Overall I was less impressed with this week's show than last week's, owing no doubt to the fact that the producers chose two very hard dances: Foxtrot is widely considered the hardest of the Standard Ballroom dances, and while the Jive isn't as hard a Latin dance as say, Samba, those Jives were pretty fast. Usually they slow the speed down a bit for newbies.
First on, Shannen Doherty and Mark Ballas's Jive. I didn't find the choreography as complicated as they were saying it was during practice, but the music was very fast. She tried hard but it looked like the beat was so fast, she missed some steps and then just did some quick step-jumping to make it up. Some excellent toe heel swivels though, and throughout she still looked cute and sassy. Usually during solos showoff Ballas will go all Baryshnikov while his partner tries (often in vain) to keep up on her corner of the floor, but not so much of that last night: he only did one pirouette when they separated. One pirouette, Mark, only one?! Come on!
Next: Aiden Turner and Edyta Sliwinska's Foxtrot. Wow, Aiden made a huge comeback this week. That was just about my favorite Foxtrot of the night. He had the rise and fall down, nice arms -- graceful but masculine -- and good acting job, he really got into the character. She elbowed him in the face more than once, poor guy, but he took it like the true gentleman he exuded throughout. He totally doesn't deserve to get booted this week after that performance.
Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya's Jive: perfect. I can't think of a single flaw. The fact that he's so good from the get-go makes me hyper-critical though. I want to say, "Hey! That wasn't a perfect split on that jump!" I like how she played up his long limbs with the "Rubber Legs" walks.
Niecy Nash and Louis van Amstel's Foxtrot: a sweet, well-danced basic Foxtrot. She was pretty in pink, with sassy arms, a good frame, and she did very well with the turns and the "Floor Sweep" trick toward the end. I have to laugh at her interaction with Louis though. He's so ingenuous and serious; I don't think he's worked much with people with big personalities who joke around a lot. When he tried to explain the proper frame to her -- that she should mirror him (at least I think that's what he was trying to do), she joked, "When did I become a white man?" He looked truly dumbfounded. Then, he told her the look should be "smooth like butter." "Hmmm, food, now that's my language," she responded.
Jake Pavelka and Chelsie Hightower's Jive: Wow, he really blew me away. Good flashy opening with those microphone tricks, great jump into a slide, good swivels, and excellent pivot turns (where they turn together in unison, as one, their bodies very close to each other) -- those are hard, and they did a lot of them and quickly. He looked nearly professional.
Buzz Aldrin and Ashly Costa's Foxtrot: cute how they used Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon." There were some sweet moments: his opening salute to the flag and her nod to him, the side kicks toward the end, the part where they sped up into a little run, the ending dip -- well, the whole thing was sweet. It was like a sweetly choreographed routine you'd see at a wedding - bride and father of the bride or bride and new father-in-law. I loved how she made him look good, with the beautiful kicks -- the slow, luscious developpe at the beginning, the battement in the dip toward the end. And I loved how careful he was with her. Carrie Ann said it was odd how he was so courageous in his career yet looked scared to death of stepping on Ashly's feet. But that's of course what makes him so charming: that he's so careful with the lady!
Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough's Jive: Interesting; I hadn't known the producers choose the music until she complained that they'd prepared a traditional fifties-style Jive (which they hoped would please Len) only to end up with a contemporary song by Rihanna. I thought the pro dancers selected the music. Anyway, I thought she was another perfect ten. Great upper body looseness with the body rolls and those moves where it looked like they were helicoptering around each other. I mean, there was a lot of kind of high-stepping with attitude and not a lot of bounce in the flicks, but that's because they were trying to give character to the hip-hoppy music. I saw no Lindy at all; don't know what Len was complaining about.
Erin Andrews and Maks Chmerkovskiy's Foxtrot: Ok, I have basically the same to say about the next three contestants: each exhibited varying degrees of awkwardness in the closed position (the oft-called martini glass-shape ubiquitous in Standard ballroom). When the position is properly formed and maintained (see videos at bottom of post), it can look really beautiful; otherwise it looks strained until the partners open up and let go of each other. And there was a lot of dancing in closed position last night. Anyway, Erin did a beautiful series of turns at the beginning -- I mean really lovely spins! But then when they went into closed position she looked uncomfortable; her smile looked plastered on -- not so much fake as indicating that she was really really trying and almost had to laugh to release the strain. Whenever they left closed position, though, she was fine -- much more graceful, and she had some nice high leg lifts and a beautiful dip into a split. She did look a bit choppy in places, and I think Bruno had a valid point (for once) when he told her to make sure she completed her line without going onto the next step so quickly.
Pamela Anderson and Damian Whitewood's Foxtrot: I liked but didn't love it. I didn't think she channeled Marilyn Monroe at all (despite the "I Want to Be Loved By You" song); I think she channeled Pamela Anderson as a glamorous old-style movie star. And she too looked unnatural in closed position. I think she couldn't really act this one out as well because she was so focused on her footwork and on getting the frame right. She just wasn't as free (free to be flashy) as in her Cha Cha last week.
Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke's Foxtrot: First of all, I'm not a huge sports fan and I don't know what exactly he's called. Is it Chad, or Ochocinco, or Ocho? Anyway, his main problem was the same awkwardness in closed position as the others. But for him this problem was exacerbated by the really pretty severe height difference between him and Cheryl. You could tell he was hunching over the whole time to try to better connect with her. And I think that made him nervous and then he lacked a certain gracefulness in the open position parts. The judges were overly nasty I thought. He had a bad week but he can do better.
Kate Gosselin and Tony Dovolani's Jive: wow, again, I really felt badly for her in practice, especially after Tony got so mad at her he nearly called it quits. She really needs just to calm down though and not panic so much. When you panic, you can't listen to people, you can't take in information, it all becomes a jumble. She needs to learn to relax and just have a sense of humor about it. I think that's the main difference between her and some of the other women who don't have dance background and aren't really natural dancers. It was interesting because she seemed to do well with the tricks -- the harder parts -- but then she couldn't get the basic steps right, which shows how flustered she was with them. And she couldn't concentrate on the technique at all since she was so obviously freaked out about just getting the footwork right.
Will be interesting to see who will go tonight. I hope it's not Aiden -- he doesn't deserve to go after last night's dance. I can't see Buzz getting knocked out at this point; he's too much of a legend (and too sweet). Could be Kate, but I can also see her being one of the first named as "safe" and the audience exclaiming in unison...
Anyway, since everyone who did Foxtrot looked so ill at ease with the closed position, I thought I'd post a video of two top couples doing it right -- the first, former world champs Mirko Gozzoli and Alessia Betti from Italy, and the second current world champs Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova (whose sister, Anna, was on the show last season).