We’re down to the wire this week with the Semi-Finals. The last elimination takes place as we gear up for the grand finale! Hard to believe this season is almost over! But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to review the semi-finals and the amazing dances that took place, as well as say goodbye to one final dance couple! The couples had to perform two dances again this week, one being assigned and one being a dance not in the normal line up of dances. This second dance was selected for them by the viewers, after a little input being given by the couples as to their favorite choice. Along with all of that excitement, Tuesday night marked the celebration of the 300th episode of Dancing with the Stars! What an achievement!
So, let’s get down to the dances. Hector’s up first and shares his thoughts with once again listing the couples in order of his preference. I’m including a few comments following his input as well. We always know there is more to the story though, so take a moment and let us know your thoughts if you are so inclined! You may comment at the bottom of the article!
Kellie and Derek – Argentine Tango and Flamenco
Hector: I just can’t get over how great that Argentine Tango was! I keep watching the video of it over and over again. The silhouetted beginning over a red screen was simple, powerful, sexy, stylized, so perfect for people who love the Tango! Kellie and Derek soon move to the ballroom and I can’t help it to have my heart leap at how exquisite Kellie’s moves look, coiling her back, extending her legs! The clipped, sharp moves in perfect sync to the poignant violins, it’s like the dancers are musical instruments, an integral part of the music. Their footwork is so marvelously quick and intricate, not one step lost to the rhythm. The way they alternately wrap their legs around each other is so organically sensual! All of a sudden, in the middle of the dance, Kellie shoots up vertically like a rocket. Is it Derek’s dexterity and strength in moving Kellie up and down and back and forth? Or is she moving in counterpoint out of her own volition? Kellie’s dance journey started out with someone who’s a pretty good dance student with natural capability. Look at this Tango now! It not only looks professional, frame by frame, it’s a gala performance! She and Derek could be featured doing this same dance, just as is, in Argentina or Broadway as professionals, to a standing ovation! Sometimes miracles do happen in this show! Some of the Stars take inspiration from their Pros and dance like angels! Kellie just did that, and won my heart in the process! I love what this girl has done, rocketing to dancing power! How great to be featured as the encore on the 300th show. Win or lose, you’ve come a long way baby! Derek has worked his magic again, or is it he got you to work your heart and your butt off to do your best? Judges agreed, Len made his peace with Derek. They got a raving 30.
I have said that Paso Doble is the dance worst performed by DWTS contestants, lacking true Spanish soul or feeling. Can you imagine my surprise when I heard the DWTS production would be experimenting with Flamenco? Did Derek throw Kellie and himself under the bus by his Flamenco choice? They certainly didn’t fare as well as with the Tango. I asked a professional Flamenco dancer friend of mine what she thought about their dance. Mind you, she’s a Kellie and Derek admirer. More like an Irish Riverdance than a Flamenco! she said. They didn’t have the Flamenco arm or hand movements, not the proper taconeo (heal clicking), strange music, wrong costume. Derek looked like a cowboy who lost his shirt and why was Kellie wearing a curly blonde wig and a white lace dress? So not Spanish! Kellie and Derek’s dance lacked the right Flamenco atmosphere, feeling or authenticity. My Flamenco dancer friend went on to say a pearl of wisdom. Flamenco takes years of training within the right cultural tradition. One cannot ask an amateur to learn it in a week, much less one disconnected to the Flamenco culture. I add to that, would you ask an amateur to dance the Aurora Pas de Deux in ballet after a week’s training? Neither should DWTS insult the Flamenco tradition by presuming amateurs can attempt it after a week. Besides, they don’t have any trained Pros that know the Flamenco. Don’t force a Pro to teach a dance he doesn’t know. Nor should amateurs attempt to go there. That said, as a performance, Kellie and Derek’s faux Flamenco version was striking, attractive, memorable, and entertaining, with intricate footwork and movements. Just not a proper Flamenco. Len scored it a ten, with Carrie Ann and Bruno giving it 9’s.
Jayne: Wow, what an amazing piece of showmanship was this Argentine Tango!! The flavor was just right, setting the stage with the vibrant red and black costume colors, the red lighting and the silhouetted figures. Loved that Kellie gave us a darker feel with her wig, bringing her a more Latin look. Beautiful lines, shapes and crisp movements with awesome footwork! The Argentine Tango is one of my favorite dances, and this dance had it all. Bravo and well done!
On the whole, I enjoyed the Flamenco dance. Not knowing the specifics, I watched as a general observer and thought it was great. I did think that the dance was centered more on the male than the female, which may be how it is meant to be performed, but that didn’t allow Derek to highlight Kellie as much as he normally would do. Like Hector, I was also thrown by Kellie’s costume color choice and hair. Even though I don’t know the technical aspects of the dance, I guess I still expected to see more of a Spanish tone featuring red and black. Maybe the color choice was influenced by their Argentine Tango which also used those colors. No matter, I still thought they did an amazing job tackling something brand new. Also, I would like to make note that I felt each of the couples faced challenges with these viewer voted dance styles. The whole point was to give them something new, and even Zendaya who had Hip Hop (something not new to her) had a disadvantage by Val never having done the dance. Considering that all of the couples received the dance that they preferred, that made it fair as well.
Aly and Mark – Rumba and Afro Jazz
Hector: The judges and the audience loved Aly and Mark’s Rumba, gave it a perfect score. Personally, I didn’t find it as hot, I expected better. I’ve been a lot more excited by Aly and Mark’s other dances. Bruno and Carrie Ann got carried away with Aly’s femininity and expressiveness. I found the expressiveness satisfactory but not moving. It seemed to me she didn’t keep a sustained intensity. She gave Mark a passionate embrace, but then would walk away like she forgot her grocery list. At times sensual, at times stiff, I was not impressed with the flow and artistry of the love story. Rumba is one Latin dance DWTS Pros and Stars can do especially well in general. Slow then fast, sensual and elegant, a subtle balance. Aly just didn’t have that sultry elegance. As far as the story, it appeared to me she was faking the feeling. Not mature nor showing vulnerability, like in their Contemporary dance, though one judge said it showed maturity. To the contrary, she looked to me like a teen playing the temptress. Scored but an 8 with me. I was sad and disappointed.
The Aly and Mark Afro Jazz didn’t score perfect with the judges, but did score perfect in my appreciation. This dance, whatever it was, was a lot of fun! Aly and Mark were thoroughly enjoying it. Mark had enthusiastically asked to get to do this genre. Indeed, much of Mark’s S16 choreography has had a light and funny touch. Mark seems to have a genius for comedic dance. He’s had cute and saucy comedy in his Samba, Salsa, Jive and even in his Quickstep! I remember an Afro dance somewhat similar to this one which he did with Shawn and Derek. This one was raw and innovative, but it didn’t take itself as seriously. Mark choreographed their dance tongue in cheek. Their costumes were ridiculous, like cannibals boiling Abbot and Costello in a jungle adventure comedy. It was all in jest! Presumably, the Afro Jazz doesn’t have any set of known rules to be judged against, unlike Flamenco. So they could do anything, as long as it looked good, was fun and went along with the music. Rhythmic, funny and fun it really was. They both clowned around and took the dance to ridiculous extremes, like crawling on the floor and lifting their butts. Aly and Mark went with ease into comedy character deftly using body and facial gestures to do a successful funny dance. Aly looked like she was having the time of her life. She so kept up with Mark in every frolicking or raucous move, crawl and jump.
Jayne: Of the contestants that are left, for me, Aly’s dance journey is the one that I have enjoyed the most. Being able to watch her grow and improve every week to the place she is at now has been amazing. Yes, I am one of those viewers who places the journey a bit higher than technique. I am proud when I see what she’s accomplished. Does that mean that she gets my vote? Maybe. But I do appreciate performance quality and showmanship. All of these things factor in. Unlike Hector, I felt that Aly and Mark’s Rumba was sensual and powerful. Sometimes I think we forget that like Zendaya, Aly is still young. How much harder is it for them to portray something that they basically don’t have much knowledge about. I suppose I look at it as to where she has come from to where she is today. Maybe that’s what the judges were looking at as well.
My favorite dance of the night was Aly and Mark’s Afro Jazz performance. It was just pure entertainment. Did we know what to judge it on? Nope. But it sure looked good to me. They were in sync in the places where it appeared they should be, it was high energy and they didn’t waver from that, the costumes and make up were fun (even if a bit over the top as many have stated) and it was full of expression. I loved it.
Zendaya and Val – Quickstep and Hip Hop
Hector: I felt kind of sorry for Val for his failed Quickstep idea, but he gets points from me for innovation. I love it when the Pros go the way of Derek, pushing the line and creating something new. The idea to put the old style Quickstep into a modern frame seems good in theory. Zendaya’s young age and great energy may have appeared to fit the idea of the Quick (get it?) step within a go-kart race. Also, it fits our image of Val as young, wild and vital. It was risky, especially because of the conservative judge in the panel (who said he liked it). Too gimmicky and cumbersome to put those race cars on the ballroom? It’s a given that it’s going to detract from the elegance and grace of the Quickstep. Atmosphere (costumes, sets, music, gimmicks) is important in these dance performances. They provide the cues for audience appreciation. The surrounding atmosphere surely will inspire the way the dancers act out the dance. The actress Audrey Hepburn once said she liked to do rehearsals in costume. If she was playing a nun, the habit would inspire her to be nun-like. The same with dancers. The medium affects the message. Thus this Quickstep was accordingly racy, modern, breathless, not stylish and elegant. But that was part of the plan to update the Quickstep. It is true that they lost their footing at times, like the judges said. Their body contact was off at times, and they missed steps. But it was a good dance, as good as Jacoby’s over-hyped, over-scored Tango. Carrie Ann said the dance was a mess, there’s trouble in Paradise! She said they looked like they were dragging each other. That seems exaggerated to me! Was it calculated, by default, to give Jacoby the big push ahead over Zendaya, and the other two lovelies? My take on Zendaya and Vals Quickstep was it was pretty cool and innovative. I’m with Bruno on this one, 9/10.
Everyone knows (or deduced from the rehearsal clips) that Zendaya is the Hip Hop young queen. She’s been doing Hip Hop since she was a little girl, and has a Hip Hop following on TV. Some have said her dance training is not quite fair, vis-a-vis the other contestants. Personally, I think Zendaya’s advantage has not given her an edge over Kellie or Aly. Both Kellie and Aly have become better dancers than Zen, without the years of dancing lessons. For the Hip Hop, the Pro-Amateur relation between Zendaya and Val was reversed. Zendaya brought in her longtime Hip Hop teacher to teach Val, a humbling experience. I have grown fond and respectful of the younger Chermovskyi. In a few seasons, Val has built a reputation as a dancer, teacher, and human being of exceptional grace. He Hip Hopped like the best! The Hip Hop, as expected was Zendaya and Val’s best dance. It looked very natural, rhythmic, attuned to the bouncy music. As befits the urban street dance, Zendaya’s movements were clipped, jerky, choppy, and affecting a mechanical driving force…it was interesting and fun. I expected more, however! It was not spectacular. One can see better Hip Hop from street dancers on SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance) auditions. While lacking Zendaya’s more authentic, choppy, traditional Hip Hop quality, Val looked better dancing his Hip Hop. Val’s version had a sensual Latin quality, very much Val, but also looking like the New York-Puerto Rican sexy version of Hip Hop. In spite of my higher expectations, I do think Zendaya’s Hip Hop merited the 10’s she got.
Jayne: The Quickstep would seem to be a dance perfectly suited to Zen and Val just for the sheer fact of their youthful energy! I got the connection to racing as being speed which would translate to the Quickstep being a fast dance. Personally though, I would have preferred Zendaya to have worn something that showed her legs off a bit more. She appeared hindered to me in the pants of her costume. I was watching with a friend who asked, Why isn’t the pant legs tight like a racing suit would be? My only thought was that they were going with the era of the dance, where flowing pants were the fashion style of the day. This combination seemed odd, but I tried to quit being distracted and watch the dance. Honestly, the dance didn’t make an impression on me either way. It wasn’t so much of a mess that I thought it was bad, but it wasn’t so good that I was wowed either. Maybe I never got over the distraction.
When their Hip Hop segment came up, I was really looking forward to seeing what they had come up with. I actually was a bit surprised. Not in a bad way, just that it was different than what I had anticipated. I don’t know if they toned it down for style reasons, if it wasn’t as dramatically wild because that would have been even more for Val to learn, or whether I just don’t know what Hip Hop actually is. I suppose I was thinking they were going to come out and rip up the floor. What they did do was come out and show us a bit calmer (to my expectations) dance, full of side by side movements that displayed syncopation and rhythm. I really liked it and thought they deserved their scores.
Jacoby and Karina – Argentine Tango and Lindy
Hector: Remember The Emperor’s New Clothes? The Hans Christian Andersen story in which everyone in town was blackmailed by swindlers into believing the King had beautiful clothes on, not visible to the unfit and the stupid? History repeated itself on Monday, Week 9 of DWTS! The judges were able to persuade millions of gullible people that Jacoby had done a perfect Tango. It was magical! But here am I, the little kid who cried, The King is naked, the King is naked! For Jacoby’s Tango style, Argentina may well declare war on ABC for that perfect score! Do cry for that Judges’ score, Argentina! You will notice that although Zendaya and Val were fourth out of five with a score of 55, and Jacoby and Karina received the top scores from the judges this mad night, I am still scoring Jacoby fourth, behind Kellie, Aly and Zendaya. Any one of these three lovely ladies can dance circles around Jacoby. Week 9 was the last chance to push Jacoby to look competitive with the refined ladies!
Here are some things I found wrong about Jacoby and Karina’s Tango. Jacoby’s footwork was horrible and he still has pigeon toes. His posture is deficient as he crouches, stoops, and pushes his tush out unattractively, not moving with grace or musicality. His timing is off at several moments. His Tango lacks polish, style and refinement. The way he turns and pauses to have Karina make a turn is awkward. Jacoby’s lifts look mechanical and graceless, like he’s lifting weights. Put a video of Jacoby’s Tango next to Kellie and Derek’s, side by side and compare. Do they deserve the same perfect score?
Jacoby and Karina’s Lindy dance, however, was much better. The judges only took a point off (29/30) which was a stretch, but at least the Lindy was more deserving. Their whole performance was powerful and enjoyable. It was also authentic as Lindy, and great fun. Jacoby’s footwork was good, intricate and fast. This was a dance better suited to Jacoby’s roughness and lack of refinement. The dance type blended with his American persona, unlike the Tango. Karina’s choreography was good, very show worthy, for both Lindy and Tango! The dancing on the Judges bench, if trite, was an attention grabber. At one point on the bench, Jacoby almost kicked Karina’s head. Refined he is not, but Jacoby has a lot of lusty grace and energy.
Jayne: Having two couples dance the same dance on the same night this late in the game does nothing but draw comparisons. At this point, I still haven’t figured out how the judges really base their scores, if it’s a blinders on score for what’s directly in front of them alone, if it’s based on the couple’s history and how they have performed in the past, if it’s scored in comparison to the other couples of the night, or any combination thereof. All that to say that it is difficult to not compare Kellie and Derek’s Tango to Jacoby and Karina’s. I didn’t feel that Jacoby had the lines to have been scored perfect; his posture and frame never quite made a strong showing. The dance was good, and maybe if it had been the only Argentine Tango that night, I might have been more lenient in accepting the score.
When it came to the Lindy, I thought Jacoby and Karina were amazing. I would have felt better here with a perfect score as opposed to the Argentine Tango performance. They had energy and the footwork seemed a big improvement over what we have seen from Jacoby in the past. This style of dance is much more suited to Jacoby, and is of course, a crowd pleaser!
Ingo and Kym – Samba and Charleston
Hector: Ingo is very determined and always puts in his best effort. He also has a very skilled and excellent teacher in Kym. Ingo has improved a lot from that awful early Contemporary, a very tough dance assignment for a rookie. He works hard, has a good attitude, and a great cute kid, Peanut, who’s captured the whole cast’s adoration. Too bad Ingo couldn’t use Peanut in his Trio. Kym always provides Ingo with interesting choreography that makes him look as good as he can. She’s such a sophisticated and stylish dancer. Ingo’s Samba was a difficult dance for him on his last night. He’s not much of a natural dancer. Samba needs sexy undulations and musicality which he lacks. Bruno pretty harshly told Ingo the hip movements he could manage were not good. I think Kym has taken him as far as he can get in his dance journey. Ingo just doesn’t have much natural grace for dance, despite his good attitude and hard work.
Ingo’s Charleston was a glittery performance. His best dance, he received a generous 27/30 in spite of the not glowing judge’s comments. Kym designed a bubbly Charleston production number. As usual, Ingo played the straight man and she did the razzle-dazzle. Kym does most of the showy extensions, flips and contortions, and Ingo does the easy part. What else can Kym do? She has to work according to his limitations. She adds the razz-matazz, he does the basic steps. We like the performance, but we know it’s mostly due to Kym. He showed us some fun and had fun doing it. He did as best as he could, and we enjoyed his attitude and joviality. His dancing was at best adequate and not memorable. It was time for Ingo to go. No surprise here. He truly was the underdog, as he called himself. Good sport!
Jayne: Ingo and Kym started their night off with a Samba. You have to give it to Ingo, he has really put himself out there, diving into the rehearsals and dances with a strong determination. He may not be the best, but he’s going to give his best. I enjoyed their Samba. It wasn’t amazing, and not enough to get them into the Finals, but it was nice. Ingo is another who has grown throughout the season and again, I am always partial to the journey. Not being a natural dancer, I think he has come a long ways and should be very proud of the level of success he has achieved!
As for their Charleston, it was a wonderful, bubbly, champagne dream! How much fun was that?! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the setup, the opening with the piano and the filter they used to make it appear as an old-time film. Ingo really put himself into it, displaying the persona and with the appropriate era costume, he really was the part. He didn’t have what seemed to be difficult steps, but he did keep up with Kym. What a great dance for him to go out on!
Results Show – Hector’s Thoughts
No surprise that Ingo Rademacher was announced as receiving the lowest amount of votes during the Week 9 Results show and was sent home. This night also marked the 300th episode of DWTS. The featured guest artists for this celebratory event were good, but not spectacular. I had anticipated a bit more, especially since we’ve had it so good this season with musical guests such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Buble, Andrea Bocelli, Jennifer Lopez, and Juanes!
Starting off the evening, we were treated to a fabulous opening dance number for the 300th show! All our beloved Pro dancers returned to dance and it was so good seeing them perform again! Each one has his/her particular and unique mojo. And how well are Sharna Burges, Gleb Savchenko and Henry Byalikov doing this Season?! They stand out! Sharna was the body (and what a body it is!) uplifted in the center of the dancers at the end of the opening number. She also did a beautiful, sexy, inspiring Contemporary dance with Gleb later in the program to Christina Grimmie‘s haunting song Take Care.
What a great English-Irish singing group, The Wanted, was with their song Fill a Heart! How can we not contribute to their cause, Child Hunger? They ask with such cute Brit accents! I must put in a word for the accompanying Contemporary dance by Tyne Stecklein, who has danced with Michael Jackson and is also a movie actress, and her excellent partner Blake McGrath, a professional dancer/singer originally from SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance.) Absolutely breathtaking dancers! Their line and extensions were exquisite, and what leaps, kicks and lifts. How ethereal, too! Perfect for the sweet and sensitive song by The Wanted.
The AT&T Spotlight Dance was performed by cute ten year old Sophia Lucia, who was quite the dancer. She holds a Guinness World Record for consecutive turns and is a huge Chelsea Hightower fan. Very charismatic little girl, dancing with her idol Chelsea, Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold and Tyne Stecklein. But the big enchilada number I liked best was Avril Lavigne‘s Here’s to Never Growing Up, her number one hit in 22 countries! Who said our Pros don’t do good Hip Hop? Watch Henry Byalikov, Lindsay, Witney and Jaymz Tuaileva do a terrific Hip Hop to Lavigne‘s big hit! Particularly watch the boys, Henry and Jaymz, do a beautiful fly-around and turn, then a high kick (which is an ouch for most boys) in perfect sync. Fabulous!
So, that’s it for Week 9 of Season 16! We are anxiously awaiting the Finals. Who will win it all and take home the Mirror Ball?! Far as I can tell, it is totally up in the air. Judges scoring has been a bit unpredictable and each of the Finalists seem to have a good share of viewers in their fanbases. Looking forward to seeing all of the Stars back with their Pros. Should be a great two nights of dance!