I haven't written about "Dancing With the Stars" here for the past couple of seasons because, even though I love ballroom, I just haven't found much to say about the show lately; it seemed to get blasé, like it had lost its entertainment value. But this season, there are a lot of really genuinely likable people on, some whom I didn't expect to be so. I also think they needed an enormous personality, a real star, which I think they found in Pamela Anderson.
Anyway, starting at the beginning of last night's season ten premiere:
I really liked Cincinnati Bengals football player Chad Ochocinco. Snaky cha cha! He clearly has a natural rhythm and loads of musicality. He looks like he learned to dance by watching Michael Jackson; he has that same spineless-looking serpentine movement quality. He did a really sharp turn during practice that looked very Michael Jackson and I wish that would have been in the routine. But there was plenty there that he really nailed: that excellent grapevine at the beginning, the shoulder shimmies at the end! I also loved his personality. I loved him telling Cheryl Burke not to compliment him just to make him feel better. And that he was pleased with his performance but not cockily so; he knew he needed more work. I had to crack up at Len Goodman telling him he needed better posture. I don't think Goodman knows much about any other kind of dance than ballroom. Yeah, he will need a different frame for Standard next week, but come on -- that was Michael Jackson Latin!
I thought actress Shannen Doherty did well too; much better than I expected watching her practice. Her Viennese Waltz did look a bit choppy at the beginning but as it progressed it began to have a real flow. It was a difficult routine -- fast music, complicated footwork and tricks, and difficult arm rhythms. But she ended up looking very elegant. And she has to stay on for a while at least; I need to get my fill of (ultimate ballroom show-off) Mark Ballas!
I also really liked ESPN broadcaster Erin Andrews. Maks Chmerkovskiy gave her a really hip hoppy cha cha and it worked well for her. Usually tall, thin women tend to look like spaghetti, and she did look a slight bit wobbly at points. But her lovely long limbs made for a gorgeous ronde en l'air at the beginning, and I think she's going to be capable of a beautiful rumba if she's flexible. Overall she had enough definition, good rhythm, and a great spicy personality. It'll be fun to watch her improve.
I thought "Bachelor" star Jake Pavelka did fine though there just didn't seem to be a whole lot of spark to me. He had a lot of fast footwork and most of the dance was in closed position (both hands holding your partner, bodies ideally maintaining connection at the pelvis), which is hard, especially for a beginner. He did look a bit stiff but that's understandable for someone who's never danced before. I think Bruno Tonioli's comments that he was pushing Chelsie Hightower around the floor were unfounded.
I absolutely loved actress Niecy Nash. Loved her personality, loved that she joked that the best thing about being on "Reno 911" was being able to slap men around, and that she's proud of her "jiggly parts," her "meat," and then dedicated her dance to all the big girls. Sweet! I thought she and Louis van Amstel (always a favorite pro dancer of mine) did a wonderful cha cha. She has great natural rhythm and really knows how to play up the character. Awesome swivels -- those were lightning fast! And cute hip shakes. I don't agree with Len that it was "flat" and I love that after he said that, she cried out, "but the great thing is that I remembered my routine!" For someone with no dance training, dancing live on TV for the first time, remembering all the steps is a huge thing. She's definitely a favorite of mine.
It's no surprise to me that Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek did well. Anyone with dance background (including ice skating, which requires stylized movement ability) just knows how to find his or her center, how to maintain definition, balance, make a clean line, pay attention to shaping, etc. etc. His Viennese Waltz was elegant, graceful, gentlemanly, polished, very nice. His feet were turned in a little awkwardly at points and he does need to point his toes, as Carrie Ann Inaba noted (which he's not used to doing in skates). Loved how he joked to Anna Trebunskaya upon meeting her that he hoped she wasn't mad at him for beating his Russian counterpart in the Olympics and, instead of saying, "You deserved it!," she shrugged and said, "It's his fault." "Ouch," he replied and kind of laughed nervously at the camera. Len's right that he needs to develop more chemistry with her but I'm not sure that it's because he's used to performing solo or if there's something awkward between them.
I love that astronaut Buzz Aldrin is on the show. He and his wife are sweet, and quite good-looking! Of course it's impossible to compare an 80-year-old who's never danced before to everyone else, but I thought he did very well with his cha cha. His footwork was all there -- almost all there anyway, and he was on the beat pretty much the whole time. And Ashly Costa made him look good. I hope he stays on the show for a while. I didn't see the "moonwalks" that Inaba was talking about though.
Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger is by far technically the best dancer on the show this season, I think. Well, maybe she has some competition with Evan... And she has dance background too. Her Viennese Waltz with Derek Hough was beautiful. Her arms were so beautiful and expressive and her upper-body shaping so full and lavish I didn't even notice whether, as Len said, her footwork was off and she did some heel toe leads. Loved the assisted spin at the end with her leg wrapped around him in attitude, although there was a tiny bit of awkwardness getting into position. But overall, such grace, it looked almost balletic! Doesn't mean she'll win, but she's definitely set the bar this season for good dancing.
I wasn't all that in love with soap star Aiden Turner. He's charming and has a great sense of humor, but his cha cha showed that he doesn't have a natural ease with movement or sense of rhythm, he was way too bouncy and not grounded, and his lines were unformed and awkward. With a great teacher, he could definitely improve, but, honestly, I'm not sure if Edyta Sliwinska can be that.
Reality star mom Kate Gosselin is so sweet! I really empathize with her lack of self-confidence and it makes me want to root for her. And I've had teachers mistake my insecurity for lack of passion, as Tony Dovolani did with her. Tony rightly gave her a slow Viennese Waltz (was really more of a regular waltz) and she looked nervous, and of course when you're nervous you're going to be a bit stiff. But I think there's a natural grace and elegance there and once she gets over her nerves, they will shine through. And sweet choreography -- I love the hug at the end!
I think Pamela Anderson may be my favorite ever on the show. I definitely didn't expect I'd be saying that. Of course her dance wasn't really a proper cha cha -- too much strutting and sexy posing in lieu of technique -- like tracing the floor with and pointing her toes, turning out her feet, grounding her hip movement by connecting her hips to her lats, etc. etc. But who cares? She knows what she's about and how to take it as far as she can and not be embarrassed by her shortcomings and do it all with a sense of humor. I haven't followed her career but watching her dance reminded me of seeing her host "Saturday Night Live" once and thinking, wow, she's got a real flair for comedy. I think she brings that to this show too. There are some people who just captivate you. And it's not about the obvious; it's about how she uses her body, sometimes in rather humorous ways. I'm not familiar with Damian Whitewood. He looks like a fine dancer, but I think he's too short for her. Honestly, with her larger-than-life persona, her literal height, her hair all ratted up like that, her makeup, and the way she carried herself and did her thing to the utmost, she seemed a bit like a drag queen, no? And I don't mean that in a bad way! She was a really hot drag queen! But that performance just reminded me of something I'd see at a place like Stingy Lulu's in the East Village when I used to go there. Maybe it was when she towered over him from behind and ripped his shirt off. I don't know. But I had such a good time watching that performance. And damn does she have a flexible lower back - -that was the deepest rag doll dip I think I've ever seen. And the ending dip was fabulously shaped too. I think she needs to dance with Chmerkovskiy though. Wonder if he and Erin were serious about changing partners? Or maybe she'd outsize anyone.