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A dripping crystal gold chandelier lights the way to the dance floor where, free of fire jets and smoke machines, ballroom dance will be celebrated. Not only will we experience a gimmick free night, but champions of ballroom are added to the roster. A fourth chair has been squeezed behind the judges’ table and we will be treated to two exhibition dances which showcase the Tango (Ballroom) and Samba (Latin.) Two coaches who have shepherded dancers to championships, Shirley Ballas and Luca Baricchi, have also been invited to help refine the celebrity dances this evening. All these additional people are champions of the dance, and each brings something different to this showcase of celebrity amateurs learning to dance.
The fourth judge is Donnie Burns, The President of the World Dance Council, whom Maks calls the Tiger Woods of dance; Tiger Woods in his early dominate winning days that is. His citations include 16 times undefeated world professional Latin Champion and 11 International Latin America Championships; and undefeated in any professional dance contest for twenty consecutive years – a living legend.
Tom: That’s right; so behave yourself, Tonioli; living legend over here. Donnie, what do you think of our little dance show, here?
Donnie: Nobody, but nobody does show business like you Americans. I think this show is amazing, really.
Len’s association with Donnie goes back to when he was judging a contest in Scotland and noticed a ten year old boy dancing. “From the age of ten, you knew he was one of the greats.” Len does have a problem this evening with squeezing in the extra chair for Donnie as he is now squished against Bruno who, as we know, can become more than slightly exuberant with his comments.
The dancing greats theme is highlighted first by undefeated U.S. and current world professional Latin champions, Ricardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko. With a lot of bounce in their steps, they dance a Samba that is full of party hips and good times. Then current U.S. professional Ballroom champions, Arunas Bizokis and Katusha Demidova showcase the required intensity in demeanor as well as the precise fluidity of movement required in the Tango. This is Ballroom; absolutely gorgeous and appreciated.
Tom cuts away twice during the show to Diane Sawyer to bring the audience up to date on the latest news about the military actions of Sunday night. The ongoing news story is riveting and this is also appreciated.
One last thing before I get to the dances…Kyle was seated along the steps to the celebriquarium so we got to see a lot of him; but, American Idol fans, guess who received, other than Shirley Ballas and Luca Baricchi, the only other audience shot of the evening? That’s right.
I’m not going to try to transcribe the judging comments, but will find that one sentence that sums up each judge’s critique.
TEAM COMPETITION DANCES
There are six couples left so three will face off against three in a Cha-Cha. Each couple will perform a solo, but when all three couples are on the floor, they must be in sync with pattern changes. School yard style picks are the order of the day with competition leaders, Chelsea and Hines calling, “Come on down!”
Team Chelsea/Mark, Ralph/Karina and Romeo/Chelsea
This youth squad (I guess they consider Ralph young at heart) dressed in rock and roll black pleather (or at least black) Cha-Cha to Lady GaGa’s “I Was Born This Way.” During rehearsal Romeo and Chelsea help Ralph (the Cha-Cha virgin) with his hip action and during the dance, it looked to have paid off. Though the timing was a tad off during the group formation changes, the individual dances looked crisp and fun. But Chelsea reminded everyone in rehearsal that history shows that the team with the lowest scores, someone from that team goes home.
Len: Well done to you all.
Bruno: Because you went full throttle, you lost sync so many times.
Carol Ann: I disagree, you were in synch.
Donnie: I think they did a great job.
Donnie 8 Carrie Ann 8 Len 7 Bruno 7 Total: 30
Team Hines/Kym, Kirstie/Maks and Kendra/Louis
Kendra: They have young kids on their team.
Kirstie: But, we’re the team with the most butt.
Kym: If someone slips up it lets the whole team down.
Maks and Kirstie didn’t create their solo before the final group rehearsal and had to shamefully confess that fact to the others. However, once they hit the floor and put Cha-Cha moves to “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha, their solo part looked polished. Everyone kept in sync including during the partner change off toward the finish of the dance.
Bruno: The transition between partners was very smooth.
Carrie Ann: In group, Kirstie’s arms were a tad late; in solo, Kendra’s arms wera a little strange; great job.
Donnie: Some of the spacing between the couples wasn’t quite right; some fluffs in the footwork.
Len: Well, I know what team of girls won the booby prize. Well done all of you.
Donnie 7 Carrie Ann 7 Len 8 Bruno 8 Total: 30
Since both teams earned a 30 and tied, they begin the individual dances on a level playing field.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas: Paso Doble "Ghosts 'N Stuff" Deadmau5
Chelsea (as she skips around the studio) “I’m an angry piece of fabric.”
Since Chelsea loves to laugh all the time, it will be difficult to whip her into Paso form; but never fear, coach Shirley Ballas (or as Chelsea deadpans) Mark’s mom takes charge. Mainly, Shirley scares her, but Chelsea “gets” the set forceful face and posture.
Their Paso begins with strength poses in time to the music. The hip hop rock and rollers move into a floor spin and classic steps until the matador kills the bull and converts her to his cape; but, in the end, the cape turns and they kill each other. Oh, Chelsea’s tendency to smile becomes a tendency to purse her lips.
Len: I liked that, and then I’m thinking, what’s that? There was too much aggression, too much in my face.
Bruno: It was like a Quentin Tarantino Paso Doble.
Carrie Ann: Tradition is a great thing, but tonight – out with the old, in with the new.
Donnie: You’re very together, but like Len, I was a little bit confused – I got Hell’s Angels.
Donnie 8 Carrie Ann 9 Len 8 Bruno 9 Total: 34 Combined Total: 64
(In the celebriquarium, Mark was annoyed enough with Len and Donnie’s remarks that he felt the need to justify the choreography.)
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis van Amstel: Tango “Jealousy” Bill Fury
Louis: No easy choreography, it’s now - do or die.
Kendra: Right now my confidence is not that high. I’m going in my shell again; and I’m like, I wish I could do this.
Cue ballroom coach, Luca Baricchi, who enters with a Buon Giorno! and brings his sexy self onto the studio dance floor. His instruction to Kendra is to use every part of her body, including sensual palm grazing to feel the dance. He helps her drop her fear of making mistakes, which allows her to loosen up.
Tom: Kendra and Louis will continue to play “find the body” after the break.
The hand touch/clasp instruction pays off as they begin their Tango. Kendra’s legs and feet were possibly too loose with her bent knees and non-pointed toe in an extension; but, it was a Tango where Louis showed off his partner at her best.
Bruno: You never looked more elegant and lady-like, but you need to get your frame up.
Carrie Ann: I’m so proud of you. It was the most beautiful expression of sophistication I’ve seen from you the whole journey.
Donnie: The content of the choreography you tried was massively difficult, and I thought you did a pretty good job.
Len: You’ve done very well with the demanding choreography, but I would have liked more crisp.
Donnie 8 Carrie Ann 8 Len 7 Bruno 8 Total: 31 Combined Total: 61
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Jive “La Bamba” Richie Valens
Kirstie: Maks and his brother, Val, both trained with Shirley Ballas and I can not wait to get some tips from her.
Maks: Shirley knows minute details that can change your entire dance.
An over zealous suitor causes Kirstie and her many layered tulle net skirt to leave a car seat and race to the floor. She relents to a slow dance with him, but her kiss ratchets up the mood and the speed of the dance. After this long set-up, they finally get into a Jive. Where Maks exaggerates his kicks, Kirstie’s feet barely leave the floor. (We learn later that she was caught up in the acting performance and lost attention to the dance.)
Carrie Ann: It wasn’t really a Jive. When you guys were side-by-side, you completely went out of sync.
Donnie: I really like it, I buy it. The talent is in between the steps that you fill with the spirit of who you are.
Len: It was fun, playful; however, as a Jive it was most uneventful. Your kicks were leaden and I could find very little to recommend it.
Bruno: You might have gone wrong, but as an entertainer, it was superb.
Donnie: 9 Carrie Ann: 7 Len: 6 Bruno 8 Total 30 Combined Total 60
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: Quick Step "Pencil Full Of Lead" Paolo Nutini
Ralph: Karina and I are a team now more than ever. (Reference the recovery from a fall on the dance floor last week.) We’re looking for this Quick Step to be a comeback rather than a fall back.
The Roman God, Luca, gave them amazing help according to Karina who said that he was exactly what they needed to help Ralph be confident.
Ralph’s back and knees get too much of a workout with this dance and he calls it brutal. At one point during rehearsal, Karina stretches out one of his knees until he tells her, “Easy, easy, easy, honey, you need me on Monday.”
Good news! Ralph’s knees hold up as he approaches a hot lady at a Speak Easy bar and takes her stepping. His frame is good and the required rise and fall along with the “quick” steps is lovely.
Donnie: They say that ballroom dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. You started off vertical and finished horizontal so it has to be good. Your footwork was fabulous this week.
Len: I like the energy. Your footwork was very, very good. Your upper body is a little bit loose.
Bruno: So vivid, so vibrant; once you are in the zone, you sell it like nobody else can.
Carrie Ann: BooYah! You’re back! I’m so proud of you right now.
Donnie 10 Carrie Ann 9 Len 8 Bruno 9 Total 36 Combined Total 66
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: Tango (I have been unable to discover the name of this true Tango music. If anyone knows it, please post below and I’ll replace this request with the name.)
Luca (see previous mention of Roman God status) tries to get Hines to stop thinking and get into the story of the Tango. “I’m mad, but I love her. I want her, I don’t want her.” At the end of their session, Hines feels like a man who could lead a woman around the floor. Then frivolity breaks out with a visit from his buddies, Jerome Bettis and Al Costa.
The music is wonderful with a good Tango beat which they follow nicely. Some of Hines’ turning steps are choppy and flat-footed and his face doesn’t change expression from stone cold killer, but he has nice extensions.
Len: It was a mixture. Some of it was full of drama, but then it goes into a dainty mode. Overall, I liked it very much.
Bruno: Big, strong, masterful, yet slinky smooth stealthy action of a panther on the prowl.
Carrie Ann: You take command of every dance, but I felt you were a little off balance at points like you were learning a new hold.
Donnie: Dance from you heart, but use your head. I think you do that. Technically, your arms were waffling like you were flying when they should have been still.
Donnie 9 Carrie Ann 9 Len 8 Bruno 10 Total 36 Combined Total 66
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: Samba “Say Hey (I Love You)" Michael Franti & Spearhead
Romeo: Whatever dance I want to bring some of my own style – a little dip in my step, a little bounce in my prance.
Chelsie: Everything you do in Samba has to be exaggerated times ten.
Romeo tries to get a little Romeo with Shirley’s hips when she comes in to help. After a slap on the hand, she tries to get him to feel the way her hips move.
Ah, we do have a fire tonight – a bonfire where a soldier on leave and his girl join in the beach party dance. Romeo’s side to side hip movement is almost non-existent, and he isn’t showing the exaggeration Chelsie says the dance requires.
Bruno: At this point you need to get the correct bounce in the Samba – not only side-to-side, but up and down.
Carrie Ann: You have incredible potential as you showed us last week, but you really need help on your technique.
Donnie: I’ve watched you grow throughout this season, but you need to articulate your feet.
Len: The hottest thing about that dance is that fire. I didn’t like it. You’ve got to up your game.
Donnie 7 Carrie Ann 8 Len 7 Bruno 8 Total 30 Combined Total 60
Judges' Leaderboard Week 7
I hope you enjoyed tonight’s show featuring Dance Champions and one Roman God.