Welcome back, Sparklebarfers! It’s great that you’re dancing (you should always be dancing), but for the love of Gene Kelly’s estate, could you be a bit more… iconic about it? Get a snake in there, maybe? Pose as a stripper and then call it a rumba? Ah, yes, that’s perfect. Tremendous. Amazing. “Tehhhhhhhhhn!”
Thus went Famous Dances week on Dancing With the Stars, featuring guest judge Olivia Newton-John, temp co-host Leah Remini (filling in for Erin Andrews), and more male pros than you can possibly imagine in silk short-shorts to honor Madonna. Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel struck their final poses on Week 6, and not a moment too soon. In the transformative spirit of “Vogue,” the woman who entered the ballroom a disgraced celebrity chef will flash in our memories forever as that really loud grandma who loved to show off her underwear.
Perhaps there’s a late bloomer in all of us.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 40/40 After Week 5’s disappointing 7s, Tamar was sick with grief or the flu or something and could barely function. I thought we might get a whole week of my new favorite soap opera Two Sad Vals: A Coveted Mirrorwall Tragedy, which would have been, in the word of Leah Remini, “amazing”. (DRINK!) But Tamar bravely returned, longing to be something better than she was last Monday, and the pair totally rocked a “jazz” interpretation of Janet Jackson’s groundbreaking “Rhythm Nation” video.
More tongue! Tamar was basically indistinguishable from the rest of Our Pros, and not just due to costuming and lighting. The routine stayed true to the original while offering its own flair. I loved how Val made sure to thank Janet’s choreographer Anthony Thomas for inspiring an entire generation of dancers.
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker: 40/40 Andy boldly took on Gene Kelly’s role in their dance-on-air homage to Singing in the Rain, widely considered the best musical of all time thanks in no small part to its…
…stunning stairography! I loved Allison’s recreation of “Good Morning” here and think all the props and theatricality worked in the favor of two very high-energy people. Andy tends to flail around and lose character sometimes, but there was no room for nonsense in this sprawling routine. It was very clear he took this week’s icon-channeling assignment seriously.
“Gene, if you’re listening, man, I had an incredible week getting to know you.” Aww. Andy! Anyone else sprout a baby tear here? #sparklebarf
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 40/40 Officer Inaba of the esteemed Planet Mirrorballus Lift Police must have been off-duty during this “rumba,” which was pretty much the same routine Patrick Swayze and Derek’s season 11 partner Jennifer Grey did while having the time of their lives in Dirty Dancing. Don’t just stand there; let’s get to it:
I know everyone said they nailed this iconic lift, but a little perspective, please? We’ve got a ballerina floating in heaven vs. a ray of sunshine darting through a pool. Both lovely images, to be sure. But nothing compares to the original, not even when copied move for move.
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 39/40 From Nick’s Travolta-esque “mirrorball and chain” streetwalking intro to Sharna’s fro to the dazzling blue-lit nightclub vibe of it all, this couple’s Saturday Night Fever homage was disco fever at its finest.
Of course “You Should Be Dancing”! There are no other options! I loved everything about this, especially the fact that there was actual samba in the mix. Carrie Ann thought Nick didn’t look confident, but I thought he’d never sold it (whatever it was!) harder. Oh well. He’ll just have to give good face next week, too, to win her 10.
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 38/40 Carlos objected to a rumba in the style of Magic Mike — understandably, as those words never belong in the same sentence. He’d recently come out as a man of faith and had no business “Pony”-ing up for paddles. The blessed Witney tried her best to convince her partner it was okay to believe in the stripperrumba, too. Because it’s all relative, y’know? There’s a lot of soul in that musical where they bump and grind it. Your life’s a ballroom now, Carlos, so get up on the dance floor and strip, dammit!
And strip he did. “You’ve answered my prayers!” cried Bruno, while Carrie Ann and Judge Juli tried everything in the book to avoid using the term “package.” The routine had “a lot of elegance and grace,” said Officer Inaba. “You handled the shirt-tearing like a pro,” said Julianne. “You’re all dead to me,” said Carlos’ wife Alexa’s face backstage, more than a few times.
Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: 32/40 Nothing — not even “jazz” featuring Emma’s butt in those leather pants — could ever hope to match the original “You’re The One That I Want” routine featuring Olivia Newton-John’s legs in those leather pants. But against all odds, Hayes somehow managed to let his body go with the flow and not totally embarrass himself out there despite having never heard of Grease before. Seriously. He thought he was playing “Danny Kuzo.” You’re telling me this kid has never snuck into a slumber party for preteen girls? What kind of Vine star is he? And a followup, as always: What is a Vine star?
I’d like to think Olivia was all “Ooh, ooh, ooh (honey)” in the background, like in a sassy way. But in truth the original Sandy had nothing but vague pleasantries for the couples all night.
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas: 30/40 I can only assume Mark’s original plan was to dress/dance as the Burmese python in their cha cha send-up to Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U” performance from the 2001 VMAs. Sadly, a real snake showed up in the studio at the last minute (maybe Bindi called a friend) and the plan disintegrated like so many of his other cosplay dreams.
“She’s, like, exploring my hair,” Alexa whispered softly, in awe. “Oh, yeah,” Mark retreated casually, already jealous. You could almost feel the wheels spinning under his man bun as he used his own imagination (that’s what it’s for) to plot his revenge…
…and then he actually did it. HE OUT-HAIRED HER!!!
The judges agreed Alexa (she of the perfect 40 last week, mind you) is inconsistent and needs to control her whole body. “Sometimes you’d be small with movements, sometimes really big, and then you had claw hands,” Carrie Ann summed it up eloquently.
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 30/40 Everywhere poor Alek turns is heartache. First he’s overwhelmed by a personal connection to the Oregon school shootings, then he has to leave his new love interest Emma behind after the Switch Up, and now the guy with zero acting ability is supposed to fiercely channel Elvis Presley in the iconic dance from Jailhouse Rock? Mirrorball madness, I tell you! Dance-wise, Alek did just fine in this week’s jive, though I was a bit more focused on the four lively backup dancers thanks to the excellent multi-level set design.
“It takes a lot of courage to take on The King, and we know you have a lot of that,” Olivia Newton-John assured the American hero in her most substantial commentary of the night. My fantasy version of ONJ as guest judge would have flirtatiously sung different sections of “Magic” to everyone (on roller skates for Nick Carter) and called it a night. But I guess that’s why there’s YouTube, the dream that will open the door to any reinterpretation you desire.
Beauty’s where you find it.
’Til next Tuesday, Sparklebarf Nation! Strike a pose at every corner, but do NOT try the Dirty Dancing lift at home.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.