After eight weeks of dancing here we are at the Semi-Finals with the Final Four stars and pros. It’s been a season of some controversy with the casting of dancer Heather Morris, and there was even more controversy when one pair went home after earning the first perfect score of the season — coincidentally it was Heather Morris. Now as the Final Four seek that Mirror Ball Trophy, the Semi-Finals came with two dances and a special challenge: one judge gave each team some specific guidelines for what they wanted to see in their first dances. The second round of dancing gave us some up close and personal moments to show us more of what made the stars who they are today. It was some emotional stuff. And be prepared for another shocker of an ending.
Let’s see how the Final Four did with the Judges’ Challenge Round:
Normani Kordei & Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Viennese Waltz
Normani has been a tough competitor all season with consistently high marks, but Len Goodman wanted to see just a bit more from her waltz this week, specifically 12 bars of the waltz in hold. Practicing with Len (both she and Val partnered with him) went well, but Normani still found herself tripping over her feet. So how did the dance turn out? Len appreciated the lovely, sweeping movement but outside of a little incident with her footwork, she did exactly what he asked for. Julianne loved the concept — watching the monitor to see a black and white image with just Normani’s red dress as a pop of color — felt the pair danced as one but also saw the little stumble. Bruno said it was a killer waltz turning Vienna into Sin City, strong and beautiful to look at. Carrie Ann, as with everyone else, saw the misstep because it’s the Semi-Finales. Every little detail matters, but they had great movements one into the other and her mouth waters to watch Normani dance.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold, Foxtrot
It was Julianne Hough’s turn to offer some advice and this week she wanted David to focus on getting his booty tucked in. Her method — lemons between the cheeks which caused him to squeeze and tuck his bum. I’ve not been on the David Ross train, feeling he should have gone home weeks ago, but he is definitely the most improved. As for his Foxtrot, Julianne said he really squeezed that lemon and she was so proud and the dance was fun to watch. Bruno said the citrus hit the spot, that David continues to entertain and he could watch him dance every day. Carrie Ann said his frame improved and that he maintained it throughout the dance, and he’s been improving every time. Len called David the “boy that brings joy” because of his feel good factor. He admired the footwork but said he really couldn’t score this as a dance. His brain said one thing, but his heart said another. Tom Bergeron chimed in, “Go with your heart!” With Len and Bruno both scoring 8s to two 9s, Tom said, “So Bruno, you vote with Len’s brain too.”
Simone Biles & Sasha Farber, Jive
After last week’s pretty negative feedback from the judges and Simone’s honest “smiles don’t win gold medals” answer, she was feeling quite defeated in rehearsal. To compound her problems, Carrie Ann was the judge with the challenge: find the not so perfect side of Simone, be free and let those emotions shine through. After her video arcade set Jive, Bruno said it was Little Miss Perfect letting it loose, never missing a step and nailing the dance. Carrie Ann, who was so harsh in past critiques, was thrilled that Simone tapped into all that freedom and did an amazing job. Len had some news to deliver, and he assured us it wasn’t fake news, but Simone had sharp, precise footwork and her personality really came out. Julianne was thrilled with the performance and the personality on display and challenged Simone to give the character in the dance a name. Simone said her name was Zoe, and Julianne said she brought Zoe hard. Simone’s next dance is a Rumba and Julianne asked what her name was and Simone quiclkly said, “Not Zoe!” For finally letting her personality shine, Simone earned her first perfect score of the season.
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater, Rumba
Rashad has had a strong run all season but he’s had two, or four, major issues — his hands and his feet. For his challenge, Bruno Tonioli wanted Rashad to work on extending his lines, not easy with a broken pinkie, and point his feet downward, something that goes counter to his training as a football player. So how did it all work out? Carrie Ann called the Rumba refined and elegant, noting he extended his lines and it was like he was painting a canvas with his body. It was passionate and artistic and she was really at a loss for words at that point.Len liked the light and shade of the dance, the beautiful fluidity through his arms, but noticed some funny business with his feet. He still felt Rashad had tremendous dance talent. Julianne loved the hip action and the improved footwork, and felt that his partnering was so good that even his partner Emma was able to express herself during the dance, not something that generall happens with the female pros. Bruno said Rashad exceeded all expectations because he didn’t think he’d be able to do it. His quiet confidence and peerless partnering was like watching Greek sculptures come to life.
In the second round we learned more about what made our stars who they are today from Normani’s mom’s cancer battle and the loss of their home during Hurricane Katrina, to David’s bad attitude when he first started playing pro baseball and how a good talking too from the coach of the Red Sox changed his life, to Simone’s adoption and how she and her family gave up so much for her to train for the Olympics, to Rashad’s middle school problems with reading comprehension deficit, being overweight and feeling worthless before a star turn on a high school football field turned everything around. Each star has had an emotional journey to get to where they are today. But how did they dance?
Normani Kordei & Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Jazz
Normani wowed the ballroom with her Jazz dance set to a New Orleans-inspired version of the classic song “What a Wonderful World”. Len appreciated all of the content Val incorporated into the dance, noting the bit of the Lindy Hop he saw, calling it bucketloads of fun and then doing something he rarely does … a standing ovation. I think we can guess what score he’ll be giving. Julianne called the dance a celebration through adversity, Bruno said it was vibrant, colorful and so right, that’s how you do it in the Big Easy, and Carrie Ann noted the incredible teamwork, singling out Val’s choreography and how they polished it into a diamond.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold, Tango
David has had the roughest journey to the Semi-Finals but has he gotten through on his dancing or his personality? This week he’s proved he can make it on both (it took nine weeks, but he finally got there … but would it be the end of the line?). After the Tango, Julianne said he was meant to be there. She was so proud of his charm, his heart, his hard work, his improvement, everything this show is about (well, it is also about dancing, Julianne).Bruno said he went for the Tango like a “torpedo in a tuxedo.” Carrie Ann and Bruno both mentioned how he’d had issue coming out of turns in previous weeks, but this week he didn’t miss a beat. Unfortunately, she saw Lindsay’s foot come off the ground at one point and had to deduct for an illegal lift. Len said no one has tried or worked harder … or given him more enjoyment.
Simone Biles & Sasha Farber, Rumba
For this decidedly different dance than the Jive, Simone channeled her inner Sophia and once again wowed everyone in the ballroom. Bruno said Simone let the dance flow out of her, calling it beautiful, real and gorgeous. Carrie Ann said she danced with her soul and showed us all that she was after that Mirror Ball trophy. Len said it’s not where you start, but where you finish, saying there was nothing about this Rumba that he didn’t like. Julianne noted that Simone showed real vulnerability in this performance. Needless to say, Simone seems to have finally broken down that barrier she’s had from her strict gymnastics training, but is this breakthrough enough to move her to the finals? With the first perfect score from multiple rounds, she should be safe.
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater, Quickstep
Rashad’s Quickstep was what the judges wanted … most of them anyway. Carrie Ann said this is the dance she’s been waiting for from Rashad, calling it a match made in Heaven. Then grumpy old Len showed up — Tom asked the producers to bring Len a snack — calling the start of the dance a bit long-winded and that he lost his frame, saying it was good but not great. Julianne took offense to Len’s comments saying she 1000% disagreed, saying Rashad did keep his frame and that he was light on his feet. Len remained cranky. Bruno said Rashad was on a roll, noting the spring in his feet and the sways when they changed direction, calling Rashad the leading man.
And then it was that time that we all dread — the elimination. Tom and Erin hated doing it, so Erin suggested letting Len do it, but the hosts remained in control. In announcing the first two couples who were safe and moving on to the Finals — Normani & Val and Rashad & Emma — it left Simone & Sasha and David & Lindsay in the bottom two. Certainly this had to be David’s final week, right? Simone earned two perfect scores but … just like with Heather Morris, perfect scores one week don’t make up for the previous week’s scores and voting. David & Lindsay are moving to the finals, stirring up more internet controversy calling for the scoring process to somehow be amended, giving the judges scores more weight because this isn’t a personality contest, it’s a dance competition and the best dancers should make it to the finals. Right?
There were also two special performances this week. First recording artist Callum Scott performed his hit song “Dancing On My Own”, and two-time ballroom champ Cheryl Burke gave us a sneak peek at her new dance tour Love on the Floor.
Calum Scott Performance
Love on the Floor – Cheryl Burke
Do you agree with this week’s elimination? Will David & Lindsay take home the Mirror Ball Trophy? Tell us in the comments below!