Dancing with the Stars Season 16 – Week 4: The Best Year of our Lives!
Week 4 theme brings us The Best Year of our Lives represented in dance. Get out your handkerchiefs and prepare for an inspiring night. This is a good theme night because it’s supposed to bring out the contender’s emotions. If the dancing star cannot put his feelings into dance, nor have an emotional bond with his dancing partner and the viewing audience, it will not work, neither aesthetically or meaningfully. Whether you’re a dance expert or just an average viewer watching, if it leaves you cold, it failed. It won’t get the applause, nor the votes. So get ready for a satisfying review, cause this theme succeeded in eliciting feelings in the dancers, the pros, and in our hearts!
We’re getting to know them by now, and to like them more, or like them less. This includes dancing, personality, everything, because this is more of a popularity contest than a dance contest for the most part. As far as the dancing is concerned, it is clear to me by the fourth dance night, that we have three great dancers; Kellie, Zendaya and Aly. Jacoby is the footballer who can, and probably will, win the trophy, by popular vote. He’s miles behind our three stars in dancing artistry, but this contest is not about dance artistry, but about votes, and many vote for those who learn and progress more. It’s not about refined, graceful dance performances. Andy’s unique emotional projection has earned him a class by himself. The remaining half are all bunched up in the rear, eliciting not much more than lukewarm favor and not very memorable performances. If I were to give them dancing school grades for the four episodes, Kellie and Zendaya would each get an A, Aly an A-, Jacoby a B, and Andy would get a B-. The rest would get C’s, with Lisa and D.L getting D+. Now for their ranking in my order of preference, along with mine and Jayne’s dialectic!
Aly and Mark – Contemporary
Hector: They finally did it! Aly and Mark reached the excellence mark, and lived up to their promise! Last week I said they could be Dark Horse finalists. Halleluiah! This week they’re first on the board! At first dancing a bit stiff like a gymnast, she has progressed in leaps and bounds, no doubt responding to Mark’s masterful direction. She has Olympic determination and motivation. Her flexibility and gymnastic prowess has served her well to attack learning to dance with feeling. In terms of showing the conflict and drama of the Best Year, this was the most successful dance story. She put authentic meaning in her dance, meant to show what she went through to triumph in London gymnastics, even using the same Titanium music of the Olympic matches. It was carefully designed by Mark and played out by both dancers with gorgeous delicacy and emotion. It’s a tribute to Mark’s artistry that he got her feelings out in expressive dance, not exploiting her gymnastic ability except for the cartwheels at the end, which rightfully fit into a celebratory mood. Mark used her hunger to succeed as an expressive dancer by recalling her hunger to succeed as a medalist. She achieved that beautifully. It was a superb choreography, with a modern dance vibe. It had clear transitions, and interesting, unusual movements, like the way they walked forward sandwiched together. We could follow the story down to his anguished desperation on the floor as she walks away without looking back. Carrie Ann found her mesmerizing, Len called her a champion, and Bruno gave her the gold! In this week the judges were generally fair to all the stars.
Jayne: My favorite Aly and Mark dance so far in the competition. The timing was right for her technical and emotional progression to pair with a dance style where it could really shine. The dance had a good combination of tricks and times of extension with expression. Aly and Mark moved together well, appearing seamless in their movements in hold as well as apart. Personally, I have never cared for the use of gymnastics in the dance routines, for the sake of using them because of the talent. But this time it fit perfectly for me, in the theme as well as timing and placement of the dance. I was particularly paying attention to Aly’s expression, as this was something I know she had wanted to improve on and was so pleased to see the ease with which she displayed the feelings of the music and dance. Their score was well deserved and I’m looking forward to seeing what this couple is able to bring next week, as to me, they have broken through to the next level.
Kellie and Derek – Rumba
Hector: Kellie’s a natural, with incredible flexibility, musicality, and almost Pro extensions. She’s breathtaking! Amazing to know she had a disadvantaged childhood and no dance experience. She’s just a born talent for both singing and dancing, coming out of nowhere, considering her self-made origins. Her mother abused her and her dad was in jail and an addict. From 12, her grandparents raised her. She could have picked an inspirational dance about her metamorphosis from abused child to success story. Instead, she decided not to exploit this. She concentrated on a more joyful story of love for her husband, Kyle Jacobs, who sang his own love song, as she danced. Nice personal touch! Derek’s Rumba design was as usual, exquisite. I love Rumba by Derek because he gives the genre a spiritual content in addition to its customary sensuality. Just as he gives the Viennese Waltz a sensual, sexy vibe that I never knew the ethereal waltz could have! That’s why I see Len Goodman as a Spanish Inquisition for dance when he does not allow Derek to create and reinvent dances by insisting on his outdated, rigid rules. Pickler is perfect for Hough-rumba because she blends well the lyrical and the sensual. How beautiful and womanly is her body in motion! What lovely counterpoint these two created, moving from one graceful formation to another. What Carrie Ann called clipped, I call deliberate. That’s what rumba is: speed then quiet, soft, then hard. Carrie Ann loved the changing formations, but did not like the needed pause in-between. Sorry Carrie, I liked their sweet and romantic dance poem. I liked Kyle’s simple, intimate .song to his guitar, like a serenade to his loved one. Plus, I liked the contrast from stylized Rumba to Kellie’s spontaneous and cheerful solo walk towards her love at the end. She finally found the love she was denied as a child. Her dance looked authentic, loving and beautiful.
Jayne: This couple is so much Pro material that I am rarely distracted by anything out of place while they are performing. I tend to get a bit lost in the dance, meaning taken away, into the world they are creating. Kellie’s love story was touching and having her husband, Kyle, accompany her and Derek’s dance…what could be more perfect? That being said, I did tend to agree that this wasn’t the top dance I have seen from them, but I very much enjoyed it for what it represented. Some of the shapes that they created were outstanding. The one thing I would have liked to see more of would have been Kellie’s solo. It was appropriate to have her make her way to Kyle on the stage at the end, but seeing her take the floor on her own, showing her joyous love through self-dance expression would have been amazing.
Zendaya and Val – Samba
Hector: Zendaya is like the Queen of the Dance Fairies in La La Land. She’s a born performer. Naturally, she chooses the year she was discovered by the entertainment world, or vice versa, as the Best Year of her life, at 13! For her Samba, she chooses Love on Top, a song by Beyonce, her role model. Zendaya looks, dances and performs like she was invented by Disney. A new Coppelia created for the 21st century. She thrives on entertaining the public. She openly flirts to the cameras, and the cameras adore her! True, she’s had the advantage of dance classes since a little girl, it shows! Also true, she has infinite grace. Watching her dance is like watching quickly changing rich formations inside a kaleidoscope. She does contortions to the music, gracefully moves her arms and hands this way and that! So long and stylized, like an El Greco figure..does she have a bit of an awkward adolescent appeal? Perhaps by the very length of her girlish slim limbs maybe, or is it that she’s only 16? Dancing with Val makes for such a contrast! At times Val dances so sensually well, one wishes she had his salt of the earth sexiness. What she gives us is entertaining and fun! That said, as far as inspirational opportunity to tug at our heartstrings, it was a missed opportunity. Not much emotive content! Not much of a Samba, either. This Samba and Zendaya and Val’s failure to tug at our heartstrings makes me feel they were over scored!
Jayne: Zen and Val gave us the idol performance of the night. Zendaya’s tribute to Beyonce was all sass and diva-liciousness. While some of the dancers highlighted an emotional year, Zen’s was all celebration. She conquered the floor with confidence, attitude and expression. She and Val moved well together, emphasizing key points in the music and pulled off a great performance. Her solo was the highlight of their dance for me. I sometimes forget how young she is when watching her perform. As soon as she is out of character of the dance, I’ve noticed her returning to her hip-hop frame of posture and swagger, but when she is in the moment of the dance, she transforms herself to the persona represented by the theme and dance style. Zen and Val succeed by tying with Kellie and Derek for the second highest score of the night.
Jacoby and Karina – Foxtrot
Hector: I was a bit apprehensive about Jacoby doing the Foxtrot. Not his dance, I felt! It’s a super-sophisticated old style, thirties-related, elegant and ritzy dance. Was it bad luck to get the Foxtrot when he has to be inspirational, show his heart? Well, he proved the skeptics, me included, wrong! This man can connect with the public with such ease! He has the kind of moves and looks that charm you. One smile and tilt of his head, that little jump he did kicking his feet and showing off to his kid! You got to me Jacoby! And I’m so not an easy sell with regards to dancing football players. True, he can’t be compared to the top three as far as dance artistry. He starts out a bit tentative but somehow committed as well. Like here I go up the roller coaster, scared but determined to have fun and enjoy it! Great musicality, he moves to the music with a bit of grace, some elegance, a lot of natural rhythm. I smirk as he extends his huge arms and hands awkwardly in Elysian bliss. I cringe when he stoops and sticks his butt out to lower his tall frame to Karina’s height! Didn’t Karina tell you never to do that? Somehow, even his mistakes are lovable. Oh my God, this guy’s gonna win this for sure! If I can like his mistakes, then he’s a dance magician. He slowly gets to you with his sad timidity and deadpan amiability. He’s a performer, a subtle dance comedian. Other football players before him have won over exquisite dancers, and they didn’t even have his expressive pathos and charm!
Jayne: Talk about heartstrings, and I mean in a good way. Jacoby’s Best Year was selected for his son, and he performed directly in front of him for his solo portion. His solo was the top of the evening. Great choreography with emphasis to gesture to his son; his moves ranged from athletic to stylish to traditional, all during that time frame. He and Karina danced around the floor, Jacoby exhibiting nice arm extension and creating lovely lines. Light on his feet and emotionally present; no goofiness going on for this guy. Classy and charming, with a dash of cool, he was the epitome of a loving father.
Andy and Sharna – Viennese Waltz
Hector: Carrie Ann managed to upstage Andy’s best dance by sobbing her heart out in reaction to his wistful, heart-tugging Viennese Waltz! Her homage didn’t ring true to me, a bit much for Carrie Ann. More characteristic of Bruno to have shed tears, but Carrie Ann? Naghh! Not buying it. Poor Andy gets excited, runs to embrace her, only to be rewarded later by a mere 7 from her. Len summed up her exaggerated reaction by making fun of Carrie Ann’s tears. Truth is, Andy was genuinely touching in his sweet waltz. Again, Andy had me from the first dance. I felt the judges’ past reaction to Andy’s expressive, Pierrot-like, half comedic, half sad performances were tepid and not encouraging enough. For a show in which really refined amateur dancers generally lose to popular athletes, the judges’ focus on technique over performance seems fastidious and nit-picking. If the show’s the thing, Andy is rich in showmanship and originality. His connection with the public and Sharna is poignant and endearing. His Waltz had a lot more content and technique than his Cha Cha. His homage to his daughter was successful and in keeping to the theme. Andy followed well Sharna’s graceful waltz choreography. He appeared determined to do the steps and the moves with great zest and celebration. Still, I cannot shed the impression that his dance attitude was tongue in cheek, a bit of a parody! Is he taking it seriously, or is there a comedy twinkle in his eye? When he circles the dance floor with panache, embracing beautiful Sharna, we feel warm all over. We feel like standing up and clapping, as when the father of the bride does a particularly nice waltz with his daughter. I also want to commend lovely Sharna. She has been such an expert support for Andy all along. Good partner and teacher, nice dances, attention to concept and detail. A short time, yet we feel we’ve been through a journey with Andy and Sharna. When it’s time for his solo walk to the front of the ballroom, he is the boldest and most festive of contestants! He flashes a big pleased smile at us, and we want to say Beautiful, Andy! Well done! You too, Sharna! Kudos!
Jayne: Andy and Sharna brought us a simple, delicate waltz that showcased Andy’s gentle side. Andy danced in step well with Sharna, being light on his feet, stretching with good extension and showing lovely expression. His solo section revealed a spinning Andy across the dance floor, waltzing in hold with his imaginary love. Dedicating the dance to his daughter, there were few dry eyes in the studio and watching on television, I’m sure. Andy continues to improve, along with Sharna’s encouragement and direction. Her choice to go with a light style for this dance once again leads me to believe that she is savvy when it comes to knowing how to best present her partner. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their performance.
Ingo and Kym – Viennese Waltz
Hector: Ingo decides to dance a romantic waltz in celebration of the year he got married. He starts out with his solo, eliciting mixed feelings in this spectator. At times he is appropriately alone and desperate, asking God up above for love. At times he looks like a basketball player with his eye on the basket! Thankfully Kym joins him, representing his loved one. And lovely indeed she is! Problem with Kym and Ingo dancing together is Kym is too darn graceful, too picture perfect. Beautiful arm movements, lovely abandon as she arches her back in Ingo’s embrace! Kym’s perfect grace reminds you of Ingo’s lack of it! Should pro’s tone down their excellence so as to make their pupil look better? I have to commend Kym for her exquisite contortions; she stands out over the other female Pro’s for her effortless dancing and fluidity. Ingo has progressed a lot. Elegant, dashing, deeply romantic Bruno called him. I agree, save for the deeply. Worked on core and dance blossomed said Carrie Ann. Agree as well. He’s doing a lot better with his footwork I notice, Len thinks so too. Those arms, those long legs, still some stiffness and in spite of Kym, Ingo’s performance is just not exciting and memorable enough! A nice, kind, sweet guy, but his personality’s not sizzling, his performance quite forgettable!
Jayne: Ingo and Kym looked all the part of a groom and bride, dashing and beautiful. Let me first just say that Kym’s dress was amazing! The couple tackled the Viennese Waltz, presenting an expressive dance. Ingo handled the spins and managed good posture along with some nice arm extensions. On a whole, they looked really good together. I had to laugh at the behind the scenes comment of Ingo just moments before taking the floor, Left foot first, right? A little bauble at the start and a step on Kym’s dress at the end…but seriously, my dad stepped on MY wedding dress during the ceremony…isn’t that normal?! Their score landed them in the middle of the pack again, giving them opportunity this next week to once more try and break out.
Sean and Peta – Viennese Waltz
Hector: Sean decides the Best Year of his life is finding his loved one on The Bachelor! He dances a tribute to his fiancée, Catherine, which is touching and sweet. In his solo at the end, he dances towards Catherine and kisses her. Bruno, whose intuitive insights on dancers is pretty shrewd, commented Sean projects the innocence of a child. True, it is what I always think every time I watch Sean dance. That is of course, charming, endearing and entertaining. Len found his footwork haphazard but found his performance beautiful. Carrie Ann in her lift police function comes on as nitpicking and irrelevant, although she mumbles something about baby steps. The essence of Sean’s charm is his innocent honesty. I see that in all his performances, and it’s very appealing. However, my problem with Sean is while I find all his performances attractive and entertaining, his footsteps, flow, arm movements, in short, his technique is going backwards, not showing progress, not as much as others. He still looks stiff and stilted at times. He’s lacking sustained fluidity. He’s too conscious of the steps; one can see him sweat over what’s next. What you see is what you get, you can read his thoughts. Which is kind of charming, like watching your kid in the school dance show. Sean has not learned as much as Ingo about dancing. Still, I find Ingo’s performances ho hum boring, yet Sean’s are always fun, riveting and watchable! In time Peta seems to have achieved a better connection with him, and is better adapting the dances to what Sean can do.
Jayne: In opposite thought of Hector, I felt this dance was an improvement for Sean. I was able to really watch him and not be distracted by the fanfare of extra dancers like last week’s YMCA performance…of which I will admit I spent more time watching Henry Byalikov from the Troupe than I did Sean! But not to worry…I did go back and re-watch on YouTube to be sure to provide a true representation of my thoughts of Sean’s actual performance. For this week’s waltz, I really appreciated the multiple and varied spins he performed with Peta, they looked technically more difficult than what he has presented in the past. His posture was good, although it’s as if I can see him visibly thinking Frame, Head, Shoulders in his expression. Things are coming along for him. Still a bit stiff but moments of fluidity.
Victor and Lindsay – Paso Doble
Hector: As could be expected, Victor chose the year he won the boxing championship as the Best Year of his life. Lindsay put his triumph into a pretty dramatic Paso to the rocking rhythm of Queen’s – We Will Rock You. All the elements of a nicely choreographed Paso were in Lindsay’s design, and the music was great, well adapted to the Paso Doble. Victor’s Paso however was very flawed in technique and did not flow smoothly either. His attack was better adapted to boxing than to dance. This time, it could not be said Victor lacked attack as Len sometimes says about timid contenders! In general, he seemed too aggressive, too literally fighting, not sublimating into dance his boxing victory. At the beginning, he seemed to be stomping, not dancing. His transitions were too clipped. He appeared to stop in between steps, just standing there. The dance lacked fluidity and seemed to fall apart. When he crawled toward Lindsay’s standing figure by moving from one knee to the other, it painfully reminded me of Maria Menounos and Derek’s Vamp Prokofiev Paso, on Season 14. Painful, since that Paso was so perfect! They received a perfect score, so unfair to compare. I quickly moved this memory out of my mind. Positively, I can say his poise and posture were good, pretty regal. He was committed, his heart was in it. The performance was powerful, intense, spirited, exciting and not the least boring. I’m sure the ladies loved his shirtless bravado! In spite of the intensity and aggressiveness, Victor and Lindsay gives us a good feeling. Victor again shines as nice and charming, with a winning personality.
Jayne: Again, only one couple doing Paso Doble this week. The Paso is a very dominate dance that takes power and confidence to portray. Victor presents himself as a very strong presence, but there were moments where he looked a little unsure on a couple of the steps. Hector indicates that He was doing more stomping than dancing. My notes were that he wasn’t stomping forceful enough! I have to clarify that by saying that the transition between the stomp steps needs to be distinct but smooth and he was a bit lacking there. Paso stomps are precise and a bit staccato, anything lacking shows up as lethargic and loses the strength of the dance. The crispness is defined by the transition between the moves. I was impressed with Victor’s back walk on his knees; I would not think an easy task. Overall, I felt it held up against last week’s Paso by Ingo and Kym. I did like the opening solo where Victor pranced around as if boxing. It was appropriate for the style of dance and of course was a nice reflection of his personality and his Best Year.
Lisa and Gleb – Cha Cha
Hector: Glamorous lady Lisa Vanderpump chose the day her daughter got married as Best Year in her life, a bittersweet day for all mothers. Unfortunately, how do you put that into a Cha Cha? There was a total disconnect in their Best Year idea with the Cha Cha they performed. Could they have tried a different best occasion that would fit the Cha Cha better? Gleb tried to go with a surprise element, by presenting the demure bride, or mother of the bride, in white under a bridal canopy, then disrobing Lisa all of a sudden to show a skimpy glittery pink outfit. So what does this mean? Nothing at all. The dance didn’t fit the theme, to begin with. A bad idea and bad luck during the rehearsals resulted in Lisa getting sick and fainting! Gorgeous, elegant Vanderpump seemed to go so well with dashing young hunky Gleb at first! In theory the couple should have sizzled. The looks were there, but the chemistry and the moves never materialized! Although their dance was under-rehearsed due to illness, they valiantly went on with the show. She looked frazzled, weak, and tentative. It was a nicely choreographed Cha Cha. Her shy moves lacked energy, but had grace, and had potential. Throughout we perceived the potential in this couple to open their wings and fly beautifully together. It never happened. Best Year was their swan song! And these ten little Indians were nine!
Jayne: Our most glamorous couple unfortunately suffered a difficult turn of events. Lisa becoming ill and unable to practice left them with little to go on. But I’ve got to hand it to the trooper. Lisa mustered up what strength and stamina she could and went out to the dance floor and gave it her all. Personally, I was very proud of her. She could have just given up, and I for one would not have blamed her. Although lethargic, I still found the dance to be lovely. I would have really enjoyed seeing it at full potential. Even with these issues, the couple still scored an 18. Unfortunately for them, they did not achieve enough viewer votes to make up the difference between them and the other bottom couple, Victor and Lindsay (who are still plagued by lack of a fan base and a lower score for this week’s performance). I will miss Lisa and Gleb. Gleb did a great job his first season out as a Pro. Hopefully he will be back to continue to show us his skill as a teacher and performer.
D.L. Hughley and Cheryl – Fox Trot
Hector: D. L. turned me off in his first two performances. He didn’t seem like he was even trying. D.L. appeared to have a what-was-I-thinking when-I-said-yes- to-this attitude. I couldn’t understand how a Pro like Cheryl let him go on that first dance so unprepared, to make an idiot of himself! Why would we want to see on DWTS someone who looks so out of his comfort zone? He regales us tonight with the Best Year bildungsroman? Going from boy to man? I still think he’s putting in a comedic show in order to keep scoring with a group of voters that keep him on the show! This last dance was fun as physical comedy but lacked dance content, that is, a suitable interpretation of a danced Foxtrot. Most of the time Hughley was walking, not dancing. When he tried some footsteps, he was hardly lifting his feet from the floor. His solo was a joke, literally. What was he doing crawling on the floor? How is this part of the Foxtrot tradition? What were those gestures he did in front of the judges? If they were supposed to be bump and grind as part of the great Rhythm and Blues music, Cheryl did it expertly while he was sitting on the park bench. D. L. looked like he was flashing obscene gestures to the judges! How could Len tell him he gave it his all, with a straight face? His dance steps were so half-ass, wimpy and incomplete. His high kicks barely 6 inches off the floor are not gonna get him into the Rockettes! I did love the Blues music, Cheryl’s choreography and her own dancing, were all bold and fun! But D.L. Hughley did not give us any dance here, no Foxtrot. What he did was walk-on (rather than stand-up) comedy. I wonder why the judges are not going crazy about this sorry act.
Jayne: Apparently Hector and I disagree on this performance as well! I was very happy with D.L.’s Foxtrot. He brought personality, and I think best of all, finally showed us that he can move! There was more technical content, he was much smoother and had great expression! AND he had FUN! Maybe it wasn’t a typical Foxtrot, but themed dances very rarely are. I felt he emerged from this a dancer. Maybe it was just the overwhelming wave of the joy of the dance that made things more positive in my mind, I’m not sure. But I liked it, and I think that is half the battle when it comes to votes. Entertainment goes a long way. And between judges’ scores and viewer votes, D.L. and Cheryl did not even land in the bottom slots and survived to dance another week.
No surprise to see Lisa and Gleb leave in the Results Show. But I have to commend ABC for the quality performances that night. Particularly, I’d like to mention Brylinn, the exquisite blind dancer, who performed with Derek Hough. Brylinn and Derek make us proud to be human and to be able to reach the angel in us, at least for a moment that night! Truly breathtaking!
And how great was the Quizas, Quizas, Quizas duet between Jennifer Lopez and Andrea Bocelli! First rate superstar guests! Can’t get better than that! I also loved the battle of the girl Pro’s vs the boy Pro’s! Great way of showcasing our fabulous in-house Pro talent, and so much FUN! Kudos to DWTS-ABC, and to all of the amazing DWTS dancers! Looking forward to next week to see what other exciting things will be showcased along with our competing couples!