'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Classically trained
It's Classical Week, ballroom fans! For the first time ever, the stars danced to traditional and modern classical pieces. The Harold Wheeler band expanded to a 46-piece orchestra with woodwinds and was joined by rock violinist David Garrett and opera singer Katherine Jenkins. Hovering up above, there was one great big mirror ball to rule them all and bind them.
Pony-tailed violinist Garrett was everywhere: On the stage. On the dance floor. In the rafters. In the audience! And the stars had their work cut out for them because the classical pieces usually had no lyrics and often didn't have a clear beat and rhythm. "DWTS" troupers Kiki and Oksana came out to demonstrate the paso, while Peta and Tristan performed the waltz. I liked how the lining on Oksana's skirt had a shiny crinkle to it, like a flame. Olé!
And we have a new scoreboard leader! Here's how the "classiest rhinestone-studded stars on television" fared:
Everybody showed off their Hogwarts expertise after the Viennese waltz by new leaders Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas, set to John Williams' "Harry Potter" theme. Disney Channel star Chelsea had Bellatrix Lestrange overtures, while Mark was like a cross between the White Rabbit and his vest with the timepieces and whoever wore the Sorting Hat when it's not at the Great Hall. The unconventional choreography was bound to be controversial, and it was no surprise that cranky Len was the one who didn't care for it. What was surprising, however, was the head judge's prowess in Harry Potterology. "Why don't you jump on your Nimbus 2000 and bugger off?" he irritatingly told Bruno, after Bruno tried to cast a spell ("Expelliarmus!") on him for his negative critique. Carrie Ann thought Chelsea had hit her stride, and Bruno thought the dance was the best thing since butter beer. "It was magical, fabulous, beautiful and bewitching," he said. "The best of the night." Total: 26.
Ralph Macchio was really gunning to get back to the top of the leaderboard after a couple of weeks middling in the muck, and his and Karina Smirnoff’s lovely waltz to "Romeo and Juliet" was just the way to do it. It was quite a jolt to see Ralph start off the routine in silent sobs over Karina's supposedly dead body. More of a jolt: how moved I was at the display. Kudos to Karina for choreographing a whole touching story out of the dance. And props to Ralph's Nehru jacket, and Karina's look-Ma-I'm-in-a-casket! flower-covered dress. Bonus: Not a spatula hand in sight. "Thank you very much for continuing the lines," lauded bleeding heart Bruno, who called the dance "achingly romantic, totally heartfelt [with] brilliant storytelling through dancing." Carrie Ann loved Ralph's authenticity: "There's such an honest connection to the story." After being "in the wilderness for two weeks," Len announced, "you’re back!" Total: 25
Oh, Hines Ward, how I love thee. Let me count the ways: The determination. The bare chest. The booty. That smile. Committing to his awesome paso doble with Kym Johnson even though he doesn’t work well without lyrics and "I don’t really know what Classical Week means." Well, his resulting dance had more attack than a defensive line and tons more musicality. Plus, I loved how he broke into that megawatt smile after the routine ended. "You were in the zone, my friend!" Carrie Ann exulted, wisely avoiding the ire of the ginormous Steelers in the studio audience next to her. "Touchdown!" Len said. Hines was the most determined of all the celebrities. "You come out every week 100%," Len said, while Bruno commended Ward for his "killer instinct." "Truly explosive," he declared. Total: 25.
Romeo loves it when people push him down; it makes him want to fight that much harder. He also apparently relishes any chance to bare his chest and go topless. But it was hard to really nail his paso doble character, so he spent some time with Chelsie Hightower on the courts to channel his basketball beast onto the dance floor. And although he might have deserved a 10 for that behind-the-back shot in the pre-dance segment, was his paso doble routine to "Palladio Allegretto" by Karl Jenkins (the Zales theme song) as fierce and powerful as his aggressively bared chest? The judges seemed to think so. Len told Romeo to have "a bit of decorum ... you don't see me flaunting myself in front of everyone," but said the dance was "full of passion" and "attack." Bruno said it was "focused, powerful, action-packed, and six-packed as well" and commended them on getting the difficult musical phrasing right. Carrie Ann said it was "fantastic, powerful, fully confident," though she still docked them for a no-no lift. Total: 23.
How can sunny Petra Nemcova turn that smile upside down and show her aggression for her paso doble when the edgiest thing about her are her cheekbones and elbows? Dmitry Chaplin tried to access her sultry side with an angry photo shoot, which produced sufficiently fierce smizing from the supermodel. And although I thought the resulting dance, set to Bizet's jaunty "Carmen" overture, made her look a tad Gumbyesque, the judges seemed to like the routine. "I would have liked a little bit more authority through your feet and your legs," said Len. "Overall, I'm more impressed than depressed." Bruno said it wasn't Petra, it was "Caaaaarrrrmen," and proceeded to do a strip tease to emphasize his point. Carrie Ann said Petra was "on a roll ... your confidence has shown through." Total: 23.
After a brief respite as Chris Irvine, wrestling star Chris Jericho was back as Chris Jericho, and he was trying to direct that arrogant wrestling persona into his paso doble with Cheryl Burke. Chris donned a goatee, rivets on his lapel and what looked like a spray coat of bronze, and there were Tarzan-esque vines hanging from the ceiling. Hmm. Chris also credited Cheryl for helping him go "from Charlie Brown to Charlie Sheen." Two-thirds of the judges thought he was winning. "Chris the majestic! Thor, the god of thunder," Bruno declared. "Your technique is really good," Carrie Ann praised. "Watch out for this guy!" Len, once again, was the stickler. "The music conquered you," the head judge harumphed. Total: 23.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy continued their foray into odd mishaps and oopsy-daisies with their waltz, set to the "Flower Duet" from the opera "Lakmé" (the theme from British Airways commercials), First the actress suffered a muscular injury to her hip during rehearsals. Then she lost her shoe in the middle of the dance. I also thought her hands were a bit weird at a couple points, though no one seemed to comment on that. "This one was kind of strange," Carrie Ann commented. "It was like you were just waiting for it to be over." Len said everything was "OK ... but everything needs to improve." Bruno thought she did "amazingly well." Plus, "I've always wanted to bathe into flower petals, and you got that part right," he said. Well, I've always wanted to end a routine in Maks' arms, but I still thought their total was a bit high: 22.
I admit I didn't have high hopes for Sugar Ray Leonard. And this week's classical number had all the makings of a disaster: A Viennese waltz to Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers" from the "Nutcracker Suite"? It's practically a technical knockout for the boxing legend. But way to go, Anna Trebunskaya, for handling his training and the choreography like the pro that you are. Anna should bring out her stern Russian teacher more often, because good things happen when she does. Ballet lessons also helped. She also looked great in the part of Clara. Who cared if Sugar Ray marked time at one point rather than dance? It was all so charming! "I don't think I've ever smiled that much," Carrie Ann said, likening the dance to watching a sixth-grade performance. "Sugar Ray Leonard turns into the Sugar Plum Fairy!" extolled Len. "The more I got into it, the more I smiled." Bruno said Baryshnikov wasn't going to be losing sleep over the performance, and that Ray played it more like Mickey Rooney as a ballerina, but that the dance had "a wonderful cartoonish charm." While suffering in ballet class with superhero blue tights, Sugar Ray said, "I'd better get a better score than 20." And guess what? He did! Total: 21. Ice cream for everybody!
I guess there are a couple things that come up when people think of Italian music: gangsters and Andrea Bocelli. So when Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel were assigned Boccelli's song "Con Te Partirò," she, naturally, put the two together. Though Kendra seemed more imprisoned in that gangster-pinstriped dress during her Viennese waltz, even with that peek of fuchsia bra. The routine was stilted and a bit off-kilter, and Louis Van Ambitious turned away and exhaled in frustration at the routine's end. Bruno's heartbreak was evident, as the inelegant phrasing and lack of passion offended the Italian's sensibilities. "This is a song of heartbreaking longing!" he fluttered. "You should become the character. Become the black swan!" Carrie Ann told Kendra not to be afraid of elegance. Len tried to spackle the whole thing over with his rakish charms, joking that he understood the gangster reference ("I get it: Katherine Jenkins is a soprano!") and then saying it had "flow and good movement." Len still gave the same score as the other judges, though. Kendra and Louis got three 6s, for a total of 18.
Which, surprisingly, puts Kendra at the bottom of the leaderboard and ripe to be offed come elimination night. What do you think, ballroom fans? Should we leave the Kendra and take the cannoli? Has Sugar Ray danced his last dance? What did you think of Classical Night? Did Kendra and Kirstie have an unfair advantage because their songs had words? Discuss below, or suffer the disciplinary action of Tom Bergeron: "Am I going to have to take a Taser to you?"
-- Allyssa Lee
Photo credit: Adam Taylor / ABC