Helene

Dancing with the Stars, Season 12

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I now have basic cable and just watched the Season 12 opener I had recorded on the PVR. Zipping through the commercials is such a better way to watch, but I have to remember to set an alarm each week to vote for Louis van Amstel and his partner. I don't care how she or they dances: I just want to watch him for as long as possible.

First, Ralph Macchio is 48? Sugar Ray Leonard is 55? Kirstie Alley is 60? I think the statute of limitations for denial is now at an end...

I know little about the technical aspects of ballroom dancing, just what I find impressive and/or pleasing. In the opener I was again kvelling listening to the athletes talk about how hard it is to dance, and these are people who were paid mega-bucks to know precisely where their head, hands, feet, core, legs, and back were for every move they made in relation to at least one other person, and in the case of Chris Jericho, the World Wrestling Federation champion, to not know could be debilitating.

For me Ralph Macchio was a surprise and a delight, performing with great charm. I especially loved how NFL football star Hines Ward focused his attention on his partner Kym Johnson and appeared to be partnering her in the non-hold sections. I was really impressed with Kirstie Alley, who found her feet. She's also very funny, and I expect her to gather a lot of the at-home vote.

While they've all been put through the crash course ringer, and must all have 1000 instructions churning in their heads, for some performers musicality shone through, particularly in their ability to change speed and attack in response to the phrase. Sometimes this recedes after the relatively open first couple of shows when they start to try to gain and hone technique, but it's fun to watch at the beginning. I also love it when someone gets a phrase or a move or is light on their toes for part of the dance, and I can hear Marv Albert in my head with his "Yes!"

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Here are the pairings:

http://abc.go.com/shows/dancing-with-the-stars/bios

I wish they'd shut up about Romeo's father, who was difficult, but saddled with an inexperienced pro who sold him down the river. That was shame on the show, and the last thing the hosts should be doing is bringing it up.

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Maks and Kirstie's cha cha cha:

Maks is going to have to figure out how to get Kirstie's stamina up right quick -- she was breathing HARD after that dance.

What is that thing on the front of Brooke's dress? Is it a satellite receiver??

And to think we could have had Drew or Mel B. as co-host instead of poor, hopeless Brooke . . .

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Alley did way more than "stay upright on [her] feet for the entire dance."

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Alley did way more than "stay upright on [her] feet for the entire dance."

Yes, Alley did very well. Out of the women, I think she had the most solid frame, really using her core, pectorals and lats, and let Maks move her around the floor. Because of this, they were able to do some fairly complex choreography for first week out, much more complex than anything Maks even attempted with Laila Ali in all the weeks she was in the competition, for example. Alley lost it a bit at the end of the quickstep, but that's not unusual. Alley could really use her knees a lot more on the Standard side, especially since she's such a tall woman, but that will come with time as body awareness builds. For comparison, Kym's specialty is Standard, and Hines Ward was barely moving in his quickstep, as charming as it was.

I now have basic cable and just watched the Season 12 opener I had recorded on the PVR. Zipping through the commercials is such a better way to watch, but I have to remember to set an alarm each week to vote for Louis van AI wish they'd shut up about Romeo's father, who was difficult, but saddled with an inexperienced pro who sold him down the river.mstel and his partner. I don't care how she or they dances: I just want to watch him for as long as possible.

I always look forward to seeing Louis dance, but I'm rather afraid for his stint this season. Kendra Wilkinson is about as physically strong and coordinated as overcooked spaghetti, and is rather painful to watch. He will have an uphill battle to make much significant progress with her. If anyone can do it though, he can. The quickstep was already a big improvemet over the first week.

I wish they'd shut up about Romeo's father, who was difficult, but saddled with an inexperienced pro who sold him down the river.

Well, Master P did freely say that he was only practicing about 2 hours a week, so there probably were limits as to how far Ashley was going to progress with him. Ashley was on the inexperienced side, but I'd probably put her solidly in the middle of the regular cast of pros in terms of teaching beginner dancers. Some of the more seasoned pros are actually quite poor in teaching beginner fundamentals, actually.

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I wish they'd shut up about Romeo's father, who was difficult, but saddled with an inexperienced pro who sold him down the river.

Well, Master P did freely say that he was only practicing about 2 hours a week, so there probably were limits as to how far Ashley was going to progress with him. Ashley was on the inexperienced side, but I'd probably put her solidly in the middle of the regular cast of pros in terms of teaching beginner dancers. Some of the more seasoned pros are actually quite poor in teaching beginner fundamentals, actually.

It's understandable that she couldn't do much -- I don't think anyone could have unless he started with the others and there was some behind-the-scenes tough love a la Nick Kosovich -- but her sulky, "It's all a reflection of me" attitude was weak; had she acted directly and professionally, i.e., "This is what we can do in two hours a week", it would have been about him. He was what he was, and he came in late, without the prep that the others had, and that the producers allowed him to sub in at the last minute given his lack of commitment, and general lack of grace and coordination was inexcusable to start, but to pair him with an insecure DelGrosso, who was a first-timer on the show, made me think they were going for the equivalent of a "Trading Spaces" bad reveal.

It's interesting that Romeo was going to compete originally, because in season 2 (2006), he would have been 16. (He was born in August, 1989.) I like watching him, and I suspect that he's more interesting at the grand age of 21 than he would have been at 16. I was also glad that Mike Catherwood got the boot first, after his snarky comment in week 1 about scoring higher than Master P.

Louis is doomed :( :(

Kirstie Alley makes Chmerkovskiy bearable, but I'd rather watch most of the other pros.

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It's understandable that she couldn't do much -- I don't think anyone could have unless he started with the others and there was some behind-the-scenes tough love a la Nick Kosovich -- but her sulky, "It's all a reflection of me" attitude was weak; had she acted directly and professionally, i.e., "This is what we can do in two hours a week", it would have been about him. He was what he was, and he came in late, without the prep that the others had, and that the producers allowed him to sub in at the last minute given his lack of commitment, and general lack of grace and coordination was inexcusable to start, but to pair him with an insecure DelGrosso, who was a first-timer on the show, made me think they were going for the equivalent of a "Trading Spaces" bad reveal.

Actually, it was Ashley DelGrosso's second season on the show which, since it was Season 2, made her as experienced as anyone on the show and more experienced than say, Cheryl Burke who won with Drew Lachey that season. I don't remember any particularly sulky attitude from Ashley, but I do remember Master P's total lack of commitment to the show cracking her Mormon uber-perky, cheery veneer a couple of times.

It was pretty obvious that the producers were really gunning for a share of the African-American audience and pulled on something to get Master P to appear on the show (Romeo dropped out extremely late). I actually enjoyed Master P on the show; he made for good TV, and was not nearly as bad of a dancer as the show made him out to be. He actually got further in two hours than some celebs have with a full schedule of practice.

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Maks and Kirstie's cha cha cha:

I've never been able to understand the why's of some dances/rhythms being wrongfully named after completely different dances/rhythms/music. What they danced is clearly not a cha-cha-cha-(salon or not)-, nor is the music being played. It's like calling a Charleston melody "Waltz" and dancing it as a twist... :P

This is a cha-cha-cha...

Anyway..back to DWTS...

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Actually, it was Ashley DelGrosso's second season on the show which, since it was Season 2, made her as experienced as anyone on the show and more experienced than say, Cheryl Burke who won with Drew Lachey that season. I don't remember any particularly sulky attitude from Ashley, but I do remember Master P's total lack of commitment to the show cracking her Mormon uber-perky, cheery veneer a couple of times.

Thank you for this -- I didn't even recognize her as the same person from the first season.

It was pretty obvious that the producers were really gunning for a share of the African-American audience and pulled on something to get Master P to appear on the show (Romeo dropped out extremely late).

Perhaps it's a bias from project management, but when you have a last-minute replacement/issue, you try to reduce the risk to your project, not increase it. This usually means having a solid Plan B and plan C in your pocket.

I actually enjoyed Master P on the show; he made for good TV, and was not nearly as bad of a dancer as the show made him out to be. He actually got further in two hours than some celebs have with a full schedule of practice.

I thought he made great TV, too, but from the producers' point-of-view, more in the "Any publicity is good publicity" sense. He got up there and said in up-front words and actions, "I don't buy into your show": 1. I'm not investing the time 2. I'm not interested in your style, or even making it a fusion (which I suspect his son would have in 2006). 3. I refuse to wear the right equipment (shoes) 4. I refuse to wear your drag 5. I'm not moving any way that makes me feel uncomfortable or is counter to my image. 6. I'm not a D-list celebrity who needs the exposure on your show. 7. I think the judges are attention-seeking clowns.I don't care what the judges think.

There was also a point where it seemed to break through to him, but it was too late, especially given his lack of prep. It's always a bittersweet moment for me when the something finally clicks for the star, but there's not enough time to implement it.

I loved the irony of him standing still and his pro dancer dancing circles around him, because that's the strategy most of the pro dancers use. He just made it so clearly obvious, and he brought attention to himself, rather than deflecting it to his partner, which is the part. (A lot of the stars would give their souls for that kind of power and the lack of stakes to be able to be themselves.) I'm not sure how much this is the case in ballroom competitions, but I know in ice dancing, there was lots of lip service paid to how only those couples who were matched in skills would be rewarded, yet there were men like Maurizio Margolio and Roman Kostomarov who were mediocre skaters with great diva partners (Barbara Fusar-Poli and Tatiana Navka) who won World and Olympic championships. On DWTS this also seems to be rewarded by rewarding good-looking couples with much lesser difficulty and complexity with similar scores to good-looking couples with much more difficulty.

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Uh-oh:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r03ayQUSptU

They recovered well enough, though, and I don't think they're in any real danger.

And for those of you who watched the intro pro demonstration, since when did "Sympathy for the Devil" become appropriate for the family hour on television? I guess everything does become blanded out with time . . .

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Perhaps it's a bias from project management, but when you have a last-minute replacement/issue, you try to reduce the risk to your project, not increase it. This usually means having a solid Plan B and plan C in your pocket.

What do you think the increased risk that Master P brought was? (The producers actually did have a Plan B. Keith Carradine was on standby to be a contestant on the show, probably because the producers thought that Jerry Springer would be the celeb most likely to drop out that season. Carradine was obviously not going to bring the hoped-for demographic that Romeo/Master P would, though.)

There was also a point where it seemed to break through to him, but it was too late, especially given his lack of prep. It's always a bittersweet moment for me when the something finally clicks for the star, but there's not enough time to implement it.

I'm pretty sure that Master P was doing his level best to get kicked off the show as soon as possible. I'm quite sure that the only reason he did the show was to avoid possible embarassment for his son. My theory's always been that he was surprised that he didn't get kicked off the first week, and escalated his attempts from then on.

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I watched the Monday night episode, and while I think Chelsea Kane (sp?) is a ringer (all disney trained child actors take extensive dance classes), the judging is all over the place! I saw a vastly mediocre performance by a wrestler that garnered 9's and Romeo (Master P's son) perform beautifully, and yet receive lower scores.

Is there some sort of collusion between the French and Russian judges ???(bad joke going back to the SLC Olympic politics)...

Meh, not sure I'll watch this any longer, but I might watch the edited version on youtube, with just the performances, not the judges.

Fortunately figure skating championships are coming soon from Moscow...(along with a royal wedding - I'll be watching lots of TV in the near future, maybe this is my "lent" until the 29th - no more TV!)

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Perhaps it's a bias from project management, but when you have a last-minute replacement/issue, you try to reduce the risk to your project, not increase it. This usually means having a solid Plan B and plan C in your pocket.

What do you think the increased risk that Master P brought was? (The producers actually did have a Plan B. Keith Carradine was on standby to be a contestant on the show, probably because the producers thought that Jerry Springer would be the celeb most likely to drop out that season. Carradine was obviously not going to bring the hoped-for demographic that Romeo/Master P would, though.)

The risk was that they'd have someone who wasn't engaged with the show and came across as hostile to it, undermining the premise. (Part of me can't blame him, season one was so cheesetastic.) DWTS was still in its infancy, not yet a phenomenon, and while it's still not attracting A-listers outside sports -- Apollo Ohno and Evan Lysacek, who was fresh off an Olympic gold medal, and skating royalty Kristi Yamaguchi, who can still draw audiences in skating shows -- Season 2 was long before it became respectable to be on it. It had the ability to sink to bad daytime TV, and be known entirely for the train wrecks and fan wars, with the dancing completely obscured.

For me, Plan A was Romeo. As a project manager, my Plan B would have been Carradine, not Master P, given how close to "launch" the replacement was, because he was a safer choice, with time on his hands and not many other distractions or reason to go asap.

I'm pretty sure that Master P was doing his level best to get kicked off the show as soon as possible. I'm quite sure that the only reason he did the show was to avoid possible embarassment for his son. My theory's always been that he was surprised that he didn't get kicked off the first week, and escalated his attempts from then on.

Thank you for this perspective: it never occurred to me that with the risk of injury so present, Romeo would have anything for which to be embarrassed. As it turned out, his father became an embarrassment for him, given the number of early references to how bad he was, and even the obnoxious radio guy made an "I scored higher than Master P" comment.

I don't know what Romeo was like at 16, but at 21, he seems committed to attempting to absorb style and to acknowledging his pro's expertise. They seems compatible to me. I thought he did a very charming program this week to "New York, New York", even if the patriotic theme was horrific, and the most of the other music/versions about as awful and inappropriate to the dances, especially rhumba and samba, as it gets. (He lucked out on his music.) It was worse than last week's "classical" theme, which had promise, but when some teams had to use actual classical music, and others movie soundtracks, some of the pros must be wondering whether it all is worth it. Louis van Amstel looks like he is trying to find a cyanide tablet.

Kirstie Alley, after two weeks with mishaps -- a fall two weeks ago, and falling out of her shoe last week -- was tense and relatively withdrawn. I'm hoping this week's lack-of-issues dance energizes her again. It will be interesting to see who will be eliminated tonight.

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Also, Kirsty's outfit was Horrible with a capital H! Talk about figure un-flattering! Then again, the whole "Americana" theme was way over the top. is there anything under the top in DWTS or professional dancing? Maybe not, but this was beyond gaudy.

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Tomorrow's results show will have, among its guest performers, 17 year old dancer Patricia Zhou who studies at the Kirov Academy of Ballet and has recently been accepted into the Royal Ballet.

Patricia Zhou bio

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Coming up right now on DWTS, Patricia Zhou is being touted, in DWTS's superlative fashion, as the "fastest rising ballet star in the world".

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Well, she did a beautiful lyrical routine of the crowd pleasing ilk. Patricia danced barefoot in stirrup tights (the floor must have been too slippery for pointe) and performed in a lilting, freeform manner, showing her great flexibility and lines, good technique and some artistry. I wish she hadn't gone for the ankle-grab back extension at the end. It was just too gymnastic (or figure-skatingish), and began awkwardly as she fished for her foot. As usual, the audience screamed at random moments, not at all related to what was being danced.

I'd say, having seen her Nutcracker video on her site, that she may be one of the world's rising ballet stars, but the "fastest"? I'm quite sure she's on a par with a whole bevy of quickly rising stars (and you know that some of those always fall by the wayside).

I loved the segment before she performed, where they showed her in class and had her talking about her "dream". She's a lovely young woman.

Here she is dancing Grand Pas Classique last year:

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Semi-SPOILER ALERT

:jawdrop:

I can't believe Ralph wasn't eliminated!

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Did Tom Bergeron state that Ralph/Karina and Romeo/Chelsie were the Bottom Two?

When it came down to Ralph and Romeo under the red lights of doom, I knew Romeo was a goner. There are too many aging Ralph Macchio fans out there for him to be going quite yet.

For those who aren't keeping score at the home, here is your Final Four:

Kirstie/Maks

Chelsea/Mark

Ralph/Karina

Hines/Kym

A Maks vs. Karina Final Two is devoutly to be wished for . . .

Really enjoyed the clip show featuring the greatest results night performances, especially Mark and Val (Maks' brother) dueting to Britney Spears' "Toxic" and the Derek Hough paso (w/ Mark playing guitar.)

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While on the road home from a splendid wedding this weekend, I read Cheryl Burke's book, "Dancing Lessons: How I found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life". It's structured a lot like Jacques d'Amboise's "I Am a Dancer", with an initial chronological section on childhood and then using types of dances as metaphors of a mix of what was going on in her personal and professional life, with a lot of repetition among chapters. In some ways it reads like an info-mercial, but what I found fascinating was her "Thanks, Partners" chapters, which go into greater detail the reasons for the gratitude she expresses to them throughout the book.

Ballroom dancers, with all of the glitz -- hair, make-up, costumes -- and sex, particularly in Latin always seem so much older than they are, and it's easy for me to forget that 1. Most of them are babies in their early 20's and 2. When the show started, aside from people who were interested in ballroom and their families, these dancers were unknowns, no matter how lauded in the professional ballroom world. (Alas the demise of the yearly PBS competition broadcast, even if it was a small slice of ballroom, like watching figure skating once every four years at the Olympics.) It's really like ballet, where so many great dancers apart from Nureyev, Fonteyn, and Baryshnikov elicit a "Who?" response from the general public.

Of course most of the stars go into the show knowing little about ballroom dance and not having danced it before, and the pros are the ones with all of the knowledge. We see the stars struggle with technique, coordination, musicality, and confidence, but when it boils down to it, almost every star, no matter how much we roll our eyes about how E-list some of them are, and no matter how untalented in their own area we find them or how much we dis their boy band or reality show, knows what s/he is doing very, very well in some area, and most of them are grown-ups in real life, not just the token 60-and-over stars. For example, Wendy Williams might not be able to dance, but she knows how to host a talk show, and I don't under-estimate what it takes to sit still, appear interested, enunciate clearly, keep guests' energy up, put them at ease, take live audience and viewer response into consideration, and all of the other things I couldn't even guess about the technique it takes to do her job. Other pros have had cameras on them forever; to learn to dance when they were most vulnerable with a camera crew around taping everything was something they could do easily, but which Burke had a very hard time getting used to.

I found it fascinating when Burke described what each of her partners taught her, personally and professionally, things I would have assumed, being in show-biz of a kind, she would have been exposed to and would have known. Ian Ziering, for example, was the one who suggested that she was a brand, and should capitalize on it, leading her to the idea of creating her own studio chain. She had her self-described first worst moment with a pro with Emmitt Smith, when she yelled at him in frustration. Taken in the context that she had had controlling, abusive, and over-bearing boyfriends, here is her description:

I rolled my eyes. I was wound tight, seething, and I clearly didn't hold back. As I stormed over to the music to turn it off, I could feel that Emmitt was focused on me. He paused for a moment, staring intensely and unhappily at my face, then walked calmly across the room to where I was standing.

"Nobody talks to me like that," he said in a very quiet, controlled voice. "Don't think that you're such a special person that you can talk to me like that. None of my football coaches every spoke to me like that. Do we understand each other?"...It wasn't his size or his strength that intimidated me, it was the way Emmitt spoke to me in a composed and controlled voice. Instead of yelling at me, Emmitt took the approach of being understated and intense. It had a big impact."

She then describes how she had to change her approach as a teacher:

I've been on the receiving end of blunt criticism for so long, both from other people and from my own nagging perfectionism, that sometimes that's just how I communicate. But that night, Emmitt's words made me realize that criticism delivered without respect is only belittling and rude.... Emmitt and I never talked again about our confrontation, and I think that's because we didn't need to. He had addressed the problem he'd seen, and I had taken action on it... I am much more aware now, thanks to Emmitt, that respect is a two-way street. You've got to earn it from others and emand it from yourself.

She almost seems surprised by the extent to which he and other partners have continued to keep in touch and have supported her, but it's very clear she considers them teachers in both how to perform (as opposed to dance) and how to live.

It's at the point of the show where I'm sorry anyone has to go, and it's bittersweet that Burke was the one, with her partner, who was eliminated. I thought she and Romeo did some remarkable dances along the way.

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Oustanding post Helene!

I've always loved Cheryl and some of her partnerships (particularly the ones with Drew and Emmitt) are among my favorites.

It's so interesting how, over the life of the show, pros like Cheryl, Maks, Tony, Louis, Julianne, Derek, Mark and Kym (to name just a few) have become celebrities themselves. I would even go so far as to argue that they're as much of a draw as the "stars".

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Bravo! I am a fan of Cheryl and it's good to read the behind the scenes views. I was pulling for Romeo because I felt he really had potential, was serious about the craft, and was entertaining to watch. I hope he finds other outlets to dance publicly in the future. I really enjoyed Kirsty's argentine tango on Monday night as well.

This is both my favorite and least favorite part of the season - the worst performers have been culled - and we get to watch very entertaining dances from the committed contenders. This year I felt the right people were knocked off early and we are left with the "stars" who are giving their all to perform, and not just "winging" it. Chelsea is something of a "ringer" as she grew up in dance studios preparing for Disney shows.

Brooke Burke is a huge improvement over Samantha's idiotic comments and questions in the "fish tank". Tom Bergeron is - as ever - pitch perfect in his role. The judges are over the top, but I've stopped paying them much mind.

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It's at the point of the show where I'm sorry anyone has to go, and it's bittersweet that Burke was the one, with her partner, who was eliminated. I thought she and Romeo did some remarkable dances along the way.

Great post, Helene. Just one thing...Chelsie Hightower was Romeo's partner, not Cheryl Burke. Cheryl's partner was Chris Jericho, who was eliminated a couple of weeks ago. :)

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Oh, Marga, you're right. I didn't see last week's elimination show or this week's shows -- for some reason Shaw won't treat DWTS as a series, and I forgot to set my PVR to record. I read the book after Cheryl's elimination but before I learned of this week's results, and glommed the couples together. It was Hightower who had some wonderful dances with Romeo, and Burke with Jericho.

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