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November 2016



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DWTS Stars Shine Bright; Perfect Halloween for Calvin, Laurie & Hinch; Lochte Leaves, Redeemed

WHAT A BLAST! A really good Halloween show! So far, S23 has delivered one hit  after another. The prime ingredient? The Casting. Pick a good competitive cast (sometimes by chance) and the show will shape itself into greatness. Producers are picking up some "savoir faire" after almost a dozen years of DWTS. Since DWTS is about celebrities and popularity, besides dancing, they feel that their intervention has to be bigger than say, what the marvelous producers of SYTYCD do. This, my other favorite show,  allows things to happen less intrusively. But SYTYCD works with dance pros and would-be dance pros. It's a different game altogether, one where Dance and The Dancer reign supreme. However, the DWTS behind-the-scenes cast. where it's all about ratings, not dance (understandably)  seems to be finally learning the delicate balance of helping things along without  too heavy a hand. Not ruining the spontaneity, the element of surprise, the "laissez faire". Surprising us into thinking it all happened by chance?

Not really. The audiences are a lot smarter than they think. They can still see that the whole PR machine  and hype was focused on deifying Ryan Lochte,at the expense Marilu Henner, and all those that have been eliminated. They audience can see the HUGE hype storm for Olympian Laurie and only hot big Pro-perty left, Val Chmerkovskiy. They're hyping them for all they've got! The public is not that stupid. They can see that sexy Jana is being strongly pushed over inspiring Terra. Calvin , and especially HINCH, were surprises they were NOT expecting! They had to scramble and rehash emergency plans to see what to do about James and Calvin! But no, they didn't trip up Sharna to force her to give up her Star pupil, the prodigious Mr. Hinchcliffe, our new Hero! They do have limits! Whatever they're doing, it's working better than ever! I'm loving the entire S23. This satisfying Halloween Show worked great!

That said- I do have a big, glaring complaint: The Dance-Offs. What did they have to do with the Halloween Show?
Especially at the end of the show. After such scintillating, excellent  FrightNight  dances , especially James & Jenna Big Evil Blast at the end! They totally ruined the flash an sparkle of the Night! Biggest blunder of Season 23, to put that irrelevant pastiche at the end. Besides, the Dance-Offs themselves were Ho-Hum boring. Such an anticlimax and a total spoiler for what could have been a perfect Night!

I. The Great Mandy Moore Halloween Opening!

ingenious, creepy, unusual opening! Mandy Moore strikes again. Psycho costumes, wacky make up, ghoulish ambiance, whimsical mood! The costumed Stars make for weird diversity, tall, short, exotic, as they come to a groovy great Halloween party with strange characters, terrific music and happy dancing."Who could ask for more" says the song, and indeed who could. It looked very rich and expensive, full of little stories featuring our kooky Stars. It all lasted less than three minutes, but included gems like Ryan Lochte tied to a wheel while Cheryl throws knives, and fluorescently outlined crime victims  dancing while lying on the floor. Creative! Funny! Fun! Great Opening!

To see Mandy Moore's DWTS Halloween Opening click here:  
http://www.mjsbigblog.com/week-8-dwts-23-video/ .

II. The Fun Fun Halloween Dances!

TO THE HALLOWEEN DANCING PARTY NOW! Note: My usual collaborator Pat Halford was abducted by aliens on a Tennesee Halloween Night, and deposited in Houston, where she's happily recovering with her Houston grandchild and family. So she's off this week! Hope to see her back next week!

1. Terra's Day-O Good Show But not Great Cha Cha

Terra Jole & Sasha Farber
"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"—Harry Belafonte    Style:  Cha Cha

To see Terra & Sasha's Cha Cha, click here: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/terra-sasha-cha-cha-week-8-dwts-23-video/

First couple out, Terrra and Sasha were Halloween smashing in Harry Belafonte's 50's hit song as used in the 1988 movie Bettlejuice. It recreated the famous fun scene in which ghosts take over the guests to force them to dance to the Day-O Calypso song. As the dance spirits took over Terra and Sasha and make them Cha Cha on top of the dining table, I wished they had stayed up there longer, because it allows us to see Terra's legs better. But had they stayed, they would have been even more criticized by the three Judges for lack of Cha Cha content. Len's insistence of no frills, no gimmicks is turning the judges into extreme purist mode. Let's not overdo it. Jana & Gleb went so overboard in their self-indulgent "Sexy Tango" (the mice will play when Len's away!), that now all, Judges & Pros, feel they must go BARE! The BIG trouble I saw with this Cha Cha was the wrong BEAT, the wrong music for the dance style. The music was great for the Halloween mystique, but IMPOSSIBLE for the 1,2,3, faster Cha Cha beat. What a dazzling Cha Cha dancer Sasha is! No pro can beat him. This guy really "burns the floor" in dizzying beat! But even he, could not get the music to work! Too slow, as well. Also, as a little person, Terra has difficulty straightening her little legs. Foot placement, straight legs and sharpness is of the essence in Cha Cha. Terra did as well as she could, but as Bruno mentioned , the level  of competition is so high now, Terra needed to show MORE,  pure dance impact, like she has done in other styles.Still, I think they're Cha Cha was had pizzazz and showmanship galore, and deserved a higher score. the fact that they were first out didn't help, as the Judges are stingy with first! For Terra it's all about the body difference between average and little, for her being able to excel. Her shortcomings on Halloween Night had  certainly nothing to do with her commitment, presence or appeal, and even less with the quality and connection with her pro. The always warm our hearts and send us to heaven everytime they dance! Judges' Scores:  24/30   Hector: 27/30  B+

2. Laurie Softens,  Bonds with Val Soars in Waltz

Laurie Hernandez & Val Chmerkovskiy
"Pure Imagination" from "Willy Wonka"film              Style: Viennese Waltz

To see Laurie & Val's Viennese waltz, click here: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/laurie-val-viennese-waltz-week-8-dwts-23-video/

Laurie and Vals ethereal Viennese Waltz was indeed a lovely dance to watch. Best dance I've seen Laurie do! I'll tell you why. The Willy Wonka theme "Pure Imagination" placed it in the realm of wistful fantasy. So appropriate for a young girl! It was in the realm of her experience and dreams. She looked so authentic, so immersed in the dance fantasy. How beautiful is THAT, to watch dance: truth, and beauty. A second plus was the gossamer delicacy and SOFTNESS she exhibited this Viennese Waltz. I don't know if it is because Laurie is used to the clipped hardness of dance-like gymnastics movements; but she always seemed to have a tense hardness to her moves. She let go off that , in  the easy flow and sheer grace of her "Pure Imagination" Waltz. A third reason why this was Laurie's best, is that...They finally connected! Laurie and Val. Both ways. Perceptive Julianne Hough commented (How shrewd she is, and how gorgeous she looked with her crazy hair! Julianne has a 100 looks, all beautiful!) that she revelled in  the look of admiration and connectedness with her partner. YES! And the fantasy children-themed Viennese Waltz fit the disparity in their ages! The sentimental package, in which Val cries over his insecurities as choreographer and mentor for the promise of Laurie Hernandez, surprised me. At first, I thought  as undignified of a Pro. Derek, Sharna, Mark have had their creative crises without such display of self-pity. But then I saw how it reached Laurie's heart! Way to go, Val! If this is what it took for them to connect, YEAH! This was a fluid, floating,expression of pure joy in Viennese Waltz. For the first time, Laurie and Val looked at each other with mutual affection. Our hearts warmed up to both!   Judges Scores:   30/30   PERFECT SCORE!  Hector:  30/30   A

3. Will Marilu Give Us That One Great Performance?

Marilu Henner & Derek Hough
"Sweet Dreams" Eurythmics        Style: Argentine Tango

See Marilu & Derek's Argentine Tango here:http://www.mjsbigblog.com/marilu-derek-argentine-tango-week-8-dwts-23-video/

The Master of Argentine Tango did a loving creation for Marilu. We weren't disappointed. Derek rehearsed it well for Miss Henner, whose feet were badly hurting. He was so hopeful this would be their comeback after a low score last week! I would call it a break through. Marilu Henner has shown a lot of potential, quality moves, great presence  lots of dance appeal and a sizzling nice personality. From the start. But for some reason,perhaps emotional, she can't pull herself together to complete a cohesive great performance from beginning to end. In this choreography. Derek was at his most creative. With the strong Halloween symbol of a spider web in the background, Derek spins a tale of femme fatale spider women seducing 3 males. Great how Hough artistically weaves into the choreography ensemble dance, threads of ribbons and an interesting  three couple dance intro. They did a ritualistic exercise of fascinating clipped geometrical successions. After that, Marilu and Derek sweep into scintillating in hold Tango moves,in great style poignant ganchos, elegant variations and a take-your-breath-away sweeping lift. In plan and rehearsal, it all went smoothly. Derek was pleased an hopeful. In performance, it lacked sustained energy, timing fluidity. and artistic  cohesiveness. Marilu's nerves get in the way. She made some  jerky bewildered moves. At one point she accidentally pulled her arm back and slapped Derek in his face. Oh my! The curse is always the same. Marilu wants so badly to dance well, her fear of failure doesn't let her complete a fearless artistic whole! Will we finally get that great performance next weeek?Still,I think Marilu's Tango was underscored! We  so like her and would like her to get a hit!
Judges Score: 23/30      Hector: 26/30  B

4. Quickstep Friendly & Perfect Are Calvin & Lindsay!

Calvin Johnson & Lindsay Arnold    
"Dr. Bones"—Cherry Poppin' Daddies   Style:  Quickstep

To see Calvin & Lindsay's Quickstep, click here: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/calvin-lindsay-quickstep-week-8-dwts-23-video/

What a Calvin Killer Quickstep this was! Calvin makes Quickstep look alive and current, not a thirties memorabilia of aristocratic finesse! Calvin looks real, authentic, down home. A heroic athlete, yes, but personally I'd love to have a few beers with this SO likable, accessible BIG buddy! Plus, Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson do make a great team, somewhat similar to Terra and Sasha, very closely connected, very heartwarming, and with a similar height difference between the two. This dance was all Quickstep, all content, most of it frollicking around the ballroom in style true to genre, and.in perfect hold, knobby knees touching! Like Terra and Sasha, the difference in height made no difference to this pair  looking elegant and jaunty, and keeping a perfect beat and posture, no stooping.  I loved the simplicity of it, just pure Quickstep with a few stylish side by sides at the beginning and at the end. Brava Lindsay, I love you! Keep doing what you're doing! You make it work, season after season! And what a drop-dead goorgeous dancer you are! The white over black skeletal costumes were striking, as was the simple humor of the skeletal musicians playing on-stage. I closely watched the sprightly pair prance around, not detecting one flaw in style content, footwork, flair or showmanship! Calvin has learned to use his frame, his arms, his long sportif legs, his smile and demeanor as trademark assets. Calvin-Style! We so enjoy a football Star as big as Calvin blossoming as a strong and stylish dancer! Bravo, Johnson! Judges Score: 30/30 PERFECT SCORE! Hector: 30/30  A+

Shows Human Side

5. Redemption by DWTS Journey for Ryan

Ryan Lochte  Cheryl Burke    
"Howlin' for You"—The Black Keys      Style: Tango

See Ryan's bad posture in Tango,above, with Cheryl: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/ryan-cheryl-tango-week-8-dwts-23-video/

Cheryl has done wonders with Ryan Lochte, and the ABC-Dwts hype machine has done wonders to rebuild Ryan's BBB ( Big Brazil Blooper). His humble and apparently sincere contrite demeanor during the smartly edited packages were persuasive. Ryan was short on dance ability and musicality. But he was lucky to get Cheryl. What a great teacher, camouflage artist, and conjurer of magic tricks, like stripping Ryan's clothes away and showing his hunky presence in fluorescent trunks! In this Tango package, we can see Cheryl the fantastic trainer at her best. She put up a rope to measure how low he had to go for his Tango steps, and a flexible pipe to keep him in proper frame. Still, the Judges called Ryan on posture and shoulders, said he lacked elegance. Cheryl put up floor markers to signal step-kicks. Even so, he did the Tango steps gracelessly,  like he was walking. Bruno called it too "steppy". His kicks were like kicking the ball in soccer. I always marveled how in every package Ryan had no clue how bad a dancer he was! He thought the Judges were too harsh. Actually, their scores were a weekly GIFT! Including on this Halloween night. The Judges gave Lochte the exact same score as Marilu Henner, who did a much more sophisticated Argentine Tango. This is the kind of varying  standards and unfair scoring that is often seen on DWTS. It inspires many to lose trust in the integrity of the show. Ryan voters' favor ended on Halloween Night. His dancing was terrible, but we liked his sincere and committed passion to DWTS and to win us over, He sincerely wanted to redeem himself with the American public, to become part of the DWTS family. And...I still can't believe how well Ryan did in his Contemporary, his best dance. Judges Score:  23/30   Hector: 21/30

6. Not Jazz But Pizzazz: Jana & Gleb Dance Party

Jana Kramer & Gleb Savchenko
"Little Shop of Horrors" - Alan Menken
Style: Jazz

To see Jana & Gleb's Jazz dance, click here: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/jana-gleb-vs-terra-sahsa-dance-off-week-8-dwts-23-video/

Jana Kramer baited me, cajoled me...Now, SHE'S WON ME OVER! At first I suspected ingenue starlet, too set in sexy image, danced with her mouth open (She still does!), Jana's fluff, no stuff! But week by week, Jana Kramer checks in,connects to Gleb Savchenko, rehearses hard, tries her best, LOVES DANCE! Her dance curve grows higher and higher! Her kicks are swift, her extensions, lovely, moves, beautiful. WHAT ENERGY1 AND... what a great Pro-Trainer she has! Funny, in Gleb's first stint with DWTS, I pretty much thought the same about him,in male equivalence, pretty boy, much fluff, no stuff. I WAS WRONG, ON BOTH COUNTS! Mea Culpa. Gleb has been impressive this Season 23. It's a joy to watchthe discipline with which he rehearses with Jana.Gleb is open, sincere, knowledgeable, totally commited, focused on quality dancing, good choreographer, takes  his dancing responsiblity to Jana very seriously. Gleb is the total package, DWTS' next STAR Pro-mise My admiration for both Jana and Gleb, has grown. They did very well with this Jazz Dance, though he had never done  it. The Little Shop of Horrors was a good theme. but they forgot to somehow include its main horror feature: a Plant that grew by eating people. It forced its owner to feed it! Jana could have been the dancing, man-eating plant! Missed Op! The Judges thought it had more Jive than Jazz content. it looked to me more like Broadway! In Jazz and Broadway. However, it was executed with great showmanship and pizzazz. Jana's energy went through the roof. Gleb as a partner has huge, youthful, passionate STAR power.As a couple, they are the only one on S23, that can be said to be sexy, look romantic. A little more Jazz and the missing Plant, and i would give'em a 30! They brought the house down! Jana's artful dancing and explosive drawing power won me over! Judges Score: 27/30     Hector:  27/30     B+

7. Hinch & Jenna Make Creative Dance History

James Hinchcliffe & Jenna Johnson
"You Don't Own Me"- Lesley Gore     Style: Viennese Waltz

James & Jenna did the Dance of the Night! It had everything: content, creativity, humor, showbiz impact, dazzling dance artistry. An out-of-the box Viennese Waltz that could go to Broadway as is! It was also performed last amidst great suspense! After 7 weeks of taking her  brilliant trainee, James Hinchcliffe, to first place on DWTS,  superbly talented Sharna Burgess, injured her knee ligament and had to relinquish her prized pupil to Jenna Johnson, who had dropped out earlier. James danced last, so his dance fans on Twitter were quite upset when they saw his competitors Laurie Hernandez and Calvin Johnson get perfect scores. They were afraid of James having to adapt to a new trainer. I was however, confident that the Hinch wouldn't flinch. We've got ourselves the most powerful Star discovery in DWTS history! I've also seen Jenna's Star power BLAZE on SYTYCD. This Viennese Waltz was not only perfectly executed, but as a Halloween dance story it had the most impact and imagination. Jenna is an Evil Vamp jailed by guards like a caged beast. Hinchcliffe in menacing costume and make-up looks like a super-human replicant in Blade-Runner.To the pop mega-hit "You Don't Own Me", the Hinch Ghoul-Vampire character brutally kills the guards and liberates the Jenna She-Devil. Then they sweep into the Ballroom with the weirdest, sexiest, mean but undoubted Viennese Walz I have ever seen!  You could hear the audience GASP, then roar with applause and delight at the end! Never seen a couple look so RAVISHING as they floated across the room in authentic, true Viennese,and in perfect frame, posture and elegance...BUTwith a TWIST! Never seen a couple look as raunchy, sensual and evil, and at the same time. glorious, and out-of-the-box! What great nuanced dance-actors in a nasty, sexual characterization! So right for evil Halloween,  At one point, Jenna kicks her leg up in orgiastic abandon while James/Nosferatu lecherously stares. At another point Hinchcliffe abusively grabs her wrists and pulls her arms up, but continue waltzing not mising a beat. So strange, so creative, but so beautiful.The Evil Sexual Waltz, danced in spectacular, triumphal fashion! Judges Scores:    30/30      Hector's Scores : 31/30 = 5 pts bonus for unique creativity   A++

III. The Dance Offs - A big out-of-place pastiche glued on to the end of what could have been a dazzling Halloween Show! I already said that at the beginning. That it was an out of place, anticlimactic blunder! What did it have to do with Halloween? A total Party Spoiler. Besides, it was boring. This would-be improvised little dances can't possibly be as show-worthy as the carefully prepared and rehearsed previous dances. This contest was as exciting as a Church Ladies fund-raising competition. It seemed sloppily set up, improvised. Then it wasn't at all clear that the Judges (or the dubious "America" participation) were fair in their dance judgement. Nothing very exciting happened in any of the thhree dances. The show would have been much better as a whole, if this uninteresting, ill-fitting to Halloween exercise in boredom had been cut. Why not, for next year, have the seven couples create a Hallowen rehearsed and prepared group dance? Each couple would have a solo in for which they'd be scored. Or some ending that would keep the Halloween theme going, for greater show integrity!  

1.Jive:  Laurie Wins for "Precision"

Laurie Hernandez & Val Chmerkovskiy vs Calvin Johnson & Lindsay Arnold
"The Purple People Eater"—Sheb Wooley      Style Jive    

To see the Jive Dance-Off click here: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/laurie-val-vs-calvin-lindsay-dance-off-week-8-dwts-23-video/

Laurie chose Calvin to compete against. Brave girl! The toughest guy! Calvin chose Jive. Both did competitive Jive. Laurie was sharper, more precise, more forceful, looked very sure of herself. Less connected to Val than Calvin to Lindsay. Calvin and Lindsay have an easy connection. Laurie and Val look a bit tense, not as easygoing. That bit of Twist that C&L did looked like they were having FUN. Calvin and Laurie are apples and oranges. It depends of what you like more! Laurie & Val are putting up a show, they're more invested. At the same time, we love Calvin's accesibility,giant appeal and friendly ease. It is said Calvin made a mistake at the end. I didn't see it. I did see Laurie and Val louse up a transition, an instant of hesitation. L& V ARE more sharp, so when they're not, it shows more. Besides, I said Laurie needs to get softer, not as hard & robotic, more human. So, I liked Calvin and Lindsay better. But the Judges and "America" gave the edge to Laurie and Val. Judges: Laurie & Val (unanimous) America: L &V  63%   Hector: Calvin & Lindsay

2. Salsa: Tight but Judges Vote 3-1 for Jana

Terra Jole & Sasha Farber vs Jana Kramer  & Gleb Savchenko
 "Magic"  Robin Thicke        Style: Salsa

To see the Salsa Dance-off click here:  http://www.mjsbigblog.com/jana-gleb-vs-terra-sahsa-dance-off-week-8-dwts-23-video

So hard to compare, especially given Terra's height difference. It's hard to "see" each nuance at this scale. Jana has a built-in advantage with the TV audience. She won that vote. 54-46%. They both did enjoyable Salsa. I feel these two dance better than the Jivers. Jana & Gleb had more in-hold Salsa, Terra & Sasha were more creative with leaps, lifts and Terra being wheeled aroud. That Terra girl proved sassy and daring- I loved her cavorting. I also liked Jana & Gleb's Salsa. This was truly close! Carrie Ann went with T&S. The two others favored J&G, although Bruno said he was conflicted. I leaned to Terra (for gumption) and Sasha, but can live with the majority decision! Carrie Ann: Terra & Sasha  BT&JH:  Jana & Gleb    America: 54% Jana    Hector: Terra & Sasha

3. Cha Cha Cha -
Ryan Wins! Bruno Prefers Marilu!

Marilu Henner/Derek Hough  vs   Ryan Lochte/ \Cheryl Burke
 "Can't Feel my Face" - The Weeknd    Style: Cha Cha Cha

To see the cha cha Dance off, click here: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/jana-gleb-vs-terra-sahsa-dance-off-week-8-dwts-23-video/

Pitting Marilu & Derek against Ryan & Cheryl seemed to me pitiful. Ryan has tried hard, showed vulnerabiity, tried to bond with his DWTS family, but he basically has no grace or musicality, or good rhythm and timing. Most times I cringe when it's his turn. It's obvious that there was a big hype agenda for Ryan to remain, which is  why he got so overscored by the judges time. That said, Cheryl worked wonders with such little material! I loved their Contemporary dance! But Cha cha? He's so stiff, though!  I was surprised as how well drilled he was for this Cha Cha. He did amazing! It was a collage of moves he'd done before. Cheryl just had him put them all together, Like the dramatic move when Cheyl moves back in abandon, while Ryan holds her.Still,  I found Marilu and Derek much better, more musical and spontaneous, with less of the practiced by rote look, the bag of tricks. I wasn't surprised that 2 female judges went with Ryan & Cheryl. They've been praising Lochte emptily since week 1.. I agreed with Bruno. Marilu and Derek were a lot more stylish and pure,, true to Cha Cha, with less tricks. I did not understand why "America" favored Ryan, except the PR ABC push worked! That said, then why didn't the voters vote Marilu out and not Ryan? At the end, Ryan's journey came to an end.He was finally abandoned by America, and was eliminated!   Judges: CA & JH, Ryan     Bruno:  Marilu   America:  Ryan 58%    Hector: Marilu

Who am I?

Hector Sola @archihector : Architect, realtor, blog writer.  I love music, dance, film, visual media & WORDS . Educated at Harvard College, U. C.  Berkeley, Paris, FR, fellowship.  Married till death took my Laura, my love. Dad to 3 adult girls, 1 boy. From San Juan, Puerto Rico. Frequent Los Angeles, CA visitor.

My collaborator, Pat Halford, took a Halloween  family vacation this week.

See you next week! Only November left of S23. Predictions for next week: Possible Elimination: Marilu & Derek, followed by Terra and Sasha. Which would leave Jana, Calvin, Laurie and Hinch for the Semifinals. MBT prediction: James Hinchcliffe
#2 Laurie Hernandez #3 Calvin Johnson.