DWTS April 2, 2012

When I attended the Michigan Dance Challenge in Dearborn on March 31st, I thought thank goodness I’m not a judge for the pro part of this competition – too many dancers on the floor at one time – and all were fantastic pro competitors oozing their goods, sculpting the air so we could see every muscle, every emotion and each couple’s amazing style and choreography. It felt so rewarding to see my instructor compete with his new partner, to watch Dancing with the Stars’ Anya Davidova live, and to reconnect with Ilya and Amanda Reyzin’s incredible talent after seeing them in The Ballroom Company showcase in Maumee a couple years ago.

How does this season’s cast of amateur celebrities on DWTS compare? Well, as good as they are none are professional dancers who’ve trained for many years. As for how they’ll do – we’ll see in the weeks to come.

To my way of thinking, there were no bottom two or bottom three this season. There are several at the top and others below those. Jack Wagner was musical, eager and engaging. He had a genuine sensibility for movement. I enjoyed him and I wanted to see how he progressed on the show. However, I knew fan base would affect everything this time and I also knew that sooner or later Jack would be voted off because he wasn’t at the top.

My analysis:

Maria and Derek. Rumba. My mark 8+.
Exquisite. They created such a mood. Beautiful fluidity which is so important in rumba. I was transported to a timeless space where I could luxuriate in every nuance. I’m not sure if Maria is able to handle more content at this point. This dance seemed clean and simple and it worked for her.

Gladys & Tristan. Foxtrot. My mark 7.
Fluid, ethereal and musical. Gladys made something of this simple foxtrot. And it was made simple because it was what she seemed able to perform. I enjoyed the way she used her arms.

Roshon & Chelsie. Samba. My mark 8.
Such a cute couple and Roshon reminded me a bit of Michael Jackson. But Roshon has “soft” muscles which means he’s flexible and sometimes rubbery-looking and I felt he lacked some of the attack and “color” needed for competitive dancing. Roshon is musical, enthusiastic, and quite a little performer, and yet I wasn’t enthralled. When that happens I need to ask why. The answer I get is that Roshon and Chelsie lacked depth, electricity or a sense of transformative power.

No matter what dance it is – the dance created must establish a mood and be a magical experience from beginning to end. With all this samba was, magical it wasn’t for me, and that is most likely due to a lack of depth because these two are so young.

Gavin & Karina. Rumba. My mark 8.
Kudos to these two. Beautiful connection to each other. Gavin was able in this rumba to extend from his core to his fingertips, although he is an obvious beginner at ballroom. He’s got a loose kind of casual look to him in which he shares who he is – unabashedly – and allows us a glimpse into his soul. Loose casualness fans seem to be finding appealing in William Levy and yet seemingly overlook in Gavin – judging from the scores. It may be that where William has the Latin sex appeal that gains instant attention on a show like this, Gavin has depth and tenderness. So what I mean to say is that there is something about Gavin Degraw – performer. It is something quiet and powerful. It was there from the first. It’s the aura he creates in performance. That’s a gift and whether he stays on much longer or not, I want him to know that others see it and are moved by it.

Katherine and Mark. Waltz. My mark 9.
Poignant and well-executed. I felt one way watching the dance live and differently watching the videotape. The first viewing I felt a bit like Len. I wanted more dancing – more waltz. Analyzing that, I came to the conclusion that it was Mark’s choreography. Rather than conveying the unbroken fluidity of waltz in hold with Katherine facing Mark, the couple was so often in shadow position (side by side) and moving in and out of that that it broke up the dance for me. The repetitive port de bras – of lifting one arm up and opening it out –  conveyed something the first time but didn’t after that.

I wanted longer moments of the sheer fluid continuity that is waltz to allow me to connect to Katherine’s tenderness and grace. She has such a gift. On second viewing as I said, I wasn’t as bothered by this. Although I honestly don’t know why there was such a difference in my response, I will say that I was more aware of the Josh Groban song on the second viewing, one of my favorites, and I connected so much to the melody and words that I may have substituted that fluidity for what I missed in the choreography on first viewing. Music can truly make a difference and if one isn’t aware of the influence of the music, it can make one’s judgement more about the emotional response to the music than to the quality of the dancing.

Sherri & Val. Rumba. My mark 8.
Heartfelt and emotional for her and we felt it. Some beautiful moments and a sustained quality throughout. I did feel that the choreography was a little too “let’s extend the arm”-heavy and repetitive but that’s on Val and not her. Yet the choreography may have been what Sherri could do and perform well, and Val provided just the right quiet support.

Melissa & Maks. Jive. My mark 7.
Melissa is so genuine. That is a gift and in Hollywood and on a show that’s so about performing with all guns blazing and sometimes being over the top, I want to recognize the gift that’s there so Melissa sees it. I want to applaud Maks too for choreography that showed off Melissa and saved her from too much of the jive-specific quickness and attack in a way that worked for them both. She gave it her all and she was refreshing and full of her own kind of bravado.

Jaleel and Kym. Rumba. My mark 9.
William Levy isn’t the only one who’s got it goin’ on! Jaleel has an understated sensuality and suaveness. Rather than feeling like the judges that Jaleel’s arms were stiff, I felt he established his own style through the quality of his arm movements and upper body use. He is not afraid to share who he is or how he does something. Gorgeous choreography and connection. More of that, please!

Cheryl & William. Salsa. My mark 8+.
Musical, understated, and oh so sexy. While William provided the easy going Latin rhythms, Cheryl provided the sizzling energy. While I could barely take my eyes off his hip action and torso, something kept catching my eye in how William used his feet. All it meant was that he’s not a pro and perhaps it doesn’t matter in salsa – I’m not an expert to know for sure.

Donald & Peta. Rumba. My mark 8.
What a beautifully performed and moving dance. I do see the beginning dancer in him sneaking out in his line and posture sometimes and yet it didn’t bother me too much because he conveyed so much emotionally and seemed so centered and grounded in the performance.