It's storytelling week on Dancing with the Stars, and who doesn't love a good interpretive dance? With dances spanning the fox trot, the cha cha, the rumba, the waltz, the paso doble and the samba, it's a veritable free-for-all of free-flowing emotions. That's two hours of raw, rhythmic humanity. It's almost too much to take!
But before we get to the Dancing, let me introduce myself: I'm Rich Juzwiak, new to TV Guide.com, and filling in this episode for Joyce Eng. Joyce is at the Oxygen upfronts tonight. I know very little about this show, but I studied ballroom dancing at Juilliard, so I know a thing or two about hoofing. Actually, that's a complete and utter lie: the only thing I know about less than this show is actual dancing. I'm so glad to have judges there to explain everything to me!
Anyway, on to the show:
Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani: fox trot
Wendy, as a person who wagged her finger and threw a bucket of glitter during last week' s quickstep, is clearly no stranger to interpretive dance — especially if that interpretation is of a carnival entertainer. This week, it's about her other first career: radio DJ. Wendy says that when she was starting out, she was so devoted to her work that she'd sleep in her car at rest stops as to not alert her parents to her grind. She took birdbaths in public bathrooms and then it'd be on to the next job. She learned a lot about who she was as a person during that time: chiefly that she is a bird. It took her 23 years on radio to reach the pinnacle, but it won't be like that with dance. Indeed, even in the best-case scenario, this will all be over in a few months. Wendy and Tony dance to the most funkless version of Indeep's "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" in existence. It starts with Tony hitting a boom box, and sitting on the stairs as though they were a stoop. And then they dance a fox trot — you know, like all the cool kids in the neighborhood used to, right out in the street. Wendy's hair is preciously pinned and her blue dress sparkly on top and flowing on the bottom. She looks sub-prom. She looks homecoming. Her trot is simultaneously sultry (she cops a feel of Tony's butt) and sluggish. Her mouth is open for much of it. Len says that expressing emotions through dance is difficult. However, Wendy just proved that this is not necessarily true if your emotion is mouth-breathing. He calls Wendy's dance a struggle, lacking fluidity. He does a dancey riff on the old you've-got-a-face-for-radio joke that the audience ignored mercifully (for him). Bruno compares her opening move to the Statue of Liberty, and that's about as complimentary as it gets. She looked neither long, smooth nor fluid. It was as though she put down roots. Carrie Ann respects a woman with strength and courage, buuuut, this was a step backward for Wendy. And a heavy-footed one, at that!
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas: cha cha
Chelsea has chosen to dance to a song written by her ex-boyfriend Brian Dales of the Summer Set. It is called (get ready for a big surprise!) "Chelsea." But what could read like bragging is actually just gushing about young love. She really liked Brian! I wonder why it ended and why she carries a torch. Hm, must consult my local supermarket's checkout lane. While rehearsing with Mark, it emerges that Chelsea is struggling with her hip and butt action and that she doesn't consider herself sexy. If that's the case, and "Chelsea" was written only about her mind and not her body, I understand why she loves it so much. After the announcer says Chelsea will be dancing the "cha cha cha" (he always insists on adding the extra "cha," like that makes it more sophisticated), Chelsea and Mark launch into a very twirly cha cha. Indeed, Chelsea's hip and butt action are angular and since she is so skinny, this doesn't look sexy as much as pain-inflicting. She also does an extremely stiff shimmy. But none of that matters to the judges, who love Chelsea as much as she loves love. Bruno tongues her down with his comments, which mention the excitement going through Chelsea, her "quivering" and the "delicious taste of first love." If it's so delicious, why am I nauseated? Carrie Ann is a big fan of that cha cha, while gently urging Chelsea to work on her hip action. Len says it's her best dance.
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke: rumba
And now, for something completely different, but still in service of love: Chris has chosen to dance to the Beatles' "Let It Be," because it encompasses his memories of his mother, who passed away in 2005 after deteriorating for several years as a result of an accident. Chris' mom was always into dancing, and this song was played at her funeral, so the tribute couldn't be more perfect. Chris says that for the first time in 20 years, he's showing himself — Chris Irvine — to the world, without obscuring himself with a mask, wall or character. Before Chris and Cheryl begin their rumba, we see a framed picture of his mom looking extremely disco, next to a record player that's supposedly playing "Let It Be" (but obviously isn't). Chris' moves are strong and passionate, but not particularly sad. This is not a sappy opportunity to wallow through movement, and Chris looks better for it. It makes me feel OK about admiring his butt through his tight pants (and so the shapely-male-butts-in-polyester parade begins). Carrie Ann cries and says this dance was a beautiful tribute to his mom, although Chris' hip action was a little strange. Emotionally, though, it was amazing. Len starts out saying that Chris never used his arms, but Cheryl's choreography made up for his shortcomings. Still, Chris' poses were excellent and the dance was excellent overall. Bruno says Chris brought a great sense of warmth and "almost naked vulnerability" (so, so sad that almost doesn't count). That's a hard thing to do with a sexy dance like the rumba. Bruno agrees with Len that it didn't flow as well as it could but overall, it was good. Brooke Burke's post-dance interview is shockingly revealing: Chris says that his mom loved dance shows, especially Solid Gold in the '80s. Yes, yes. It was the best. Chris' mother was a mom after my own heart. I'm more convinced than ever that this was a fantastic woman he lost.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis van Amstel: rumba
Kendra has chosen Musiq Soulchild's "You and Me" to pay tribute to her relationship with Hank Baskett. Though they love each other dearly, they have dealt with haters. For example, a billboard heralding Hank as a hometown hero was taken down after they married because people were ashamed of Hank for dating a Playboy model and stripper. Does she know that for certain? Maybe they just needed the ad space. Anyway, the song's message is that if people don't accept their love, it's the two of them against the world. I'm not sure if the song contains a clause about using a surrogate for a televised dancing competition, but let's assume it does. Kendra hits the stage in a cloud of smoke, and then stays there obscured for what feels like at least 15 seconds. Upon descending the stairs, she slips. Excitement! Danger! Smoke! She has on flowing chiffon and sexy legs. As she dances, we come to hear that the song contains the lines, "I wouldn't care if you were a prostitute / And you hit every man you knew." It's a reflection of love in modern times, if ever there were. When they are done, Len takes Kendra to task for the "unnecessary gyrating" that went on. Note to Len: gyrating is never unnecessary. Loosen up, grandpa. He says she was unstable, and Kendra of course backtalks by saying the smoke was really powerful. Indeed. I felt it. Anyway, Len praises her beautiful feet and gorgeous leg action. Bruno says there's nothing wrong with a good stripper. Finally, a relatable judge! Bruno then does his gross Bruno thing by calling the dance "teasingly erotic, hot and arousing." He says the audience is "turning purple out there." He doesn't specify which parts, thank god. Carrie says the dance was "hot, hot, hot." She ends by saying, "Holla!!!" exactly as Oprah would. Lofty praise!
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: rumba
Romeo's song is the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There," in tribute to his deceased cousins Lance and Fred Conner, who were killed in a car accident and in a violent attack, respectively. They were as close as brothers to him. During practice Romeo wears straight-up high heels that he calls "leprechaun shoes." That's putting it lightly. An inch higher and a few thinner in diameter and we'd be in Prince territory (and don't mean Minneapolis). He bickers with Chelsie about the shoes and even throws them across the room at one point. The next day, he apologizes for taking out his mourning on his borderline-pumps. Onstage, he begins his dance popping an extended squat. He's wearing two different shades of white, if it matters. This rumba is, in a word, sweeping. It is the most Romy and Michelle dance of the night. Romeo casts away the melodrama by ending it with a sincere look up to the heavens, kissing his fingers. It's a nice bit of direct-to-camera levity. Bruno says Romeo put his heart and soul into it, but the downside of being so connected is that things go astray. The things in this case were Romeo's feet. "I still believe you are a very, very fine young man," Bruno adds. He believes; I know. Carrie Ann says that there was something nice about the way Romeo committed emotionally, while Len says this was a huge step back, in contrast to last week's huge step forward.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: samba
Hines is getting down to the sweet, soulful and gorgeously coiffed sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire. He's chosen "Fantasy," a song his mom played a lot when he was a kid. His parents divorced when he was young, leaving his non-English-speaking mom in the lurch. But instead of going back to Korea, she stuck it out and got multiple jobs to support him. Then, when Hines made it into the NFL, he supported her. So it all worked out! Hines struggles with the challenging samba in rehearsal, but is determined to nail it as his mom is attending the taping. I'm sure she'd be OK if he flubbed a little bit — she could drown her sorrows in more of that NFL money. Anyway, it all works out again, as Hines grooves as only one can to EW&F. He's wearing an open, sleeveless shirt with gold trim. It's very Chippendales-perform-the-Bee Gees. The judges eat it up. Carrie Ann says that baby's got bounce. Len is proud. Bruno calls it an "uplifting expression of happiness" and says that Hines' bouncing and shaking amounts to two for the price of one. Bruno calls this happy hour. I think this is Bruno's way of telling us that he's drunk. (He's reached the honesty portion of the high.)
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin: waltz
Petra's story regards her personal tragedy in the Thailand tsunami of 2004, but this time with a twist: through dance she'll tell the tale of the inception of her Happy Hearts Fund. The song that gave her the courage to start the charity was Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." Wow. I knew Groban's voice was powerful, but not quite that powerful. For her dance, Petra is draped in lavender. Thick smoke covers the floor as she and Dmitry dance. It is very stock fantasy sequence. Dmitry raising up Petra from the ground ensues. Len says that she exhibited grace, elegance and fluid movement. He adds that this is his favorite Dancing season because each week, his favorite dancer changes. He tells Petra that this week, she is the one. Bruno calls Petra a vision from heaven and that she danced like an angel. Very appropriate words for a generous charity founder. If she didn't look like those things, something would be wrong. Carrie Ann says Petra's gone from supermodel to "super graceful inspirational dancer." Apparently, Petra has taken a turn for the awkwardly phrased and she's better for it.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Anna Trebunskaya: paso doble
Sugar Ray will dance to Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," a song he played back in the day in the ring during his don't-call-it-a-comeback. He's going to do onstage what he did back then. Well, that's self-serving. But then again, so is everything. A faux boxing announcer precedes Sugar Ray's paso doble. It's a shame he's not doing the rumba, as announcement of, "Let's get ready to rumba," would have made the shtick really pay off. As it is, it's very literal with Sugar Ray coming out in a boxing robe and gloves. He ditches them for a stiff paso doble. It ends with him hitting a punching bag. I'm assuming that's a metaphor for himself. He's beat the judges to the punch: they all agree that this week marked an improvement. Bruno says his Raging Bull fighting spirit got him back in business, but he still has lines to refine. Carrie Ann thinks she saw a lot of improvement. The boxing set pieces were very distracting, so she probably can't be sure. Len launches into an extended metaphor, in which this competition is like a series of boxing matches and Sugar Ray's weekly opponents are his dances. He didn't knock out the paso doble, but for the first time, he fought back. I'm just glad the paso doble didn't bite his ear off.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: rumba
Kirstie Alley is performing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which represents the most important turning point of her life. No, it's not converting to Scientology (in that case, the more appropriate choice would have been "Swinging on a Star"). When she first arrived to Hollywood, she gave herself a year to make it. Within days of being cast in Star Trek 2, she got word that her parents were in a car accident with a drunk driver: her mother was dead, and her father was dying. The song represents the hope at the end of tragedy. Maksim talks about cutting rumba's usual romance, given the subject matter, but then we see him urging Kirstie to be sexy. You can't keep this guy down, as we find out even more clearly onstage. The dance opens with them sliding together across the stage, her draped over him, and as they're about to change, he falls and it looks like is foot is hurt (later, we find out that his thigh gave out and, "It happens, muscle strains and all of that"). They recover nicely and Kirstie does actually swirl sexily...which is really weird, given the music. It isn't just the traditional "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" either, but Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's sweet ukulele version. The judges are all into it — in fact, the fall could have helped this team, as they all point out that the dance itself was an illustration of overcoming adversity. Carrie Ann speaks of "amazingly beautiful moments" and Bruno says, "You can't keep good talent down." Not on live TV, at least.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: rumba
Ralph's packing a double reference into his story: by choosing Stevie Wonder's "Stay Gold," he's saluting The Outsiders (an early film of his for which the song was the theme) and his marriage (this was his and Phyllis' wedding song). And, wouldn't you know, it just happens to be their anniversary this week. That is show-time synergy if ever there were. (Even though this isn't about me, I'm a little bummed that Ralph didn't go with Peter Cetera's Karate Kid II theme "The Glory of Love" for both his wedding and this week's dance. That one always really gets me!) Onstage doing the rumba, Ralph looks as suave and classy as a pony...boy. The judges disagree. Len says it's crisp and clear but Ralph still needs refinement in the hands and feet areas (aka the hoof and hoof areas). Bruno criticizes Ralph's spatula hands (I said hooves!). Carrie Ann says it was a sweet rumba, but Len interrupts, disagreeing and calling it manic. Are they attempting to achieve emotional climax to this episode via bickering?
Whew! That's all for now. I'd ask you to tell me your thoughts in the comments section, but I know you will anyway!
Watch our exclusive video with Romeo below: