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"Dancing with the Stars" - Week 8 May 9th, 2011

Dancing With the Stars Week 8 Critique

This week they had what was called an “Instant” dance. I’m not sure what this meant. It was slightly shorter than their normal dances, but it was still fully choreographed with individual costumes, etc. So I have to ask, what was so “Instant” about it?

As it’s getting down to the final couples, a clear bias is presenting itself. The judges have been hard on Ralph from the beginning, and unfortunately it will soon mean he will need to leave the show, which is unfortunate considering how well he dances and some of the stars who would beat him. I don’t think he is a better dancer than Chelsea, but I do feel he is better than both Romeo and Kirstie, and at least equal to Hines. Ralph should be in the top three; instead, he is at the bottom, with a beautiful and difficult Viennese Waltz that was scored the same as some of Kendra’s dances. But this is the problem with Dancing With the Stars in general. The judges don’t affix a value to their scores. They dole out 10s and 7s and call it “swagger” in one and “bad posture” in another. It will be very sad to see Ralph go, but, I think, inevitable.

Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas

Score: for a total of 29/30; for a total of 26/30 and grand total of 55/60

Dance: Waltz and Salsa

My first thought: wow those waves are cheesy! Seriously, what was the point of those waves? And I know Mark was going for a modern dance style with this Waltz, but it simply didn’t fit. His little arm swoop at the beginning of the Waltz was ridiculous, and gave a bit of a Jack Sparrow look. The choreography was mediocre at best, and honestly, so was Mark’s dancing. Chelsea, on the other hand, I thought did rather well. Her frame was acceptable, although I found that her right elbow was locked out and as a result caused a lot of stress across her shoulders.

Honestly it was very difficult for me to judge this piece because there was not a whole lot of actual Waltz being danced. They seemed partly off-time, not as an accident unfortunately, but as if Mark sacrificed the actual timing of the dance in order to hit all of the accents in the music. And the biggest problem with the choice to sacrifice timing for accents was that, in this case, hitting all those accents didn’t lend very much to the overall impression of the dance; certainly not as much as the sacrifice took away. I would say the dance was mediocre, both in the choreography and in execution.

Watching her Salsa, I realized just how much that outfit she wore gave away as far as the techniques that are missing within her body. Sometimes I have to check myself, because I do understand that these people are more or less beginners. But then again, with the number of hours they put into it, they’re not beginners in actual fact anymore. Besides, the level of choreography that Mark gives Chelsea is not appropriate for a beginner, so it would be unfair of me to critique her like one. That said, what bothers me about Chelsea is her posture. She dances completely without center, which in turn makes it impossible for her to use the large muscles in her back. This is why her shoulders are up near her ears. If I had been able to see her from a closer distance, I’m sure I would have picked up on that immediately; being, however, that I tend to watch her on a pixilated image from YouTube, it took me a bit longer to pinpoint exactly what bothered me about her dancing, even though I did suspect it….

Hines Ward & Kym Johnson

Score: for a total of 29/30; for a total of 26/30 and a grand total of 55/60

Dance: Foxtrot and Jive

This show was extremely cute, which is true for most of Kym’s choreography. She is just a happy, bubbly person and it comes through in her dancing. Unfortunately, Foxtrot is not supposed to be bubbly, it’s supposed to be smooth. So far in this season, the only couple that I can remember who did an appropriate Foxtrot was Ralph and Karina, way at the beginning during the premiere. Strangely, I haven’t seen a better Foxtrot since.

The thing about Hines is that he hasn’t improved in about three weeks. Yes, he is charismatic and fun to watch; but he is being scored as if no one else has improved, also. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is a good dancer, but the bar is being raised for everyone else and not for him. Then again, the judges don’t seem to be comparing the dancers to each other. They have a bias and they stick with it, for better or for worse.

I felt the same for his Jive. His posture was consistent throughout his Foxtrot and Jive; that is to say, his shoulders looked stressed, he was slightly hunched, but otherwise good. He didn’t pull his posture back at all for his Jive, and as a result he didn’t have the ability to perform his kicks. The energy in Hines’ legs didn’t continue through his feet, which made his feet look floppy while he was kicking. Furthermore, during his toe-heel swivels, he failed to actually swivel, which is kind of the point of the figure. Again, it wasn’t bad, but I don’t think his dancing is deserving of the scores he receives.

Kirstie Alley & Maks Chmerkovskiy

Score: for a total of 29/30; for a total of 25/30 and a grand total of 54/60

Dance: Argentine Tango and Salsa

I finished watching this Argentine Tango with a very skeptical feeling. The choreography was not very good, and the figures chosen were overly repetitive and not very indicative of Argentine Tango. For those who don’t know, there is a big difference between European Tango and Argentine Tango (and American Tango, for that matter). Argentine Tango is more of an umbrella term than anything else, because within Argentine Tango you have different types, like “Salon Style”, “Nuevo Tango”, “Milonga”, “Valse”, and many others. One of the basic differences between Argentine Tangos and European Tango is, firstly, the frame. Argentine Tangos use a frame that was popular in Ballroom Dancing back in the 1920s and ‘30s; in other words, the man keeps his arm lower on the girl’s back and wraps it around her rib cage, so that he can maneuver her by the use of her ribcage. In European Tango, because there is more of a focus on the aesthetic look of the top-line, the hand is placed on the bottom of the girl’s shoulder-blade, and the man does not maneuver so much as give an indication to which the girl is expected to respond. Also, European Tango has more of an emphasis on sharp movement and body flight, whereas Argentine Tangos emphasize the intricate legwork that makes the Argentine style so unique.

All that intricate legwork, by the way, was exactly what was missing from Kirstie’s Argentine Tango. These stars do not have a very good [European] frame to begin with, so there’s not a very big difference between Kirstie’s European frame and her Argentine frame. It should come down to the difference in figures. But Maks didn’t choreograph very many figures unique to the Argentine style. Don’t get me wrong, he had Tango figures in there, but they were figures that could be danced in the European style or the Argentine style, and a little more attention to figures specific to the Argentine style, like more ochos, or ganchos, or boléos, would have made the dance look better. If the judges are going to judge Chelsea down for choreography that is not characteristic of the dance, so should they do so to Kirstie. I think Maks failed on this one.

Kirstie’s Salsa certainly deserved a score of 25. I would have even scored her lower. Once again, she was constantly looking to Maks to show her what came next; she missed the beginning of her cross-over breaks, and her hit in the middle of the Salsa was off-balance and, frankly, rather vulgar. The ending was needless, and it took her about an hour to reach the judges’ table; by which time, the music was already over. It was a routine that did not impress me.

Romeo and Chelsie Hightower

Scores: for a total of 27/30; for a total of 25/30 and a grand total of 52/60

Dance: Argentine Tango and Salsa

I was not impressed by this Tango at all. The judges were all happy-go-lucky about it, and Carrie-Ann did her normal chortle and swish of her bangs, but honestly I didn’t find anything interesting about it. I thought the music was a terrible choice, the choreography was so-so, and the execution was indicative of Romeo’s dancing as of three weeks ago. The only thing I did like was Chelsie’s dress… I’ve got a soft spot for pvc clothing.

Romeo’s posture was not good, his shoulders were up near his ears and his head jutted very far forward. Also, Tango is not supposed to have bounce; European Tango is expected to be danced at a neutral level throughout. Romeo’s Tango had more bounce than his Samba.

His Salsa was also a step down, in my opinion, from his Latin of the last couple of weeks. He had terribly turned-in feet, he didn’t expand through his body or center, and his head was still “vulturing” around Chelsie’s face. That said, he did look like a normal Salsa dancer, so I guess in that regard, he did rather well. The ending of the Salsa was boring, but other than that, Chelsie’s Salsa choreography was not bad at all.

Someone please tell Bruno not to try to perform a Samba action. It doesn't look good. He's not a ballroom dancer and I doubt he could pull it off. However, that said, how interesting would it be to have Bruno and Carrie-Ann be "stars" on this show? Then we'd all get a laugh!

Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff

Score: for a total of 25/30; for a total of 21/30 and a grand total of 46/60

Dance: Viennese Waltz and Cha Cha

The judges’ treatment of Ralph bothers me to no end. Reading through other peoples’ blogs after I wrote my review this week, I was surprised to find that I am not the only one who feels like this. One blog post, in particular, began with “Now I am convinced that this show is completely BULLSH*T!!!” I wouldn’t necessarily say it in words so crass, but I’d have to agree.  There was no way Ralph deserved to be scored lower than Romeo in his solo dance. Simply put, his Viennese Waltz looked good. But it wasn’t perfect, and I don’t think he deserved the highest score, either.

On the negative side, I thought first of all the choreography was extremely difficult for him, and Karina really took a risk giving him those steps. When he crossed his feet during the Reverse Turns, it seemed as if the act of crossing his feet jarred him a bit, and as a result he had to run a bit to keep up with Karina’s powerful movement. When the music hit a huge crescendo, the difficulty of the choreography increased 5-fold, and Ralph definitely struggled with the execution. After Karina’s quick double spin, Ralph almost missed her hand when she needed the counter-balance to kick. In the figure directly following, because Ralph was still playing catch-up, his arms were out of synch with Karina’s.

On the positive side, the choreography was extremely difficult, and he managed to pull through! His posture started and ended very nicely, dissolving only in the stressful parts. He also maintained the character of Viennese Waltz throughout, which is more than I could say for some of the other contestants.

His Cha Cha was not very good, but I certainly think it deserved a higher score than 21. Kendra was given a higher score for doing far less. Ralph had some postural problems, and occasionally he tried to pull Karina into the next move early; but I didn’t see one heel lead in his Cha Cha. Even Hines had a heel lead in his Cha Cha, and as I remember, he was given a 26 for his performance. I agree that Cha Cha is not Ralph’s best dance. However, 21 was unfairly harsh.

One thing Karina should be careful of is over-choreographing the dances. Now that Ralph is getting better, Karina is getting excited and is starting to give choreography that is bordering on too difficult for him to perform. I understand why Karina is falling into this trap. Sometimes as a Pro/Am partnership, we the pros can get a little bored always having to dance down to our amateur partners. We don’t mind doing it, but in the case of pros like Karina, who is no longer competing or training with a partner of her own caliber, sometimes there builds up a need to stretch their limbs a bit, and this results in very difficult choreography at a time when the amateur is barely capable of handling it. Karina should be more careful moving forward if she wants Ralph to remain in the competition.



The bar must be raised for these stars. They are being allowed to get away with glaring technical mistakes, and as a result, their improvement is stagnating. Neither Hines or Romeo have shown any remarkable improvement in about 3 weeks; Kirstie is losing weight, and is therefore more able to perform, but none of that is technical improvement.

There was a huge discrepancy in the scores of their solos and their “instant” dances this week (which, I think, were just solos anyway). There shouldn’t be a discrepancy if the stars were being taught basic ballroom principles. What the “instant” dances tell me is that there is a distinct lack of any principles being taught. Posture is pretty much consistent across the board; frame and footwork and arms and hips remain more or less the same no matter what Latin dance you do, with only small differences in characterizing the dance. If Chelsea can be given a 28 in her Cha Cha, there is no reason for her to be marked 26 in a Salsa (it’s almost the same dance, anyway, and it’s an easier dance!). And when you listen to the judges’ comments, it becomes even more clear: there is an emphasis on intricate choreography and tricks, but there is hardly any focus on the necessary technique that is not even appreciated when it is there. In other words, the show is about what we call “Flash and Trash” instead of actually learning how to dance.

People of the world, don’t be fooled. What you see on Dancing With the Stars is not Ballroom Dancing in its truest sense. It’s fakery and tricks to the umpth degree. But hey, that’s what gets the scores, right?


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