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"Dancing with the Stars" - Week 4 April 11th, 2011

Dancing With the Stars Episode 4 Critique

This week was termed “Classical Week”, where all of the contestants were asked to perform a routine to a classical piece of music. Some were more traditional compositions, and some, like Mark and Chelsea’s, were modern compositions. The diversity of the music gave us a wide range of dance styles to watch, and so far, I’d have to say that this week was the most entertaining. Unlike the first and second week, the contestants were not split into two categories of dances, but rather three: four couples danced the Paso Doble, three couples danced the Viennese Waltz, and two couples danced the English Waltz.

Before I go into the individual couples’ reviews, I’ll give you some background and technical information of the dances.

In addition to the judges’ scores, I’ve also provided you with the ranking I would give the couples. It is based purely on the objectivity of my experience. Instead of offering scores, as the Dancing With the Stars judges do, I will judge them as if they were dancing in a real dance competition. They will get a ranking from 10th to 1st. My rankings are at the bottom of the page.

First of all, Viennese Waltz is the oldest of all the Ballroom dances, dating back some say nearly 700 years (Len said 300, but maybe he needs a brush-up on his history). Many people think it originated in Austria, but evidence suggests in actually came from the villages of the Italian Alps, where it was a rustic dance called the “Volta”, meaning “to turn”. Eventually the “Volta” was taken into the Germanic lands then part of the Holy Roman Empire. The name evolved into “Waltzen”, which is pronounced like “Valtzen” (very similar to “Volta”, actually). At this time there were many more steps than those we see in competitive dancing today, as the stigma against touching those of the opposite gender in public was not yet in place. However, as European culture descended into the prude “dark ages” of the Victorian era, the fast-paced Waltzen fell out of favor, especially since it moved so fast as to lift the skirts of girls and show their ankles. Scandalous! We might have lost the Waltzen altogether, if it wasn’t for the help of a character of infamy known as Adolf Hitler. During his Third Reich, he outlawed all partner dancing except for those dances of Germanic origin. Not knowing, like Len, that Waltzen was actually Italian, he allowed Waltzen to be performed, and this dance was thrown very suddenly back into the limelight. So we can thank Hitler for the newfound popularity of the dance we now know of as the Viennese Waltz, if not for anything else.

Yet we can also thank the prudes of the Victorian era for something as well: the English Waltz (also known as the Slow Waltz or simply Waltz). Since the Victorians wanted to keep their girls’ ankles properly covered, they slowed down the Waltzen and removed the jumping, flying figures that characterized the dance. The two most common dances of the Victorian era were called the “Two Step” and the “One Step”, both variations of the Waltzen. By the turn of the century, partner dancing was beginning to reach a reach a frenzy, and much of it was precipitated by a young and attractive American couple named Vernon and Irene Castle. They performed a version of the “Two Step” called the Boston Waltz, and soon this was the rage of the world. When it was brought to London, it was danced in every dance hall from Houndslow to Grays. Gradually the Boston Waltz was slowed down to a more moderate tempo, which is why it was given the distinction of both the Slow Waltz and the English Waltz. In the 1920s, English Waltz was revolutionized by Josephine Bradley, who with her partner at the Star Championships in 1925, danced her Waltz based on diagonal lines. Waltz has never been the same.

Paso Doble is a different beast entirely. It comes from Spain, and originates in the portrayal of the Bull Fights. “Paso Doble” means “double time”, and the name describes the time signature in which the music is written. The dance was based off of a song played during the procession the Matador took through the city and into the rink where he faced the bull and his possible death. In traditional Paso Doble, the man is supposed to signify the matador, while the woman is either the matador’s sword, or his cape, depending on the figure described. This is why, in Paso, the posture is so different to that of all the other dances. The matador’s posture has a very high centre of gravity, with the hips tight and tucked underneath. When the bull charges, the matador distracts the bull’s attention with the cape, curving his hips away from the centre of the cape in order to better escape the possibility of being gored. In the dance, the dancers’ posture should reflect this distinction.

Note that in my below reviews, I organized the dancers based on their grand totals, not their totals for the night only. And now that you know a bit more about our three dances, how did our dancers do? Let’s find out:


Sugar Ray Leonard & Anna Trebunskaya

Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=7, Bruno=7 for a total of 21 and a grand total of 75

Dance: Viennese Waltz

This routine was one of my favorites of the night. Anna did a great job with the choreography (as she normally does) and her personality really shined through in this dance. She was so adorable prancing around in her tutu. I love Anna!

Ok, ok, Sugar Ray was good, too. Actually, Sugar Ray was great! His character was perfect, his expressions genuine and sincere, his posture much improved. And his timing wasn’t too bad, either. I find it’s very difficult to get students into the rhythm of Viennese Waltz, especially since it’s so fast and so unlike anything anyone does in everyday life.

Now for the negatives (which there weren’t many): Sugar Ray didn’t have enough rise and fall, and he looked like he was running through most of his dance. Or, in Carrie-Ann’s words, “jogging”. He had a hop in the middle of his routine which looked half forgotten. I think he was waiting for a cue from Anna that he registered just a little too late. As a result, he mistimed it with Anna’s and performed it with floppy arms. In simpler words, it looked bad. Also, he hit his ending off cue.

Carrie-Ann, I completely agree, his attitude makes it easy to forgive a lot; and it’s very true, technically it’s not perfect but it was very entertaining. It was a very fair score for him.

Kendra Wilkinson & Louis van Amstel

Score: Carrie-Ann=6, Len=6, Bruno=6 for a total of 18 and a grand total of 78

Dance: Viennese Watlz

I thought 18 was a very fair score for Kendra. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. Her postural problems have still not improved, and I had the impression that I was watching an eight-year-old dance instead of the fully grown and very beautiful Kendra Wilkinson. I got the sense that she kept herself from performing as well as she really could have. She was too stressed out, and it showed, from her tense shoulders down to her unstable feet.

And her hair was terrible. I hate most of the hair on DWTS (Anna’s hair definitely got my vote for the week, it was great), but Kendra’s was just ugly. And every time I saw them in closed position, I kept thinking to myself, how can Louis concentrate with that rat’s nest next to his mouth?

Carrie-Ann has a great point for Kendra, she is stopping herself from being graceful, it’s mental, not physical. And I agreed 100% with Len; yes, Kendra messed up, but to say she killed it is overkill in itself. They are beginners, some of them with more talent than others, and it’s easy to forget that when their mistakes get covered up with glitter and fancy moves.

Why oh why does Kendra have to complain about everything? She has tried to come up with some excuse for not doing well in every week so far. I want her to get kicked off the show so badly just so I don’t have to listen to her complaints anymore. My students know, I am not a teacher that takes to complaining. We all have difficulties to overcome. Let your ego go, hear the bad stuff, and improve! That’s what we care about! Not the reasons why you can’t. Kendra – get over it!!!

Kristi Alley & Maksim Chmerkovsky

Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=7, Bruno=8 for a total of 22 and a grand total of 84

Dance: Waltz

My first impression was that she was almost too sexy for Waltz, when she first walked out. Less than 15 seconds of actual dancing. She messed up her open stuff. Then after, when they grabbed hands and Maks showed her mistake all over his face, I think they were supposed to do the same piece back, but Maks backed out and kissed her hand instead. You might fool the audience at home, Maks, but you can’t fool dancers. And if you meant to simply walk and kiss her hand, badly done if it looked like you missed something.

It was badly done. Never mind her shoe, which has happened to me before and probably to anyone who has ever ballroom danced in a performance. The show looked bad, which was made doubly worse when you consider how easy the choreography was. She was lucky to get such a high score. I would have marked her below Sugar Ray. She didn’t deserve to beat him.

And Maks’s Standard is terrible. There was less than 15 seconds of actual dancing in frame. But maybe that’s a good thing. You don’t want to watch him too much.

Carrie-Ann, lots of ladies’ shoes come off in the dance. Obviously she’s never ballroom danced (oops! Did I say that out loud?). And she is so strange about what she says; Kirstie missed a lot of beats, about 15 seconds worth of beats, actually. We counted how long it took from the moment she starting screwing up to the point when she sort of got it back together. About 15 seconds. You can see it their faces, which is also very bad. Len, I agree, it was no better than ok, but he was too nice. And I simply wanted to take Bruno’s pot away from him. It was not a good performance. She deserved to be at the bottom.

The score was ridiculous, and Bruno needs to stop smoking. I think it was terrible. And by the way, shut up about the shoe. I have seen, and have had, shoes fly off many times before. I had to dance an entire Viennese Waltz in a competition with one shoe. And just recently, I was watching a video of World Championships from 1963, and one of the competitors’ shoes fell off at the very beginning of her dance. She kept dancing, with one shoe, and on the toe of the other foot, as if nothing happened. You couldn’t even tell unless you watched very closely. So Kirstie, Maks, and Carrie-Ann, wake up. It happens!

Petra Nemcova & Dmitry Chaplin

Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=8, Bruno=8 for a total of 23 and a grand total of 84

Dance: Paso Doble

I can’t do it! I just can’t do it! Watching Petra is the most frustrating part of the show! Besides listening to Kendra complain…. Petra is such a beautiful girl and she is so graceful off the floor… yet so clumsy on it! I simply don’t understand how she can look so awkward when she dances. Yes, her Waltz last week was beautiful and I thought she had improved immensely, but dancing Paso Doble was quite a challenge for her this week.

First of all, it was obvious that Dmitry tried to teach her the correct posture, but she just ended up looking like she was pregnant with an imaginary baby (if you can picture that). She was shaky during her rise from the floor, “brittle”, to use Len’s word, in many of the hits and holds in the dance, and did not characterize the story of Paso. Besides simply attempting to perform Dmitry’s choreography, she did not play the part of the cape at all.

I was not fond of Dmitry’s choreography. I think it was almost too simple for her. As teachers, we have to find a balance between keeping the steps easy enough for the students to perform, yet fast enough to cover up the worse of their faults. Tonight, Dmitry’s choreography was too slow, which gave me more than enough time to catch Petra’s turned in feet, her awkward posture, her stumbles, and her pointy elbows. And really, I don’t understand the point of Dmitry stripping Petra at the end. I watched their performance directly after Romeo’s, and I kept thinking to myself, why are all of the stars stripping? I don’t understand! I’ve been dancing Paso since I was nine years old and I’ve never stripped! At least not on purpose! Have Romeo and Petra been spending too much time with Kendra backstage?

Len had it right on the money. “Brittle” was the perfect word to describe Petra’s balance. I more or less agreed with Carrie-Ann, although I don’t think Petra filled up every move, but I think I needed a drink after Bruno’s outburst… and not the good kind of drink, either; the kind that you need after a very long and stressful day. Bruno was absolutely pointless and a complete waste of a good 30 seconds of the show. I don’t even think he’s that funny anymore. He’s just annoying.

Romeo & Chelsea Hightower

Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=8, Bruno=8 for a total of 23 and a grand total of 85

Dance: Paso Doble

I wasn’t terribly impressed with Romeo’s Paso. He did have the character and the intensity of the dance, but pretty much everyone is really getting into their performances, so I’m not going to put too much weight on that with the couples. They are “stars”, right? They should know how to perform. I’m more interested in their technique, and unfortunately I didn’t see much.

First of all, if Romeo was up against a bull, he would have been gored for sure. Instead of putting Romeo in the basketball court, Chelsie should have put him in the bull-fighting rink. Nothing can make you quite as aggressive as fighting for your life against a bull. His posture was not forward enough in the hips, not lifted enough in the chest, and not round enough in the frame. And his feet still bother me! A lot! They are so unbelievably flat. Everyone has made better strides in articulating their extremities by this point, except for Romeo. Because his feet are so weak and lazy, his locks in the middle of his Paso were bouncy, light, and ugly.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why he took off his shirt. Their final move was actually copied from a world class couple named Sergey Sourkov and Melia (one of my favorite Latin couples), and as a dancing I can appreciate the vast differences between not just Sergey and Romeo, because that would be expected, but between Chelsie and Melia. Sergey and Melia, fourth in the world, did the move with Sergey’s shirt on just fine. If Romeo is going to wear a bolero jacket for most of the dance, there’s no point in taking it off for the final 5 seconds or so. It just makes no sense.

And Chelsie should have done something better for herself at the end. She laid there with her feet and ankles wide apart, like she was being crucified; there was none of the grace and beauty in Chelsie’s version that Melia has. If Chelsie is going to copy well-known moves from top class dancers, she should be able to perform them.

Bruno said the phrasing of the song was difficult. Actually it was quite simple. It was all in phrases of eight counts. “Spanish Gypsy Dance”, the most traditional song used for Paso Doble, has much more complicated phrasing than the song given to Chelsie and Romeo. And even if it was difficult, why tell Romeo? Phrasing is Chelsie’s job, as the choreographer. All Romeo had to do was dance what Chelsie told him to.

I’m still trying to figure out what Carrie-Ann meant by “lift” at the beginning and a little bit in the middle, but I was so annoyed with her little “swagger”. A man in Paso Doble should have a very definite type of swagger, and trust me, Romeo did not have it.

I honestly thought the score was a little high. I agreed with Len’s comments and with his score. Romeo should have been happy with a 21. I am seeing no improvement between the weeks. As we are coming to the halfway point, we will soon begin to see who is actually a good teacher, and who is not so much.

Chris Jericho & Cheryl Burke

Score: Carrie-Ann=8, Len=7, Bruno=8 for a total of 23 and a grand total of 86

Dance: Paso Doble

Wow! I was so impressed! I really liked this routine. Compared with all of the guys who danced Paso tonight, his posture was the closest to the matador stance. He kept his chest up and his hips forward. Beautiful.

However, there were basically two things that bothered me. The least important was the ending, which they hit a little bit early. The second, and bigger problem, were the knee walks. It’s great that he did them so fast and so many in a row. Knee walks are not technically difficult, but they are physically challenging. Chris is a strong guy. But he should have rotated his upper body more. Because he just swung his arms, and possibly because of that long coat, he ended up looking like a dwarf in one angle of the camera (no offence to dwarves, but I don’t think that was Chris’s aim).

I agree with Carrie-Ann, Chris framed Cheryl very nicely. And as far as Len’s comment, it’s interesting because that didn’t hit me at first, but when I went back and watched it again, Len was absolutely right. I know what Len meant and it was true, Chris didn’t grow with intensity in proportion to the music, although this is a rather advanced topic to bring up.

Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas

Score: Carrie-Ann=9, Len=8, Bruno=9 for a total of 26 and a grand total of 88

Dance: Viennese Waltz (Partly)

Chelsea was given the highest score of the night, and she definitely deserved it. She danced very well and performed the choreography Mark gave her beautifully. Still, she has some postural problems in her closed frame. It’s strange that she can’t translate the beautiful posture she had last week in her Cha Cha to the Viennese Waltz for this week. Her shoulders and neck look very tense, enough where all the hair hanging around her neck like a duck scruff couldn’t hide it.

Mark’s choreography was beautiful! He is so creative and I loved all the little subtleties he added in there. I have one complaint: he outdanced his partner by a mile. He is not a good ProAm instructor. He is a wonderful dancer, but he forgets that his job as the pro in this partnership is to make her look good, not himself. We all know he’s good; he doesn’t have to prove it to us. I had to go back and watch the clip more than twice because I kept getting drawn to Mark, which is not good when his only job is to show her off.

I’m sorry, I agree with Len. She is supposed to show a Viennese, not stand around while Mark slides on the floor. The dance was very good, Chelsea is a good dancer and Mark is a good choreographer. But Mark is incredibly distracting. Chelsea is beautiful and I want to watch her, not him; I wish Mark would give me the chance.

Mark, seriously, get over the age thing. It’s dang annoying.

Ralph Macchio & Karina Smirnoff

Score: Carrie-Ann=8, Len=8, Bruno=9 for a total of 25 and a grand total of 91

Dance: English Waltz

As hard of a time as I have watching Petra, I have an equally easy time watching Ralph. He did a beautiful Waltz to the theme from Romeo and Juliet, which is also one of my favorite Waltz songs. It wasn’t a very traditional Waltz, but Karina did choreograph a beautiful American Style Waltz. I thing I said in one of my earlier reviews that as long as Ralph sticks to the Standard/Smooth dances, he’s my champion for sure. He has a natural grace and presence when he dances any of the Standard dances. And I was extremely impressed with his spins!

That said, there were some negatives to his dance. First of all, he failed to exit his chasses with toe leads, which is bound to make any Standard dancer wince. I had to take a double look at this, because I thought I saw it, but it was difficult to tell as Karina was spinning in front of him. And I wasn’t fond of the ending. When I saw it the first time, I thought Ralph lost his grip a bit; but upon closer inspection, it was the construction of the move that wasn’t perfect. And the ending with the heart in the hands just looked contrived to me.

I agree with Carrie-Ann, he is a very sincere dancer; and I think, at last, the score was fair.

Hines Ward & Kym Johnson

Score: Carrie-Ann=9, Len=8, Bruno=8 for a total of 25 and a grand total of 94

Dance: Paso Doble

I love Kym’s costume! It looks great on her! Finally she has a real Latin look! And I love that song!

Hines was a bit too hunched in the centre, and he didn’t have enough lift in the hips and upper spine. Remember what I described as the Paso posture- Hines didn’t have it. His shoulders also seemed a bit too tense for me, but it might have been the unfortunate decision to put the bolero jacket complete with epaulettes on a man that already has huge shoulders.

But man does he have a great presence on the floor! You can’t help but like him! He’s so much fun to watch!

I don’t agree with Len, he’s not the most determined; but he is doing great. Still, the judges didn’t really say anything of value. But I was finally happy to see some real Latin makeup and hair on at least one girl. All of this loose and messy hair flying around has been driving me crazy, because I can’t see anyone’s face! But now, my eyes can rest easy.


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