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'Dancing With the Stars': Four new dances

October 13, 2009 |  7:36 am
117299_D_0505_pre Ladies and gentlemen, it was experimentation night on “DWTS” as Season 9’s fourth week introduced four new dances to the ballroom roster: the country two-step, the bolero, the Charleston and the lambada. And maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m more familiar with bolero the jacket than bolero the dance, but I kind of hoped that we would get some kind of tutorial about these new styles, just so we could have an idea about how they’re supposed to look before the stars had their crack at them. But as it stands, I gather that the lambada is faster than the bolero, which seems to have the same costumes as the rumba. At least we got more rehearsal footage and less time backstage in this episode, both of which were welcome. And we also got a leader-board shuffle:

Retaining their lead were Mya and Dmitry Chaplin. And though last week’s rumba was a little busy for my taste, their lambada was just right: hot and spicy with a side of raunch dressing. It was curious to see Mya doused in baby oil while she was in the red room (also curious: the splatter-paint halter outfit, with matching eye makeup, and Dmitry’s orange fisherman’s-net top — see-through, of course), but I guess it was to make it seem like she was dancing in the rain. Their routine sent Bruno into peals of ecstasy (“That was an erotic, exotic roller coaster. You would want to ride that over and over and over again”). “Mya’s on fiya!” exclaimed Carrie Ann. Surly Len, however, was not so impressed. “I felt in the lambada I was going to get a bit more,” he said, and proceeded to thwart their quest for a perfect-30 score for a second week in a row by slapping them with a forbidden 8. Total: 28.

Coming alive this week and showing off her acting chops was Melissa Joan Hart, whose Charleston with Mark Ballas combined great energy and performance and left her tied for first place. I liked how Mark explained the 1920s dance as a “marriage between the jive and the quickstep.” I also quite enjoyed how he rocked out the spats, the pomaded hair and banker/porn-star ’stache. Melissa emulated Roxie Hart from “Chicago” and really let loose, and her efforts were not lost on the audience (including Season 3 contestant Joey Lawrence) or the judges. “You brought a 1920 flapper back to life,” declared Bruno. “Breakthrough!” lauded Carrie Ann. Even stickler Len was tickled. “The Charleston is all about the three Es: Energy, excitement, and entertainment,” he said. “You ticked all the boxes.” Total: 28.

In third place again were Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough -- who decided to sacrifice some valuable rehearsal time to volunteer at a pet-adoption agency (well, Joanna did manage to fit in some hip-swivel time with a pit bull). Joanna, who has shown a penchant for wearing yellow, opted for a bright bra top and fringe for her routine and paired it with what looked like seaweed caught on her skirt. Though I have to say, I was more distracted by Derek’s lack of shirt than anything (cue Dmitry: Hey! I didn’t know that was an option!). “That explains the push-ups this morning,” commented Tom. Their lambada was equal parts forbidden and fringe-y, with lots of wrapping of legs around waists and a cool drop spin at the end. And did I mention bright? At times ,they were like two tanned, fluorescent highlighters grinding against each other. Len commended Derek on his excellent choreography, even though he did say it was a “little bit repetitious here and there,” and Bruno likened the dance to “when animals get physical.” “I hope the children were in bed,” said Carrie Ann. “I bet some of the adults are now,” zinged Tom. Ba dum bump! Total: 26.

Just two points behind were Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson. Man, it must be hard to be an entertainer your entire life. Just look at Donny's perfectionist tendencies and the way his face turns red and he throws a self-inflicted tantrum if he can't get it just right. The Osmond put more pressure on himself to tone down the airy fairy arms and live up to the expectation of a good Charleston. Luckily their routine -- with Donny’s V-pattern vest, Kym’s fire-engine-red fringe of a dress and the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ “Put a Lid on It” (whose beginning, let’s face it, sounded alarmingly like “Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin”), was pure joy from beginning to end. Bruno called Donny “a showman in his element,” though he warned the entertainer to be sharper on his kicks, and Len said, “You looked good, you danced good, and watching you does you good.” Total: 24.

Also scoring a 24 were Natalie Coughlin and Alec Mazo. In the rehearsal footage, it looked as though Natalie was having trouble with the romantic bolero, and sadly, it showed in her performance. As much as I love the Olympic swimmer, her bed sheet of an outfit and her sparkly makeup, the routine, set to Leona Lewis’ “Better in Time,” seemed a little uncomfortable and stiff (though again, it would be helpful to know what these dances were supposed to look like beforehand). Plus, it seemed like she held her breath throughout. Carrie Ann “saw a little more struggle with the movements this time.” Len “would have liked a little more romance.” And Bruno spouted some stuff about Natalie having “basic instinct” and calling Sharon Stone, because “she knows what to do with a man.” What? Total: 24.

Making her way back up the ranks in scores and confidence were Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel. Their Charleston was taken from a scene right out of “Cabaret,” with Kelly as Liza Minnelli (she even wore one of those sequined dresses and a short black wig that was just so Liza), and Louis went all out in the Joel Grey emcee makeup, fake eyelashes and all. We found out during the rehearsal footage that Kelly had auditioned for the lead role in “Chicago” on Broadway but had had it taken away because she couldn’t dance. And her routine on Monday night served as her redemption. But will she ever be a real dancer if she doesn’t embrace the sounds that dancers make (boom kat!) with each movement? Though Len said he would have liked “more swivel in the Charleston section,” the judges were unanimous with their praise, and Carrie Ann likened Kelly to a little birdie discovering her wings. Total: 23. 

Also discovering his wings was Mark Dacascos. Maybe it was because he got a visit from his adorable kids during rehearsals, or maybe it was because he got to put on jeans and share the dance floor with some hay bales, but the “Iron Chef: America” chairman finally learned to let go and let his hee-haw fly for his country two-step with Lacey Schwimmer.  “You should have a roll in the hay more often,” suggested Bruno. Len commended Lacey on her choreography, though he said Mark was “a little bit heavy in your footwork at times.” Total: 22.

Sliding precipitously backward into the danger zone were Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff. And, though  Aaron was never my favorite contestant to begin with, this downward spiral was tough to watch, particularly after witnessing the backstage footage of Aaron, clearly devastated after last week’s judging, being consoled by Michael Irvin. Aaron spent a good amount of this week’s rehearsal time practicing his opening backflip over Karina, which was impressive. And he opted to comb his hair down, rather than sport that shock of spike, which was promising. But the rest of his lambada was more Gilbert Gottfried than Gilles Marini, and the judges let him have it. “You should have spent more time on the rhythm of the dance and the raunchiness of it,” advised Len. Carrie Ann put it most succinctly by saying, “You have to chill out. ... You’re just going way over the top, and it turned me off.” Wow, and ouch. Also wow: Karina’s checkered gold sequin wrap on top of her orange sparkly bra and hot pants, which I believe was supposed to imitate sand. Total: 18.

Just a point behind them were Chuck Liddell and Anna Trebunskaya with their country two-step. And even though the laid-back dance suited the Ultimate Fighter a little bit more than last week’s ruffle party of a samba, it didn’t help his scores. In fact, Chuck didn’t have a whit of sparkle on him, in his Wranglers and leather vest, and neither did their “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” “You don’t so much dance but raid the two-step; you bring carnage and mayhem to everything that you do,” said Bruno. Total: 17.

Also falling precipitously were Louie Vito and Chelsie Hightower. And if I thought Louie didn’t have very much to do during their rumba last week, then he had even less to do this week for their two-step. Maybe he was tired from putting on leather chaps and getting the wrong end of a hay bale at charming Ty Murray’s ranch, because the city-slicker snowboarder could barely be bothered to do more than good-naturedly shuffle across the dance floor while Chelsie danced circles around him. Carrie Ann was right: Their song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” had more energy than he did. “It was just a series of walks,” Len complained. “It was slightly dazed and confused, and the timing was dubious,” tsked Bruno. Total: 16.

Which tied them for last place with Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova. Despite promising rehearsals during which Michael got tips from the bolero king Tony Dovolani himself, their routine was simply Bolero Boring. Although Michael did give off smoldering looks and seemed to "pow" with every arm extension, “there wasn’t enough dancing,” said Carrie Ann. Bruno may have summed it up best: “Your dancing is a little bit like the economy,” the judge said. “Every week, it’s supposed to be getting better, but nothing happens.” Sigh.

Their 16 was two points better than last week but still doesn’t take Michael out of last place, marking himself and Louie as prime candidates for elimination. Though I wonder if NFL fans will save the former Dallas Cowboy and sacrifice the snowboarder or the younger Carter instead.

What did you think? Which new dances would you keep (the Charleston and the lambada), and which ones could you do without (the two-step, the bolero)? Will Louie Vito be saved from his plodding two-step, or did last week’s rumba mark his climax? Who deserves the boot this week?

— Allyssa Lee


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Photo: Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Ballas. Credit: ABC / Craig Sjodin