. They award him 23 points out of a possible 30.
Kendra Wilkinson shows her finer feelings about the Viennese waltz by sticking her finger down her throat and rolling her eyes about classical music. Until she discovers her song is sung in Italian. This reminds her of the Mafia because it sounds like an Al Capone tune (I had no idea Al Capone was a chart topper in his day). Ultimately, though, someone needed to take out a hit on Kendra and her Mafia-waltz. Her limbs fly everywhere and she can’t take the sweeping elegance of the dance seriously. She comes off like a football player dressed in drag and playing Cinderella at the ASB assembly. Bruno criticizes her performance skills saying she didn’t perform from her soul and didn’t connect to the music.
“If I had more than four days to practice,” says Kendra Complainerson.
“You’re afraid of elegance,” Carrie Ann says.
“I just don’t care about it,” Kendra snaps back. The judges take their pound of flesh for her poor attitude by giving her just 18 points.
Sugar Ray Leonard is also afraid of the classical nature of the dance, lamenting his inability to put some boxing moves in the choreography. His pro, Anna Trebunskaya says absolutely not and sends him to classical ballet school so he can see what this week is supposed to look like. Unlike Kendra, he embraces his challenge and does his utmost to fulfill the needs of the dance. Sure, he came off “cartoonish” and like “Mickey Rooney” according to the judges, but he does so with good grace and high entertainment value The judges grant him 21 points – his highest score to date.
Pro dancer Dmitry Chaplin has trouble getting model Petra Nemcova to lose her state of perpetual calm and happiness in order to play Carmen for their paso doble. So he stages a photo shoot to remind her that supermodels are supposed to look angry. She stops giggling long enough to complete her paso doble, but does so without the aggression and gravitas she needs to make it truly compelling. The judges are still enamored of her beauty and her “lines” so she lands 23 points.
Ralph Macchio is showing his competitive side and pushing himself out of the middle of the pack this week– once you taste the top of the leader board, you cannot go back! Working on his limb extension and hand placement (which the judges have criticized every week), he works hard at embodying the part of Romeo to Karina Smirnoff’s Juliet. He waltzes beautifully and emotionally, his capability of acting the role unquestioned. He’s praised for being back at the top of the game and for the improvement in his technique. The judges grant him 25 points, which is the night’s best so far.
Hines Ward pulls a page out of The King and I for his paso doble as he dances with partner, Kym Johnson. Another celeb with little knowledge of classical culture, Ward pulls out more inexplicable– but effective– performing chops to embody the character of the dance. Judge Carrie Ann calls the dance a “touchdown”, but the other judges (rightly) criticize a few points of his technique and award him 25 points the crowd boos.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas waltz to “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter, which is the undoubted crowd favorite of the night. Ballas’s forward-thinking choreography combines “300 year old waltz steps with some new moves” and creates an engaging, visually pleasing number perfect for the nature of the music. He gets criticized again for his avant guard techniques by Judge Len, but the other two judges loved the piece. The performance earns Chelsea two nines and she comes out the evening’s high scorer with 26 points.
Chris Jericho is happy to get to bring some of his WWE attitude to the dance floor with his traditional paso doble. He pulls off the night’s best dance move by a celebrity: a deep-knee-bend paso doble crawl across the stage that’s requires a great amount of physical strength. His paso has all of the traditional markers which he performs admirably, even if the music seems to dampen the energy a little bit. The judges give him 23 points.
Kirstie Alley is struggling with some muscle fatigue in rehearsals and her taped footage show her trying to power through it. But even with that, we’re strangely not prepared for what actually happens on the dance floor. For the second week in a row, Alley is subject to a performance malfunction– this time, her shoe comes off in the middle of her dance. Luckily, she was choreographed to be seated on the floor for 8 counts so she had time to slip it back on and continue with her fine, if a little lukewarm performance. “I’m supposed to be acting like a swan and I’m putting my shoes on!” Kirstie mourns at the end of her number. She gets 22 points in spite of the mishap.
Interestingly, after the show Alley talked to reporters about the incident and she stated that “I don’t feel like I’m jinxed, but I feel like I need to get my sh– together. When people are accident prone, there is something going on with them. There is something going on.” This journey that Alley is taking seems like a microcosm of her career at times. When her head is on straight and she’s focused, great things happen “Cheers” and HBO’s “Fat Actress” being two such examples. But, like many artists, when some subconscious static is interfering– perhaps not feeling worthy of what she’s working toward– little blips like this can tank the project’s success. She’s right. If she makes it through to next week, I hope we see her working on her inner life as well as her dancing.
As for me, my votes this week were split three ways between Kirstie (because I like the storyline), Ralph Macchio (because I like his embodiment of the dance) and Chelsea Kane (because of that amazing choreography). Who will go home this week?
Tuesday’s Results Show:
In the end, the audience votes preferred to keep Kendra Wilkinson’s excuses over Sugar Ray Leonard’s upbeat spirit, and they sent the boxing champion home.
Next week is American Theme week, which means we can look forward to a lot of cutesy, gimmick-dependent dances and, hopefully, one or two that really take the word “showmanship” to new heights.
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!