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'Dancing With the Stars': Where'd the mojo go?

April 10, 2007 |  8:23 am

109388_9766_pre Overall, it was a disappointing night for those dancing stars.

Last night’s episode found most couples being chastised by the judges, for stiffness (Ian Ziering), or not trying hard enough (Clyde Drexler), or just being plain weird (John Ratzenberger). What was it? Had everybody lost their mojo? Was the Paso Doble too hard to distinguish from the Tango?  Maybe everyone was just distracted by former *NSYNC star Lance Bass sitting in the audience with the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”’s Alfonso Ribiero.

There was one major bright spot in the episode, however, and, unsurprisingly, it was Joey Fatone with his partner Kym Johnson.

Fatone has never failed to deliver thus far in the competition: He’s got a lethal combination of dancing chops, personality, determination and good-sport-ness. There’s no doubting that when it comes to concepts for the dances, he’s not sitting back and letting Johnson do all the work (although the jury is still out on how well “Star Wars” worked with that tango.)

This night’s was no different: Fatone seemed like he was working hard in rehearsals, even bringing his almost-too-precocious daughter in for audience brownie points.  But when it came to the dance, the teddy-bear Fatone was absent from the stage, especially during a move that resembled him dragging Johnson across the floor by her hair. He even looked good in his hot pink-and-black outfit.

Fatone’s dominance thus far begs the question: Is it fair to have another former boy-bander in the competition? After all, last year the champion Drew Lachey hailed from the band 98 Degrees. Those of us with enough self-confidence to admit that we paid attention to these sorts of things back when they mattered know that 98 Degrees was no *NSYNC. If Lachey can do it, Fatone should walk away with it all. After all, boy banders come with lots more practical experience than the other stars have. They’ve been taught to dance and smile at the same time. They’ve been encouraged to play a character on stage.  They’ve been trained to be charismatic but not overbearing or threatening.

And, hopefully, the good ones are also smart enough to maintain a bright attitude because they know that fame and fortune are fleeting.

On top of this background, Fatone comes from serious entertainment experience, including Broadway experience in “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Rent,” and plenty of TV and film roles.  What’s charming about him is that we know he knows there’s plenty for him beyond “Dancing with the Stars,” but that doesn’t stop him from dancing his big Italian booty off.

(Photo courtesy ABC)

-- Claire Zulkey

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