So last night was the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars and the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance. The aired simultaneously, so I had to pick which one to watch first and then go back and watch the other on video (first world problems, I know!)
So let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)
Dancing with the Stars (Mondays, ABC)
Season 21! Opening night! Lights, music, dancing, glitterballs! And bring on the crazy!
Dancing with the Stars is nothing if not entertaining – either through beauty and grace, or through absolute insanity. Last night was no exception. As the 13 stars each had their turn on the dance floor, I found myself saying things like “bless his heart” to “awkward!” to “hope someone has a taser nearby” to “omg – so adorable.”
Not long for the show will be Victor Espinoza, the jockey who won the Triple Crown in 2015. He has 3 challenges right from the start: he’s shorter than his female partner, he has no musicality, and he has no short-term memory due to multiple sports injuries. Dance pro Katrina Smirnoff tried her best, but his dance was definitely a “bless his heart” moment.
Reality show star and TV host Tamar Braxton did well, and given her viewer fan base, should be safe. So should competing spouses Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, singer Andy Grammer and Vine/Social Media star Hayes Grier.
Chaka Khan should be okay, because she is the Queen of Funk after all. But her first dance was troubled. She was paired with Keo Motepse who is only in his 3rd year and has not had much stage time. He should have known better than to lower his 62-year old celebrity down from the ceiling and then expect her to be able to remember dance steps on her first night. She smiled throughout it though, and her hair was, as always, fabulous. But I hope she gets to dance more.
Bindi Irwin was an absolute delight with her winning smile, eagerness, and pure energy. She did very well for her first week and absolutely lit up the dance room. Her pro, Derek Hough, however, seemed a little less than happy when hero Alek Skarlatos got equal praise for his musicality and dedication to learning. Derek, a 5 time DWTS winner, is known for being competitive and I hope his intensity does not bring Bindi’s naivete and sweetness down. I can totally see Derek being the dark and brooding master this season (and the eventual Phantom of the DWTS if we are not careful).
Crazy train had multiple stops last night. We all expected that Gary Busey would be out of his mind, because c’mon. And he definitely was. In the words of my friend who skyped with me during the show, “The cheese has definitely slid far off his cracker.” I felt bad for his dance pro, Anna Trebunskaya, but maybe in Russia they are used to dealing with crazy. However for me the winner for awkward craziness was definitely Paula Deen. I felt so bad for her dance pro Louis Van Amstel as she was continually forcing his head down to her chest and grabbing and hugging him for dear life. We know she is clawing her way back in to world acceptance, but telling host Tom Bergeron that you have soiled your pants is not the way to go.
The Dialing It In award goes to Kim Zolciak-Biermann of Real Housewives infamy. Her dance had the least amount of enthusiasm, although there was a nice set up in her pre-dance video package where she confessed that she didn’t like taking the chance of not being perfect on live TV vs. her more carefully coiffed persona on her reality shows. Her dance moves reminded me a little more like Kate Gosselin – stiff and formal – although Kim definitely had a little more va-va-voom in her outfit. Her dance pro Tony Dovolani danced around her in a bare-chested frenzy trying to make up for it. I do think her fan base will push her through to the next week, however, so she should be safe.
Final dance was given to Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys fame. Nick definitely brought the fan girls out in his dance partner Sharna Burgess and judge Julianne Hough. However, unlike his fellow bandmate Joey Fatone who has also competed, Nick doesn’t have quite the charisma and charm yet. He reminds me more of his brother Aaron Carter who was so concerned about dancing well that he just looked too desperate and did not last long in the competition. I think Nick can definitely go far, I just think he’s not a sure thing yet.
This season is definitely full of opportunity – I’m intrigued on how America will vote.
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox, Mondays)
I was surprised that the season finale for this show was over 2 hours long since they were just revealing the results from the previous week. In order to fill up the show, everyone got to pick their favorite dance of the season, with some people picking twice. Of course, this is a nice way to remind the audience of the some of the dances that they can see live in the tour that kicks off shortly after the finale. But it was definitely a dance down memory lane kind of evening.
I admit, I did love seeing some of the numbers again. However, it is my personal opinion that once a dance is no longer part of the competition, it never has quite the same spark as the first time you see it. There is a certain electricity and sparkle that just doesn’t allow itself to be recreated.
My favorite number of the evening was a never before seen routine between top ten finalist Jim Nowakowski and all star Alex Wong. It was a powerful dance and had that spark that some of the repeats missed a little bit. I hope it is featured on the tour or that, as suggested, a sequel is done in following years.
Then we had our four finalists: Hailee Payne (jazz) and Gaby Diaz (tap) from Team Stage and Virgil Gadson (Hip Hop) and JaJa Vankova (Animation/Krump) from Team Street. Based on the judges comments from the previous week, I was not surprised when Hailee was the first to be eliminated – leaving Gaby as the winner of Team Stage. Similarly, there was no surprise that Jaja won out over Virgil for Team Street.
This left Gaby and Jaja as the last two standing. Personally, I assumed that Jaja would win because it was clear that part of the inspiration for this Stage vs. Street competition was caused by JaJa in season 11 when she was unable to make the top 20 due to her lack of experience in stage styles. Really, the interesting thing is that both Jaja and Gaby had comeback kid stories. Jaja was rejected in season 11 and was brought back to almost take it all in season 12. Gaby was rejected in the initial auditions and then flew out to the next location and auditioned again rather than giving up.
Surprisingly, Gaby was announced the winner. Although I felt she was very worthy of the prize, really, any of the top 4 would have been deserving. Once the winner was announced, there wasn’t really much to say. There was, however, a lot of confetti on the stage and I remembered thinking how glad I was that I didn’t have to clean that up.
Fox has not yet announced the renewal of the series, but they usually don’t announce this until November or December. What will be interesting is whether they keep this year’s street vs. stage formula, which was actually pretty entertaining, as well as the judges and host Cat Deeley, who recently announced she was pregnant. Until then, I’ll keep my dancing fix in check with Dancing with the Stars.
Until next time, keep those toes tapping!