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'Dancing With the Stars': Stepping through time

November 10, 2009 |  8:22 am
117299_D_2786_pre Can you believe we’ve reached the quarterfinals already, ballroom fans? This week, all five remaining couples had to perform two individual dances: one ballroom and one Latin. And for an added twist, the Latin dances had to be arranged to fit a certain decade, which the teams themselves picked from a magic disco ball. Anything that emerges from a magic disco ball is bound to be fun and full of surprises, and the Latin routines were no exception: We were treated to some creative and entertaining dances (as well as some far-out costumes). We also got a reshuffling of the rankings. And our first perfect-30 score of the season!

High honors this week went to Mya and Dmitry Chaplin. After a couple of weeks of sagging scores, the singer and her partner rebounded in a huge way, reclaiming their spot in first place and scoring a perfect-30 routine — all in one night! Though both Mya and Dmitry had resolved not to pare down the wow factor to pander to the judges, their quickstep ended up being very traditional — with most of the dance in hold — which put the gimmick-hating Len in the right mood to hand out some 10s. But not before the head judge did a little bit of a cheeky fake-out first. “For me, we got off to a sticky start from Week 1,” he began. “This was a disappointment for me…because I couldn’t find anything to criticize.” Psych! Carrie Ann commended Mya on performing a dance that “looked like it just flowed out of your body with ease and grace,” and Bruno turned positively effervescent with his acclaim. “This quickstep is like vintage Champagne: light, popping, full of flavor,” he praised. The 10 from Len prompted Dmitry to whip out a velvet jewelry box and oh-so-adorably present his partner with a mini version of the judges’ 10 paddle that she could wear as a ring. Where can I score me some of those? I’d like one for every digit, please.

Hope Mya kept that ring out, because their samba was even better. Good for Dmitry for shimmying through his choreographer’s block to seamlessly incorporate ’70s disco moves into their Latin dance. Their samba was a spicy mix of Latin hot and “Soul Train” groove that hit all the right notes and was a hoot and a half to watch. And not just because of Dmitry’s tousled locks and rocking “Swingtown” porn ’stache (which he gamely wriggled for the cameras backstage). Their routine was technically sound, the rolls were executed flawlessly, and the “Saturday Night Fever” moves were delivered with the right amount of heat and sizzle to make even skeptical Carrie Ann change her tune. “I believe it,” she avowed. “I believe that you want to win that competition.” Len took one of Carrie Ann’s old phrases and confirmed that Mya was “absolutely on fire.” “You have produced two dances of the highest standard with no gimmicks!” Words weren’t even enough for Bruno, who instead had to screech out his praise in song (Said Tom: “You managed to impersonate Diana Ross and a strangled cat at the same time”).  Mya and Dmitry earned a 29 out of 30 for their quickstep and a perfect 30 for their sassy samba. Total: 59 out of 60. 

Falling to second place were Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough. And though they both spent rehearsal time in front of the TV analyzing Mya’s transitions, Joanna couldn’t transfer the smoothness of that taped footage into her own quickstep routine. Granted, the routine had a ton of steps and scampered all over the Rectagon and back again. But at times it seemed as though Joanna couldn’t quite keep up with her partner. “You looked like you were running away from the scene of a crime!” Bruno exclaimed. Carrie Ann pointed out the out-of-sync moments and that Joanna forgot to point her toes. And Len played bad cop and complained of “a lot of running about” and a “lack of body contact.” “This is not the standard for the quarterfinals,” he reproved harshly, before telling them to bend over and slapping them with a 7 paddle.

Luckily, Joanna and Derek were able to relieve their stinging quickstep with an awesome pasodoble … from the future. And a ultramodern high-five alive to Derek for coming up with an amazingly creative routine that vied with Mya and Dmitry’s samba as my favorite of the night. Not only did his and Joanna’s routine show the future of dance, they also showed the future of costumes – and my, they are scary (though the glow-in-the-dark rhinestones are most definitely something to look forward to). Joanna was outfitted in a silver bob of hair and looked like she rubbed her eyes in some silver paint. And her long Matrix-like skirt back looked as though it was made of Jiffy Pop aluminum. Derek was a futuristic Ziggy Stardust with the stripe of blue across his eyes, the faux hawk and the Elton John-ish band jacket. Their robot dance moves were in sync and completely captivating, though. “The Replicants are taking over the dance floor!” said Bruno. “A masterful reinvention of a classic.” Len also called out Derek’s “genius” choreography. “Honestly, I didn’t know how you were going to do this,” the head judge said. “But not only was all that theme was great, but the content was great.” Too bad lifts still aren’t allowed in the future: It would have saved Carrie Ann from docking a point, and they also would have received a perfect 30. They got a 29 for their paso coupled with the 23 for their quickstep, for a total of 52.

Landing just a point behind them were Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel. Louis continued his Van Amstelfication of Kelly this week by banishing her adorable puff-ball puppies and confiscating all her distractions in a locked box – and promptly swallowed the key. (OK, so he just put the key on a string around his neck, but whatever.) But the lack of distractions allowed Kelly to focus on improving her dance, which was necessary, because, as Carrie Ann so bluntly said during the ballroom-round segment, Kelly’s “technique hasn’t really improved since Week 3.” Their fox trot was a light, frothy spin around the dance floor, though. I liked how Kelly was able to get into the character of the dance. Bruno called it “light and ethereal,” Len complimented her on her posture, though her footwork was a distraction, and Carrie Ann unveiled Kelly’s secret weapon: “The moment you have a breakthrough, the audience goes crazy for you.”

Their ’60s jive was not as fun, despite an apple-green wig and some mod moves. I agreed with Carrie Ann that the doll thing was kind of creepy, thought Kelly had kind of lost steam for such an upbeat dance and that Louis’ face was all but taken over by that mop top of a wig. The judges sure liked it, though: Bruno said Kelly was “jiving all the way to Barnaby Street,” Len said she’s “an absolute revelation,” and Carrie Ann called it one of her best performances. Kelly and Louis earned a 25 for their fox trot and a 26 for their jive. Total: 51.

At the bottom were Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff. Poor Aaron, who always feels like he has to prove himself. Who has never won anything in his life, ever. Who has to wear a mask during rehearsals to keep from catching Karina’s illness but gets sick anyway. And who ends up in the bottom three even with a jubilant jive. Sadly, I don’t think his fox trot will bring him out of danger this week. Bruno said it “was a little bit tense…it wasn’t as smooth and free as it could have been.” Carrie Ann not only echoed Bruno’s sentiments, but also added insult to injury by docking another point for a lift. “Watching you is like watching my son in a toy shop. So many emotions: excitement, joy, bewilderment,” said father-figure Len. “For a young man, I thought you danced very, very well.” Was this an encouraging testament to Aaron’s unbridled enthusiasm or a backhanded compliment that he’s basically a kid who can’t perform as well as the grown-ups? Discuss.

At least Aaron’s 1990s samba came off better. Cut to Aaron in 1999 as a pop star all of like 11 years old being swallowed by a yellow suit on some red carpet and then to Aaron trying to teach Karina a ’90s move only known as the rodeo. And how funny was it when Aaron was trying to get Karina to hang loose with her thumb and pinkie outstretched and Karina asked, “Like aloha? Are you performing that in Hawaii?” Though other than the boy-band moves at the end and the song, set to the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” I didn’t see that much in the routine that was devoted to the ’90s. Still, the samba won Aaron praise all around. Carrie Ann said she thought he was “hitting it,” Bruno said “all that energy has finally made good,” and Len continued with his fatherly praise, commending Aaron on working his “socks off.” Luckily, we were saved from witnessing how the sickly Aaron really felt, as he so kindly refrained from throwing up on live television. Though his explanation backstage turned into what Tom called “our over-sharing moment of the night.” Aaron and Karina got a 23 for their fox trot, a 27 for their samba and an extra pat on the back for not giving in to his gag reflex. Total: 50.

Which was tied with Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson. Donny admitted during rehearsal that he had hit a wall with last week’s quickstep and wasn’t having any more fun. So this week he resolved to start over in “DWTS” Season 9 Version 2.0. And their Viennese waltz offered a nice reboot, as it was pared down and lilting and simple and provided Kym with a very pretty lilac dress. Carrie Ann said she found their routine “mesmerizing” and applauded the entertainer for being at ease with himself. Len raised Bruno’s assertion that Donny was airy-fairy by calling the dance “arty-farty.” And Bruno said the routine “was like watching a Lifetime movie: romantic, emotional, dramatic. ... How can you fail but to be entertained?”

Also entertaining, but in a less Lifetime, more VH1 Classic way, was their 1980s paso doble. And Len called him “a cross between Adam Ant and Adam Carolla,” the military jacket, ruffled blouse and jheri curl evoked more of a Prince vibe to me – with hints of Michael Jackson (too soon?). Kym did her best “Desperately Seeking Susan”-era Madonna impersonation with her teased-out hair and tulled-out duds, but I agree with Carrie Ann that the costumes took away from the dance itself. I found myself staring more at their intricate outfits and makeup than any of their moves. “That had more camp in it than a drag queen’s convention!” exclaimed Bruno. “It was like Donny doing Marie doing Donny doing Marie.” Donny and Kym earned a 26 for their Viennese waltz and a 24 for their paso doble. Total: 50.

The lowest scores of 50 put both Aaron and Donny in a precarious position to be eliminated. And given Aaron’s extended history under those unflattering red lights, I’d say he might be most in danger of not making it to the semifinals.

What do you think? Is Aaron the next to go? Did Mya deserve to get the first perfect 30 of the competition? Would you wear a 10 paddle ring if your partner popped one on you?

— Allyssa Lee


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Photo: Mya and Dmitry Chaplin; Credit: ABC / Craig Sjodin