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"Dancing with the Stars" - Week 9 May 16th, 2011

Dancing With the Stars Week 9 Critique

As we're coming down to the end, I have to admit my excitement is starting to wan. The stars are simply not improving anymore. I am becoming uncomfortably accustomed to seeing Ralph underscored and Hines overscored, to the point of just not caring anymore. Chelsea will always look splayed and out of control, and Kirstie will have the exact same expression on her face. In the end, I predict Hines will win. Kym's injury will work to their advantage, in the sense that not only will they get the judges' votes because they simply like him (and Carrie-Ann wants to sexually jump him on every show), but Hines' fans will pull through, and many others will give Kym their sympathy votes. Besides, how cool would it be to have a football player win right before football season? If I were a producer, that's how I would swing it.

They tried something new this season, and they called it the "Winner Takes All Cha-Cha". When I heard that they would pair the couples off against each other, I got very excited. I thought that maybe, for once, they would treat the stars to the feeling of a real competition! But, no, the closest they got was giving the pros/stars 4 minutes to prepare. Pathetic. In a real competition, all couples go onto the floor at the same time (up to 24 couples, or 48 people, at a time in the biggest venues). We are not told ahead of time what our song is, so when we choreograph there is a huge amount of strategy involved in arranging the choreography so that it hits in all the right places to any song. Furthermore, as high level competitors, we learn how to "predict" the music, so that if there is a highlight coming soon, and there is nothing in our choreography to match that, we change the mood of our steps, the dynamic of the figures, to enhance the song. None of the stars have been taught anything remotely similar to this, and only Hines and Chelsea were given the closest opportunities to experience this. Doing a solo show is easy; the most difficult part about real competitive ballroom is the unpredictability of it.

Hines Ward & Kym Johnson

Score: Argentine Tango=30 and Salsa=30 for a total of 60/60

Before I watched Hines' dance, I had already watched Ralph and I had heard Hines' score, so I think my expectations were too high. Ralph was given a very bad score for his dance, and since he and Hines were performing the same dance, I was able to make a straight comparison. So, given my predisposition, I have to admit I was very disappointed by Hines' performance. To begin with, he still hasn't fixed his flat feet, which really bothered me in the Argentine Tango, a style of dance which prides itself on the perfection and articulation of the feet and legs. He also still has terrible cowboy legs, and his posture looked hunched and stressed. Carrie-Ann, Hines' consummate lover, raved about his partnering, but I don't think he had any. The closest he got to "partnering" was keeping his forehead attached to Kym's and standing upright when she lifted herself. But then again, as a ballet dancer, Carrie-Ann's idea of partnering includes nothing more than "hold me in the air while I look beautiful!" In Ballroom, Carrie-Ann, the term partnering means so much more.

Poor Kym. That was a terrible injury, and having practiced lifts and having fallen out of them and injured myself many times, watching that mishap made feel sick to my stomach. Of course, a part of me lamented the injurious part of it, but the other part of me lamented the loss of practice time. In a career that is heavily dependant on your age, every dancer fears a serious injury the most. Hines was suprised that Kym was more worried about the practice time than the injury, but honestly, that is simply the nature of very serious dancers.

However, while I absolutely HATE, HATE, HATE to say this, Kym had it coming. While choreographing Hines' routine, she made a series of very amateurish mistakes. First of all, she didn't know how to do the lifts she was attempting. The one that injured her was an extremely difficult lift, so what in the world was she thinking doing it without a spotter? Secondly, as good as anyone might think Hines is, he is still a LOW LEVEL AMATEUR. He does not do this for a living. He does not understand the logistics of weight and momentum and the relationship of those two factors between two people. Someone who is well-versed in these lifts should have been there to explain it to both of them, instead of Kym trying to figure it out on her own, via "trial by error". Thirdly, I never put myself in a position where I can be injured by one of my students. I have done lifts with students in the past, and some of them look quite impressive! But never, ever, have I choreographed a lift with one of my students where I couldn't easily bail out with little negative impact to the student or myself. And most importantly, I would never, ever, EVER, use my student as the guinea pig. Every lift I ever perform with a student has been tried and tested, many times over, to the point where I understand it inside and out. I feel terrible for Kym, but let's face it: she had a moment of stupidity. That was a terrible decision, an amateurish mistake, and a forseeable outcome. I hope to God Kym has learned her lesson.

And one more word to all of those viewers at home: DO NOT TRY ANY LIFT YOU SEE ON DANCING WITH THE STARS OR OTHERWISE AT HOME!!!!!! I can't tell you how many people have admitted to trying out Lindy Hop lifts and theater arts lifts at home, laughing and joking around about it as if you couldn't get seriously hurt from it. Something like Kym's fall could cause a serious injury. I won't be surprised if Kym has problems with her neck and headaches for months, even years to come. Sorry for my harsh language, but don't be idiots! This stuff is dangerous, and should not be underestimated.

Once again, for Hines' Salsa, I was able to compare the two across the board, and I was disappointed in Hines. I thought he and Ralph deserved about the same score. I even saw Hines take a few heel leads. His feet were turned in, his shoulders were hunched, he didn't move his hips very much, and he got into the dance actually much less than Ralph. Hines deserved lower than 30, Ralph deserved higher than 23. I'd meet at a happy 26 or 27.


Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas

Score: Argentine Tango=28/30; Rumba=30/30 for a grand total of 58/60

The outfit was not good on her. It showed the lack of strength in her inner thighs, and her lack of center. I thought the song for Argentine Tango was very good, and Mark did a beautiful job with the choreography. But Chelsea did not seem very "on" tonight. Legwork and footwork, the two things that make Argentine Tango unique, is based on balletic lines and needs full extension of the legs, feet, and arch. Chelsea's legs and feet seemed lazy to me. Her knees were too bent, her feet were too flat, and her thighs were too loose.

I mostly agreed with Carrie-Ann in her critique of Chelsea's performance, and I think I agreed with Carrie-Ann more because, as I mentioned above, Argentine Tango is based quite a lot on ballet technique, and Carrie-Ann is a ballet dancer. The gist of what Carrie-Ann said was that Chelsea's legs were not tight enough. Or, in Carrie-Ann's own words, Chelsea "wasn't as dynamic in the legs as [she] should have been". True, a thousand times over. The one thing I disagreed with was that Carrie-Ann mentioned Chelsea's legs weren't sharp. Chelsea's legs looked very sharp, in fact, sharp unto the point of being twitchy. That said, I think Chelsea deserved a score of straight 9s. She performed the best Argentine Tango of any of the contestants. But, Bruno, the 10 was completely unwarranted.

I'm going to continue to complain about Chelsea's legs and center in her Rumba. When she dances, her center is so wide open and vague that she reminds of a young Bambi trying to stand up (a la Disney movie). I realize that her inability to straighten and lengthen her legs, and her inability to catch her balance, has to do mainly with her unfocused center, so I won't mention much about her legs because I know it is caused by something else.

That said, and you may want to sit for this part, I think Chelsea deserved her score of 30. She performed it beautifully. The choreography was rather difficult, although beautifully done, and Chelsea managed not only to execute the steps, but also to add in musicality and acting. Even besides the veil thing at the beginning, which I honestly didn't get and thought it was just a distracting gimmick, I liked her Rumba. Nice job, Chelsea.


Kirstie Alley & Maks Chmerkovskiy

Score: Viennese Waltz=27/30; Paso Doble=27/30 for a grand total of 54/60

Mmm mm, not impressed. Okay, I will give in that she had improved, her posture is better, and she doesn't really have chicken wings anymore. But not enough improvement to move me. She was till unsure of herself, and still looking towards Maks to show her what was supposed to come next (I think I've mentioned this problem for the last three weeks now!). Her frame was still droopy, particularly her left elbow, and her neck was still broken. Also, her movement was jarred and stunted; every time she crossed her feet, she looked like she was hitting a brick wall.

I disagreed with Len 100%. Exactly what Len said, I thought the complete opposite. Her movement was not smooth, it looked like she was tripping over a speedbump every time she danced a "2, 3". Her posture was not beautiful, either, she still has a terrible case of the shot pigeon. Her Viennese was worse than Ralph's the week before, so I'll give her a 24. Three straight 8s would be fair.

So Kirstie must dance the Paso and..... more stripping. Why am I not surprised? There seems to be a theme on Dancing With the Stars when it comes to dancing the Paso Doble and stripping. I'm not sure where this idea came from. In all of my studies on Paso Doble, I never heard of any stripping. Maybe I missed something in my 20 years of dancing? Surely, I'm nit-picking. I'll stop and get to the dancing.

Her Paso looked too flat in her posture and too collapsed in her shapes. That idea of holding up the frame and creating massive space, the idea that Chris Jericho mastered so beautifully, was all-too-obviously missing in Kirstie's rendition. And because her posture and body were too collapsed, the shapes and lines she created look manufactured. They neither came from nor included her core. As a result, instead of looking dominant and confident, she simply looked stiff and lazy. Bruno mentioned she never lost the "Puff". I wanted to slap him and say, "Of course she never lost it! She didn't even bother using it!" Her score was far too lenient.


Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff

Score: Argentine Tango=25/30; Salsa=21/30 and a grand total of 46/60

Blah-di-blah-di-blah..... Poor Ralph did so well and he just got hammered. He was given five points less for giving an easily comparable performance to Hines. But I supposed, since all of the dancers are so close in ability, the judges have to separate them somehow. Too bad, really. In my opinion, Kirstie was the worst dancer last night, out of all four of them, and Chelsea had the worst personal performance. But Ralph was the scapegoat, and my prediction is that he will go home tomorrow.

His Argentine Tango had some problems. For one, his frame was too structured. All of those "elbows up" comments I keep repeating can be ignored for Argentine, as the man does not use the weight of his frame to lead the lady in Argentine as he does in the European style. However, I thought Karina's choreography was very good, a pleasure to watch.Possibly she could have done better if she actually studied a bit of Argentine Tango (it's obvious that she hasn't), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

One thing that was not a concern, however, was his interpretation. He actually had the perfect attitude of a porteno, which is certainly not supposed to "smolder" the way Bruno mentioned. Argentine Tango is intimate, but subtle. The only thing that makes Bruno happy is table dancers and samba sex. I'm not surprised he doesn't get it.

I laughed as I re-read my notes from Ralph's Salsa. I was honestly very impressed! I wrote "he looked great!" twice and "wow!" three times (once was in response to Len's criticism of Ralph looking like he hit it too hard). Okay, I'll admit that the buttcheek panties were pretty stupid, but the dance as a whole was fun, energetic, he moved his hips and just had a blast.

Contrary to many peoples' opinions, I thought Ralph had his best week yet. He deserved much higher scores across the board and it will be sad to see him go home tomorrow.


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