Thankfully, the three best dancers made the final this season. As I did once before, I’ve decided to Tivo-blog the end of the show. One thing I should note is that I prefer ballroom to Latin. Latin styles tend to involve quick leg and hip action. Fairly tall people, like me at 6 foot 1, have trouble physically keeping the beat. It’s not coincidental that the better Latin dancers are shorter. On the other hand, the long flowing lines of ballroom are easier with height and stature. Plus, the ballroom dances have more elegance.
In the group cha-cha, each couple plays to their strengths. Christian and Cheryl stay mostly open, focusing on hips and slides. According to my estimate, they’re hand-in-hand facing each other for only about 20 seconds of their minute. For comparison, Jason and Edyta work in typical ballroom positions, hand-to-hand facing, for over 40 seconds. Instead of hip sway, they dance with a back sway and Jason’s athleticism. Kristi and Mark focus on Kristi, who is at least as athletic as Cheryl and Edyta; they’re hand-in-hand facing for about 30 seconds. Their show moves are spins, because an ice skater can spin like crazy.
After the individual minutes, the couples dance as a group. Jason misses a step, which Bruno catches, and he makes a little cringing smile. Christian has better musicality than Jason. Then again, even with two arms, Christian couldn’t make the final lift seem so simple. The word “Wow” came out of my mouth. Sure, you have two world-class athletes involved, but that doesn’t make it less gorgeous. At the end, they celebrate as a group. That’s one of the great things about this show. Because the judges serve as the foils, and because the contestants understand the purpose of competition, they are often happy for each other.
What is that purpose? Competition and athletics drive us to be better people. We learn strategy, discipline, practice, and teamwork. After the training, however, too many people think of winning as the goal, and self-improvement as the side effect. This is wrong. When playing card games, I used to say that my goal was to play a flawless game, and winning would be a side effect. Card games have random chance. Against someone of equal talent and preparation, my play can guarantee I don’t lose the game, but it will never guarantee victory. Sometimes good players lose. That’s not the point. It’s about what I can control. That difference, playing for effort and not result, made me a better player. And I did pretty well. Similarly, if I were dancing against Kristi, I would lose. She’s got more skill and experience. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, or gain a great deal from the experience. Besides bringing partner dancing back, for which I am highly grateful, DwtS also puts competition in the proper context. No wonder I like it so much.
Anyway, it’s time for judge commentary. Len mentions Christian’s hips and Jason’s elegance (and agrees with me that he’s better in ballroom dances like the foxtrot), but calls Kristi the total package. Carrie Ann declares Kristi as the winner, hands down. I agree. She is both an athlete and an entertainer, while the two gentlemen are one but not the other. The judges give Christian 8, 9, and 9, for 26; Jason 8, 8, and 8, for 24; and Kristi 10, 10, and 10, for 30. That’s about right.The second half of the show is time for freestyle. Kristi and Mark do a highly technical motown dance, mambo and hip-hop. To give you some idea of the difficulty, Mark does an assisted backflip as the third or fourth toughest trick. There were a few minor timing errors; I noticed two on Kristi’s part. The judges award 10, 10, and 10, for another 30. I’m a little surprised; I thought Len would score a 9, because of the minor awkward moments.
Jason and Edyta dance to Will Smith’s Miami, which is a mistake. It’s a hip-hop song, not a ballroom number. Jason is a ballroom dancer. He can’t win with this, because Kristi is much better in open position dancing. A cabaret number would have been a better choice. They still could have the lifts, full overhead spinning lifts which were at least as good as Kristi and Mark’s. They still could have removed some clothes; as Bruno mentioned, it is like watching centerfolds. Overall, 9, 9, 9 is about right here. It wasn’t as good as the first pair on the ground.
Christian and Cheryl are the last pair; they choose meringue. Here, Christian’s arm injury is a severe disadvantage, because they’re limited to one handed lifts and moves. It’s not that their aerial action isn’t good; it is, but the other two couple are well, well ahead. A bigger problem is that they can’t perform any two-handed dance moves, which means that they’re limited in their turns and even their dancing positions. It’s a very good dance, and Cheryl choreographed it well. That said, in terms of dancing talent and aerial talent, Christian is nowhere near Kristi. He’s not even Jason, even though his scores of 9, 8, and 9 give him a total of 26 for this dance and 52 for the evening.
Going into the final, Kristi has 60, well ahead of the other two stars. She’s been the best and should win. Overall, Jason’s been better than Christian, particularly in the ballroom dances, so I think he should finish second. We shall see.