"Dancing with the Stars": Dancers publicly show their private side
(CBS News) Monday night, for many, represented the most popular annual edition of "Dancing with the Stars."
Was it because the dancers went out of their physical comfort zone to attempt leaps beyond their sinews? No, it was because viewers could peer into the stars' private lives and, hopefully, see them tell a weepy tale before they performed.
First to reveal something was Jack Wagner. Last year, he had "a miracle happen." It was the tale of a girl who grabbed him before a concert and declared she was his daughter. What possible dance would be appropriate for a moving story like that? Why, it was a samba. Yes, a celebration set to Wagner's own music.
Wagner did a rather good job of exuberantly moving hips that can't be less than half a century old. This was remarkably full of cheery, new-father zest.
"I had a couple of happy pills before I came on," said judge Len Goodman. "Your best dance," he concluded.
"I was crying in your package," said Carrie Ann Inaba, to no guffaws at all. "I want to see more of you," she said, to plenty of applause.
This was a rumba before which partner Derek Hough told her: "Pretend I'm William Levy." This might have made it additionally difficult for Menounos. Hough is to Levy what Toby Maguire is to Brad Pitt. However, he did place his lips on Menounos while she was lying on the floor. And this was within 30 seconds of the dance beginning. In all, this was pleasantly sultry. Which has surely never been said of "Material Girl" before.
"I felt it," said Bruno Tonioli. "I felt it too," declared Hough. "I bet you did," replied Tonioli.
"That was the vertical and horizontal expression of the true horizontal desire," said Inaba. Yes, even with Menounos' two broken ribs. Or is it now only one? Or even none? For we were shown images of Menounos in the ring from Sunday's night's "Wrestlemania."
Gladys Knight chose 1957, because it was the first Gladys Knight and the Pips' tour. She learned from Sam Cooke. "He talked me how to talk. He talked me how to walk."
So to Cooke's "Cupid", Knight attempted a foxtrot. This was so languid that it was almost a foxstep. Knight is always intent in moving at her own pace.
"I saw the improvement this week," said Inaba. "You dance like you sing. Sensuous, soulful, rich and divine."
Goodman appreciated that Knight is the same age as he is. "Can I please be a Pip?" he said.
Personal criticism tends not to flow on this personal night.
Roshon Fegan isn't old enough to have too many personal memories, surely. "MJ is my hero," said Fegan. Not Michael Jordan, but Michael Jackson. So Travis Payne, Jackson's choreographer, turned up to help. There was crotch-grabbing in rehearsal. But wait, this was a samba.
In the real thing, Fegan had the young MJ's big hair. He moved with consummate energy and excitement. But then, oh, yes - half way through - there was the crotch grab.
Goodman liked the "devil may care" attitude, but he wished there had been a little more, well, samba. In Tonioli's view, Jackson would have loved it. Inaba thought Fegan's timing wasn't Jackson-like at all.
Gavin DeGraw saw a Billy Joel concert and that's what made him want to be a singer. He moved to New York. His father flew in to try and get him a gig. And he did. To Joel's "New York State of Mind", DeGraw tried to persuade reluctant hips to rumba. Sadly, his turns described a New York State of Mind on a very cold, stiff January night.
"Gavin, you've got hips," shrieked Tonioli. But he warned: "You've got to watch the turns."
Inaba's heart apparently went "all fluttery" for him.
Katherine Jenkins chose 1996. She found out her father had lung cancer. She was 13. He went into a coma. Jenkins rushed to a hospice and sat with him to say goodbye. Her waltz was a fitting tribute. Jenkins moves with an ease foreign to, say, DeGraw. For her, framing is so effortless that it gives her far more possibilties to make a picture.
Inaba wept. She believed that Jenkins' father was wrapping his arms around her. Goodman thought there wasn't enough dancing in ballroom hold. He was the only judge not to give her a 10.
Sherri Shepherd told of the inspiration for her rumba: the birth of her son at 25 weeks. The prognosis was that he would be paralyzed and have cerebral palsy. The prognosis was wrong. Shpeherd's rumba didn't have a great prognosis either. She was feeling the pressure. However, she tried to give it every drop of showwomanship, moving with a sensuousness that was heartfelt. Her son, in the audience, loved it.
"I appreciated the emotion," said Goodman. He loved her triple spins. "Mama can move," gushed Tonioli.
Melissa Gilbert's personal tale was also gut-wrenching. She had so many to choose from, she said. She chose her surgery of 2010, after a broken back. What better celebration of having an intact back than a jive? It began with peculiar dark sexiness. Then the darkness was released into a bright light. Gilbert doesn't move easily, yet she tried to let her hair down (literally, at the end).
"Melissa is on a mission to put the raunch into the jive," said Tonioli. "You're a survivor," soothed Inaba.
Jaleel White chose the year he played Urkel's alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle. His rumba was supposed to show his sexy side. It did, somewhat. Though White tended to go from pose to pose, rather than move his body fluidly.
"You are back in the game," said Inaba. "You definitely have that Gregory Hines thing going on." Goodman called it "competent." He declared it "stiff in the arms."
Could William Levy possibly have a sad, emotional story to reveal? In 1995, he came to America. He had no future in Cuba. You could only make 20 dollars a month there. His stepfather was a political prisoner. He got political asylum. Levy got lucky. His dance was an expression of that luck. How could it not be a salsa?
Levy is a big man. Yet his natural Cuban feeling showed straight through. Naturally - for some in the audience - it helped that partner Cheryl Burke ripped his shirt open. The screams could be heard from Anaheim and Annapolis. A few even from Ankara, perhaps.
"You put a whole new meaning into Free Willie," said Goodman. Tonioli screamed: "I hate you! That was a-ma-zing!" Inaba deemed it "ridiculously hot." I think she was referring to the salsa.
Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers' wide receiver, told of the death of his closest friend from cancer. Driver's rumba was full of feeling, but occasionally he stopped and started, rather than letting it all flow. He did show a little chest, though.
Inaba wept again. "The passion you just expressed was mesmerizing," she said. Though she did mention that there were a few lifts. Inaba dislikes lifts. "You were always in control," said Tonioli.
Will the voters be in control? Will they manage to vote through their sobs? Fear not. When it comes to judging, America has a steely heart.
TOP THREE: William Levy, Katherine Jenkins, Maria Menounos
BOTTOM THREE: Gavin DeGraw, Melissa Gilbert, Gladys Knight
"Dancing with the Stars" Season 14
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