I was pleasantly surprised by the producers’ decision to invite a world-class Standard couple onto the show to perform. Last night's results show featured a gorgeous foxtrot performance by the 2006 US National Standard Runner-Up Champions Victor Fung and Anna Mikhed. This rare treat, which ought to be a regular occurrence on the results show, certainly nudged me awake.
To no one's surprise, Monique Coleman was voted off the show, leaving only three couples to compete for the two final spots. My guess is that Joey Lawrence will take the boot next week. While Joey is a talented dancer, he neither has the popularity and charm that Emitt Smith has nor the charisma and sex appeal that Mario exudes.
Furthermore, as the judges point out, Joey tends to dance with a stiff upper body, which greatly limits his range of motion. He also appears too focused on his dancing and often appears self-conscious.
In order to get a shot at the trophy, Joey needs to loosen up a lot more and push himself much farther than he has - the fundamental rule to dancing bigger that I've retained from my ballroom dancing days is: if you think you're dancing big, then dance twice as big as that in order for it to really show!
Where as Monique Coleman overcompensated and ended up giving too much energy, Joey has not given enough to stand out. In Latin, he'd do well to wow the crowd with a fast dance like the jive or chacha where he bursts out of his shell without any inhibition. In Ballroom, another quickstep packed with energetic jumps and swift runs and chassés will serve him well.
Emitt Smith is a sleek, smooth dancer who's blessed with effortless hip action and light feet. Because of his crowd appeal, he could very well sneak from under and take that trophy away from Mario who's been tipped to win the show before it even started.
In order to wow the judges, whom I suspect will become even more nit-picky, Emitt needs to work on his technique, which is currently lacking precision, cleanliness and sharpness. But the sad truth is, he's got a lot of things to work on - his footwork is shaky, his arms awkward, his Latin walks choppy and his posture unreliable. His best strategy at this point in the game is to capitalize on his greatest asset - his entertaining cool, smooth factor -where he truly excels.
In Latin, his best bet would be another smooth jive or sassy mambo. In Standard, he'd do well with a jazzy foxtrot or relatively slow, yet upbeat quickstep.
As good of a dancer as Mario is, he still needs to polish his technique in order to ensure a first place finish. As the judges mentioned, Mario's main problem is that he is too snappy and goes from pose to pose without allowing his movements to linger a bit longer. He lacks fluidity and spontaneity, thus making him seem a bit robotic.
While a great performer, full of charm and pizzazz, his range of emotion is somewhat limited to the cocky smile, the softer look and the passionate stare - as I've learned both through ballroom and belly dancing, eyebrows are powerful tools to accomplish the difficult task of emoting while dancing; he should use them more. Each dance has its own character and needs a separate set of facial expressions. A great dancer needs to be able to show all of those different facets.
In Latin, Mario should perform another very sensual rumba, in which he executes the correct basic Latin technique - hip action, grounded walks etc. and shows better control of his movements to achieve smoother transitions without sacrificing sharpness. If a Rumba is too slow for his taste, a jive to a much faster tempo filled with high kicks, pumping flicks, fast swivels (executed cleanly, of course) and lots of cool tricks and turns will surely make the crowd go wild.
In Standard, Mario would do best to pull all the stops and either do a vavavoom quickstep that is lively yet charming or another dramatic, fiery tango with more power, fiercer facial expressions and sharper head snaps (and perhaps even a couple of hisses like the top dancers emit to achieve a sharper intensity of movements - I tell you, watching the tango round at a live high-level ballroom competition is like being in a reptile zoo).