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'Dancing With the Stars': A good team effort

May 4, 2010 |  8:31 am
119790_1136_pre We’ve reached the seventh week of competition, ballroom fans, and I’m happy to report that we’re also at the point where the excitement and dance performance levels have started to reach bedazzlingly giddy heights. All the season’s drama queens and kings and needless buzzkills have exited the Rectagon, and we were left with a performance show where everyone upped their game and came with sparkles a’blazing. What a fun night of dancing and general frivolity -- it had more eye-popping sights than Brooke Burke’s hiked-up-to-there zipper dress with the sparkly snake necklace around her clavicle, and more electrifying pairings than Len’s crazy, blindingly bright green shirt/yellow novelty tie combination.

And we were treated to the inaugural Cha Cha Challenge! The contestants were divided into teams and had to perform a cha cha to a Lady Gaga or Madonna song. And you knew that the sexed-up Team Gaga, outfitted in metallic fringed and dancing to Lady’s “Telephone,” was going to win out in technical performance and precision -- they had Derek and Cheryl on the same team, for crying out loud. But the Madge-ical Niecy, Erin (who was a dead ringer for a “Borderline”-era Ms. Ciccone with her tousled hair and that drawn-on mole) and Evan looked like they had an arm’s worth of jelly bracelets more fun with their Madonna “Holiday” routine. Evan, in particular, looked like he couldn’t believe how silly he looked his luck while being draped by his fellow competitors at the beginning of the dance. And I loved how they all committed to the early-Madonna frilly skirts and so gamely took them off to “Express Yourself” corsets at the end. Team Gaga earned 27 for their dance, and Team Madonna got 24 for theirs, but both earned two snaps up for being winners in my book.

Plus, we had the first perfect 30 score of the season, courtesy of ...

119790_0535_pre Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya! The couple rebounded nicely with a scorching hot Argentine tango that made last week’s less-than-stellar samba go by the wayside like some really bad balletic fever dream. And these two were terrific this week. Evan always looks dashing in a tuxedo, but it was Anna’s sparkly striped dress that had just the right amount of sizzle and sophistication. So did their routine, which was set to a nice tango rendition of Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows.” And that spin at the end with Anna in a split, one leg on top of Evan’s shoulder? Smoking. “You really conquered your territory tonight,” said Bruno. “So sexy, so refined. It was hot!” exulted Carrie Ann. Len said he knew that Evan was “nice on ice,” but had his doubts whether the ice skater would be “good on wood.” Ultimately, the judges’ inaugural presentation of the 10 paddle said it all. Evan and Anna earned a perfect 30 for their tango, and a 24 for their part in the Team Madonna cha cha, for a total of 54.

It was enough to launch Evan and Anna in first along with perennial frontrunners Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. And there was no hodgepodge of sexy moves and gyrations in their waltz this week. No, they kept it close in the hold and as proper a dance as possible, and Nicole looked like a Disney princess with her hair up and with all that sparkle. Their routine was set to “You Light Up My Life,” the favorite song of her aunt, who was present in the audience and who crowned them with leis afterward. Though as beautiful as Nicole’s rise and fall was, the difficulty of the choreography held the pop star back a bit this week. (And is it just me, or at times does her taut, tan body at times resemble a technically excellent Slim Jim?) “The connection was a little lacking,” noted Carrie Ann. “Some of the choreography was so difficult and so amazing that you made some mistakes,” said Bruno. Magnanimous Len graciously offered to show Nicole some of the more technical points in his trailer. Nicole and Derek earned a 27 for their waltz, which, coupled with their Team Gaga high score of 27, gave them a combined total of 54.

In third were Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke. Chad might have gotten Cheryl a diamond necklace and a truckload’s worth of other gifts for his partner’s birthday, but perhaps the best present of all was the 9 that they earned from Len for their Viennese waltz (though seeing an unfettered Tony Dovolani pop in for some rehearsal time was the icing on the cake for me). And this, despite their misguided mesh outfits. I could see what the costume designer was trying to do in creating a top that would maximize the Ochocinco muscles and a matching skirt that gave Cheryl the illusion of being naked, but the jacket with nothing on underneath and the see-through skirt with bobbing cotton balls should be filed under things that shouldn’t be meshed with. I did, however, enjoy their Viennese waltz, set to a lovely version of Coldplay’s “Sparks.” It really seemed as though Chad finally got the hang of this whole dancing business. The judges concurred: “There’s nothing sexier about a man finding out how to be tender,” admired Carrie Ann. Bruno thought our football player was “a bit too heavy on the downbeat of the rise and fall,” but lauded him for being “so graceful and so gentle.” Len thought Chad’s arms “were full of fluidity,” and called the evening’s performance “the night you became a contender.” Their 25 for their waltz, combined with the 27 for their Gaga performance, gave C+C dance factory a total of 52.

Nicole may have had problems connecting with her partner and the audience, but Pamela Anderson sure doesn’t. And brava to her for remaining in character and keeping the romantic lines with partner Damian Whitewood without ever stepping into man-eater territory. (They also get extra points in my book for waltzing to Billy Vera and the Beaters’ “At this Moment,” which, of course, was immortalized in the Alex Keaton-Ellen Reed romance on “Family Ties.”) Len commended Pam on performing a waltz that was “much more quiet and understated,” though he told the actress that she’s got to “firm up upstairs.” Bruno agreed that she’s got to check her “top line, which is very hard to hold constantly.” Carrie Ann said she loved the waltz’s tone. It was a bully of a night for Pam, who despite her simplistic individual routine kept up admirably with pro Cheryl and just-about pro Nicole in the fast-paced and super-technical Team Gaga group “Telephone” act. Pamela and Damian earned a 24 for their waltz, but the 27 they received for their group cha cha helped increase their standing with a 51 total.

119790_1097_pre Which ended up being tied with Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. And after six weeks of competition, Erin is also clearly getting a lot more comfortable in her dancing shoes. The judges said her quickstep was the ESPN reporter’s best dance yet. Maks couldn’t resist the urge to doff his clothes once again (which, let’s face it, no one but Len complains about), but he put a clever twist on it by revealing a salmon-colored sparkle suit underneath. Joke’s on you, Len! And Erin’s bodice was just so hypnotically sparkly; it was as if the designers were trying to emulate reptile scales, but with rhinestones. “That was gorgeous,” Carrie Ann said of the routine. Len said she had “beautiful hold” and “great posture.” Bruno hit the nail right on the head by saying it was “slick, lightning fast and brighter than Len’s tie.” Erin and Maks earned an impressive 27 for their individual routine, and paired with the 24 for their group cha cha, gave them a total of 51.

Shaking a tail feather in the rear were Niecy Nash and Louis Van Amstel. And while this couple may have the week’s lowest point total, they are certainly tops when it comes to entertainment value. It really seemed like Niecy got her groove back, and this week was a great showcase for her brassy charm and a triumph of her jubilant jiggly parts. And I loved her quickstep, set to Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top.” The comedienne looked classy, her movement was quick and economical, and she looked like she was having a blast performing it. Bruno said her footwork was better than ever. Carrie Ann said Niecy “hit it and quit it,” and Len, while reminding her to lift her rib cage up (“I’ve got a lot to lift,” Niecy responded) concluded by saying that it was the “very best dance you’ve done.” Niecy and Louis got their first 9 and a 25 for their quickstep and a 24 for their Team Madonna montage, for a total of 49.

Which puts our favorite cheeseburger champion in danger of burning under those red heat lamps once again. And as much as I would hate either of them to go, my guess is that she and Pam will end up in the bottom two.

What do you think? Did you have as much fun as I did watching this week’s performances? Who do you think will be out of mirrorball contention come Tuesday night?

-- Allyssa Lee


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Photo credits: Adam Larkey / ABC