“Classical Week” came to Dancing With the Stars on Monday night, with an expanded (and pretty awesome) 46-piece orchestra, some first-rate choreography (without the assistance of beats or lyrics), and guest turns by violinist David Garrett, soprano Katherine Jenkins, and Cinderella, who had a very public and memorable shoe malfunction smack in the middle of her routine. Host Tom Bergeron called the season 12 cast the “classiest rhinestone-studded stars in television,” which was a cue for Romeo to rip off his shirt, Ralph Macchio to stick his derriere in the air, and Mark Ballas to work everything but a Quidditch snitch into his magic-themed routine. Here’s how the evening played out:
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower, Paso Doble
Romeo, who I am not following on Twitter, enjoys trying to win an Oscar, exposing his pectorals, and receiving harsh criticism from the judges. “I love when people stomp on me,” he said to Chelsie as they discussed their low scores for last week’s rumba. Still, the rapper/thespian couldn’t seem to channel his inner matador until Chelsie took him to the basketball court to rev up his testosterone level. I wish she’d skipped the sports break, though, and worked on the couple’s chemistry, which never feels particularly natural — on or off the floor. (Or is that just me?)
For the first third of the dance, Chelsie’s sparkling red-and-black ruffles, which she whirled with casual menace, distracted from Romeo’s hunched posture and stiff footwork. But once the couple entered the Circle of Fire (not a Lord of the Rings reference, but rather, a nifty DWTS lighting effect), the bullfight was on, and Romeo pulled off some particularly energetic solo steps before ripping off his shirt and “slaying” his professional partner. The arch of Chelsie’s back as the invisible sword ran through her, and the way it showed off her “Harlequin romance novel” cleavage, was as sumptuous a feast as DWTS offered up all night, and not even Len could resist getting caught up in the steamy whirlpool. Suddenly, the stuffy head judge was calling Romeo a colt in need of Chelsie’s whip. But if Len was right about Romeo needing more precision in his moves — and I think he was — how come he brought out the “8” paddle? I thought Carrie Ann’s slightly tougher score was exactly on the mark. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 8; Bruno, 8. Total: 23.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel, Viennese Waltz
“Yeah, I’m screwed,” declared Kendra upon hearing she’d need to pull off an elegant dance to the tune of “Con te Partiro (With You I Will Leave),” and alas, that’s pretty much the same attitude she brought to the dance floor — right from the pained expression and head-shake she gave the camera as they took the stage, all the way through her bratty interactions with the judges. There were so many missteps in the performance, I’m not sure where to begin. The immediate conceptual association of a piece of Italian classical music with a “mafioso” theme? (Better than Jersey Shore, I suppose, but still…) A truly hein sparkly pinstriped jacket (with weird midriff cutout) over a sequined pink bikini top? That stumble to the ground during one of the routine’s three central tricks? The way Kendra threw up her arms as if she were tossing chicken feed at an industrial poultry farm rather than creating pleasing visual pictures to captivate the hearts, minds, and speed-dialing fingers of the DWTS Nation? Well, at least that final “dust the floor”/”death drop” spin was pretty. I just wish Kendra hadn’t been so defensive the moment Bruno began to critique her. “If I had more than 4 days to practice…” Kendra huffed, as if some mythical time constraint had been placed on her that didn’t apply to her eight fellow competitors. If the Playboy playmate-turned-reality star is really having such a dreadful time of it, I’m sure viewers will be happy to grant her wish and send her packing. Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 6; Bruno, 6. Total: 18.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Anna Trebunskaya, Viennese Waltz
Anna came one step closer on Monday to her dream of being turned into the Barbie doll version of a Disney Princess and/or an animated spokesperson for Frusen Glädje‘s nonexistent line of pastel sherbets. Seriously, I don’t know any other DWTS pro who could’ve pulled off a ballerina gown with lace-up front and wacky-tacky floral neckline while performing to “Waltz of the Flowers.” And to be quite honest, I rather enjoyed the opening 30 seconds of the routine, when Sugar Ray seemed to be taking his moves seriously, gliding down the steps while gently spinning Anna like a music-box figurine. Things took a far less entertaining turn for me when the season’s resident boxer abandoned his footwork and posture in favor of cartoonishly jogging around Anna and making a series of “happy clown” expressions. Carrie Ann said something about a sixth-grade recital as if it was compliment, Bruno insisted Baryshnikov wouldn’t be losing any sleep, Sugar Ray himself began fantasizing about strawberry ice cream, and then the judges threw their seven paddles in the air, and waved ’em round like they just didn’t care. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21.
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin, Paso Doble
Fun fact: The sight of Petra’s sheer black off-the-shoulder top and severely center-parted hair made me inexplicably flash back to that Angelina Jolie-Antonio Banderas movie Original Sin. (Or maybe it was Dmitry’s slicked-back hair and exposed chest.) I know, I know…one has nothing to do with the other, it’s just that sometimes, the mind wanders when Petra is trying hard to show us that supermodels are just like us. Petra’s issue this week was her inability to make a stern expression, which I didn’t really buy for a second, considering she makes her living manipulating her face and body for the camera. Nevertheless, the stately beauty brought a little hint of ferocity to her performance this week, even though the rousing march performed by the DWTS orchestra paired as well with the paso doble as a full-grown bull being pitted in battle against a miniature dachshund. There were moments where the choreography felt clunky to me, especially when Dmitry grabbed the hem of Petra’s skirt as she circled him in slightly uncertain fashion, and a couple times where the contestant looked ever so slightly unsteady on her feet, but the overall mood here was dramatic, as was Petra’s second tearaway-skirt-to-bedazzled-knickers maneuver. I’d say that a pair of 8s was perhaps a tad too enthusiastic, but then again, Bruno was compelled to clutch his own buttocks while offering a critique, so that’s got to count for something, right? Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 23.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff, Waltz
If nothing else, Ralph definitely gets the high score of the night in the all-important sub-catgeory of Most Entertaining Pre-Commercial Pose-Striking. That image of The Artist Formerly Known as Karate Kid staring at a bottle of poison, conjuring up his best “sad face,” and then looking down at a lifeless Karina splayed over his leg was perhaps the night’s funniest moment (non-Bergeron edition). Speaking of Tom, I howled when he noted that once upon a time, the classical pieces being performed by the expanded DWTS orchestra were known as “hot new singles” by Len.
For their part, Ralph and Karina danced to the not-so-ancient Romeo and Juliet theme, imbuing the performance with a delicate grace and sensuality that negated any residual negative vibes I was getting off of Ralph’s bespangled Nehru collar. Also lovely? Karina’s sheer white frock, made modest(ish) by floating white floral accouterments. I realize that in theory, icy Smirnoff’s ensemble could’ve come off rather Frederick’s Of Hollywood basement-bin, but instead it was giving off the gardenia and lilac delicacy of a mid-priced air freshener commercial. Ralph’s side-by-side spins with Karina were perfectly timed and executed, and while the Waltz is never going to match the Paso Doble in terms of physical intensity, I appreciated that Karina crafted a complex and challenging sequence of steps for a partner who won’t be able to rest on audience good will alone in this evenly matched season. Plus, Carrie Ann was right that Ralph’s absolute sincerity allows him to sell moments like starting the routine by staring into the ceiling and dissolving into a theatrical sobbing fit over his perished lover. Remarkable! Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 25.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson, Paso Doble
Had I been in the live audience Monday, I’d have joined the chorus of boos lobbed at Len and Bruno for saddling the night’s best performance with a pair of 8s. Honestly, taking a closer look at Bruno’s foolery in oarticular, the Little Quote Machine That Could gave Hines the same exact score he gave Romeo, Petra, Chris and Kirstie. And there is no way you can tell me that Hines didn’t deserve to outrank every member of that quartet.
Not that Hines won’t sail through to Week Five on viewer votes alone. I love the way the Steelers’ star’s interview packages capture his frustration with his own limitations as a dancer without ever devolving into whining or temper tantrums. And I loved the way he was able to mask his grinning exuberance for the process and put on his best stern-face for the Paso. What’s more, Kym’s choreography looked incredibly tricky, especially that move where Hines spun his pro around while half-straddling her leg. How in the heck did that not result in a tipsy tumble? No matter. It didn’t hurt any that Kym wore the week’s most magnificent outfit — a nude-and-black beaded bodice with a flowing leopard-print skirt and a jaunty headpiece that had a single teardrop-shaped black stone falling in the center of her forehead. How I wish Carrie Ann had succumbed to audience pressure and raised her “10!” paddle. But at least Hines comes away with a nice consolation prize: A classical track on his iPod that he might actually listen to again. Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 8. Total: 25.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas, Viennese Waltz
Maybe I’m a secret ballroom traditionalist, or maybe it was just the Muggle in me, but I kinda sorta thought there was a little too much larkin’ around and muckin’ about in Chelsea and Mark’s Viennese Waltz. Which isn’t to say she’s not a talented dancer or that he’s not a gifted choreographer. Or that the Harry Potter theme music to which they moved wasn’t scintillating. It’s just that if the show is going to go to the trouble of giving each pair a pre-set dance style to execute — be it as saucy as the Paso or as staid as the Viennese Waltz — then I think they ought to be graded on the execution of said style, not on the pro partner’s ability to incorporate more tricks that a Cirque du Soleil clown.
Is it weird that I was simultaneously dazzled and tuned off by the overt “spell” portions of the routine, in which Chelsea waved her invisible wand and sent Mark straight into the air, or scrambling to and fro? Part of my problem might be with Chelsea and the way she sort of faded into the background; Mark’s dancing was so athletic and unbridled that most of the time, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Secondly, I can’t help but find the Disney star ever so slightly smug. Her pre-taped package whining about how she was tired of finishing third on the judges’ leaderboard felt too entitled by half, her stated desire to “break free and get my sexy on” seemed out of place for a 300-year-old dance, and if I had to hear the words “young” or “fresh” one more time, I was going to tear out whatever thinning hair is left on my Old Man River head. I did, however, get a kick out of Bruno yelling “Expelliamus! Voldemort!” at Len after the latter man lodged his complaints. Almost as much as Len’s retort: “Why don’t you jump on your Nimbus 2000 and bugger off?” Yeah, Mark wore a nifty sorting hat, but no way was this routine better than Hines and Kym. I suspect the Imperius Curse at work! Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 26.
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke, Paso Doble
I don’t know whether Chris should’ve been awarded a bonus point for surviving that hideous copper-colored blazer with the button-covered lapels, or docked a tick or two for introducing it in the first place, but I agreed with all the judges in their feedback to him. As Bruno said, the pro wrestler executed some tough moves and really seemed to hit the accents of “The Nutcracker Suite,” which — given its whimsical, plunking cadence — isn’t really ideal for a Paso in the first place. But Len wasn’t wrong that as the menace of the music grew, Chris got a little lost in the mix. That said, the “Russian jig” sequence in which Chris moved across the length of the floor on his knees, combined with that final “stab the beast” move, was a strong way to end the number, and the guy seems like someone who is putting in a lot of hard work to try to narrow the gap with this season’s perceived front-runners. Here’s hoping he’s not booted before he hits his maximum potential. It says something for the man’s charm that I’m willing to forgive his sullying a classic Peanuts character by wretched association: “Cheryl helped me go from Charlie Brown to Charlie Sheen tonight.” Ewww. Cut that out! Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 23.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Waltz
After some pre-commercial tomfoolery involving opera glasses and an Eyes Wide Shut mask, the question on the table once again became: “How do you solve a problem like Kirstie — ‘Queen of the Unexpected Mishap'”? Indeed, the Look Who’s Talking star began rehearsals with a declaration — “We came. We fell. We conquered.” — that acknowledged last week’s buzzed-about series of events: Maks’ muscle spasm, the couple’s subsequent fall to the floor, and their inspiring/beautiful recovery.
This week, tragedy, comedy, and triumph were all in the mix as they rehearsed the waltz. Tragedy in the form of Kirstie’s painful hip strain. Comedy in the form of this exchange:
Maks: “You’re jumping, your steps aren’t big enough, you’re tensing up.”
Kirstie: “You’re handsome, you’re a very good dancer, you’re every girl’s dream.”
And as for the triumph: How about Maks in a tight salmon t-shirt? (Sorry, but as a “reporter,” I must give the facts as my eyes see ’em.) Okay, and also Kirstie’s insistence that she didn’t want to perform a “grandma dance” just because she’s 60 years old.
And so the couple took the floor to the strains of “The Flower Duet,” from the opera Lakmé, or as my husband calls it, “the music from that British Airways ad.” I loved Kirstie’s solo work at the top of the number, as she sauntered out gracefully alongside the dueting special guest Katherine Jenkins and DWTS band member Beverly Staunton (with Bruno “conducting” from the judges’ table). And then, as Kristie did a graceful slide from Maks’ arms onto the floor, her shoe came off. As she struggled to put it back on, Maks performed a series of graceful pirouettes around her, then reached in with both hands, smiled encouragingly at his partner, and pulled her to her feet. I don’t know why, but somehow I was moved by Maks’ small gesture of eye contact that communicated so much in such a fleeting moment of time: Let’s get up and keep going. Everything is going to be okay. You are not alone here. I understand Kirstie doesn’t want to be defined by her mishaps — and two of ’em in two weeks is too many — but it’s really how you handle a stumble that defines you, and for the second week running, my favorite couple in the competition found a way to pick up a routine from the ashes and glide like elegant phoenixes across the finish line. (Can I get a “holla!” and a “hey-ey!” from those of you who spotted The Young and the Restless star Michelle Stafford is in the audience cheering her approval of Kirstie?) Len was not incorrect in pointing out everything in Kirstie’s repertoire needs to be fine-tuned, but I also appreciated Bruno noticing how the duo brought something exotic and ethereal to the floor. And leave it to the comedienne to get the last laugh. As BrookeBot (or as I think I might start calling her, Burkey) blandly announced, “Let’s get the judges’ scores,” Kirstie slipped in a panicked, “Let’s not!” Not that she really needed to worry: The judges were generous enough to keep her ahead of at least two foes and give her a stronger foothold in the competition. She sure could use it at the moment — and we sure can’t afford to lose her so early in the season. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 8 (insanity!). Total: 22.
What did you think of this week’s DWTS? Which contestant improved the most? Did you vote for any of the dancers this week? And how about Tom pulling off his own shoe before the final credits? (J’adore that man!) Finally, who do you think will go home on Tuesday night’s results show? Could it be anyone other than Kendra? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.