Welcome to spring break, Dancing With the Stars style. This week’s festivities celebrated all things spring break (which must be said in the style of James Franco’s character in Spring Breakers at all times). Normally a spring-break theme would be an excuse to wear a tiny swimsuit on stage, since the stars of this show wear them every week, most opted for more traditional spring break attire a.k.a. ball gowns. Not only did the shining stars have to perform individual routines, but tonight marked the inaugural group dance. One extra addition to the festivities is that this recap was recorded live from Hollywood and certain eagle-eyed television watchers could have seen a producer scolding a woman in the second row for scribbling notes during performances. Sorry for sullying the High Art that is Dancing With the Stars, America! Bright side is that a certain editor now has photographic evidence of my diligence.
Aside from being caught writing in pencil (shudder!) on national television, being in the audience for the show is always fun. Not only do you get a good workout from all the standing up and sitting down and standing up and sitting down and encouraged enthusiastic clapping, but you also get a glimpse of all the magic that is not seen on camera. For instance, Derek and Julianne Hough’s mom was on set and danced with her son on stage during a commercial break. And Bruno Tonioli takes his judging very seriously, leaning way over the table to get a good look at everyone’s feet. And shout out to the warm-up artist who always clapped first, clapped longest and made sure the people in the balcony didn’t forget to cheer. Many current celebrities (Demi Moore, Milo Ventimiglia and Soleil Moon Frye) and former contestants (Amy Purdy, Melissa Rycroft, Antonio Sabàto Jr., Florence Henderson and Bethany Mota) were in attendance too, making it easier to seem cool while blithely cheering when the warm-up artist gave a Dancing With the Stars T-shirt to a 100-year-old woman in the audience. Good times were had by all, except for the star who had to leave the show at the end of the night.
Here’s what happened on Dancing With the Stars live:
Patti LaBelle and Artem Chigvintsev: During the opening package, Patti said she was excited to wear a bikini for the spring-break dance and then loudly yelled, “Psych!” Their quickstep was fun and lively, so lively that halfway through the performance one shoe went flying off her foot. So she danced with one shoe, much to the amusement of everyone. She later told me that she actually wanted both shoes to come off, but one got stuck, so she just went with it. Head judge Len Goodman said it best when he called her “cool by the pool,” laughingly adding that it was “the best dance of the night so far.” It was the only dance of the night, Len. 29/40
Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough: These two pros have raised the bar so high that it’s clear they are being judged on a different scale than the rest of the competitors. Their tango was fun to watch, especially because the Spring Break tie-in seemed to be “Barbecue Mishap” thanks to a set design that involved shooting flames followed by an intense blast of fog. The judges worried that Nastia was relying too much on her gymnastics training and not losing herself in the artistry of dance. After the show, I asked her what she planned to do with that critique and she said she had no idea. Derek had a few thoughts, though, but most of them involved copious amounts of alcohol. (Note: neither of them drink, so it should make for a fun night.) 34/40
Willow Shields and Mark Ballas: For their routine, Mark and Willow decided to do a Whiplash-themed salsa number to the song “Tequila.” Only on Dancing With the Stars, kids! Sadly, not one judge made a “not quite my tempo” joke, mostly because the routine was fast-paced fun that stuck to the beat. 34/40
Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson: The Shark Tank star, who is used to success, was crushed by his low scores last week, and when he heard he had to do the jive, he was convinced the producers had it out for him. The routine set to “Surfin’ Safari” was a light-hearted romp, but unfortunately Robert’s timing was off again. Carrie Ann Inaba said, “All the steps were there, just not in the right time.” She softened the blow by pointing out that it was better than last week. 28/40
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess: Fight! Fight! The opening package showed Sharna snapping at the veteran during rehearsal. This upset Noah, because he believes Sharna is really nice and wants the world to know it. To prove that their chemistry is intact, they danced a sensual rumba that conjured up a lot of heat (mostly due to the faux campfire set up on stage). The judges used the words hip action a lot in complimenting Noah’s dancing and told him not to worry about the rehearsal footage. Best part of their number came later when the cameras were off and host Tom Bergeron squatted over the fake campfire, heating up his slacks and announcing, “I’m making Hot Pockets!” to no one in particular. 29/40
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy: Rumer and Val were assigned the task of creating a jazz routine to Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious.” It’s a high bar to beat the women of Destiny’s Child on the dance floor, but Val managed to choreograph a memorable routine with Rumer bravely stepping in for Beyoncé. (She earned Patti LaBelle’s seal of approval by letting Patti pat the merchandise, so to speak.) The routine would have been applauded on So You Think You Can Dance, but some of the judges (Len mostly) thought it was too raunchy. He proclaimed, “It’s a ballroom not a bedroom!” Val agreed, but bravely noted that the producers assigned him that song and that dance and he just went with what he thought they wanted. Obviously Bruno loved the routine asking them to give him all the “hot and raunchy.” 32/40
Chris Soules and Witney Carson: The Bachelor was berated by Julianne last week for his lack of musicality, so to prove he had it, the producers whipped together a little montage of him dancing to “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” from Footloose, a movie with which Julianne is well acquainted. Chris applied his newfound musicality in his Viennese Waltz to Grease track “Hopelessly Devoted to You” — in a merry-go-round in a dense fog, because why not, right? The judges loved it, and Julianne high-fived him for his incredible improvement. 31/40
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker: It became clear that my neighbors were all related to Riker when they erupted in incredible loud cheers the moment he hit the stage for his Samba. As usual for Riker, the routine was fast and furious and nearly flawlessly executed. While Len thought he “moved like Spider-man,” which is apparently a bad thing, Bruno was effusive in his praise, alliterating an entire string of adjectives to great effect. Then he and Carrie Ann gave Riker 10s. 37/40
Team YOLO: Team captain Nastia chose Willow, Noah and Robert for her team and then promptly left, because she lives in New York and won’t be there for rehearsals. She returned a few days before showtime to discover they had choreographed a big beach party. The routine was light and airy and each of the solo numbers were solid, but the best part was when Mark Ballas kicked a beach ball squarely into the face of a tiny teenager who was part of a crowd gathered around the stage for the routine. The girl did an admirable job not flipping her lid or even flinching when it happened. The judges gave the team 39/40.
Team Trouble: Team captain Rumer invited Riker, Patti and Chris to dance on her team. They quickly settled on a Breakfast Club inspired school scene with Patti playing a strict teacher to a group of bratty teens. Unfortunately a prop chalkboard blocked most of the routine from my seat, but the parts that I could see were entertaining, especially Chris as a shirtless jock ripping open his letterman jacket and throwing Witney Carson in the air cheerleader style. 39/40
Who’s in Jeopardy: Patti, Riker, Robert and Noah. Noah and Riker were clearly filler, so they were sent back to safety quickly, leaving Robert and Patti to sweat it out.
Who Went Home: Patti LaBelle. The grand dame of Dancing With the Stars. When I spoke with her after the show she was very positive about the experience and wasn’t sorry to be going home at all. Viva LaBelle!