Dancing With the Stars Finale and Dance Times Square Showcase

I don’t have a lot of time to write since I have a bizillion and a half things to do before Blackpool (which I leave for in two days!), so I’ll be brief. I thought DWTS’s season finale was the best ever. The remaining three are all really good, far better than prior contestants, and they have their own cute strengths.

Cristian has definitely improved the most, of these three and of any contestant ever, I think. He’s 1000% improved from the way he was dancing at the beginning of the season and that is what this show is about — a normal person / non-dancer learning to dance well. At the beginning of the show I remember his limbs looking like spaghetti, totally out of control, no shaping or definition to his upper body, and he was dancing Latin too far up on his toes, had no grounding, and it just didn’t look right. Now all that is nearly gone. His hips are now near perfect, he’s much more weighted, his arms are not flailing out of control, and he has much better definition throughout his body. He’s still not a pro male dancer, but he’s just about the closest thing to a pro without being one, especially for someone who started out so poorly. I’m just so proud of him 😀 I feel like HE won the opening number, not Kristi. And I don’t care if his freestyle lifts were not as fancy as Jason’s; not only did he do extremely well with them, but they were lovely and complemented the choreography and music. Why does he need to raise her above his head just for the sake of showing he can? An overhead lift wouldn’t have added anything to their routine; it would have been out of place in fact since the music was kind of fluid and fast. I just can’t stop smiling whenever Cristian is on the floor.

And, regarding his injury: I know, people say it’s wrong that he’s still dancing, but, honestly, right or wrong, I know many professionals who dance with an injury so they can finish out the season, then have their surgery. And many pro ballroom dancers will dance with an injury if they’ve made a commitment to their student, to do a competition or a student showcase. I’m not saying it’s right, but I feel like in a way his problem is pretty typical and shows what a lot of dancers go through and the risks they take.

I love Jason, but as much as I love his personality both on the dance floor and in the practice segments, he doesn’t do equally well at Standard and Latin the way Cristian does. That’s another huge plus for Cristian — it’s very hard to do well at both. I really liked his freestyle though. Edyta choreographed something perfect for him. Like Carrie Ann said, who knew Jason could be funky like that! It was like a downplayed hip hop and it looked perfect on him.

And, hehehe, he is a ballerino! Those breathtaking overhead lifts were something right out of Petipa! I love it! Soon he’ll be as obsessed with ballet as he is with ballroom! But I think, not being a man and never lifting someone over my head like that, the lifts he did were actually harder than ballet lifts where the danseur carries the ballerina across the floor, because Edyta had him turning in place repeatedly at the same time. That’s damn hard because not only are you lifting, you’re making yourself sickly dizzy by spinning. I know as the girl getting myself into a lift, maintaining a position in the air and then getting spun around like that, you just want to throw up when you land; they’re incredibly hard. So, major kudos to him.

I love Kristi and she was once my idol. I don’t know, I feel like I’m not as impressed with her as I was at the beginning of the show. She’s nearly flawless, but she is not without flaws, and now for some reason I just want to compare her to someone like Karina Smirnoff, and she comes up lacking. It’s well-known by now that she knows how to dance and I think I’m probably just being too hard on her because I want perfection. Her legs don’t come together perfectly in Cha Cha, her lines in her upside-down split lifts were not as perfect as Juliana’s, and she doesn’t have the polish and the perfect technique the pro dancers do and that seems to be all I can focus on. Maybe it’s that Mark is such a show-off and he’s outdancing her. When I heard him talking about trying to do a back flip during practice sessions, I thought, WHY, WHY do you have to go and do something like that! But when I saw it, it wasn’t so bad since he lifted her so many times and made her look great and she had a lot of tricks herself. So, it was even, not like it was all about him. She is the best; it’s just that I relate more to the other two because they’re normal people like me who learned throughout the show to dance ballroom wonderfully…

On a very related note, the Dance Times Square showcase last night was so much fun, I can’t even begin to describe. It’s like seeing a DWTS show live, except with far more student performers of all ages, of all shapes and sizes, of all levels of dance ability, all doing their best. And those are combined with all pro showcases of course. They’re the best studio for putting on these kinds of things for their students.

It was really packed this time. In addition to all the regulars, and the students’ friends and family, there were many many more — either who came to see Pasha & Anya or who were from media outlets. I know there were people from Entertainment Tonight there and Tony mentioned a couple of other news shows too that I can’t remember. There were also talent agents there.

And Sabra and Cameron from So You Think You Can Dance were there! They sat right behind me and Sabra laughed hysterically at Tony and Melanie’s opening jokes and then SCREAMED with applause throughout. She cracked me up. If you’re ever performing you WANT her in the audience!

I sat in the press section toward the front, next to one of the ET crew and he was remarking throughout how amazing he thought this was. And his remarks were genuine. I truly don’t think he’d ever seen anything like it before. You’re sitting down there, the press people are all serious and make you a bundle of nerves even if you are just writing about the event yourself and not performing in it, and then the people up in the balcony (the regulars and friends and family) are up there screaming, wildly cheering on the dancers, calling out their names, making the dancers even laugh at times. And the press people are aghast. “I can’t believe this! This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” ET guy said.

When a couple of senior amateurs danced a cute little Mambo (this is rare; it’s almost always one pro dancing with one amateur), and they were cute, but obviously didn’t do any spectuacular tricks or quick-footed dancing, the audience all started clapping along with the music and cheering for them. The audience made their own fun time, in other words, by really getting into it.

And Elaine. Whenever she was onstage, Elaine stole the show. I know her and can tell she was nervous at the beginning of her first routine. She stumbled a bit and nearly tripped Jacob, her partner, and someone shouted from the balcony, “Dont hurt him, Elaine!” She laughed and it really calmed her nerves. Completely cracked ET guy up. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said for the umpteenth time. Elaine’s so cute and she’s a really good dancer for not learning until well into adulthood and then having the limitations of age. Jacob did several lifts with her — ET guy went nuts — and in one routine she did a series of chaine turns (two-footed traveling turns done in a line) practically all the way across the floor. “Unbelievable, simply unbelievable!” ET guy shouted.

(Elaine is on the right, Claire on the left — I’ll talk about her in a minute. This is on our Dance Times Square outing to see the SYTYCD tour).

I don’t have time to go into all of the routines, but my favorites were Susan Washburn (a longtime student there) and Michael Choi’s hilarious “Sex Bomb” (all the routines by the way were medleys — the music consisted of one song but with different musical artists’ interpretations — one slower and more dramatic, one sped up, one hip-hop-y, etc. So, there would be several dance styles within one song — Cha Cha, disco-y Hustle, a slower Rumba or Bolero, etc. — It was really a clever idea for a showcase — Melanie’s of course. At the beginning, Melanie addressed the crowd, explained the theme of the evening, then said, “I know, this is a rather ingenious idea right? I mean, it’s usually me who comes up with the themes of the showcases, but this time I have to say it was … oh, hehe, it was me again,” she said with a faux blush. The crowd was hysterical). Anyway, of the student showcases, I also loved everything David Johnson was in — he’s an older man, and his schtick was to be so taken with his young female pro that he kind of followed her around aimlessly, trying hard to imitate her and be the perfect partner. It was cute and he acted it all so well, the audience was just screaming in applause. I liked a sultry sexy tango cha cha, etc. by Krysta Gonzales, who you can tell has dance background, and Nazarie Salcedo’s infectious smile makes everything she does a delight to watch. I liked so many though, I just don’t have time to go into them!

Claire Gaines (in the picture above) also performed with her teacher, Jacob Jason. She was also in “Gotta Dance” (she is the one with the mike in the second picture here) and she brought her team of NetSationals with her! They did a little swing / hip hop and the crowd ROARED!

Of course Pasha & Anya performed! They did three routines, which made me very happy — I thought they’d only do one at the very end, but they danced throughout. Their first was a gorgeous medley danced to “Indissoluble.” I don’t even know how to describe it. It was by turns sexy, romantic, bone-chillingly intense, passionate, heated. The dance style was based on Rumba and had some Samba (my favorite part was a series of Samba rolls, but with their faces cheek to cheek, so it looked far more sultry and passionate than normal Samba rolls) and even some Tango, but it really was not ballroom. It was more contemporary. It was just beautiful Dance. It was like something I’ve never seen from them and I was really proud of them for pushing themselves and trying something new, outside regular ballroom. It really could have been in a big dance gala, like when you see those tango companies perform in the 21st Century Stars of Ballet galas or something. It made me think ballroom can and will take new directions and become a real performance art.

They also did a gorgeous Paso that took my breath away. Pasha and his cape 😀 And they ended with a beautiful Rumba in which Anya wore her black Blackpool dress from the year they placed second in Rising Star. My favorite dress of hers, EVER… (middle and right pictures here)

Maybe it was just the lights, but she seems to be wearing her hair lighter now, which I like. Now, it’s a light brown. I think dirty blonde is her natural color (and my favorite for her); she’d dyed it for SYTYCD. She also seems to have got a light, wavy perm. Pasha looks the same 🙂

It’s always beyond wonderful to see them again, but I always get so sad, and I left the theater feeling like I was going to cry. I don’t know why.

Oh one more thing, Karen and Matt Hauer, another pro couple who compete in the American Rhythm section at national competitions, performed a few numbers. Karen completely blew me away. She has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years since I first saw her dance. Her movement is so fierce, so fluid, so amazing. Her upper body isolations, which you can really see in the slower dances, the way she rounds her shoulders, contracts her rib cage, you can trace the muscular ripple from her shoulders all the way down to her hips centimeter by centimeter. And she’s dancing with such passion, such intensity. She honestly reminded me of Karina Smirnoff. I was just enthralled.

Here are a couple of pictures I took of them at earlier competitions:

Okay, I have talked too long. I’m never going to be ready for Blackpool!


  1. I loved reading all of the above but there was just too much to comment on everything at the moment, so I’ll simply stick to the DWTS competition. I think that just because more is expected of Kristi than Cristian and Jason, that is no reason for denying her the crown ( I know you didn’t say that but I think that some people probably think that). In the end, Kristi is, in your own words, “the best.” And last night, she decisively outdanced both of the guys. If she doesn’t win tonight, there should be a full-scale congressional investigation.

    Have a great time in Blackpool!

  2. I personally do not like Cristian or Cheryl. Both bug the hell out of me. Just go home please… He’s boring and does the same thing all the time

    Jason should have been a ballet dancer. He’s tall and he looks amazing doing lifts like that. Damn those were amazing. His dances really lacked personality to me.

    While I know Kristi has her flaws but she deserves to win. She’s the best dancer from a non dancer. And don’t say that figure skaters are dancers because they’re not. Most figure skaters do not even take dance classes now.

  3. Don’t forget to root for Tone Jacobsen again in Standard, this time with her new partner Samuele Pacchini! Since I can’t be there, I need someone to be my shouting proxy! So jealous!

    Have a blast and be safe!

  4. I don’t understand — Kristi is not a normal person who had to learn how to ballroom dance like the other contestants? That’s not a fair comment. She has not perfected ballroom technique and is not on par with the professional ladies, so why are you comparing her to them? I won’t deny that figure skating gives her some sort of musicality and physical advantage, but it’s a stretch to immediately brand her as a dancer. I don’t know much about Kristi’s training background, but any dance training she may have received outside of figure skating probably did not consist of much more than taking some classes at a local dance studio. It’s probably the case for most skaters (it they do seek dance lessons) and I can only think of a couple well known skaters who received formal dance training. Jennifer Kirk trained at Boston Ballet and Angela Nikodinov’s late coach Elena Tcherkasskaya was a former Bolshoi ballerina (not sure it that counts).

  5. The clear predispositioning factor for victory on DWTS is not previous dance training; it’s athleticism.

    4 of 6 winners of the US version were pro athletes: Emmit Smith, Helio, Apollo, and now Kristi.

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