After a somewhat controversial elimination for Week Five – the first week in which the lowest-scoring competitor was not eliminated – Week Six of Dancing With the Stars followed up its unabashedly campy “TV Theme Night” with a pyrotechnics-laden, headbanging “Rock and Roll Night.” The competitors were challenged to perform either the fiery paso doble or the passionate tango as their individual dances, and then were also required to participate in a rock and roll marathon following the completion of the individual round. In addition to the thirty possible points on the individual scale, points were awarded for the rock and roll marathon according to the order in which couples were eliminated.
The night, however, didn’t kick off immediately with the competition. Instead, the top ten dances of the series (as chosen by the viewers) were showcased for the first half-hour of the two-hour show, and featured, in ascending order:
10. Season Eight champion Shawn Johnson’s freestyle with partner Mark Ballas
9. Season Nine champion Donny Osmond’s Argentine tango with partner Kym Johnson
8. Season Five champion Helio Castroneves’ quickstep with partner Julianne Hough
7. Season Four champion Apolo Anton Ohno’s freestyle with partner Julianne Hough
6. Season Nine contestant Joanna Krupa’s “futuristic paso” with partner Derek Hough
5. Season Five runner-up Mel B’s paso doble with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy
4. Season Ten champion Nicole Scherzinger’s “50’s paso” with partner Derek Hough
3. Season Four champion Apolo Anton Ohno’s samba with partner Julianne Hough
2. Season Eight runner-up Gilles Marini’s Argentine tango with partner Cheryl Burke
1. Season Two champion Drew Lachey’s freestyle with partner Cheryl Burke
While it was undeniably a way to fill out the two-hour time slot, it was enjoyable to see a recap of some of the best dances ever seen on the Dancing stage, and served as a reminder of the level of competition that is yet to come in the remaining weeks of this season. That being said, on to the recap of tonight’s dances.
The Hills‘ star Audrina Patridge opened the night with her paso doble, and unfortunately, seemed to have fallen right back into her old trick of dancing without passion. While her waltz two weeks ago seemed to be the moment when the need to show a character finally clicked, her paso fell flat. “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is a great choice for a paso, considering its driving, powerful beat, but Patridge just didn’t have that edge that is also needs. Yes, the paso is terse, sharp, and precise, but most of the time, she just looked wooden and stiff. Her lack of emotion despite fairly good technique earned her some pretty harsh criticism from Len Goodman, and even though the judges awarded her a 24, she needs to find a way to express that passion in coming weeks, or she might just dance her way right out of contention, which would be a shame.
Patridge was followed by Kyle Massey, whose tango more than made up for a dismal foxtrot in Week Five. Massey might be the first dancer all season to come out after getting a disappointing score and really prove that he had taken every last comment from the judges to heart, worked on them, and put them into execution. His tango was sharp and intense, his footwork was cleaner than it’s been all season, and there was a vastly different boy on display than we’ve seen on the dance floor thus far. Gone was the oft-out-of-control Massey who put performance above technique, and he was replaced with a young man whose unparalleled showmanship was finally coupled with attention to detail. Even with a few missed steps, it was a pretty terrific tango that earned the judges’ praise, and well worth watching and the 23 it garnered.
Unlike Massey, whose dance was an undeniable improvement over Week Five, Jennifer Grey’s paso doble, while intense and passionate and fiery, lacked the control and precision that Grey has exhibited thus far. The attitude was right, the technique was a little too rough. While it was electric to watch, and better than the foxtrot from last week as far as visible connection to the material, there was also something uncomfortable about watching it. Perhaps Grey’s frustration with her performance from last week, a rocky patch with Derek, and having been in jeopardy was an emotion too raw to tap into, but overall, it wasn’t up to the bar that she has set for herself so far. The judges expressed concern over her downward trend, and scored her dance a 20, placing her third from the bottom on the leaderboard, the lowest she’s been all season.
Like Grey, Rick Fox had a few rough patches in his dance, but the overall result was much more favorable. While he still really looks like he’s over-thinking each step, leading to a facial expression that isn’t so much intensity on his face as it is an angry sort of blank slate, most of the moves were good, and he performed admirably. There were, however, other moments when he was really kind of robotic, and the grey-metallic color scheme wasn’t helping that image. Burke’s done a great job with her choreography as far as taking advantage of his powerful frame while also downplaying it so as not to look dwarfed by him. Overall, it was a pretty good tango, if not a little unnerving because of the expression on Rick’s face. The judges awarded him a 24.
Fox’s tango was followed by a tango from Alaska’s favorite daughter, Bristol Palin, and finally, Palin got it right. Her tango was leaps and bounds ahead of her other dances, and absolutely deserved the high praise from the judges for finally breaking out of the confined, nervous, totally-out-of-her-element shell she’s existed in to this point, and for putting on a really tremendous performance. That’s the kind of routine that Mark’s creativity is best lent to, and far more beneficial to Bristol’s future on the show than trying to show personality by dancing in a monkey suit. While she was given the opportunity to dance this week because of a timely save by viewers’ votes last week, perhaps that was the kick she needed to finally step up her game. Her tango earned her a 23.
The second-to-last individual performance of the night was given by Kurt Warner, who performed a paso doble to “The Final Countdown” with partner Anna Trebunskaya – and it was such a different Warner! He was intense, fierce, and rocking a completely different kind of character than he displayed in Week Five. It wasn’t the worst dance he’s done, but it wasn’t the Warner we’ve come to know and love, either; that endearing, charming, debonair, kind soul. He looked a little out of sorts at times, and some of his arm movements were wild, but overall, it could have been much, much worse. It was also kind of hilarious to have Bret Michaels make a cameo during rehearsal, but poor Warner is definitely not a rock-inspired-paso kind of guy, and that was proven by the 18 the judges gave him.
Once again, Brandy claimed the top spot on the leaderboard with her tango to “Holding Out for a Hero.” To be honest, the dance was often a little violent, actually. It could have been a little bit of a re-manifestation of the power struggle between Brandy and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Overall, it was certainly intense and passionate, and another dance that helps solidify her position as a real contender, but it looked kind of like Brandy got so invested in the character of the dance that she lost herself completely and forgot it was a dance. A great performance, but…wow. It was technically sound, and emotionally raw, but when your professional partner appears to have been belted in the nose, there’s probably a little bit of reigning in that needs to be done. Regardless, she maintained her status as leader of the pack with her score of 26.
The rock and roll marathon immediately followed the individual round, and the couples were expected to dance for four minutes in a combination of swing, jive, and lindy hop steps set to classic rock and roll music provided by the house band. One by one, the judges raised a paddle indicating the couple they wanted to leave the floor, until Brandy and Chmerkovskiy were the last pair standing and added to their lead over the rest of the pack. Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough came in second, and the additional nine points they earned allowed them to just sneak ahead of Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas in the standings, leaving Palin in the bottom two for the second week in a row.
This might be the crucial week that fashions the look of the weeks to come, as previously-strong contenders begin to fade and celebridancers that might have been close to being written off stage comebacks. But one thing is for certain – “Rock and Roll Night” was a rockin’ good time.