I’m Being A Good Little Blogger And Keeping Up With DWTS!

If you read my blog and you are are a fan of DWTS, then you might recognize the people in this photo.  From left to right is Marietta Nedyalkova-Dishileva, Maksism Chmerkovskiy, and Ivan Dishliev, my instructor.

I post this photo just for fun because Maksism is on DWTS.  If you continue to tune in to my posts over the next weeks, I’ll share a few more pictures with a more DWTS professionals.

So tonight I had the pleasure of watching DWTS with my dear mother-in-law as is our customary ritual on Monday nights, but I also had the pleasure of sharing dinner (delicious spaghetti with homemade sauce and salad) with my husband and father-in-law.

After a decadent meal, even more appreciated and enjoyed because I didn’t have to make it and because Debbie is a phenomenal cook, we settled into the home theater and turned the volume up for our favorite dance show.

It was Latin night and I actually liked Brooke’s dress for a change.  I guess the new format is to open with a little routine from the dance troupe.  They shook their booties to the legend Santana.  It was immensely enjoyable to watch.  However, if I were to name this opening number, I’d name it “banana split.”  Why?  Did you see the couple in yellow?  The gentleman jumped into a spread eagle and did a trick, catching his lady between his legs.  I was like, WOAH!  That woman has some serious guts!  I don’t know how I’d react if some guy was flying through the air toward me, his crotch eye level, the force of his pelvis soaring toward my face pulling me backwards into a back bend, but I’d probably freak out.  Yeah, just a little.  No.  A lot.  That is some serious trust, I must say!  I’ll leave that move to the professionals!

First up was Kym and Jaleel doing the Samba.  The fire was pretty captivating, but in my view, it outshone the actual dancing.  I have to admit that Samba is one of the most difficult dances to master.  Although the judges gave the couple three 8’s, I found the routine a little bit lackluster and wished Jaleel (and even Kym) had more hips.  Jaleel was certainly on the beat and I give him props for that.  The man can move well.  I may be a tough critic, but I just wasn’t that impressed.  However, I was very entertained by Len’s comment that Jaleel’s bum was moving like it was “chewing toffee.”  TMI, Len, TMI.

I guess for me the thing about Jaleel is that I’m not emotionally connecting with him.  His movement is pretty good, and I acknowledge that.  I just personally prefer emotional dynamics, even over excellence in dancing.  For instance, I love Gavin, but technically Jaleel is a better dancer.  Whatever.  To each his own.  The man did well.  This is just my opinion.

Next was Team M & M – Maksism and Melissa, that is.  First let me say that I want the pink sparkly shoes Melissa was wearing.  Such a pretty color.  Look, I admire Melissa’s gumption.  I love that she “got back on the horse” and asked Maksism to put the same trick that went awry last week in this week’s routine.  I’m super glad to see that she is okay.  But dance-wise, I think the judges had it right with three 7’s.  It just isn’t that technically strong.  Melissa hopped around a bit, and still has areas of stiffness in her body.  On the flip side, I agree with Carrie Ann that it is wonderful to see her beginning to embody her womanly power and sexiness.  She is hot and cold, with moments of great movement and lines, and then moments of hot mess.  I think she is adorable overall but don’t think she is going to win the Mirror Ball.

On to Maria and Derek dancing Salsa.  So much amazing stuff to write about with this couple (the kiss in the routine NOT being one of them).  First off, my heart jumped into my throat when Maria hit the floor and hurt her chin.  I’m so glad that she seems to be somewhat recovered from her injuries and that they weren’t made worse by this week’s rehearsal mishap.  Second, I loved the practice session with full-body bubble wrap plus the helmet!  LOL.  Third, wow, Dr. Drew got a show tonight!  I about lost it when Maria began the dance, slithering in front of my favorite Hollywood rehab doctor like an unmanned fire hose!  But the gimmicks in the routine, like Derek shedding his shirt, and the prolonged kiss, were probably entertaining to the masses, but I found them cheesy, kind of annoying even.  I’m a sucker for authenticity, and although I felt like Maria enjoyed what she was doing, I didn’t think it deserved a score of three 9’s.  Maybe like a 9,8,9 or something.  It just wasn’t “all that” to me – especially reflecting upon routines debuted later in the evening.

Holy crap this is turning into a long post!  And I thought I didn’t take many notes on the episode tonight! Ha ha.

Okay, so Mark and Catherine danced an exquisite Argentine Tango next.  I knew this would suit Catherine because of her beautiful ballet feet and legs, and I was right.  With a score of 10,9,10, they tied with William and Cheryl for the highest score of the evening.  The drama was there.  The intensity was there.  The gorgeous dancing was there.  I just wish they hadn’t danced in pink.  A weird detractor for me, I know, but pink isn’t a fiery, passionate color to me.  That, seriously, was my biggest criticism (which is pretty weak – indeed, I felt like they deserved three 10’s).  Mark and Catherine were sharp, on time, and in sync.  They created the exact same lines side by side.  I really thought Catherine looked as good as a professional dancing this number.  So  just as with  Mr. Bruno, this number made me “tingle.”

Oh sweet baby Jesus.  Gavin and Karina.  What shall I say about you?  Samba, or “Shamba,” or “struggle” as touted by the show, Len, and Gavin, respectively, I can only say that Gavin, you are a “white boy” if ever there was one.  First off, he looked pale next to tan Karina, and it didn’t help.  Secondly, the cool effect of him rowing in the canoe in the beginning of the number pretty much upstaged the actual dancing.  Thirdly, I kept wondering why Gavin’s shirt was so dirty – it was very distracting for me.  As my mother-in-law mentioned, Gavin looked like “a fish out of water” doing this dance.  But the thing is, I enjoyed it!  I just see Gavin’s personality shining through and for me that trumps technique.  Gavin comes across as self-deprecating, humble, joyful, and charming.  I hope to see more of him, even if I think it is unlikely.  Scores of 6,6,7 are probably appropriate.

Okay, we are reaching the home stretch now.

How did the show have time to fit all this in?  Next was a number with Anna and Louis which was FANTASTIC and FAST!  I sincerely yelled aloud, “Stop!” they were going so fast!  I was amazed with the dang footwork and in wonder of how the human body can move that speedily….actually, I am wondering if it is even possible for my human body to move that fast.  So far, that has not been the case.  They were Ah-maze-ing.

Back to the Pro/Am couples and William and Cheryl were next up with an Argentine Tango.  Talk about sex, intensity, and good dancing.  I didn’t write many notes for this number because I was so mesmerized and engaged in the performance.  It may seem weird, but I was particularly captivated by the intensity with which William threw away the towel they were using.  I observed William as playing the part exceptionally well and having sharp, staccato movement.  It was fantastic and the scores tying for the top spot on the leaderboard were appropriate.

Now we travel to Irelenad and Motown – Tristan and Gladys.  They are cutie patooties, no matter how you cut it, both of them!  Gladys’ personality never fails to radiate through her dancing out to the farest reaches of the audience.  She is genuine and a born entertainer.  She has great musicality.  However, the scores of 7,7,8 I agree with.  The movement was simple, the technique is lackluster, and she just can’t move like William, Donald, Catherine, or Maria.  I really enjoy watching her, but again, don’t think she will ultimately win.

On to my least favorite couple – Roshon and Chelsea.  This is just my bias, but I just don’t like the kid.  I think it was horrible to try and make him be “sexy” in the Samba routine.  He’s about as sexy as a beanpole.  He did generate great excitement with his movement and he is very quick, very sharp, and on time.  But I agree with Len – he dances like a young man with his first car…a bit out of control and overly confident/cocky.  Scores of 9,8,9 position him appropriately in terms of dancing, in my mind, but again, I’d have liked a bit lower scores.  What I saw lacking were fluidity, hip movement, and dancing down into the floor instead of hopping atop it.  Sorry Disney fans – this is just my personal appriasal.  I acknowledg that it is not “the truth.”

And last, but not least, Granny Sweater and Peta.  OMG, Peta is Ah-maze-ing.  I will say it again, I want to grow up to be her.  I wrote nothing but “Holy Shit” for this number because I was watching their captivating Argentine Tango every second.  I couldn’t even look away to write something.  I felt like Len was a poopy pants giving them a 8.  They are positioned high enough that I think they are safe and I personally hope to see them in weeks to come.  I agreed with the audience as they booed the overall scores of 10,8,9.  This score put them below William and Cheryl and Mark and Catherine when I feel they were on par with those two couples.  I’d have preferred to have seen a three-way tie.  However, I am no Argentine Tango expert.  Perhaps Len was justified in his scoring.  I rarely see much of the basic AT step (which I do know) in DWTS routines.

If you’ve read this far, you are awesome.  So far my word count tops 1700.  I know this is a long one!

Please feel free to opine!  Whether you agree or disagree, the point is to generate discussion!

XOXO, Stef

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Damn! Maksim Looked Hot There For A Few Seconds! – DWTS Premiere Commentary

Belated, I know.  The Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) premiere was Monday and it’s Thursday, but hey, better late than never!

Watching this show has become a special ritual for me and my mother-in-law.  She loves the dancing just as much as I do and she lets me come to her house, eat her food, drink her wine, share her company, and talk my silly head off about all that is going on in the show while it plays on her movie-sized projection screen and I sit in a reclinable home theater chair.  It’s pretty close to heaven.  The only thing closer is dancing myself!

So, being someone who actually dances ballroom, I have opinions about this show.  I’m sure most people do who watch it, of course. I mean, that’s were all the fun comes in, right?  We get to pick our favorites and cheer them on, see them transform and grow, and be inspired.

Let me say this before I say anything else.  I totally honor and acknowledge the fact that these stars are willing to get out of their comfort zone and take this challenge on.  No matter how “good” or “bad” of a dancer they show up as, I give them props for being players in the game called life.  We viewers are simply spectating.  As a person who is a player (at times – such as in my recent showcase or at competitions), I can say that there are prices and benefits to being both a player and a spectator.  As a spectator you can have any opinion you want but you don’t risk anything, really, and there isn’t much opportunity to change or grow.  As a player, you risk screwing up, failing, and embarrassing yourself, but you have the opportunity to transform, learn, gain experience and wisdom.  Neither being a player or a spectator is right or wrong, good or bad, but each is a very different experience.  From a sometime player (me) to the players on the show (the stars), I salute you.

That being said, I still have lots to say on the beginning episode of this season.  Maybe you will find it entertaining.  Maybe you won’t.  Maybe you will agree with me.  Maybe you won’t.  I don’t always agree with the judges that’s for sure! Please feel free to comment as much as you like if you have something to say.  I’d love to interact with you!

So the show is following its same formula as always which is kind of annoying.  You know they do it to cover as many demographics as possible but we had our standard Disney kid, a sexagenarian, a few athletes, some singers, a tv/movie star, and someone in the media, all of which we have mostly have never heard of.

The first couple was Maria Menunos (media person) and Derek doing a Cha Cha.  Derek, in my opinion (actually everything I write is my opinion so please just mentally insert that phrase after everything I write from here on out – I mean, it’s my thought, not THE TRUTH, you know?) Well, getting back to this run-on sentence, Derek is very good at making his partners look good.  I feel like he manhandles his women a little bit sometimes, but he has been very successful highlighting his partners’ strengths and hiding their weaknesses.

From my perspective, the Cha Cha was okay.  Maria needed a few “ticky ticky ta’s” to help her hip movement and she danced a little stiff, I thought, like a two-by-four, as Ivan would say.  So, not bad, not great, and plenty of room for her to blossom and grow.

Next was Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya in their bright turquoise outfits doing a Foxtrot.  I thought Jack was very stiff but coped okay.  There was a lot of “fluff” at the beginning to waste time.  The dance for me was enjoyable because of Jack’s acting and personality but the technique left something to be desired.  Again good, not great for me, so I was shocked when Jack got two 8’s from the judges.  It made me wonder if he’d made some contract that he couldn’t be kicked off the show the first week, or something.  Especially in light of some of the other performances of the night, I thought the 8’s were pretty high for his performance.  But, I really want Anna’s shoes from this number!  They were sparkly blue goodness.

Then came Donald Driver and Peta.  Oh my gosh Peta is gorgeous.  That little number she was wearing was amazing too.  Their Cha Cha was fantastic.  I think Tom Bergeron had it right about this number – it really didn’t feel like week one watching them dance.  Donald did a lot of great side-by-side dancing which I think is difficult to do…much easier to stay in frame and be guided by your professional partner.  The side-by-side work demonstrated Donald’s balance and ability to move.  It will be very interesting to see how Donald does next week with the Quickstep, being a ballroom dance and all.  He seems much more suited to the latin numbers and had great rhythm.  So to be awarded all 7’s by the judges I was like, WTH!  I’m sure he’ll be voted through, though.

Interesting side note…I’ve only voted once, ever for DWTS and never for any other show like SYTYCD, Idol, etc.  Weird, I know.  I’m quirky like that.

Gavin Degraw and Karina were up next with a Foxtrot.  I appreciated Gavin’s authenticity about feeling more confident when he has a piano between him and the audience and I genuinely enjoyed his performance, but not so much because of the dancing.  He was a weird mix of being fluid and stiff and definitely suffered from “paddle hands.”  But I really liked him anyways and see that he has a lot of potential to improve.  I was like, awwww Gavin, I like you, even if you are a two-by-four.  His rankings were about right from the judges, I thought.

Chelsea and the token Disney kid, Roshon, were slated for the Cha Cha after that.  Can he move?  Yes.  For me, he’s like, Dance ten, attitude three.  I appreciate the fact that he shared that he is a freestyler but didn’t appreciate the fact that he claimed not to be intimidated by ballroom at all.  It was nice to see he changed his tune at the end saying that he was “very wrong” and that ballroom wasn’t that difficult.  Also, it annoyed me a little bit that he did the Moonwalk like five times during the routine.  Though I totally get why Chelsea would want to choreograph the number to highlight Roshon’s abilities, even my mother-in-law asked me what dance they were doing because she couldn’t tell.  So, I’m not a fan.  He’ll probably do very well this season.  For sure I thought he danced better than Jack Wagner, but he got an equivalent score.

OMG do I love Miss Sherri! I’m going to call her “Smiles” from now on.  As my friend Ivonne said, “Sherri Shephard just made me feel so joyful and happy. It was contagious! Watching her whole segment made me feel like I was wrapped up in rainbows and puppy dogs and kittens.”  Yep.  That pretty much sums it up.  She was darling.  I loved the part where Val put her hand on his behind and she declared, “God is real!”  Smiles will be very fun to watch this season and I’m rooting for her.

The next team on the floor was M&M – Melissa Gilbert and Maksim, that is.  Damn!  Maksim looked freakin’ hot when the showed him when he first met Melissa with the long hair and scruffy beard.  I’m not normally so into him but for those few seconds, I think he was even hotter than the Cuban guy, William Levy.  Anyways, I digress.  Maksim had it right – ugly movement (at times) but correct.  I think Melissa has the opportunity to come out of her shell and I did see some nice movement mixed in there – I noticed a really nice time step.  Considering the woman has recovered from breaking her back, I think she is doing awesome.  I hope her confidence continues to grow as the season progresses.

Oh la la.  William Levy and Cheryl Burke.  Here we have the opposite of dance ten, looks three.  It was looks ten, dance three.  Well, maybe not a three, but maybe a five or six?  Sure the man has rhythm but he dances like someone who works out.  He moved, I thought, like Psycho Mike from last season who got booted after the first episode.  A little bit stiff with pigeon toes.  Plus he danced more like he was at a club than in a ballroom.  He sure had audience support, though.  And he is pretty to look at.  Also, I love, love, loved Cheryl’s green glitter outfit with matching shoes.  Again, I think he will be around for quite a while.

Martina and Tony graced us viewers next with a Foxtrot.  Martina is darling but she dances very manly, like Hope Solo did last season.  It’s just that she has such different muscle memory from the sport she plays.  However, she did look beautiful in her dress and how awesome that she was wearing it after not donning one for 20 years.  It’s her opportunity to get in touch with her femininity and I would love to see that journey unfold.  I mean, her biggest concern was wearing heels.  I’m cheering for her success but we will see how far she gets.  You never know….Hope made it very far last season dancing that manly.

Okay, so here in the show I got a little annoyed.  It was Mark and Katherine Jenkins.  She was absolutely gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but that’s probably partly because she really looks to me like she’s had ballet training in her past.  That, to me, is absolutely fine – I just wish they’d acknowledged it like they acknowledged the dancing background for Roshon.  You see, she made exquisite lines and the Foxtrot really suited her, but she was dancing it like a ballerina, on her toes (and with a gorgeous port de bras), not like a ballroom dancer.  I’m just sayin’.  It doesn’t seem fair that someone can be that beautiful and talented at both singing and dancing.  She is amazing and I think she will (and should) go far. She is a great dancer.  It will be interesting to see how she manages with the “sexy” dances.

Oh Gladys, you are darling and I want that red dress!  Gladys Knight and Tristan did a great Cha Cha and I thought Gladys was very cool, calm, and collected.  I was really impressed and she deserved that standing ovation.  But alas, she got the same score as Jack Wagner!  Can you believe it!?  She did amazing and I will enjoy watching her for weeks to come.

And last, but probably the best, was Erkel, I mean Jaleel White and Kym Johnson.  His Foxtrot was spectacular right from the start with an impressive 360 leap.  He was very light on his feet, had great flow, lots of charisma, and was even compared by Bruno to the incomparable Gregory Hines.  The show producers were right to put him last as the show ended with a bang.

All in all, a great first show and a nice, glittery escape from real life.  I will be watching!