Dancing With The Stars, Week 8 review

Dancing With The Stars LogoDancing With The Stars always goes all out for Halloween, and last night was no exception. Every single dance had a Halloween theme. I would be remiss, therefore, if I didn’t say that the dancers weren’t the only stars of the evening:  The people behind the scenes, the ones who do costumes and sets, also did a wonderful job. I was very impressed.

I actually didn’t watch the show last night because I was at the annual neighborhood Halloween party, which was great fun. We all assure each other every year that we look as young as ever, and then we catch up on our children, who are growing older but in the best possible ways. I therefore watched the dances today, without taking the time to watch the package (that is, the little human interest story about the rehearsal that precedes each dance).

For every team but for Terra Jolé, who whines too much, I regretted not seeing the package. For me, seeing the rehearsal a bit really adds dimension to the dances. Still, even without the human interest stories, I had a good time watching the people who have lasted this far into the season. Most of them look like real dancers now, and that really pings my “Getting It Right” meter.

So, here’s my rundown which, as usual, is in alphabetical order by the stars’ first names.

Calvin Johnson, Jr. and Lindsay danced a quick step to “Dr. Bones” and, once again, they hit it out of the park. Calvin is yet another in a long string of football players who can really dance. It shouldn’t be surprising, I guess. You have to be disciplined, strong, and nimble to be a good football player and a good dancer. For the football players, if you add in a sense of rhythm and theater and, with Calvin, an invariably charming demeanor, good things happen:

Jana Kramer and Gleb did a jazz dance to the song “Little Shop of Horrors.” As always, she did a great job — hard-working, good form, amazing flexibility. And as always, there was something lacking. I think Jana lacks charisma. She’s a perfectly nice, quite talented lady, but you really don’t notice her very much. It might have been different had she been with a more charming partner, but “what ifs” don’t help the “what is.”

James Hinchcliffe and Jenna (not Sharna) did a macabre waltz to “You Don’t Own Me.” As always, James was superb, which was especially amazing this time around because he had a new partner. Sharna’s knee injury last week proved to be more serious than she first thought, so she’s off the dance floor for the rest of the season. For an inexperienced dancer (and James is quite inexperienced, considering he had never danced before this show), switching partners at this late date can be stressful. James handled it like a pro, though, and turned in a beautiful performance.

I hope that in the next two weeks, even if James continues to dance with Jenna, Sharna controls the choreography. She’s good at it and Jenna is not. Nothing has changed my belief that James has a serious chance at winning the Mirror Ball, although Laurie’s dance this week puts her back in contention.

Laurie Hernandez and Val danced a waltz to the song “Pure Imagination” from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and it was purely lovely. For some reason, this week she and Val clicked. In preceding weeks, Val had been treating her like possible TNT because, not only is she chronologically young (at 16), she’s also very much still the little girl. There have been other young dancers on show, but they had more polish. I don’t say this with any disrespect for Laurie. Indeed, I like that she’s so fresh. But between her giggles and his fears, they never quite clicked. This week, they did.

Marilu Henner and Derek danced a tango to “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This.” As always, though Marilu does all the steps right and has a phenomenal body not just for her age but for any age, she was too brittle and focused to be really enjoyable to watch. I admire her greatly — her work ethic and her dance moves — but it’s almost stressful to watch her. My prediction is that, while Marilu survived this week, she’ll be the one who gets let go next week.

Ryan Lochte and Cheryl danced the tango to “Howlin’ for You,” and it was great. In eight weeks he’s gone from pathetic, pouting slouch to someone who, while not a contender, is a really fine dancer and has a good sense of theater. I enjoyed watching his dance, which is a far cry from how I felt in the first few weeks.

Terra Jolé and Sasha did a cha-cha to “Banana Boat Song.” It was charming, but the judges felt that Sasha (always graceful, always elegant) wasn’t pushing Terra hard enough now that the show is heading into the season finale. As I said above, I found it much more fun to watch Terra when I hadn’t seen the package. Her lively dancing is so at odds with her neurotic rehearsals.

In addition to their usual dances, the couples also did dance offs. Since I was pressed for time, I didn’t watch. I never find those very interesting.

And who got knocked off? Well, if you really want to know . . . SPOILER AHEAD.




Ryan Lochte left. I’m betting that he gained a great deal from being on the show. He came on the show as a whiny, pouting nothing who needed a good PR stunt. He left the show as a hard-working, goofy, not very bright guy who improved tremendously and really learned how to dance. He should be proud of himself even though he didn’t make the finals.

If you like unexpected variety in your reading material, be sure to check out WOW! Magazine, the collaborative site from the Watcher’s Council.