March 12, 2011, Chicago (Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL)
As has been declared on Words To Bumble: The final face off is between Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek.
Past eliminees came by, Erin Andrews placed into third—not a surprise looking at the competition she was up against—and reflections have been made by all.
The moment is upon us.
Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough came out with a jive to the Tina Turner version of “Proud Mary.” It was fast, it was fun; like Scherzinger wanted: It was rock ‘n’ roll— a gold fringe dress, wildly tossed hair, lightning fast jive moves and a lot of smiles.
“It’s so much fun and it has so much energy.”
She had that right.
Len straight off said that she should win… which I feel he shouldn’t have been allowed to say…. no?
The other judges gushed similarly. At home, Molly snapped, “Well. She. is. a. dancer.”
And then the Pussycat got to hug Gladys Knight.
And then a perfect score of 30/30 was awarded and we went to commercial.
Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya countered with the quick step (because it is “very precise and technical,” and that’s what Evan likes) … and no tuxedo, but a pair of suspenders and a daisy boutonnière to the tune of “I Want You to Want Me.” And no worries, he was wearing tuxedo pants—just no jacket.
It was also fast-paced, it was also a triumphant performance, and it also spoke perfectly to their established style. Compliments aplenty were won from the judges.
Bruno told Evan that although he has always been a good dancer, “Your performance level has enhanced, you’re now dashing, you’re now sexy, you can now do charming.”
Len continued the trend by saying, “You bring elegance, style, you’ve got a charm about you… You have done a fantastic job!”
Carrie Ann testified to the way that Lysacek has won hearts over the course of the season, and behaved as a champion.
The judges followed this up with a score of only 28/30. Boo.
After a breathless commercial break…
dun dun dun
The sinking feeling that crept into my heart yesterday after the freestyle round has solidified into icy disappointment…
The Pussycat beat the Olympian.
It has been ten weeks of sambas, jives, waltzes and finally the daunting freestyle of last night in part one of the Dancing With the Stars finals.
The week leading up to these final dances was a triumph for Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya from their “World on a String” foxtrot, for which Lysacek donned a new kind of tuxedo—the white jacket.
Apparently after the robotic turn taken the previous week, Trebunskaya decided that they needed to do a little soul searching into what makes Lysacek happy, in order to get some personality and joy out on the dance floor. She posed the question to him in rehearsal, to which he replied: “Cars, coffee, my nephew,” and then he showed off a video on his iPhone.
Whatever the inspiration, the dance was a great success garnering the pair a judges’ score of 29/30 and verbal praise near to gushing from all three, including exasperated heartfelt thanks from Carrie Ann: “Thank you for listening to my pleas!”
Perhaps the most effusive compliments—shocker—came from Bruno, who shot out of his seat and exclaimed, “Talk about sparking with a capital ‘S!’ I haven’t seen something like that since Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney!”
Len chose a more conservative and plausible route, simply confirming that “We saw a completely different side, the happy-go-lucky, fun side… Overall it was a great performance.”
Learning how to dance and have fun with it has been Lysacek’s favorite thing about the whole experience (I know, original, right?): “I signed up because I wanted to do something fun after the Olympics” (well I guess being an Olympian is original enough).
This was the first “duck.” The second “duck” came in the form of a fierce paso doble that involved an energetic jumping and spinning solo portion.
Dear Evan: Thanks for being a figure skater.
Speaking of figure skating, the show incorporated mini bios with interviews of people close to the competitors. Lysacek’s illuminated viewers to the fact that his grandmother had always wanted to be in the Ice Capades and that it was she who bought him his first pair of ice skates. And it was his mother who wouldn’t let him quit after a growth spurt induced some bumpy times: “If someone is better than you at something, then you need to work twice as hard as them.”
And who besides his family is Lysacek close to? Scott Hamilton, Vera Wang (who commended his ever-present willingness to learn) and Kristi Yamaguchi (who called him one of the most driven people she has ever encountered).
Gush, gush, gush was the name of the game. Everyone else’s families gushed too, they just interest me much less. I know you are surprised.
Back to the second “duck.”
Team Evanna scored a perfect 30/30 for their paso doble. The judges’ response can be summed up in three three-word statements:
Bruno: “You got balls!”
Carrie: “Yes he does.”
Len: “I loved it!”
And I loved that part of Trebunskaya’s skirt was torn off at one point to be used as a matador prop.
Yes, that happened.
Coming off of such strong performances on week nine’s episode, the third “duck” was expected. The first dance last night was the so-called redemption dance—that is the judges asked each couple to perform a dance that they had previously struggled with. The Olympian pair was assigned a Viennese Waltz, danced to “Piano Man.”
Sure it was a little cliché, sure Lysacek wore a tux (this time with tails) yet again, but ti worked out well enough to the tune of 28/30 and Carrie Ann’s declaration that it was “A beautiful, emotional… enchanting dream.”
Afterwards, Trebunskaya made her own declaration: “Oh my gosh, he became a dancer. I’m so proud of him!”
And then there was the “goose.”
General hating prevailed in the case of their freestyle, the conception of which was a painful and clearly conflicted process. The two were in total disagreement over style and at one point Lysacek’s dissatisfaction with the way things were going reduced his partner to tears.
I love the dramatic rehearsal footage. It’s so ridiculous.
So is this picture which quite perfectly captures the moment of mayhem that was their freestyle—I regretfully concede.
But it could not compare to Erin Andrews’ and Maks Chmerkovsky’s contemporary freestyle (which I hated and reminded me of the recital dance at the end of Centerstage, but I’m not in charge), or the following performance by Miss Pussycat to Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation (which admittedly was fantastically entertaining).
The judges awarded their displeasure, a 24/30 and a healthy dose of perplexion. Carrie Ann was nearly lost for descriptive words, uttering, “That was odd.”
It was really, very, super sad for them.
Especially when they were followed by Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough’s awesome and lauded freestyle that included a totally weird costume change.
So I immediately used all my votes on the Olympic Champion, and now we have 40 minutes to wait before the final of the final airs on ABC at 9/8 CST.
See you there.
And then, when this over we can focus on things like maybe the World Cup and definitely Belmont Stakes, among other summer delights.
[tweetmeme source=”JohannaAP25″] I took a brief hiatus from Dancing with the Stars. My eyes needed a break from the sartorial scaring. My wallet was looking to be drained at my local cocktail bar. My social skills needed practicing. And I had no problem continuing to vote for Evan Lysacek without having seen him dance.
I won’t bother to attempt recapping something I haven’t seen, and let’s face it: If you really care, you have already digested the past weeks of Dancing. Instead, I shall jump right into the quarter-final battle.
Five couples competed this week: Words to Bumble favorites Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya, Niecy Nash and Louis Van Amstel, Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke, Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovsky, Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. Furthermore, each couple had to perform two dances: one traditional ballroom dance such as the waltz or the foxtrot and one Latin dance such as the cha-cha or the paso-doble.
So how did things go for our Olympic Champion? Well, after the first perfect score of the season last week, Lysacek decided that it was time to take Trebunskaya out of her comfort zone and out onto the ice where he took a turn criticizing: “Your hips are too loose!”
[Everyone is always telling Lysacek that his hips are too stiff and rigid.]
This week Trebunskaya decided that they should present the most romantic waltz the world has ever seen. It involved rolling around on the ground, theoretically giving Romeo and Juliet another chance… or something to that effect.
Len and I felt similarly: “I didn’t like the rolly-polly stuff on the floor and one or two of the other things they weren’t’ my cup of tea,” however he did have to admit that the kid’s got grace.
Bruno was typically enthusiastic and Carrie Ann trod the middle road: “Your lines are impeccable… But really Evan, you have to lose yourself in the moment.”
I think people should just accept that he is a little bit of a robot and move on with their lives. Evan certainly has: For their second dance of the night, Lysacek and Trebunskaya presented a dance from the future, complete with face paint, the robot and costumes that one can only surmise were inspired by that cinematic masterpiece: The Fifth Element.
In rehearsals Lysacek even did a spot-on “Wally” robot voice saying things like, “Maybe my hips will be better in the future,” and “Are you ready to cha-cha-cha?” He even addressed the situation directly: “I can do no emotions,” and expressing his delight at the opportunity to be an android.
I wonder if he has a Droid phone?
And just in case the tape and mesh ensemble wasn’t enough: Lysacek brought along his sparkly white gloves from that delightful Stars On Ice Michael Jackson routine of his. Perfection.
Also, let’s just take a moment to ponder how much hair gel was involved in getting his hair to do that. As a sidenote.
And what did the judges have to say?
Len said, “Again you confused me [because the cha-cha is usually fluid;” whereas Carrie Ann was a fan of the rigidity. Bruno as per usual leaped out of his chair and effused, “It couldn’t be more futuristic… I thought was very creative and very inventive!”
At any rate, Lysacek and Trebunskaya did not quite mop the floor with the competition as they did last week, but they still did pretty well ending up with a combined 53/60.
In the end, the Olympian pair were the second couple to be named “safe” on Tuesday night, after Pussycat Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. Let’s go right ahead and call it now–just in case it hasn’t already been called– it is clearly going to come down to those two.
Other mayhem from this past week?
Chad Ochocinco wore a maroon velvet suit with zebra trim and no shirt for his sixties-style jive. Seriously. In an outfit like that, Bruno just had to come out and say it: “You definitely pimped that jive.”
I don’t even know.
The Pussycat did a fierce fifties style paso-doble, which her ever so witty partner had called “impassoble,” based on the combination of a bubbly era and a dramatic dance. Things turned out pretty well for the pair with a “feisty vibrant passionate performance,” as proclaimed by The Bruno.
I admit it was pretty awesome, and they clearly won the right to an encore on Tuesday night.
And to whom did we bid a fond farewell? Niecy Nash and her “jiggly parts” have been sent home. Nash was pretty good-natured about the affair doing a little dance as she was sent off and repeated her patented line: “Most women who can’t hula-hoop with a cheerio wouldn’t even attempt this!”
Goodbye sassy lady. To be fair though, I cannot have you interfering with the Olympic champion.
One last sidebar: I am adoring the Dance Center Sports Center spoof from this week’s elimination episode.
A couple of weeks ago I recounted my journey to the Nassau Coliseum and the experience of attending Stars On Ice; I reflected on the kitsch of a poppy ice show and the thrill of seeing Olympians perform in person. Last week (April 29, 2010) I was lucky enough to have an opportunity not only to witness two-time Olympian Johnny Weir deliver a premiere skate, but to experience a totally unexpected genre of figure skating melded with modern dance.
Ice Theatre of New York pushes the boundaries of traditional figure skating, specifically ice dancing; however, this is not the ice dancing with which one familiar from the Olympics, televised figure skating specials and tours such as Stars On Ice. Instead, ITNY approaches the sport as a vehicle for theatrical performance, embracing and emphasizing the artistic side of the figure skating. With such a creative and lyrical focus, it is no wonder that Johnny Weir would be interested in joining the company for a special Opening Night performance.
Over the past several years the top two men in American figure skating have been Evan Lysacek (the reigning Olympic Champion) and Johnny Weir (three-time National Champion), the former characterized as an athletic technician, the latter as a lyrical artist whose ways fared better under the old scoring system versus the new element-based tally. Lysacek has been performing with Stars On Ice, the only remaining national figure skating tour, while Weir has been closed out of such exposure since Champions on Ice folded in 2007 (he skated with that tour from 2004-2007). Instead Weir has appeared at such events as this, and on international tours such as Evgeny Plushenko’s Kings On Ice show in Russia.
Weir performed two exhibition programs for the ITNY opening night extravaganza. His appearance was clearly the marquee event of the show–fans roaring their love from first to last step on the ice. He presented a new program entitled “Heartbroken,” designed specifically to première at the ITNY event, choreographed himself and set to music by Richard Clayderman.
Weir also gave the crowd that for which they had truly come: a new Lady Gaga program. It was “Bad Romance,” there was an undefinable gold sequined shoulder/collar detail, clusters of feathers on his hips and a whole lot of sass. He also threw himself in a completely horizontal knee-slide across the entire ice. Twice. And then popped right back up and continued with the fabulousness. Maybe it was the intimacy of the space (which for ice rink standards is minuscule), maybe it was a reflection of how far away I had been seated for Stars On Ice, but being about 20 feet away from Weir for his jumps and spins gave me a whole new appreciation for the speed that is at stake. I could not attain a single decent photo of him spinning or spiraling– and oh did I try.
But more on Johnny Weir later. Here I would like to reflect of existence of Ice Theatre of New York in conjunction with a pop culture tour like Stars On Ice.
On the one hand, Stars On Ice is traditional and classic–kitsch points and competition style skates combined into an experience of Americana in the tradition of the Ice Capades– whereas ITNY identifies with avant-garde modern dance, pushing away from classic figure skating and resulting in highbrow figure skating performance that brings “classy” rather than “classic” to the table.
According to the organization’s statement, “ITNY’s vision is to bridge the divide between the dance and skating worlds and the organization has done so by commissioning works from renowned dance choreographers including Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch, Peter Martins, Susan Marshall, Ann Carlson and David Parsons; as well as works by noted ice choreographers such as Douglas Webster, Katherine Healy and David Liu.”
ITNY features nontraditional pairings, small and large groups, as well as traditional ice dance couples, such as Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre who skated one pop style piece to “Give Me One Reason,” that might have fit into a Stars On Ice program, as well as participating in less traditional pieces with other company members.
Aside from all the rabid Johnny Weir internet fan girls (of whom there were many and many of whom were actually quite loud and rude regarding the other performers), the whole evening was very enjoyable. It was a delightful blend of dance concepts and figure skating athleticism and technique. There were a variety of interludes throughout the evening that featured a lone skater practicing school figures of increasing difficulty, prompting the audience to reflect on the journey and dedication of figure skaters. It was during these brief moments that a distinct percentage of the audience voiced their boredom and proved an inability to appreciate the beauty and strength inherent in these movements executed by Elisabeth L’Heureux.
The idea of developing skating skills overtime was further explored by a humorous solo piece performed by Kenny Moir who portrayed the evolution from a slip’n’slide disaster on ice to a joyful bona fide figure skater. Moir skated “In A Nutshell” to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and ended the piece by helping another “new” skater take his first steps on ice.
Based on the variety of selection at the ITNY show, ranging from a Renaissance-style group court dance to a three woman interpretation of a Coldplay’s “Fix You” played by a string quartet and a very experimental three woman piece in which the skaters were all connected to each other by thick spandex sheets connected their unitards, providing a dynamic element for movement and manipulation.
I dare you to encounter something that bizarrely challenging at Stars On Ice. On the other hand, Stars On Ice brought performances by favorite Olympian athletes into my life, and I loved that. There is no fair means of comparing the two events with an eye towards determining whether one is better than the other, but if you have any interest in figure skating and you have the opportunity to experience such diverse modes of presenting this favored obscure winter sport, I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity– it will bring a whole new level to your understanding and appreciation of figure skating and the endless possibilities inherent in the form.
Ice Theater of New York has a regular annual season, in addition to tours outside of New York city, special singular events and international appearances.
For additional pictures, see my ITNY 2010 Opening Night gallery.
Here’s what you need to know from last week, assuming that you feel like you need to know, which hopefully is not really a make-or-break situation for you.
Last week as movie week. Chad Ochocinco did the quick step to the tune of “Bare Necessities,” from the animated Disney Jungle Book. There was tiger print involved. Partner Cheryl Burke had some sort of strange tail-like detail situation on the back of her dress.
Bruno felt that there was too much jungle fever in their quick step, plus, “I know you’re trying hard… but tonight it really fell to pieces.”
Ochocinco just really looked like he would rather be doing dirty things to his partner versus competing on Dancing with the Stars. Just my thought.
Also, everyone was fighting last week, thus in addition to be movie night, it was “Do you want to bone each other night.” Seriously, the question got put to nearly every couple: Is there love in the air? A lovers quarrel perhaps? Do dish.
Erin Andrews’ answer: “Not until he gets me a ring like Chad got Cheryl, are you joking me?”
It was awkward.
Kate Gosselin meanwhile threw a fit in rehearsal for her John Hughes Breakfast Club themed Foxtrot: “Are we swimming or are we dancing?” Then her partner Tony told her that she fails to put forth any effort ever.
And then they were eliminated with a judges score of 15 to boot. It was really sad for her. Especially after the judges’ comments in which Carrie Ann compared their dancing to the Charlie Brown teachers “wah wah wah wah” inaudible speaking. Len said that they had not so much danced as strolled to the music.
I feel bad for Gosselin, this was clearly no enjoyable stroll in the park for her, and everyone is always hating. I mean, yes, she did that awful “Paparazzi” dance and she cannot seem to move with anything other than fear, but like… rough city.
Evan Lysacek update for the week: He and Trebunskaya were Armageddon themed with Aerosmith (which incidentally was on television this weekend). Their rumba involved Trebunskaya in a sheer sparkly situation and their highest score yet: 27, ranking second behind the Pussycat who scored 29/30.
Figure skating comparison of the week from Lysacek: “In skating we try to keep our hips really firm and tight because those are our stability.”
Trebunskaya revealed that she is “a little concerned because skating is so different from dancing the rumba.” She has been joining Lysacek on his touring with Stars On Ice so that they can train on the road. She is enjoying exploring American with him.
What is in store for tonight? Well… tonight the stars get to design the costumes and some of them sounded like they were quite looking forward to an opportunity for sartorial revenge. Others were just intimidated by the responsibility, Lysacek among them: “Anna’s look comes first. If I can’t figure out something for myself I’ll just wear a tux again.”
Oh Evan, we know you will. We know.
These days there is only one national tour allowing enthusiasts to see their favorite figure skaters. The Ice Capades folded in 1995 after over fifty years of kitschy entertainment, Champions on Ice went out of business in 2008, and Stars on Ice is the last tour geared towards audiences looking for competition style skating rather than novelty shows aimed at children (i.e. Disney on Ice).
Not that this prevents a certain level of highly entertaining kitsch. There are group numbers with loads of sequins and outrageous Star Search lighting during which tour members flit about to the likes of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and “I’ve Got the Music In Me” (Kiki Dee Band), among other selections that will make you giggle, including one number incorporating a giant disco ball for extra fun.
It is also vastly entertaining. Vastly.
At the risk of sounding a touch over-excited: There is nothing like seeing Olympic athletes perform in person. Truly. Especially when you have your own personal Scott Hamilton (read: Kathleen) to comment, gasp and clutch with you.
After the opening group number, the show began with Mirai Nagasu skating a version of her competitive short program to music including “He’s A Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean (I told you there would be multiple instances of pirates after the golden dollar debacle).
For reference, this is the program during which she spun so fast at the Olympics that she got a bloody nose on the way to a fourth place finish in Vancouver. Mere weeks later it was the program that garnered her a personal record at the 2010 ISU World Championships and first place going into the free skate with the break out performance of the competition.
Nagasu is purely delightful, the girl is going places; like she says, “I just want people to know that I’m the future.” Her signature grace on the ice came across even in the upper levels– sprightly footwork, fluid lines and unrivaled spins were a joy to witness in person. One might think that watching the same program for the fourth time [after televised coverage of Nationals, Olympics and Worlds] would have been old hat, but it was nothing of the sort– if anything, I just knew what I had to look forward to from the moment she stepped out onto the ice.
Suffice it to say that seeing what Nagasu can accomplish in the coming 2010/11 season will be terribly exciting, and I look forward to watching her show the world what she is capable of.
Second up, another Olympian in the form of Jeremy Abbott– another Words to Bumble favorite– who did not make out quite as well in either Vancouver or Torino for the Worlds. Sadly he did not perform his Beatles short program from the competition season, but he did don another classy mildly bedazzled shirt for a skate to Michael Bublé’s “At This Moment.”
The unfortunate thing about Abbott is that as delightful as he is when he is on, he clearly tends to succumb to nerves after even a minor slip up. During his second solo on the ice Abbott had a few issues and touched down on the ice once or twice, never seeming to recover from an early issue.
Comment from Kathleen: “That boy really knows how to swivel his hips.” This is why she is my own personal Scott Hamilton.
Incidentally, Stars On Ice was founded by Scott Hamilton when his Ice Capades contract was not renewed in the mid-eighties.
Olympians Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated their Indian original dance from the 2009/2010 season. Theirs was one of the few at the Olympics that was not entirely scarring, and its energetic pace definitely translated well as a piece of entertainment to keep the show going. Their crazy lifts (like the one where Davis stands on the back of White’s calf) are responsible for my growing enjoyment of ice dancing, which I often find to be a bit trying, frankly.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto gave a narrative performance to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me,” telling the story of a relationship over the years, from childhood into adulthood, complete with props and multiple costume changes. It was pretty adorable.
One of the most distressing aspects of the evening was the low energy of the audience. It was pretty obvious that the lack of enthusiasm was dragging on skaters throughout the evening, most notably Alissa Czisny’s second solo, “I Like the Way You Move,” which should have been a particularly high-energy number.
Michael Weiss on the other hand was particularly adept at connecting with the audience with a rocking crowd-pleaser performance of “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” complete with my favorite thing ever: back flips!
There was clutching, there was gasping, there were joyous exclamations with each jump– and it was not just Kathleen and myself–everyone was loving it! I always miss back flips, I think there should always be more back flipping– it just brings joy.
However, the ultimate crowd favorite was Olympic champion Evan Lysacek (and how relived am I to be writing about his figure skating skills again instead of Dancing with the Stars!?). I had wondered if he would perform the date that brought him to the dance. He did not, but what he did was amazingly fabulous.
Picture this: the crowd goes insane when “our” Olympic champion is introduced. He appears on the ice… Is that a singular sparkling glove that he is sporting?
Yes it is.
What are those dulcet tones that I hear? Oh, Michael Jackson? Oh, “Man in the Mirror?” Yes, please.
I die. So much joy. Just… watch it. Do yourself a favor. Try to be cranky after that.
As you may surmise, clutching ensued. That was one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen. And they say Lysacek is boring and mechanical. Did they not note the glove?
Sheer joy aside, the one thing I took home from watching Lysacek skate is that he is one tall man. It never really came across to me while watching televised events, but seeing him in person– I repeat– that is a tall man. He towers over other skaters, even alone on the ice his height dominates, which may be part of why he is so impressive. So says Kathleen.
Other members of the tour:
The ever delightful Todd Eldredge: Discuss the fact that Eldredge has been skating since I first started watching… and he is still awesomely at it.
Yuka Sato has been on the tour for several years and is also Jeremy Abbott’s coach, so this has been an interesting little exercise for them figuring out how to tour together as colleagues rather than coach and coachee.
Lastly, Sasha Cohen skated as the only survivor of Champions on Ice. Apparently in the figure skating world, the dissolution of previous ice tours and the dominance of Stars On Ice is chuck full of drama– drama for another time perhaps.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience. A little bizarre, a little campy, but also fantastic. There was a little something for everyone: classical pieces, pop programs, campy musical theateresque group numbers, Olympic caliber programs from the faces the world learned to love in Vancouver– overall good times. Plus, when you have gotten used to sitting through an entire night of compulsory dances, the variety brought the best of the best into one whole.
So if you have ever pondered trekking out to see a figure skating tour, I fully recommend the experience. If you cannot make it out: check out the gallery of additional photos from the night on Long Island.