"Dancing with the Stars" - Premiere Review March 21st, 2011
Monday, March 21st, marked the premier episode of Season 12’s Dancing With the Stars.There were eleven couples, six of whom danced Cha Cha while the other five danced Foxtrot. My reviews are as follows:
Dancing the Cha Cha
Wendy Williams & Tony Devolani
Score: Carrie-Ann=5, Len=4, Bruno=5 with a total of 14
Wendy unfortunately deserved this score. She was the stiffest girl out there, and I think the only star that matched her in stiffness was Chris Jericho. Her posture was terrible, hunched forward in the shoulders with her head jutting out. There was no movement in her body, she looked as if she was falling into each step, like she had no control over her body. But what bothered me the most was her feet; they were completely flat, with absolutely no articulation through the ankles or toes. I know a man who dances with two prosthetic legs from the knee down. He uses his (fake) feet better than she does. Bruno mentioned something about her feet, and agreed with his comments through.
Kendra Wilkinson & Louis van Amstel
Score: Carrie-Ann=6, Len=6, Bruno=6 for a total of 18
Kendra was very disappointing for me! I’ve seen her on “The Girls Next Door” and other shows on TV, where she showed a promise of more grace. She had none whatsoever. Her legs were far too soft, too lazy, and too open in her thighs. Her arms and spine were carried up and forward, she flung her arms out into the positions like she was a ragdoll being ripped apart. Like Wendy, she should have worn a long skirt to hide her leg action, since she really doesn’t have any. The thing that bothered the most, though, was how un-feminine she was. She walked on the dance floor like a male break-dancer. Not your most sophisticated ballroom dancer.
As far as the judges went, I agreed 100% with Len. Carrie-Ann, like always, managed to latch on the one problem Kendra needs to worry about the least: spotting. She told Kendra to spot in her turns. Really, Kendra cannot even step on a straight knee, or take a back step without Louis’ help to pull her out of it because she is so back-weighted. Spotting is the least of Kendra’s worries. And Bruno advised Kendra to lengthen through the back of her legs in order to make her leg line more beautiful, but Kendra complained about wearing three inch heels. I wanted to slap her. We all wear three inch heels, Kendra. Yes, it’s difficult, but that’s the way it is. Get over it and get your gosh-darn legs straight!
One word to Louis: beautiful choreography. He did a great job fashioning the choreography around the only thing Kendra can do, and that’s shaking her booty.
Chris Jericho & Cheryl Burke
Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=6, Bruno=6 for a total of 19
Chris Jericho tied with Romeo for the score of 19, but to be honest the judges were very indulgent with him, and this is why I chose to describe his dance ahead of Romeo’s. Chris was extremely heavy. His feet were incredibly stiff and his ankles seemed like they were bolted at the joint. His posture was terrible, and he was off-time in some places, consistently hitting the step a beat or more before Cheryl. Not to mention the fact that he has a terrible syndrome I call “Cowboy Legs”. He’s badly bowlegged.
Cheryl’s choice of choreography was awful. In the middle of the dance they lapsed into a salsa that only served to show off Chris’s terrible bowlegs instead of hiding his physical deficiencies by giving him steps that require that he cross his legs. This was definitely not a success for Cheryl.
II agreed with Len and Bruno, but wanted to turn off the TV when Carrie-Ann gave her little two-cents. She said he didn’t have enough content, that he could handle more. I completely and utterly disagree. As a Ballroom Dance professional and teacher, I can look at what he did and know right off the bat that he doesn’t need more content, he needs different content. And by the way, Carrie-Ann, he didn’t “hit it” like you said he did. In fact, he didn’t “hit” much at all.
Romeo & Chelsea Hightower
Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=6, Bruno=6 for a total of 19
Romeo may have tied Chris, but in my opinion he was far better. He’s such a good looking guy, nicely groomed, posture not terrible. I want to like him. I try to like him. I have a positive reaction to him.
And he almost kept it up! Chelsie had him leaning down to hide his postural deficiencies, and it was a good choice. The choreography was put together well enough so that it actually made him look better than he was. And Carrie-Ann was right, he has a lot of sex appeal. I just wish he was more into the girl (ie, Chelsie) than himself. For what he needs to work on… feet, feet, feet. Len was right on.
Hines Ward & Kym Johnson
Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=7, Bruno=7 for a total of 21
I was seriously impressed by this performance. The first impression was extremely positive; he has great facial expressions throughout the entire dance. His center is surprisingly active for a football player. His hips were moving, his arms were complete, and he really performed it to the maximum. He has very flat feet, but I’m not surprised about that. In my experience, football players normally are very flat anyway. Knowing he is a football player, I had certain expectations of what he would look like that he hugely surpassed.
Kym tends to disappoint me. She’s too active in her shoulders and upper body and completely inactive in her center. I also thought her choice of choreography was not very good for Cha Cha. There was nothing flirtatious or cheeky about this Cha Cha at all, which is a shame considering Hines’s ability to actually execute it
As far as the judges’ comments went, I didn’t totally agree with them. Len mentioned he thought Hines was crisp and that the choreography was very cheeky. I couldn’t have disagreed more. There was very little that was crisp, but unfortunately that was not Hines’s fault. Bruno advised Hines to work on his hips, but I thought Hines moved his hips beautifully! As I mentioned, Hines had a very active center. Hines should stick to Len’s advice and focus his attention on those flat, football-player feet of his.
Kristi Alley & Maksim Chmerkovsky
Score: Carrie-Ann=8, Len=7, Bruno=8 for a total of 21.
Wow! I was so impressed with Kirstie’s execution! She was great! She has a naturally straight spine and wonderful presentation of her upper back and chest which makes her particularly easy to watch. On top of that, she seemed to slip into the character of Cha Cha rather easily, which is more than I can say for all the other dancers. Maks did a great job with her choreography, showed her off superbly.
I agreed with everything the judges said, but Bruno especially hit the mark. Kirstie and Maks were by far the best of the Cha Cha set.
Dancing the Foxtrot
Mike Catherwood & Lacey Schwimmer
Score: Carrie-Ann=5, Len=4, Bruno=4 for a total of 13
This was definitely not the cream of the crop. Foxtrot is a very difficult dance, the hardest of all the Standard dances, and Mike and the other four stars had to start with it, which I think was a bad decision on the part of ABC. That said, Mike definitely did not look good. I won’t say he was the worst, but he’s at least tied.
Foxtrot is supposed to be smooth and elegant. He was neither of those. Mike seemed unable to use his feet in order to achieve a clean transfer of weight from foot to foot. More importantly for Standard dancing, his posture was terrible and his frame, in other words the line of his hold from elbow to elbow, made me wince.
The choreography was not bad. It spent a lot of time out of frame, which was good because Mike’s frame needs a lot of work. But then again, so does Lacie’s. She is not a good Standard dancer, and it shows. Also, although I don’t know whether it’s the pros or the show that chooses the songs, I didn’t much like the song choice. It wasn’t very Foxtrot-ish.
I agreed completely with Len and Bruno. “Ungainly”, Bruno’s word, was the perfect description of Mike. I thought Carrie-Ann’s comments misplaced and pointless. She started out by saying Len and Bruno were too hard on him, which they weren’t in the least, then proceeded to say she agreed with them and basically repeated them. Seriously, Carrie-Ann, if you’re going to contradict the other, at least provide something constructive.
Sugar Ray Leonard & Anna Trebunskaya
Score: Carrie-Ann=6, Len=5, Bruno=6 for a total of 17
Sugar Ray has a difficult time with posture and frame. When it comes to Standard dancing, posture and frame are the most important aspects. He doesn’t have them. Neither does he have very good coordination of his legs. His feet were not bad, but then again I would expect that from a boxer.
Sugar Ray has a wonderful partner. Anna is not only an extremely accomplished dancer in her own career, but she is also a good teacher and a great person. I have enjoyed her company every time I had the pleasure of sharing it. I thought she put together a very complete piece of choreography. Honestly, her routine had the most number of basic Foxtrot steps out of anyone’s. It also had some clear Cha Cha steps, but then again, Anna is a Latin dancer. Maybe that would explain the poor song choice? Again, I don’t know who chooses those songs, but that song was awful! For a Foxtrot, I mean. It was a Cha Cha!! Clear and simple. And actually, it was a very good Cha Cha. But it was simply not a Foxtrot and it dampened my enjoyment of the piece.
I pretty much agreed with everything the judges said.
Petra Nemcova & Dmitry Chaplin
Score: Carrie-Ann=6, Len=6, Bruno=6 for a total of 18
I thought maybe Petra’s score should have been swapped with Sugar Ray’s. I was very disappointed with this performance. Petra is such a beautiful girl, with long willowy limbs that should fit beautifully inside a ballroom frame. Unfortunately, her frame was broken and droopy, and her neck fell into the category we ballroom dancing girls fondly call the “Shot Pigeon”. She had very little grace or smoothness of action across the floor, and with her body type her lack of grace shows even more, since she gives us that physical expectation.
My criticism for Dmitry is the choice of choreography, the characterization, and (if he chooses it) the song. First of all, the song was – once again – not a Foxtrot. It was an American Style Rumba. Different than an International Style Rumba, American Style Rumba is faster than its International Style counterpart, but slightly slower than Cha Cha. Neither the mood nor the accents were right. Foxtrot is supposed to be sexy, sultry in a sophisticated sort of way. Think dancing in a 1940s nightclub in a black satin dress; think The Great Gatsby, seducing his young love in his stylish pale pink suit. Foxtrot is not supposed to be sad or forlorn. Save that for Waltz, or Rumba. Give Foxtrot the beauty it deserves.
And Dmitry, as if dancing Foxtrot to a Rumba song wasn’t enough, but you had to make it look like Rumba. I was actually confused at the beginning, until you finally lapsed into a Grapevine, almost as an afterthought. And I think I can count on one hand how many basic Foxtrot figures you actually performed.
The judges were way off on this one. Len complimented Petra on her movement. I laughed. I didn’t think she had any. And Carrie-Ann said she was graceful but needed to finish her lines… not happening any time soon, Carrie-Ann, because Petra has no grace. The only one who got even close to being right was Bruno. I wonder, were Len and Carrie-Ann zoning out during this performance?
Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas
Score: Carrie-Ann=7, Len=7, Bruno=7 for a total of 21
Chelsea was seriously overrated. 21 was a very good score for her. I was surprised by how lifted she was through her upper back; so lifted, in fact, that she forgot about her bum, which was hanging out about a mile away from Mark. She managed to keep her left arm up nicely, something Petra failed miserably in doing, but her right arm was locked out straight and pulled out of her shoulder joint. No one mentioned that, curiously, but I guess that’s only to be expected since Chelsea’s right arm was no worse than Lacie’s.
I thought the song choice and choreography were hideous. Here I’ve listed four Foxtrots, and so far none of them are actual Foxtrot songs. Mark choreographed to the song, not to the dance, and as a result their Foxtrot didn’t even look like a Foxtrot. Sometimes I found myself wondering if Mark forgot it was Foxtrot and decided to teach her Quickstep instead. They were hopping around all over the place. As much as I complained about Dmitry’s choreography, I think he was closer than Mark. Someone should instruct these boys on the difference between the dances.
Honestly, I did not understand Bruno’s comment, and neither did Len from the look on his face. “Afterglow”? I’m not sure what “afterglow” Bruno meant, but the Foxtrot wasn’t even that sexy. That, at least, should be a requisite for the type of “afterglow” I assume Bruno is alluding to. But I agreed (for once!) with Carrie-Ann, she mentioned Chelsea seemed to have a lack of coordination “from [her] fingertips down to [her] toes”, and that seems about right to me. If I was Chelsea’s teacher, I would be working on ballet exercises to improve her coordination and her posture. We’ll see if Mark catches on to that.
Ralph Macchio & Karina Smirnoff
Score: Carrie-Ann=8, Len=8, Bruno=8 for a total of 24
OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!! Can it be true? Is it possible? Did I actually hear a Foxtrot? I did! I did! I did hear a Foxtrot! I’m beyond shocked! Karina’s outfit was beautiful, Ralph’s dinner coat sophisticated, and the song choice splendid. This, alone, makes Ralph and Karina the winners in my mind.
But beyond the spectacular song choice, Ralph was GOOD. His posture was superb, his frame acceptable, and in the side by side pieces he executed them beautifully down to the very tips of his fingers. He did have a few moments of creative footwork – footwork not being the place where we normally want creativity – but then again, who didn’t? I would say his footwork flubs, like the toe lead on step 2 of his 3 Step instead of a heel lead (the 3 Step is irregular in the sense that there are two heel leads in a row), is forgivable, particularly since I know from my own experience in teaching how difficult it is to get students to remember that generally, in Foxtrot, footwork should be Heel-Toe, Toe, Toe-Heel, except in the 3-Step, where it’s Heel, Heel-Toe, Toe-Heel.
Karina did a beautiful job with the choreography. They didn’t dance very much in frame, but their choreography was undisputedly an American Style Foxtrot. Everyone tries to do an American Style Foxtrot, but honestly, only Karina succeeded. She kept to the style and character of the dance, which is of the upmost importance, and chose choreography that highlighted Ralph’s capabilities. Congratulations, Ralph and Karina, you definitely deserved first place in my book.
I was highly disappointed with the song choice. As you can see from above, only one out of five Foxtrots was what I would consider a Foxtrot song. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it once more: I don’t know who’s choosing the music, whether it’s the pros or the show, but if it’s someone from ABC, they should be fired. You might think that it’s not important, but it is! The character of the music is what gives the individual dances their unique flavors! It’s like ordering a Fettucine Alfredo and getting an Enchilada. Just because they both have sauce doesn’t make them the same!
So, you might ask, if a Cha Cha is not a Foxtrot, then why are they able to dance Foxtrot to a Cha Cha song? Because the dances are actually the same tempo. Most modern songs, I would blindly guess around 75% of modern songs, are written with a 4/4 time signature and are about 30 to 35 bars a minute. However, just because a song has a 4/4 time signature and is 30 bars a minute does not mean you can do anything you want to it. Yes, Cha Cha and Foxtrot both are written in a 4/4 time signature and has 30 bars a minute, but International Tango is the same tempo, too. Does that mean that we can dance a Tango to a Cha Cha song? Or a Foxtrot to a Tango song? Most people would laugh at the thought! Then why make the same mistake with Cha Cha and Foxtrot? It was extremely frustrating for me. Foxtrot is the Pink Panther, Do Right, Big Spender, to name a few. Foxtrot is not Bad Romance, or YMCA (which, by the way, are almost exactly the same tempo). The characterization of the dance is as important as the costumes and the steps. It’s a shame that ABC spends all this money in putting on a high budget show, with gorgeous costumes, and forces the dancers to do hours of hard practice, only to ruin it all by choosing the wrong song. Whoever is choosing the songs should have more respect for both the dancers and the art of ballroom dancing.
From watching all eleven of the stars, it’s obvious that some have a better chance right off the bat than others. The ones at the bottom are a bit clumped up, but there are an obvious three that stand out to me: Hines, Kirstie, and Ralph. I expect them to go very far, if the judging reflects their abilities. I know the popular vote has some sway, which is always unfortunate because it belittles the effort and talent of some of the dancers. But that’s the way the show is run, for better or for worse.
We will see how my predictions add up. Feel free to comment or send me any questions about my review. Until next week!.
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