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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Motown hits!

April 24, 2012 |  4:03 am

"Dancing With the Stars"

This post has been corrected. See the note at bottom for details.

Well, that was a treat, wasn’t it? A little bit of Motor City was revved into the “Dancing With the Stars” ballroom for a special hand-clapping, hip-swaying Motown-themed event. For the first time, the remaining couples danced to Motown hits by the artists themselves. It was quite an impressive coup for the reality ballroom dancing competition, amassing talent from one of the most influential record labels of all time. Motown Records founder and Smokey Robinson BFF Berry Gordy was in attendance, as were legends Smokey, Martha Reeves, and the Temptations, who all performed their hits … liiiive!  

The live songs seemed to lend additional vibrancy to each of the performances. Added bonus this week: a dance marathon cha-cha, where all the couples tried to capture the Motown spirit and last long enough to earn all 10 of the judges’ points. Which couples made it all the way to Hitsville, U.S.A. and which fell short? In the words of the Temptations (which used to be the Primes -- who knew?) get ready – 

Keeping their hold at the top of the leaderboard were Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas. The classical singer just needed to conquer the samba bounce first. Apparently, every ending step in this party dance needed to be bent. And after much ado, Katherine was able to accomplish that in a great gold fringe frock, shaking her moneymaker to the Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You.” Mark took on the torch from the “Gavin DeGraw Hat Collection” with a fedora. “And the beehive never moved!” marveled Tom. Len wondered if it was an earthquake, or if Katherine was doing the shake. “Chuckles” Len deemed Katherine “the midwife – you keep delivering week after week.” “The marriage of Brazil with Funkytown has never been more exhilarating,” Bruno raved. Carrie Ann proclaimed that Katherine “let it loose. That was amazing!” Mark chose wisely to outfit himself and his partner in bright green for the dance marathon, which ensured that they would stick out like a fluorescent highlighter. And it worked: Katherine and Mark were the last couple standing in the competition, and earned the full 10 points for their endurance. Samba: 29. Marathon: 10. Total: 39 out of 40.

Jaleel White was humiliated and demoralized after he was banished into the bottom two and had to compete in the Dance Duel last week. He’s trying to get back to his Week 1 high, and he’s feeling the pressure. Kym Johnson is trying to get him outside his personality. And it seemed to work. It appears that Jaleel has changed his whole outlook for the better. Set to the Temptations song, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” Jaleel’s cha-cha moves were sharper, his performance brighter. There was a great energy, and he was confident without being cocky. “What a difference a week makes,” said Tom. “You’re back,” proclaimed Len. “That was the biggest sizzler of the season,” bellowed Bruno. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger … you came back big time!” “Consider you’re A game brought!” praised Carrie Ann. Jaleel and Kym earned a near-perfect 29 for their cha-cha and an additional 8 points and third place in the dance marathon (helped, no doubt, by their impressive split lift). Total: 37.

Is it hot in here, or is it William Levy? The Cuban dish did a slow burn of the rumba on the dance floor. Cheryl Burke wanted to make their routine this week en fuego. She wanted the chemistry to be amazing, so William brought the heat. Maybe too much heat -- all that smoke from the friction set off the fire alarms during rehearsals. Somebody call 911 -- William Levy burning on the dance floor! They danced, appropriately, to Smokey in kind of a sci-fi-tinted bedroom dance that ended in a horizontal position on the floor. “And a cold shower for Bruno,” added Tom. Though, the Latin lover performing a Latin lover dance? Too easy! Bruno, actually, thought it was “absolutely and utter filth, and I loved every minute of it,” he said. “You two are wild for sex.” Carrie Ann thanked William “on behalf of all the women out there,” though “I don’t think that was your best dance.” “It was a little bit on the raunchy side,” Len declared. “It was good, but I can’t go into ecstasy like others around here.” Still, the routine got a 10 from Bruno. And William really courted the Bruno vote during the dance marathon with his open shirt and by sliding splay-legged across the floor. William and Cheryl received a 27 for the rumba, and a second-place 9 points for the marathon. Total: 36.

Green Bay Packer Donald Driver is on a mission. He wants that 10 from Len. Peta Murgatroyd has learned to use this as a motivational tool. “That’s a Len 8, not a Len 10,” she would call out in rehearsals. She even brought in a cardboard cutout of the discerning head judge with a 10 paddle, so that Donald could get close and whisper sweet nothings into his ear. The Temptations gave the couple a great rendition of “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and Donald and Peta’s fox trot was like a fun and groovy enchantment under the sea performance. “Donald, you are a showman!” crowed Bruno. “Pizzazz! Confidence! Power! … Your performance gets better and better.” Carrie Ann said Donald was “in the zone.” Len, however, began a little more muted. “I felt you were going to show me some fireworks. You didn’t,” he said. “You came out and exploded on this floor!” Donald and Peta received three 9s for their performance, so the “The 10 from Len” campaign soldiers on. Add to that the 7 points they received in the marathon (even though they were ejected a little early for my taste – Donald was supposed to take out William and Roshon in one fell swoop!). Total: 34. 

Maria Menounos was trying to bring the class back to the ballroom after last week’s steamy salsa. Class, it turns out, was a challenge to the TV host this week, and she and partner Derek Hough found themselves butting heads a bit more. But you couldn’t see the fits and starts in their fox trot, set to “Jimmy Mack” sung by Martha Reeves (sans Vandellas). Maria looked a bit like Eliza Doolittle by way of reality show dancing competition with her formal dress and her hair up high, and I liked the shiny iridescent twirl of her skirt from up above. “That was a gleaming blend of sophistication, wit, and elegance,” said Bruno, though he pointed out Maria’s slip up on the stairs. Carrie Ann likened Maria to “the edge of a diamond” in precision, but said her shoulders came up a bit after she lost her footing. Len was all positivity and light. “In hold, it was correct and formal. Out of hold, it was fun and free,” the head judge said. “It was a joy to my eyes, and listening to Martha, a joy to my ears.” Surprisingly, however, Maria and Derek made an early exit from the cha cha marathon. Perhaps because any promise of Derek’s signature crotch and bob was nixed by Maria at the start. Fox trot: 26. Marathon: 4. Total: 30.

Alas, Melissa Gilbert couldn’t seem to do anything right during rehearsals for her Viennese waltz this week. She admitted that nothing was easy for her to learn, and “charm school dropout” Maks barely offered her a kind word of support. “Could be worse,” Maks said matter-of-factly. How? “You could have an ugly partner.” Oof. Smokey Robinson’s rueful “Ooh Baby Baby” turned out to be more appropriate than ever. And perhaps it was because she finally pulled a slow lyrical rather than an upbeat Latin, but Melissa handled this style a lot better than her previous dances. I particularly liked how Melissa, in a brilliant green, melted down Maks’ body and through his legs in a spin. “You work so hard, and it is finally paying off,” Carrie Ann said. “I see artistry blossoming in you.” “I saw rotation, I saw romance, I saw control,” said Len, though “you lost a bit of energy as it go near the end.” Bruno saw “wonderful rotation” and called “some of your extended lines … absolutely wonderful tonight.” Three 8s finally got them out of their dreaded 7 limbo. And Melissa and Maks came in fifth place and earned 6 points in the cha- cha marathon. Total: 30.

Roshon Fegan had to tap into his sensual side for the rumba with Chelsie Hightower. Sensual, you know, like sniffing hair and chastely kissing hands. “Sensual, like hugging,” Roshon ventured. But I thought he did a great, mostly age-appropriate job in his rumba to Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin.” Roshon seemed as silky as his satin shirt and showed great arm extension, and the audience was on its feet well before the routine ended. Some of Roshon’s pals pretended to fan down the flames of passion that erupted between him and his sultry partner. Even Smokey (or, if you’re Gladys Knight, “Smoke”) was clapping his appreciation. So leave it to the judges to pour a bunch of cold water all over the mood. “I felt your movements were a bit over-exaggerated,” Carrie Ann poo-poohed. If that wasn’t bad enough, she also called foul on a lift. Len thought “the movement was clipped and jerky … like painting by numbers.” Bruno said what Roshon “lacks in size you make up in fire” but his rumba needed to be more fluid. With judges like these, who needs enemies? Roshon is a lot better than the judge and votes position him to be. Roshon and Chelsie received a lowly 23 for their rumba, and again, were booted too early in the marathon and only got 5 points for their marathon. Total: 28. 

Which brings us to Gladys. Dear, sweet Gladys Knight, Motown legend herself. As Carrie Ann said, if this night could belong to anyone, it would belong to her. Gladys Knight was dancing to The Temptations’ “My Girl.” She brought in her brother Bubba, the original Pip, to rehearsal to show partner Tristan MacManus some classic Pip choreography. “Snap, clap, move and groove,” swayed Bubba. “On my honor, as a Pip, I pretend to be hip.” What a treat for Tristan to be dancing with a Motown legend to a Motown legend. Gladys wanted to make Motown proud. And she and Tristan looked a bit like they heard it through the grapevine with their purple costumes, but I guess the royal color is befitting the Empress of Soul. Gladys had, as always, a great ease about her, and a fabulous bouffant of a hairdo outfitted with a purple bow.  Loved the Pip dance steps in the middle with the arms sways and claps. If only the scores could be as kind. “Gladys, you are the most charismatic dancer,” Len proclaimed. “It is so appealing. It’s just easy like Sunday morning.” Bruno called the Motown details “spot on,” but “I like my rumba a bit steamier … and not forgetting the end would help.” Carrie Ann was torn. She fully appreciated the magnitude of legendary that was on the dance floor, but “The truth is there were a lot of forgetful moments.” Gladys and Tristan received a lowly 21 for their individual routine, and were knocked out first during the dance marathon, which added just a paltry 3 points. Total: 24.

I guess we can all take comfort in the fact that Gladys has lasted this long in the competition. As of now, though, I can’t see the judges saving her if she’s in the bottom two. Though perhaps maybe her Motown fans both young and old will call in to save her.

What do you think? Should Gladys go home on Motown week? What did you think of the live performances? Should Smokey Robinson come back week after week? Can you imagine Len curled up at home with a copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Get ready!

[For the record, 8:54 a.m. April 24: A previous version of this post misidentified Green Bay Packer Donald Driver as Donald Draper, who is of course a character on "Mad Men."]

— Allyssa Lee


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Photo: William Levy and Cheryl Burke Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC