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Dancing with the Stars: Season 4

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ABC has announced the "stars" who will be participating in season four:

01 Laila Ali (boxer)

02 Billy Ray Cyrus (C&W singer)

03 Clyde "The Glide" Drexler (NBA great)

04 Joey Fatone (formerly of boy band group 'N Sync)

05 Shandi Finnessey (former Miss USA)

06 Leeza Gibbons (former Entertainment Tonight host)

07 Heather Mills (soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney)

08 Apolo Ohno (Olympian - shorttrack speedskating)

09 Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos)

10 Paulina Porizkova (80s supermodel)

11 Ian Ziering (Steve Sanders from Beverly Hills 90210!)

Fatone and Ziering are absolute masterstrokes -- I'm not sure how I feel about the rest.

I'm still debating whether or not to do the reports . . .

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I’m already rooting for Ziering and Ohno. And whatever else can be said about Heather Mills, she is a lady of spirit.

I love reading your reports, miliosr, but wouldn’t want you to do them unless they’re fun for you. Last season was certainly less than inspirational.

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I'm cynical enough about Heather Mills at this point to see her participation as an attempt at PR rehab.

It will be fun seeing if Laila Ali has her dad's gift for floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee outside the ring! I don't doubt that in his day, he would have been a formidable DWTS contender.

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My money's on Joey and Kym to win. Joey's a very good dancer and a great performer, and he has a large and loyal fanbase. He's also extremely likable, and I think both his personality and performing style will mesh very well with Kym.

Clyde Drexler is my other favorite to make it to the end because of his fanbase, although the height thing is going to be a definite issue as far as his dancing.

Ziering is going to be interesting because there is going to be a significant height gap between him (6') and Cheryl Burke (5'3ish), and Cheryl's Ballroom (vs. Latin) technique and choreography is relatively weak.

I think Heather Mills is going to have a tough time. Leaving aside the divorce issues, she's not going to have any foot pressure down her prosthetic leg side, and I can't believe that the coordination of bending, straightening and balancing is going to be a simple task. Of the male pros, Jonathan's probably the one most up to the task, but I can't see them getting that far.

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Here's the link to the bios page on the Dancing with the Stars site:

http://abc.go.com/primetime/dancing/newseason.html

The pairings are:

  • LAILA ALI / MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY
  • BILLY RAY CYRUS / KARINA SMIRNOFF
  • CLYDE DREXLER / ELENA GRINENKO
  • JOEY FATONE / KYM JOHNSON
  • SHANDI FINNESSEY / BRIAN FORTUNA (first-timer)
  • LEEZA GIBBONS / TONY DOVOLANI
  • HEATHER MILLS / JONATHAN ROBERTS
  • APOLO ANTON OHNO / JULIANNE HOUGH (first-timer)
  • VINCENT PASTORE / EDYTA SLIWINSKA
  • PAULINA PORIZKOVA / ALEC MAZO
  • IAN ZIERING / CHERYL BURKE

I think there are a number of inspired choices, particularly Ohno, Pastore, and Ziering.

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Vincent Pastore has dropped out of the competition:

"When I initially committed to joining Dancing With the Stars, I didn't realize just how physically demanding it would be for me. Unable to put forth my best effort, I felt it appropriate to step aside and give someone else the opportunity."

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The Miliosr Report - Week One

What can I say? I'm like a moth to the flame with this show.

General Impressions

1) Thank God ABC picked a better crop of celebrity competitors for Season Four. As I'm sure you all remember, I really didn't like most of the Season Three celebrities. Too many of them gave off the impression that they were using the show as an audition for their own sitcom or to land commercial endorsements. This new crew seems like they're in it more for the fun of it than anything else.

2) The scoring was much better as well. I wonder if ABC had a talk with the judges and told them to tone down the ridiculously inflated scores from Season Three.

3) I'm happy that there was no elimination this week and that the dancers will get two opportunities to dance before there is an elimination.

4) Great opening number with the pro dancers.

Scores from the Judges

01 24pts Joey/Kym

02 23pts Laila/Maksim

03 21pts Apolo/Julianne

03 21pts Ian/Cheryl

05 19pts Paulina/Alec

05 19pts Shandi/Brian

07 18pts Heather/Jonathan

08 17pts John/Edyta

09 16pts Clyde/Elena

10 15pts Leeza/Tony

11 13pts Billy Ray/Karina

Miliosr's Impressions

The male celebrities performed the cha cha cha and the female celebrities performed the foxtrot.

Ian/Cheryl

Not a bad first effort but the judges were right -- his body is expressionless below his pectorals.

Paulina/Alec

I thought she was lovely -- beautiful posture, elegant lines, wonderful extensions. Her biggest problem right now is that she has to remember it's not just about performing steps -- it's about giving a rounded performance.

And how nice was it to see Alec back? Sigh.

Billy Ray/Karina

Oh dear. The best I can say is that he was no Kenny Mayne or Tucker Carlson. (Talk about damning with faint praise!)

I don't know what else to say other than he needs a haircut. He's too old to be sporting male Country&Western starlet hair.

Leeza/Tony

First off, her dress did her no favors -- it made her look stout and matronly. As for her dancing, Leeza doesn't look very graceful and her extensions were very poor. Easily the worst of the women.

Joey/Kym

Wow -- Kym's body just kills. (And I say that as someone who isn't even attracted to women.)

As for Joey, he is the clear frontrunner coming out of the gate but he faces two hurdles going forward. First, he needs to clean up his technique -- he was very sloppy at times. Second, he should be aware that being the frontrunner on this show doesn't always translate into final victory (as John O'Hurley, Stacy Keebler and Mario Lopez would all testify.) If he doesn't develop beyond his current skill level, then he may run into difficulty later.

Laila/Maksim

She moves much better than I expected her too but I found that her very muscular upper body killed some of the romantic effect of the dance. (Also, she should save the glitter around her bosom for the Latin dances -- it was a little too gaudy for the foxtrot.) Still, she is probably the strongest contestant after Joey.

John/Edyta

What a relief that the token "older gentleman" in the competition didn't resort to the kind of shtick that George Hamilton and Jerry Springer employed so liberally.

I didn't think he was so hot on the night but, since he was a replacement and started two weeks later than the other competitors, I'm giving him a pass for this week.

Shandi/Brian

This was passable but no more -- she has no personality and her extensions were merely OK.

I have a feeling she is not long for the competition. Let me spell it out for you:

no name recognition + fake beauty pageant smile + male partner using too much spray tan = early elimination

Clyde/Elena

He has a lovely personality but I think the height difference between him and Elena will be the ruin of this team. He was passable enough but too often he came across like your not terribly coordinated father dancing with your sister at her wedding reception.

Heather/Jonathan

Someone in the wardrobe shop must be a big Beatles fan -- she was costumed very unflatteringly. Again, another passable performance but at times I felt like she was channeling Madeline Kahn in a parody of ballroom dancing.

Apolo/Julianne

His feet were pretty good but he scrunches over too much. His background in speedskating (where competitors spend most of their waking hours in a low crouch) may be a real impediment here.

Should Have Gone/Would Have Gone

As I said, there was no elimination round this week. But if there had been an elimination, I would say that Billy Ray/Karina should have gone but Shandi/Brian would have gone.

See you next week!

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I'll add my notes as well:

I was pleasantly surprised by the field. Unlike last season, I think the producers and casting director did a really good job a putting together the cast for this year. All seem very likeable and genuinely excited to be on the show.

I was also pleasantly surprised that no one completely tanked in performance. Some are obviously much better than others (for a variety of reasons), but I think all the celebs managed at least a few basic steps in time with the music and squeaked out a basic execution of their choreography i.e. there doesn't seem to be anybody who is completely rhythm deaf and two-footed a la Kenny Mayne or Tucker Carlson.

Hated the camera angles and editing this episode. I really had a difficult time with a number of the celebrities trying to watch both their topline and their feet at the same time because the director would cut between the two. Music was erratic as always (but more about that later).

A few notes on competitors:

I thought Laila, Joey and Ian all did well.

Laila has a lot of natural talent, and she has an exceptional partner in Maks who can teach and choreograph to her strengths. As I said in an earlier post when the training clips came out, she looks like a natural mimic who can reproduce what Maks shows her although she may not understand what she's doing. I think she has her greatest difficulty with close partnering. Her right shoulder looks like she fighting with Maks sometimes in hold, and her frame gets really loose at times, way to shouldery. She seriously needs to work on just stabilizing her frame and letting a beautiful topline come through. Great first effort though.

Joey is by far the most experienced performer in this field (and I'm not going to get into whether he should be on this show), and he had a good performance as well. When I first watched this I was wondering about the cha-cha content, but I watched all the performances again with the sound on mute and there was much more content in this than I first thought. It was still somewhat light but better. I'm sure this is going to be a major challenge for him and Kym after all those years on tour, but he really has to watch that he doesn't hip-hopify all his movement and posture. I think that and the music were much of the reason this looked so "disco." He also really needs to neaten and clean up his movement (close his feet, control his legs, watch his arm movement) and work on the details. It's in him to do it, but he needs to focus.

Ian impressed me as well for a first time out. His hips are odd, uncontrolled and oddly placed. I also wonder if he has difficulties with transitioning from movement to movement because Cheryl choreographed so many syncopations in parts of this routine which I noticed she tended to do with Emmitt when he was having problems going from movemenet to movement.

AAO and Julianne. First of all, the important things. Julianne needs to lose the Farrah hair. Otherwise, AAO seems talented and charismatic, but very, very undertrained and under-rehearsed. The choreography was very simple, and they made it work, but the connection of the ankles, knees and hips was very off. Julianne got him to straighten the knees (which she was working with him on in the clip for the International leg action), but he barely seemed to bend them at all at times, which obviously inhibits his movement.

Leeza is not long for the DWTS world. Very tentative, little walk-out in her steps, shoulders are around her ears, head is placed really, really badly (actually, all the women had this problem to different degrees). Unless there is a hidden groundswell of fanbase from ET, I just don't see it.

Shandi and Brian looked a lot better without music as well, but not memorable since I can't really remember anything else about this. I remember feeling like she would be a lot better with a few port de bras classes under her belt.

I want Paulina to be good, but she's not. A lot of "gapping" between the partners, and her center keeps collapsing. She also has a head placement problem, although not nearly to the degree that Leeza does.

Is it sad that I think that the cha-cha for John R. turned out to be one of Edyta's better choreography efforts? I thought so.

I think Clyde is going to have problems no matter what. Yes, he needs to "own" it, but from a physics perspective, he is so tall that it does put his stability into question, and the major height differential is going to make connection of the centers difficult. He made a really good effort with the choreography, though. Way better than some of the other athletes have in the first week. Loved that Elena got to show her stuff.

Billy Ray had it right. Karina is his strength. It looked a little better with the sound turned off, but the man is just not coordinated. I can't help thinking that it would have been better with the hair off of his face, though. It would at least have helped his performance a bit.

I just can't comment on Heather Mills. There's no way she's not going to have difficulty with the prosthetic and Jonathan did his best.

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Random initial impressions on Week 2:

Jonathan is a genius. He's long been one of my favorite pros on the show, but I never in a million years thought he's be able to choreograph a piece that was both entertaining and cleverly masked all of Heather's stability issues with the prosthetic. Carrie Ann was completely out of her mind in declaring the choreography the most difficult, though (I thought Shandi's was far and away the most difficult).

Otherwise, I thought all the women had issues coordinating their knees and hips which completely destroyed any Cuban motion in almost all of them.

Leeza didn't seem to have any control of bending and straightening her knees at all with the thoroughly predictable result of no Cuban motion. Tony presented her well (unsurprising because out of all the men, he's the one who competes Mambo), but the non-coordination of her knees/hips also affects the upper half of her body (coordination of back and hips). And the nerves still get her (shoulders around her ears).

Paulina needs to work her feet into the floor. She's still dancing on top of the floor. She also has issues with bending and straightening her knees although not quite as severe as Leeza's, but it's resulting in one of the most severe cases of Reverse Cuban Motion I've seen in a while. She knows to move her hips but she's swinging it through immediately when she steps as opposed to suspending it and then swinging it through to let the hip work in opposition. I still love her and want to be her when I grow up though.

In a lot of ways, Shandi came closer than the other women. She has moments when her hips come very close to working well. Unfortunately, Brian is choroegraphing way beyond her abilities, with (by far) the most difficult choreography of the night, and she fell apart. I would love to see him on another season once he gets how the show works.

There is a lot of good in Laila's mambo, but I actually have a lot of problems with it most of which is that I think Laila must have partnering issues, because this mambo has almost no substantive partner work in it (and the foxtrot was rather light in partnering as well). It's almost entirely shines (side-by-side work), which Laila does well, but I kept waiting for the part when Laila and Maks were going to dance, ya know, together. Laila also needs to work on straightening her knees. She's almost always on bended knees (vs. alternating bending and straightening). And I hope she starts cutting out so much shoulder movement. I didn't mind it in the mambo so much, but it bothered me in the Foxtrot and I hope it doesn't continue.

Julianne's done a great job with AAO. Major improvement from last week, and was amazed at the attempt at pivots which were not bad for a beginner.

Cheryl and Ian had major gapping issues. He is far too tall for her, and she's not a good enough Ballroom (Waltz, V. Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, etc.) dancer to compensate. I also felt like it was rather tentative and tense.

Bizarrely enough, I'm still much, much enjoying Edyta's choreography with John over any of her work with any of her previous partners.

I'm glad Karina was able to pull an improved performance out of Billy Ray Cyrus. He's not a great dancer. He's not even a good dancer. But if he gets better, it'll be a fine accomplishment.

Joey's posture and topline need work and he had some definitely footwork boo-boos. But I think where he took it over the other men was the combination of he managed stretches of connection with his partner (some gapping, but not too bad) combined with absolutely flying around the floor. If you watch how many steps it's taking for him and Kym to cross the floor vs. any of the other men, you can see how much more power he's generating with every step, and it's pretty impressive. They're actually dancing out to the edges of the floor. There are definitely many, many flaws that they need to work on, but there's a lot that good as well.

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As soon as Laila hit the floor, I let out an involutary "Whoooop!" She has inherited not only her father's great looks and athleticism, but also his show(wo)manship. In the backstage shots, she grabbed every opportunity to flirt with the camera. Her mambo was the night's conspicuous high point, IMO, although (much as I hate to admit it :blink: ) Heather does a mean shimmy.

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Last week's premiere finished fourth for the week with 21.8 million viewers. (This represents the biggest premiere episode yet for the series.)

A disappointing elimination last night although, the more I think about it, perhaps not unexpected.

More analysis and commentary to come later in the week. In the interim, I would direct everyone to sidwich's excellent discussion of the week 2 performances.

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Miliosr Report - Week Two

General Impressions

Musical guest Dionne Warwick's voice is holding up relatively well. If only she had sung "Theme from the Valley Of the Dolls" instead of the two songs she sang!

Scores from the Judges

01 27pts Laila/Maks

02 26pts Apolo/Julianne

03 24pts Heather/Jonathan

03 24pts Joey/Kym

05 22pts Ian/Cheryl

06 21pts Billy Ray/Karina

06 21pts John/Edyta

06 21pts Leeza/Tony

06 21pts Paulina/Alec

10 20pts Shandi/Brian

11 18pts Clyde/Elena

Combined Scores - Weeks 1 and 2

Each team's final two-week score = number of points earned from the judges divided by the total number of points awarded (451):

01 Laila/Maks = 50pts = 11.1% = 11.1pts

02 Joey/Kym = 48pts = 10.6% = 10.6pts

03 Apolo/Julianne = 47pts = 10.4% = 10.4pts

04 Ian/Cheryl = 43pts = 9.5% = 9.5pts

05 Heather/Jonathan = 42pts = 9.3% = 9.3pts

06 Paulina/Alec = 40pts = 8.9% = 8.9pts

07 Shandi/Brian = 39pts = 8.7% = 8.7pts

08 John/Edyta = 38pts = 8.4% = 8.4pts

09 Leeza/Tony = 36pts = 8.0% = 8.0pts

10 Clyde/Elena = 34pts = 7.5% = 7.5pts

10 Billy Ray/Karina = 34pts = 7.5% = 7.5pts

Interestingly, once the scores from both weeks are combined and divided by the total number of points, it becomes clear that a tremendous amount of bunching occurred in terms of the judging. This would prove to be of fatal consequence to the eliminated team.

Miliosr's Impressions

The male celebrities performed the quickstep and the female celebrities performed the mambo.

Apolo/Julianne

Decent enough with good speed and reasonable footwork.

Shandi/Brian

This was very strange to watch. It was as if he was performing in one dance and she was performing in another. Her non-personality continues to grate and he is much too overenthusiastic (which is really saying something for this show.)

Clyde/Elena

Nice guy but this just wasn't happening. Apart from the height differential between Clyde and Elena, he is not very sprightly and he has a frame that is about as durable as jello.

Leeza/Tony

First of all sweetheart, spare me the starlet kiss into the camera at the beginning of the dance.

To me, this was the worst dance of the night -- soooooo slow and basic. I don't know what the judges were thinking giving them 21pts.

Ian/Cheryl

I was sort of neutral about this. They performed it well enough but Ian looks very tense to me when he dances.

Paulina/Alec

The dance was pleasant enough but should a mambo be pleasant? And Paulina proved she is no Rita Hayworth.

Billy Ray/Karina

What a difference pulling the hair back made -- he actually looked handsome without all the starlet hair in his face.

He pulled it together this week but his frame came and went and he looked awfully tense out on the floor.

Heather/Jonathan

Tactless question -- is that his real hair?

The costume designer for this week must have been a Stones fan because Heather looked great in her black bell bottom pants. The performance energy was great and the backflip killed but her upper body was all over the place.

John/Edyta

He looked suave and in-the-moment but the overall effect was one of sluggishness. I just don't think a 59-year-old man will be able to keep up with the younger and more limber competitors.

Laila/Maksim

I was not as sold on this as a lot of other people were. I wonder if Laila is an example of the "bright pupil" phenomenon discussed on the Jean-Guillaume Bart thread. (I'll bet none of you ever expected to see Laila Ali and Jean-Guillaume Bart mentioned in the same sentence, now did you? :blink: )

Joey/Kym

This was very good from a dance perspective but, boy, Joey's non-stop whimsical embellishments sure are killing the effect for me.

Should Have Gone

Based on two performances, I would have been satisfied with a Bottom Two consisting of some combination of Leeza/Tony, Shandi/Brian or Clyde/Elena.

The Bottom Two

In the event, the Bottom Two ended up consisting of Paulina/Alec and Shandi/Brian with Paulina/Alec departing.

No way was it time for this team to go -- they were consistent middle-of-the-pack performers. But that, unfortunately, is what I think killed them. As I discussed above, there was an incredible amount of bunching between teams after the judging. That meant the audience vote was even more decisive than usual. Paulina herself admitted she didn't have a strong fan base going into the competition and I don't know that their middle-of-the-pack performances motivated anyone to vote for them. It's a shame that they didn't last longer as Paulina has a lovely personality and she would have added a lot to the tone of the competition as it moved forward.

See you next week!

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Week Two Ratings

Performances -- 5th (20.4 million viewers)

Results -- 10th (tie) (17.9 million viewers)

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Miliosr Report - Week Three

General Impressions

Sort of a slow week this week -- nothing monumentally bad (with the possible exception of Clyde/Elena) but nothing monumentally good either.

Scores from the Judges

The judges awarded 218 points in total.

01 24pts 11.0% 11.0pts Heather/Jonathan

01 24pts 11.0% 11.0pts Ian/Cheryl

01 24pts 11.0% 11.0pts Joey/Kym

01 24pts 11.0% 11.0pts Leeza/Tony

05 23pts 10.6% 10.6pts Apolo/Julianne

06 21pts 9.6% 9.6pts Billy Ray/Karina

06 21pts 9.6% 9.6pts Laila/Maksim

06 21pts 9.6% 9.6pts Shandi/Brian

09 20pts 9.2% 9.2pts John/Edyta

10 16pts 7.3% 7.3pts Clyde/Elena

Miliosr's Thoughts

Shandi/Brian (jive)

Shandi showed mild improvement this week but to no avail -- Brian continued to choreograph far beyond her ability to execute.

John/Edyta (tango)

John's acting was decent (as one would expect) -- the dancing not so much.

Clyde/Elena (jive)

He's such a gentle man but the dancing ability just isn't there. Even his own mother found it hard to say good things about his dancing!

Laila/Maksim (tango)

Their tango would have been great if only they hadn't broken hold for such an extended period in the middle of the dance. The judges had no choice but to mark them down for it.

Apolo/Julianne (jive)

Loved their salute to the John Travolta/Uma Thurman dance in Pulp Fiction. I agreed with the judges that this wasn't the cleanest dance ever but still -- the performance energy and infectious high spirits were tremendous. This was underscored.

Joey/Kym (tango)

First, the Star Wars theme is completely unsuitable for the tango. Second, the judges are right when they criticize Joey's frame -- he hunches over too much and his posterior sticks out too often. Third, he needs to find a new tailor for his suits -- he looked like he was drowning in fabric.

I didn't love it as much as the judges did but I'm giving them a pass this week because the music was so unsuitable. (And their tango actually looked better when I turned the sound off.)

Ian/Cheryl (jive)

Ian was more expressive below his pectorals this week but I still feel that he loses steam as the dance progresses. (Due to a camera screw-up, I couldn't see the mistake they made at the end of their dance but it must have been severe as all the judges commented on it.)

Leeza/Tony (tango)

Snore. Yes, they danced it cleanly. But once again, they were slow and boring. I thought this was terribly overscored. (And I wish someone would tell Leeza that this is a dance competition and not a voyage toward spiritual enlightenment.)

Heather/Jonathan (jive)

The Beatles fan club must have staged a coup in the costume department this week -- I hated Heather's dress. It was like something Jane Powell would have worn in one of her lesser 50s musicals. I kept waiting for Vic Damone to come striding out to serenade her.

On the plus side, I have to say that Heather throws herself into things wholeheartedly. Her negatives are fairly severe, however. Her footwork was far from crisp and her upper body was a chaotic mess. An "A" for effort but Heather said it best herself backstage -- "The mambo was much better." This was overscored.

Billy Ray/Karina (tango)

This wasn't half bad. He looks so much better with the hair pulled back and they had very good dramatic chemistry. Bruno was right, though -- Billy Ray was counting and it was obvious.

Should Have Gone

As with last week, I would have picked Clyde/Elena and either Leeza/Tony or Shandi/Brian for the Bottom Two.

The Bottom Two

In the event, the Bottom Two consisted of Leeza/Tony and Shandi/Brian with Shandi/Brian leaving the competition.

I wasn't surprised in the slightest by this ouster. Shandi had several severe handicaps coming into the competition:

1) no name recognition,

2) a bland, pageanty personality, and

3) modest dance ability.

Add to this a partner who always choreographed beyond her abilities and who never managed to dial down his overboisterous personality and you had a perfect recipe for elimination. A deserving boot.

Going Forward

Based on this weeks results, it looks like Leeza/Tony are next on the chopping block. Depending on how Heather/Jonathan are polling, there is a very real possibility that the first four celebrity amateurs out the door will all be female. If this happens, then we'll be left with an interesting scenario where Laila will be the sole remaining female competitor. I would think this would be a perfect scenario for her as she could cruise along in the competition while the six remaining celebrity males destroy one another in the popular vote.

See you next week!

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It was a rather mediocre week for me as well, so I hadn't really posted my general impressions. I did have a couple of comments, though:

I'm perhaps the only one, but I actually will miss Brian and Shandi. Brian dances very clean and strong. His major problem so far had been his inability to grasp that he was on a reality TV show, and not actually competing with one of his real students. In my head, I started to nickname him Little Louis because call it stupidity, stubbornness or integrity, he seemed to share Louis' insistence that the celeb actually learn to dance, which unfortunately is not the way to success on this show. He was starting to dial it back, though. The jive was top to bottom beginner level syllabus all the way. Which was still a tough assignment for Shandi since Brian doesn't include the fluffy filler that many of the other pros do for their celebs, but he was on the right track.

I was really annoyed with the camera work on Ian and Cheryl's jive because it basically prevents me from giving any substantive commentary on it. Was it great? I don't know! I have a feeling I wouldn't have shared the judge's enthusiasm for it even without the apparent misstep in the end. Cheryl choreographed way too many syncopations in this Jive for me to give it a 9. It makes me think Ian either has conditioning issues or (more likely) has difficulty in making the transitions from one figure to the next. Cheryl's choreography usually is more substantive, but it's been getting rather fluffy since the end of last season. Her technique is also really starting to deteriorate.

Surprisingly, Apolo Anton Ohno seems to do much better with Ballroom than Latin. The Jive was sloppy, but more fundamentally he has problems with the weight changes in Latin. He has a tendency to plant and then haul Julianne around with his arm and shoulder, which is probably painful for both of them once the adrenalin wears off. He has a tendency to let his hips get in front of him as well which impedes his lead. If Joey's hips are behind him, Apolo's hips get forward which prevents him from using his hip weight.

Leeza's tango was simple, but not bad. Tony needs her to generate more power from her knees and feet. Actually, Tony needs to get her to use her knees and feet generally.

The break in Laila and Maks' Tango really bothered me because Maks' choreography for Laila has been extremely light in substantive partnering so far this season, and then taking another three (almost four) eights out of the required closed partnering in the Tango is bordering on the ludicrous. I think she has real difficulty in it. And for some reason, Maks' right hand was riding extremely low on her back in closed hold which also made me think she's having a serious problem with it.

Joey is still having real difficulty with the posture. And personally, I had as many problems with his feet as his posture. He really needs to keep his feet closer to the floor, and make clear heel leads (push forward) and point (push back). If he had clearer foot and ankle articulation, it would look so much better. I did appreciate the acknowledgement but minimal "Star Wars" shtick (because really you can't get away from the ridiculousness) and how substantive the choreography was underneath the Princess Leia bikini. Lots of floor coverage, a variety of figures, changes of direction, etc. And I do think that Joey made a concerted effort to improve. His topline was much better than in previous weeks.

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The break in Laila and Maks' Tango really bothered me because Maks' choreography for Laila has been extremely light in substantive partnering so far this season, and then taking another three (almost four) eights out of the required closed partnering in the Tango is bordering on the ludicrous.
I don't know much about ballroom dancing and Latin from a technical standpoint. (And back when PBS broadcast yearly competitions, I never liked who the judges liked, so I knew I was missing a lot.) Would you explain what required closed partnering in Tango means? Is there fixed pattern that Tango must follow?

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I don't know much about ballroom dancing and Latin from a technical standpoint. (And back when PBS broadcast yearly competitions, I never liked who the judges liked, so I knew I was missing a lot.) Would you explain what required closed partnering in Tango means? Is there fixed pattern that Tango must follow?

Hmmm... well, I'll do my best to answer your question.

In the competitive ballroom universe, there are Ballroom dances (for example, Waltz, Foxtrot, V. Waltz, Quickstep, and Tango for Standard) and Latin/Rhythm dances (for example, Cha-cha-, Rhumba, Samba, Paso and Jive for Latin). Ballroom is competed in two forms, International Standard (everywhere, including the U.S.) and American smooth (in the U.S.). Analogously, International Latin is competed everywhere (including the U.S.) and American Rhythm is really only competed in the U.S.

International Standard is competed in closed hold from beginning to end. That is the partners come together at the beginning of each song/dance, assume closed position and remain in closed positions until the end of the song/dance. There is no open work whatsoever.

The technique of American Standard is virtually exactly the same as in International Standard. The important difference is that open work is allowed in American Smooth.

Latin and Rhythm compete slightly different dances (Rhythm competes Mambo, Bolero and Swing instead of Samba, Paso and Jive), but the main difference is the acceptance of weight on bended knee (in Rhythm) instead of straight knee (in Latin). Although Bob Powers and Julia Gorchakova who won the Rhythm championship 9 straight times danced a more Latin technique and that seems to be happening more and more.

Of course, those are standard dancesport rules and this is DWTS where the rulebook might as well be the Grimmerie. However, the judges have made it clear that they're holding the Quickstep and the Tango to something akin to an International Standard closed hold standard.

For me, while I'm something of a dancesport hippie (free to be you and me!), I do like to see balance in competitive choreography. I guess I'm still a purist in that way, but I like seeing a well-rounded dancer, someone who shows a combination of solid solo skills, good lead/follow skills, a sense of position, and expression and showmanship. And I can't really call Laila the frontrunner in terms of dance technique until she shows some substantive partnering and following skills. Maks has noticeably shied away from it in his choreography which is not like him, and it makes me think something is up. The beauty (and technique required) in Ballroom dancing is in the movement together as a unit, even in American Smooth. It's not in vamping and solos turns for four eights, and Maks choosing to highlight that in a Tango is a very suspicious choice.

As far as why you choose different dancers than the judges in the PBS broadcast, some of it is politics and the competitive pecking order. Like in all judged sports, a longtime champion is almost always going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

But a lot of it is that some things are not as obvious on television as they are when you see dancers live, unless you're watching very carefully and know what to look for and then it's hard to judge some of the subtleties. I think Ballroom is especially hard to judge on TV. The first thing you notice watching a competitive Ballroom couple live in a ballroom is how much speed and floor coverage they're getting. (It's really like a spangled and feathered freight train). That's much harder to judge on television. When I was watching the the Tangos on Monday night, I'm watching for how many steps it's taking them to cross the floor, how well they're maintaining body contact with their partner, how many changes of direction they're making, etc. It's why, even though he still has posture and some other technique issues, I would have said that Joey still had the best Tango of the night.

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Thank you so much, sidwich :dry:

I have to say that the vamping in these routines is my least favorite part, even more than the acrobatics. I feel the same way about figure skating ice dancing: I'd rather see deep edges, flow, and close hips than dance theater that has been very popular with judges for several decades. (I'm happy to see the closeness and solid technique of the best just-out-of-junior teams.)

I have to admit to having knocked over a coffee table or two trying to follow Melanie LePatin and Tony Meredith in their "how-to" program on PBS :blush: (No other humans were injured in this experiment.)

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I'm dazzled by the commentary you guys are making, and it makes me regret that I've disabled my television and can't watch the show.

Especially since I DID watch a friend's tapes of the last competitions last year and was fascinated by the abilities -- political, temperamental, and kinesthetic -- of Emmet and (was it Joey?), who both had very big gifts to start with. Emmett had the enormous advantage of "having" an African-American vocabulary of shimmies, shoulder-pops, and hip moves already, which Cheryl took brilliant advantage of, that ultimately registered with the fans at home in a way that Joey's grand ecartes and other dance tricks did not. That was QUITE a competition.

I've done a LITTLE ballroom dancing myself -- well, rather a lot of Lindy hop, which is more an educated street dance and certainly is not one of the approved ballroom genres, but still it IS a dance that uses frame and closed position and has a lot of rules for how and when you may break away and come back together, for which frame is essential.

Which I mention because it's where I first encountered "frame" and the idea of closed position. SO I'm going to try to give Helene a layman's understanding idea of frame, based on how I learned it.

In San Francisco, all the Lindy leads learned to follow, and all the follows learned to lead, so we don't call leads "He" and follows "she."

And we learned to do it with one of us having their eyes closed, so you'd really feel the connection -- which is an exercise that makes the connection so inexpressibly sweet you never again wonder why judges value frame and connection, for it is the crown and apogee of dancing with someone else.

What makes the connection possible is the sacrifice of a degree of individual freedom to "Rules," so that you can gain in freedom as a couple. And most of us agreed that the sacrifice is worth it for the inexplicable, at times almost miraculous fluidity of communication back and forth from one to the other, almost instantaneous, where an impulse would be detected almost as soon as it arose. Which makes it possible to be witty and make your partner laugh.

So the basis of it is to clarify yourself: without being rigid about it, you keep your shoulders over your hips. It's a Gestalt, an ideal, of where your bones ought to be -- in fact they have to go off-center when you move, but as in ballet, basically, you want economy, and that means staying centered, shoulders over hips. In the basic closed position, your shoulders and hips should be square onto your partner's. (A simple variant, "promenade" position in foxtrot has you angled in a parallelogram rather than a square, so you can move easily on a diagonal.)

So if you're following, and the leader steps into you, you should respond by stepping backwards as far as "his" impulse moves you, and in exactly the direction "he" has indicated (i.e., not a little to the left or right). Your whole body should respond in this way. If his left foot and shoulder come forward but his right arm holds your hip in place, you should twist. Otherwise, you should NOT twist. Otherwise, you'll never be able to turn. And turning as a couple, sharing a center, is deep deep bliss.

Of course, twisting is fun, and most flourishes involve twisting of some sort -- but rationing, subordinating them to geometry, is what makes classic ballroom dancing classical.

I'm probably saying a LOT of things wrong, and you experts please correct me. But I remember how the light came on for me when I had all this explained for me. Needless to say, I still twist too much.

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Week Three Ratings

Performances -- 6th (18.2 million viewers)

Results -- 9th (15.0 million viewers)

Loved the "surprise" guest on last night's results show. (It wasn't that much of a surprise given who the musical guests were.) Sigh -- those were the days (sung in my best Edith Bunker voice.)

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Random notes on Week 4:

Interesting choreography choice by Maks this week. I've been suspecting that Laila had some serious partnering issues since Week 2 since Maks been pretty obviously minimizing any substantive partnering in their routines since the beginning, and he blatantly broke the DWTS "rules" last week to do so. And while she is both gorgeous and charismatic, none of Laila's movements have ever been either big or dramatic. She has a natural sensuality to her movement which works beautifully for many dances, but doesn't really work for Paso which is not about sensuality. (I'll go out on a limb now and say that she'll probably also have problems with the Jive.)

I thought it was really curious this week since I think Paso is a much easier dance to minimize the partnering than the Tango (which is all about partnering) that Maks chose to put so much in since Laila was so obviously struggling with it. I couldn't decide whether he just couldn't figure out anything to highlight as a strength (if it's a dance that's just not suited to her. Which does happen sometimes) or if Laila had insisted on "playing it by the book" and so he choreographed a textbook paso regardless of the problems she was going to have with it a la Brian. Dunno.

I think if Tony could just get Leeza connected to her knees, she would just be SO much better. She would get better coverage across the floor, it would help her open up her movement, and it would go a long way towards helping her look that small and anxious look. She couldn't seem to bend her knees at all last night, and it was like watching alternating toothpicks cross the stage. I feel like she's going to be gone.

I wasn't sure that he'd be able to help Heather with the Waltz, but Jonathan certainly minimized the obviousness of Heather's leg issues. He is a genius. (I will say, though, that I think it's conspicuous that Heather is the only remaining contestant who hasn't been required to do one of the Ballroom dances in DWTS's semi-International style so far. I think everyone else has either gotten Tango or Quickstep).

Len's rant on Clyde (and the other contestants) was so totally scripted and probably a precursor to one of DWTS' redemption arc. I feel like the judges are going to be applauding X celebrity in a few weeks, "See what these poor celebs can do if they really work at it!" I think the producers are going for a feel-good arc this season after the fauxmances last year, hence the limitation on rehearsal time this year. (I'm not really convinced it's going to work, though. In real terms, a few months is not that long to really learn how to dance.) And I still have a hard time with Carrie Ann going on about respect for the dance and putting time in, when she couldn't recognize a samba if it hit her with a two by four.

If you put Ian and AAO together, I think you'd have the beginnings of one pretty-good beginner. AAO is actually fairly decent at keeping body contact with his partner, and he has good performance chemistry with her. His waltz footwork was ALL over the place, though. As much as Julianne tries to hide it with runs and syncopations, he is not keeping to the waltz 3/4 time at all.

On the other hand, Ian is not bad at keeping to the waltz time, but when he and Cheryl dance together, it's like there's a grand canyon of gapping between them. AND he's stiff and has performance issues. As much as I roll my eyes at Carrie Ann's comments most of the time, she does occasionally get it right, and I think it probably would help if he remembered to breathe sometimes (which is a common beginner mistake).

I think a fire got lit under Joey a couple weeks ago. I don't know if it was the judges' score or seeing the first couple of performances on tape, but I didn't really feel like he was trying very hard until the Starr Wars Tango. Honestly, he seemed content to coast the first couple of weeks. But love it or hate it, the Tango was the first dance in which I really felt like he geniunely tried to improve from the week before, and I felt like he improved again this week with the Paso. Kym's comments on the B-roll are noticeably more focused on appreciating his desire to improve and less about his ability to focus. He can be good at this if he chooses to be, and I think he's finally chosen to apply himself.

I have to admit to having knocked over a coffee table or two trying to follow Melanie LePatin and Tony Meredith in their "how-to" program on PBS (No other humans were injured in this experiment.)

Tony and Melanie were great performers. They had some really good competitive choreography, work that didn't make you cringe outside of the competitive context. Tony's also a very fine coach (I've never seen Melanie teach so I don't know how she is).

So the basis of it is to clarify yourself: without being rigid about it, you keep your shoulders over your hips. It's a Gestalt, an ideal, of where your bones ought to be -- in fact they have to go off-center when you move, but as in ballet, basically, you want economy, and that means staying centered, shoulders over hips.

You know, that's such a truism, but I think there's some question as to whether that is actually true now, although that's often what is taught. With the Latin/Rhythm and social dances like Lindy, if the hips are slightly off-center backwards it gives the lead/follow much greater usage of the hip weight (it's kind of like if you're trying to unstick a door or if you're trying to push heavy furniture). Lindy, in particular because of its roots in African dance, I find the hips are usually off-center, giving the lead/follow its characteristic "spring."

I have to run the disclaimer that this whole idea that the hips are supposed to be off-center completely rocked my world when it was introduced because it completely went against everything I had ever been taught. But I have found that it makes for much greater facility in lead/follow, more focused direction with much less effort.

In Ballroom (Waltz, V. Waltz, Foxtrot, etc.) dances, the hips usually release backwards for certain figures. Just a little, but it's extremely difficult for most people to do the leg swings backwards otherwise (because of the shape of the hips).

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Miliosr Report - Week Four

General Impressions

1) Another ho-hum week. With the exception of Joey (and possibly Apolo), none of the celebrities are making progress. (And some are even regressing.)

2) What a pleasure it was to see Drew Lachey return to the show and reprise his "Save a Horse - Ride a Cowboy" routine from Season 2 with Cheryl and the other pros. Seeing him tear up the dance floor made me realize -- again -- just how special the Season 2 celebrities (Drew, Jerry, Stacy, Lisa, George, Tia, etc.) were in comparison to the Season 3 and Season 4 celebrities.

Scores from the Judges

The judges awarded 190 points in total.

01 Joey/Kym 28pts 14.7% 14.7

02 Apolo/Julianne 26pts 13.7% 13.7

03 Ian/Cheryl 24pts 12.6% 12.6

04 Heather/Jonathan 23pts 12.1% 12.1

05 Billy Ray/Karina 21pts 11.1% 11.1

05 Laila/Maks 21pts 11.1% 11.1

07 John/Edyta 16pts 8.4% 8.4

07 Leeza/Tony 16pts 8.4% 8.4

09 Clyde/Elena 15pts 7.9% 7.9

Miliosr's Thoughts

Laila/Maks (paso doble)

This was nothing special and the music didn't help. What is happening to this team? They started out so strong and now they appear to be faltering. Laila actually looks like she is regressing.

Apolo/Julianne (waltz)

His feet were a little "tripped up" at times but this was the second best dance of the night.

Leeza/Tony (paso doble)

More bad music and Leeza's leather bar costume was hideous. Besides my usual complaints of how slow and boring their dances are, I would add that she is completely inflexible.

Ian/Cheryl (waltz)

Yuck to Cheryl's hair extensions.

His rise and fall was merely OK but the bigger problem was (and is) that they have no chemistry. Compare Cheryl's performance with Drew the following night and your eyes will tell the tale.

Edyta/John (paso doble)

Again -- more bad music.

This was too simple and, like Leeza, John's body is just too inflexible. Curiously, his acting failed him in a dance that is highly dramatic.

Clyde/Elena (waltz)

Slow, stiff and simplistic.

Billy Ray/Karina (paso doble)

He's got the sexy but he's no dancer -- his frame is a mess.

Heather/Jonathan (waltz)

The Stones fans must have restormed the costume shop this week -- Heather's dress was very flattering.

Full marks to whoever thought of the music box ballerina pose for Heather -- it was a gimmick but it was an effective gimmick. This was mildly romantic and Heather was a bit more in control this week.

Joey/Kym (paso doble)

Best paso of the night. (They had the only suitable paso music so I'm sure that helped.) Joey's starting to look a little sleeker, too.

Should Have Gone

I would have put some combination of Clyde/Elena, John/Edyta and Leeza/Tony in the Bottom Two.

The Bottom Two

In the event, John/Edyta and Leeza/Tony ended up in the Bottom Two with Leeza/Tony exiting.

Leeza's inflexible body was the chief agent of her ouster but I also think that this type of contestant -- models/beauty queens/entertainment tabloid show hosts -- just doesn't work on this show. Rachel in Season 1, Giselle in Season 2, Willa and Shanna in Season 3 and now Paulina, Shandi and Leeza in Season 4 were all early ousters. I would put this down to a three part mixture of no fan base, modest dancing ability at best and a kind of vacant perfection which, while perfect for their chosen careers, does not endear them to the audience.

Going Forward

Joey and Kym are running away with the competition at the moment. The other teams are not mounting a serious challenge to them and only Apolo/Julianne appear capable of doing so. This will be a very predictable boot order if the other teams don't get themselves in gear.

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