Dancing With the Stars" struck a very different note than last week's tear-soaked, sentimental evening of touching stories. Judges and contestants alike were amped for "Rock Week," kicking off with an appearance by the legendary metal band Kiss, who set the tone with "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night."
Energy was high, but so were the stakes -- this season has the strongest standard for dancing in the show's history, and the contestants all face tough competition. Yet the challenge of ballroom dancing to rock hits didn't daunt any of these dancers, and the performers once again exceeded the judge’s expectations. Despite the extraordinarily high scores, one talented celebrity must go the way of Jack Wagner and Martina Navratilova this week and leave the competition. Here are the week's top five dances:
(5) Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas (24 points)
This demure classical singer has dominated the competition from day one, but she took a dip this week after struggling to master the paso doble, an intense, aggressive dance that is modeled after the drama of a bullfight. Her partner, Mark Ballas, took her to a boxing class to help bring out her inner rebel. The black catsuit that she donned for the dance helped convey a dominatrix feel and accentuated her fierce, feisty attitude. Her transformation from warbler to warrior was impressive, but she lost some artistry among the intensity. "It wasn't as clean and precise and defined as a paso doble should be,” said judge Bruno Tonioli.
(4) Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff (23 points)
Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw was in his element this week and jumped at the chance to channel his onstage persona into a tango. Gavin was due for a break -- he and Karina have been in the bottom two for the last two weeks. Their tango to the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" was thrilling, eccentric, and more memorable than any of their previous performances. Although the judges criticized the singer for his strange posture, judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman were swept away by his unexpected flair. Surprisingly, Bruno, who is usually a sucker for theatrics, was the most preoccupied with Gavin's technical failures. Yet his rapid improvement is promising, and the dance's edgy approach scores points in our book.
(3) Maria Menounos and Derek Hough (26 points)
Despite a hurt rib, Maria managed to steam up the ballroom last week with a sultry, crowd-pleasing rumba. Her mechanical difficulties continued this episode with stress fractures in her feet, but her irrepressible grin made it hard to tell she was hurting. Her tango was fun and irreverent, and a little bit of head-banging paid homage to the week's theme. The performance was solid, but failed to wow as much as last week's. Len noted, "The tango is about aggression and control, and although it had the aggression, it lacked control." Maybe so, but we have to agree with her partner Derek: "This girl is a warrior."
(2) Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower (26 points)
Roshon won over the judges last week with his Michael Jackson-inspired samba. This time, he and Chelsie took on the Viennese waltz and delivered a regal, romantic, and smoothly executed performance with a maturity that belied Roshon's young age. The success of the dance is undeniably due to the incredible chemistry between Roshon and Chelsie, which jumps off the screen. Carrie Ann was smitten with the Disney star and told him that he was the "best dancer" of all the men in this season's cast. Despite that excellent endorsement, Roshon's favorite moment was Len making his dreams come true by telling him, "Good job, dawg."
(1) Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd (27 points)
In a calculated move to win over Bruno, Super Bowl champ Donald Driver agreed to go shirtless for his stab at a paso doble. With a forceful, passionate dance performance reminiscent of Broadway, Donald displayed everything that was missing from Katherine Jenkins' paso doble and more. He communicated the aggressive, primal nature of the dance while remaining precise and controlled, and still managed to inject a sense of humor into the routine. This was probably the only week and dance where his bare chest, rippling with tribal tattoos, could have added instead of taken away from the performance.
His effect on Bruno was successful -- the judge called his dance "muscular, masculine, and magnificent." But Len had the final word, and summed it up by saying admiringly, "You frighten the life out of me."
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 PM and Tuesdays at 9 PM on ABC.
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