So, last night Marissa Jaret Winokur got the boot, meaning she won't be in next week's finale. It's too bad. In an earlier show Carrie Ann Inaba had said Marissa exemplified what this competition is all about. And she did. Her huge personality and immense excitement for dance were contagious and she brought so much spirit to the show. And her undying enthusiasm for dance, even in the face of the judges' sometimes harsh remarks and her recognition of her own physical limitations in comparison to arguably more ideal-bodied women like Shannon Elizabeth and Kristi Yamaguchi, enabled you to relate to her, endeared her to you.
I do think Monday night's show, however, revealed Marissa to be the least technically improved of the remaining contestants. Though Len Goodman improved her Latin hips - her cucharachas (the side-step-together steps) were by far the best -- but she didn't keep proper hip action throughout the Rumba; only on those specific steps Len helped her with. I thought her Quickstep was a lot of fun though (and disagreed with the judges that her one flub on the series of jete jumps mattered at all), but overall it lacked the speed and precision of some of the others' earlier Quicksteps, like Cristian's. Her supported lunge during the Rumba was nothing short of gorgeous and her arm movements were much improved, but overall, it just wasn't enough to pull her through. She seemed at peace with the results though, like she was halfway expecting them, though disappointed of course. I believe her when she promised to show up in the audience next week.
Jason's Foxtrot was lovely. He had good rise and fall action, very straight, proper posture, good, clean lines, and he perfectly inhabited the role of the dashing gent. His Paso was handsome, passionate, and the footwork excellent. Only thing off were his jumps at the beginning, which were a little too bent-kneed and awkward-looking. Neither routine was thrilling, though. Aside from Edyta's Foxtrot dip with the small kicks and her lovely arabesque with her leg landing on his shoulder which he took down into a suave lunge, she gave him pretty basic routines with few flourishes. Perhaps that was her point: that he now so excels at basic ballroom he doesn't need anything fancy to compensate.I still think the routines could have used a little more flavor and choreographic variety.
Cristian is so charmingly cute, so loveable. He gets so ecstatic when he does everything right, with no mishaps, and his very visible excitement just makes you want to hug him. The Viennese Waltz was sweet, and his Samba was over-the-top adorable. That's probably not what a man wants to hear about his dancing, particularly his Samba! But it was so full of energy and attitude and sheer will-power. He didn't have the controlled hip and pelvic undulations of a professional male dancer, but it doesn't matter. He shook his hips and circulated his pelvis about so that his voltas (traveling side steps where the one foot crosses in front of the other) and forward-traveling lock steps, had a bounce and a flair and looked enough like proper pelvic contractions to look right for him. The sweet retro song was perfect for him; a hyper sexy, percussive-heavy contemporary Brazilian one may have shown his weaknesses. So, good song choice for Cheryl. I think he's this season's Helio Castroneves. Whether that means he'll win I don't know, but he certainly has Helio's charm.
Mark and Kristi's Tango was the dance of the night, perhaps of the entire show. Even though there were no fancy tricks, there was such stylistic variety -- the fast, furious Flamenco-like taps melting into the soft slow dips, the sweet ballet-like leg-swirling rondes and the sexy Argentine hooks. And it had a good deal of sensuality, which you usually don't expect from a Tango. Standard Tangos are often so "I love you, I hate you, I love you again, no I hate you again," etc. And there was some of that. But when Kristi arched back toward the end and Mark lowered his head toward her and kind of took in her scent, then extended his arm out to hers and traced forward from her wrist to her shoulder, it was just so beautiful. That kind of soft passion is something new from him, and I loved it. There was a real thematic and even a narrative development to the choreography; it told a little story and went somewhere - the best kind of dance.
I was a bit disappointed with their Jive though. It had a cute theme, and was a damn hard routine, and she did very well for what she was given. But the level of difficulty was so high, it sunk her. It looked like she was struggling to keep up with him and they were out of sync at some points. Overall, he just out-danced her. His jumps were higher, he had double her energy, his form was better and his lines and footwork more clean, and I felt like for once it showed that he was the pro and she the student. It was uneven and they didn't look like a real partnership. But then again, with every other single couple it's always been apparent who the pro is, so is it even fair to make that complaint about them?
Brendan and Brittany, the young couple who performed on the results show, completely blew me away. That was honestly one of the best Pasos I've ever seen, even from any of the pros. It was technical perfection and they exhibited astounding artistry, especially for such young people, as the judges mentioned. It really drives home how important it is to begin dance at a young age. If you start when you're older, like I did, you see this kind of couple at the competitions or in the studio preparing and you realize you will just never catch up, no matter how hard you work. It's a bit saddening, but exhilarating at the same time. They will surely be a force to be reckoned with in the ballroom world.
So, with sweet, hard-working, newly ballroom-obsessed Jason, never-give-up cutie Cristian, and dazzlingly spectacular Kristi, next week's finale should be a blast!