'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Hooked on Classics
Can you believe we’re reached the seventh week already, "Dancing With the Stars" fans? And this week was Classical Week, with each routine enhanced with the additional members and singers to Maestro Harold Wheeler’s band. And we got the added bonus of a lot of extra-special classical treats throughout the program: First came courtesy of virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, who opened the show with floppy hair, a killer solo and enough dramatic flair to match the “DWTS” Troupe’s "Dangerous Liaisons"-inspired performance. Wunderkind and moppet Jackie Evancho and Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo also came on stage to sing. And we got our first perfect 30 score of the season!
This week also brought this season’s first team dance, pitting Team Tango (Katherine Jenkins & Mark Ballas, Maria Menounos & Derek Hough, Roshon Fegan & Chelsie Hightower, and Jaleel White & Kym Johnson) against Team Paso (William Levy & Cheryl Burke, Melissa Gilbert & Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and Donald Driver & Peta Murgatroyd), and with each team’s scores added to their individual performance.
It appeared that Team Tango had the disadvantages of going first, having an extra couple on their team, and lacking the hunky beefcake factor that made Team Paso such a fan favorite. After a haphazard rehearsal, Team Tango’s couples brought it to the forefront with a crisp, clean, androgynous routine that started with conducting violins and ending with the guys doing pushups while the ladies struck a pose above them. Len thought it was a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Bruno thought the creativity of the choreography was outstanding, and Roshon was “a revelation.” Carrie Ann loved the concept and thought Roshon “brought it home.” Team Tango got a 27.
Would it be “im-paso-ble” for Team Diapers to be beaten by Team Paso, particularly when the latter was loaded with all that testosterone? They certainly had the hot factor going for them, both in pyrotechnics and in hunky guys. William initially didn’t want to take his shirt off during the performance. He’d rather let the dance speak for itself. But then he was reminded that this was a reality TV competition where the winner wins a mirror ball, and relented. Atta boy, team player! Team Shirtless definitely brought the drama to their routine, danced to Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and backed by a bevy of singers. For a moment there, I thought the judges were going to gloss over the routine’s slip-ups in favor of all that bare skin. Carrie Ann giggled and said the routine was “ridiculous to watch.” Len clucked and said “you three undressed to impress.” Bruno thought there was more muscle power in that dance than the Avengers. I thought for sure Bruno was going to award them a 10 despite their being out of sync, particularly after Maks shrewdly launched himself onto the judges’ table alongside his brothers in bare arms for a perfect “Men of Ballroom” calendar centerfold shot. But cooler critical heads prevailed, and Team Paso ended up one point behind Team Tango with a total of 26.
These team scores were added to each individual routine. And leading the pack for the first time this season: Maria Menounos and Derek Hough. Though it was a tough preparation week for the TV host and her pro partner. Sure, they were dancing to Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets,” but it was the rehearsal footage that ended up being more tragic. He was pretty condescending, and she was feeling the pain. Luckily, she was able to bite back with a vengeance in their paso doble. And this routine was awesome, and reminiscent of Derek and Ricki Lake’s Season 13 “Psycho” routine with the red color, the clever choreography and peerless precision. Derek was the Van Helsing to Maria’s vampire. But she had the last bite and savored it, dragging his lifeless carcass across the ballroom floor for the judges to appraise. “That didn’t suck, my friend,” said Carrie Ann. “That was amazing.” Len called “sharp as a razor, crisp as a Pringle, and with more tension than my grandmother’s knickers elastic.” “Bite me!” Bruno roared. “The queen of the damned is the queen of the night. … The structure of the dance, the storytelling, the way you two played together was absolutely spellbinding.” Maria should wear those teeth all the time, because she was fierce. And that routine earned them the first perfect 30 routine this season. The crowd (including Wilmer Valderrama and George Lopez) went wild. Add that to the 27 they received for being a part of the winning Team Tango. Opa! Total: 57 out of 60.
To think the last time Katherine Jenkins appeared on a “DWTS” Classical Week, she was singing. And now here he is, dancing to it with Mark Ballas. Katherine was certainly in her wheelhouse with the classical theme. She discovered classical music at 13, and has been passionate about it ever since. Mark just wants her to grab his rear end like she means in for their rumba. “Can’t spell classical without ‘ass,’” he said. He’s not wrong. Sexing up the "Canon in D" was a bit of a tall order, but it was an admirable effort nonetheless. Featuring a wardrobe from what Tom called “Game of Thrones: The Musical,” Katherine and Mark were like clash of the titans: She was the regal goddess, and he was the mortal to toy with. She had some great lines, and Bruno deemed her poses — like that one-legged stretch move with both hands up in the air, and the diagonal dip at the end — museum-worthy. Len thought theirs was a “classical rumba … it had style and elegance.” Bruno called Katherine “the unattainable object of desire” and “the embodiment of beauty,” but wished it could be “a bit raunchier … you could have taken it further to get my juices open,” he said. Carrie Ann agreed. “You could have generated a little more passion, more heat,” she said. They received a 27 for their rumba, and a 27 for steering Team Tango. Total: 54.
William Levy’s ankle is still bothering him, and it was a concern for partner Cheryl Burke who wanted to instill a lot more technique for their Viennese waltz like the judges had asked. Only, William is not a classical guy. Homeboy likes bandannas and was born in Cuba on the streets. But dress him in a tux and put him in hold in a faux church, with stained-glass projected on the floor, and it’s hard to tell the difference. It didn’t hurt that Jackie Evancho sang “Ave Maria” with a worldly voice light-years beyond her tween self to help set the mood. “You find the story in the music, and it’s always a story of romance,” Carrie Ann swooned. “You bring the romance to life.” Len wasn’t “exactly transported to Vienna, but it was close,” the head judge said. “I was in Austria.” Len added that William was “up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. Tonight, you were up.” Bruno was touched by William’s vulnerability and thought the Cuban “captured the purity and ethereal quality of the song.” William and Cheryl got a 27 for their waltz, and a 26 for being their part in Team Paso. Total: 53.
Donald Driver knows the Viennese Waltz is all about control. Peta Murgatroyd wants to give Donald a professional-grade routine. She wants to show Donald can compete with the big dogs. And his Viennese waltz, danced to “La donna e mobile” from “Rigoletto” was pretty high class. Donald and Peta started the routine holding court in great big thrones toasting sparkly golden goblets. She really packed the routine with content, and I liked how he flung her around and yet kissed her hand at the end, like a gentleman. “You’ve got it,” Bruno confirmed. “You’ve got the sweeping drive and the passion of Giuseppe Verdi’s music.” Carrie Ann said she didn’t see a lift, so she’s not docking a point for it. Plus, “I love your intensity when you dance,” she said. “You are so pristine and you are so sharp. … I loved the regal quality to this dance.” Len was afraid he was going to see a dancing “Ferrero Rocher,” but liked the heel-leads. “You did a good job,” the head judge affirmed. But does he know how “intense [Donald’s] competitive juices are.” Brooke does. Donald and Peta received a 27 for their waltz, and a 26 for their team paso. Total: 53.
Disney Channel's Roshon Fegan has been in the bottom two. He’s also been up at the top of the leaderboard. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the young star this season. So he’s really angling to get the judges on his side for the Argentine tango. He’s trying to think manly, but partner Chelsie Hightower’s teaching skills can only take him so far. So he went to best supporting player Val Chmerkovskiy for a tutorial on man lessons and to help him understand the concept of leading. And it was a very modern Argentine tango that was set to a classical version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” featuring images from outer space (wha?). Len liked the seamless transitions into the lifts, but “would have liked to seen a little more tension in your feet.” Bruno agreed that Roshon needed to work on his legs. “When you hit a position it has to be grounded,” he said. Carrie Ann, however, thought the dance was hug-worthy. “Welcome back to the competition,” she said warmly. “That was a fantastic performance.” Funny; I thought he was a contender all along. Rochelsie received a 25 for their tango, and a 27 for their part in Team Tango. Total: 52.
Aussie pro Kym Johnson gifted Jaleel White a talking koala stuffed animal for doing so well last week. It’s nice to see them laughing and being so much more comfortable with each other after the awkward stiltedness of the first couple of weeks. For this week’s Viennese waltz, they danced to the theme of “Downton Abbey.” That meant Kym was Lady Mary in a pale rose dress, and Jaleel was Matthew Crawley, ready to go into battle. No doubt the sassy koala would have given the routine a sparkly 10 paddle and a shrimp on the barbie, but the judges thought their dance was just okay. Len liked the “floaty, airy-fairy feel … but there was no footwork, no heel-leads,” he complained. Bruno enjoyed the content, but thought his arms were “plaster-cast.” Carrie Ann also thought “the storytelling was excellence,” but said Jaleel’s hands were “cringey.” Jaleel and Kym received a 24 for their waltz. Add that to the 27 they received for Team Tango. Total: 51.
After a week of three 8s, Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy are back in the dreaded 7 limbo. Not to be confused with the Chmerkovskiy limbo Melissa was in after Maks suffered stress fractures and a cyst to his foot last Monday. Maks wasn’t sure if his ankle would be well enough to dance in this week’s performances, so he called his brother Val to learn the routine as well, just in case. And while Val’s presence wasn’t ultimately necessary, Melissa got to spend a week with the Chmerkovskiy brothers nonetheless. And Maks and Melissa’ resulting Argentine tango was a fun, if harried performance piece set to a piece from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” I liked the story of Melissa up at the altar with a mannequin and Maks carrying her up and down and all around for a moment of frenzied passion. “And you went back to the dummy?” Tom asked, incredulous. “Don’t ask,” Melissa answered. The judges, however, did not approve of this union. “At times, it looked like you were riding the Cyclone at Coney Island,” said Bruno. “It got messy.” Carrie Ann called it “Cirque du Soleil [gone] terribly wrong…. It was like a lift fest but they went terribly wrong,” she said. Len said there was “it was full-on, but it lacked a bit of dance quality.” Melissa and Maks received a 21 for their individual performance, and a 26 from Team Paso. Total: 47.
Which would pit Melissa against Jaleel in a classical duel to the finish.
What do you think? Is it Melissa’s turn to go home? Was Team Paso underscored? Should Val get some kind of small shiny bauble for being best supporting pro this week? Maybe a Mirrorball ring?
Photo of Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC