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'Dancing With the Stars': Priscilla's reversal of fortune

April 8, 2008 |  8:29 am

As a ballroom-dancing novice, I find “Dancing with the Stars” to be highly instructive. For example, this week I learned the following: First, for the paso doble, the male partner should dress as a matador (either traditional or shirtless), and the female partner should dress as either a harlot or a beer wench. For the Viennese waltz, the male partner should wear a suit or tails, and the female partner should dress as if she might at any moment need to go undercover at a Renaissance Faire. This sort of knowledge will help guide me if I am ever invited to an Inaugural Ball.

On a more macro level, does anyone other than me prefer traditional music to the tailored (or, dare I say, bastardized?) contemporary songs? This week, every single one of the Viennese waltzes was adapted to contemporary music, as were several paso dobles. Once again, Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark were offenders on this front. Although I listened to New Order’s “Substance” every single day on the way home during my senior year of high school, and even though if you were to cite any one line from that entire album, I could then recite, as if in a trance, the lyrics of the rest of the album, I still didn’t need to hear “Blue Monday” paso-doble-ized. And sung live. Perhaps this speaks to my naivete, but the paso dobles with traditional, dramatic paso doble music seemed much more striking to me. Discuss.

Priscillap Now, onto the dancing. This week saw the judges start to get a bit more generous/profligate with their higher scores: Five 10s were awarded, with both Kristi/Mark and Jason Taylor/Edyta receiving 29/30. We also saw some reversals in fortune, most notably a big dip for Priscilla Presley and Louis. Although Bruno liked Priscilla’s “Merry Widow” look, and Carrie Ann inexplicably complimented the drama Priscilla creates with her facial expressions (seriously?), the judges threw down a yellow card for an apparent lift that occurred during the dance in direct violation of Viennese waltz statutes. Score: 22/30. Priscilla was undaunted and expressed confidence that she’ll be back next week.

And, you know, she’s probably right. Adam Carolla and Julianne seem the most likely to get the heave-ho, even though I sure would like them to hang in there; as Adam says in the practice scenes, “I’m in it not to lose it.” Despite performing a paso doble that involved Adam riding a unicycle in Zorro garb, they just weren’t smooth. Well, Julianne was smooth, and the choreography seemed designed to minimize Adam’s dancing while maximizing Julianne’s spinning. The judges weren’t fooled. Score: 19/30. In the post-dance interview, Adam tells Samantha Harris that the Spaniards tried to come to America en masse on unicycles, but then they drowned in the Caspian Sea. “Google it, kids,” he says.

Marlee Matlin and Fabian recovered some ground from last week with their Viennese waltz, which Len called “poignant” and which apparently actually made Carrie Ann cry. Bruno says that Marlee always seems totally immersed and focused, which does actually capture something she’s got going for her. In the post-dance interview, when Samantha asks what it’ll take to beat Kristi, Marlee signs, “An asteroid hit?” Score: 24/30.

Mario and Karina also recovered a bit from last week, though the judges still showed the most divergence of opinions that we’ve seen, by which I mean that there was a two-point gap between top and bottom. I thought there was a bit of desperation to Mario’s intense expression during the paso doble, but overall the dance was solid. So were Karina’s boobs, which you could get a good look at through the circular cutout in her dress. Score: 24/30 (Carrie Ann with 8, Len with 7, Bruno with 9).

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony rose to the challenge and did what I thought was a dramatic, well-synchronized paso doble. The acting was particularly good –- they nailed what other contestants and pros referred to as either the “love/hate” or the “life/death” nature of the dance. Technically, they even looked strong, at least in comparison with their past performances. The judges tell them that that’s what they wanted. Score: 24/30. Marissa: ecstatic.

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl were assigned the paso doble, which they translate to mean “near-nudity.” Cheryl is wearing what appears to be a vinyl bra and hot pants with a cape attached, and Cristián’s full chest is on display. They dance to traditional paso doble music, and their performance even involves Cristián exclaiming “Hey!” or maybe “Ha!” a couple of times (on purpose). I thought it was very dramatic and fun, and it actually seemed as if Cristián were leading Cheryl for the most part. The judges like the passion and drama, and Bruno says something about the “power of the biggest bull.” Score: 26/30.

We find out that Derek injured his neck during rehearsals last week –- he’s even filmed being loaded into an ambulance –- and Shannon Elizabeth has been practicing with Jonathan under Derek’s cheerfully judgmental gaze (over his neck brace). Derek is able to perform, however, and I think Shannon is really making visible progress each week. She started out a bit gawky but now seems quite elegant. Their Viennese waltz was my favorite, even over Jason and Edyta’s, which I’ll get to in a second. There was a particularly nifty pirouette sort of thing at the end, where Shannon stayed fixed like a ballerina in a music box while Derek spun her around. Really, with a vivid description like that, you can just see it, can’t you? Len says it’s his favorite dance of the night and is inspired to award his only 10. Score: 28/30.

Jason and Edyta’s rehearsal scenes were reasonably amusing this week. Edyta tells Jason he needs to treat her like a “proper lady” for the Viennese waltz; insert various scenes of Jason acting boorish. She takes him to learn from the master: A knight at what appears to be a permanently installed Renaissance Faire. The knight then christens Jason “Sir Dance-a-Lot.” Their performance is polished and their movement elegant, and their attire restrained and demure (at least by comparison). Bruno terms it “a majestic swan in a mating ritual.” Score: 29/30.

Kristi and Mark were the lead-off dancers this week, and, as usual, their paso doble was sharp, well synchronized and elegant. Bruno contends that Kristi unleashed her inner “harlot” and “Jezebel,” though Len doesn’t think so. Still, Kristi and Mark remain the ones to beat, even with some very strong performances this week. Score: 29/30.

Tuesday night: Sheryl Crow and some bit about ballroom-dancing 9-year-olds. Who will be eliminated?

-- Sarah Rogers

(Photo courtesy ABC)