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Tonya Plank

Tonya Plank

Posted: April 29, 2008 04:41 PM

Shannon Elizabeth Needs to Stomp That Latin Out

Hooray for Marissa Jaret Winokur. Her tango this week was lovely. I agree with Len that it was her best dance yet. She hit every beat of the music, had fantastic, sharp lines, perfect frame, never lost connection, beautiful Argentine hooks, and overall great character with a mix of passion and, as Bruno said, "disdain." Carrie Ann said she's what this competition is all about and I agree with her. She's improved greatly, she's working hard, pushing her own boundaries, really getting into it and making it her own while remaining true to the dance style. It's not about your body and whether it fits some pre-conceived dance standard of beauty - since very few real bodies actually do; it's about what you do with it.

Poor Cristian. I'm pretty sure his muscle strain happened when he was doing that final swing with Cheryl at the end of their Viennese Waltz. It showed on his face that something was not right. And then from the beginning of the Samba you could tell something was wrong. He seemed confused and at first I thought he just forgot the steps, but then I realized he had a physical problem. I thought his Viennese Waltz was nice, but I agree with the judges that it was a little too lacking in control. It was still pretty and romantic though, and the ending, where he spun her around, let her go, and returned to her (and where he likely got hurt) was just poetry in motion.

I thought Kristi's use of the umbrella in the opening of her Viennese Waltz was too gimmicky and lasted too long so as to detract from the dancing. Funny, but I thought her continuous chaine turns at the end were gorgeous, and I thought it was supposed to look out of control, that she was supposed to swoon, falling into his arms. But the judges thought the "falling" into the dip was a mistake. And then, unlike the judges, I didn't like her Cha Cha. It was cute, but I felt like it wasn't enough about the legs. She had her knees bent too often, didn't straighten them and lock her knees enough, so it didn't have that polish and precision that Cha Chas usually do.

Mario's Mambo was excellent, his Foxtrot not so much so, although it was fine. As Len said, he's not the most "elegant" dancer and the his ballroom needs more definition and muscle control, but he's still so much fun and he gives it everything he has and he really tries. It looked like they missed a hand-catch at one point, but they fixed it pretty quickly, which was very professional. You could tell the pressure was on from being in the bottom two last week. In his mambo, he really connected with the music, his flicks were good, his basic was perfect, he had excellent hip action -- he's got that down. Only thing, his feet are too turned in at points, which, for the balletomane in me, just takes away substantially from the line -- sorry I can't help it! Another gorgeous Karina costume.

I'm glad Shannon apologized for her little histrionics at the judges' remarks last week. It seems to me the judges were a lot easier on her this week because of it though. Her mambo was cute, and her dress was gorgeous -- she really looked beautiful! But the dance just didn't look right to me at all. It looked like Paulina Porizkova's mambo from a prior season. To make up for lack of proper hip action, she was bouncing too much. She needed to be more grounded, more weighted. I tend to do the same thing though, and one time a teacher made me stomp as hard as I could while doing a basic with her. It looked ridiculous in the studio but in the end actually helped me to stop dancing Latin on my tiptoes like a ballerina. Shannon's tango was very nice though. She's far better at ballroom than Latin, which isn't surprising; usually people excel at one or the other. With ballroom there's no hip settling to contend with for one thing, and Standard tends to look better on people who are tall and thin. Her footwork was good and solid, clean swift kicks and hooks, and Derek's choreography was creative with the little face slaps and hat stealing. I loved the dramatic ending dip. She was like a silent film starlet, as Bruno said.

Jason had probably the two most different dances this week: the light, sprinty Quickstep and the heavy, drama-laden Paso. His legs weren't straight in his opening splits jumps and it was noticeable and threw off the line to me. I know people like tricks, but dancers need to understand that you have to be careful about the line you're making; it's not just about doing something flashy. But the rest of the Quickstep was nice -- he was light on his feet, the runs and little jumps were good, his lock-steps were clean and polished, and I liked the little Charleston Edyta put in at the end -- very cute. It looked like he was having a lot of fun, which is the whole point for amateurs. The Paso football theme was cute, although I personally prefer straight Spanish-themed Paso; anytime someone tries to do something more original with it, it just doesn't seem to work to me. But Jason's personality is wonderful-- his enthusiasm, his diligence, and, mostly, his lack of pompous assery! He said something along the lines of how he can't believe how ballroom has taken over his life; this is all he does, and now he can't stop. I definitely know the feeling... It does take over your life, it really does.