Dancing With the Stars: Is This the End for Antonio?
Last week was a huge disappointment for Antonio fans. His dance, a cha cha with switched-up partner Karina, was fun, energetic, exciting, and fell flat with the judges. They criticized his timing, his technique, and the dance itself (which really falls on pro dancer/choreographer Karina). He received the lowest score of the evening, while usual partner Sharna received the highest—the first ten given all season—with temporary partner Nyle.
This week it was back to the drawing board for the reunited AB and Sharna, and let’s hope they have figured out how to make the judges happy again. The audience loves him, of course, and Karina was obviously stunned and upset with the harsh assessment of the judges.
But before we look at this week’s dances, let’s see how Hines Ward did in Week 6, back in 2011.
The answer was, just fine:
It was “Guilty Pleasures” night, and each couple danced to a song that the celebrity is a bit ashamed to admit that they like. (I think that was the point, anyhow.) Hines danced a Viennese Waltz to “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men, which he admitted that he likes to belt out in the shower. (He also said that he thinks of the water as his fans – not sure where that’s going.) [Ironically, Wanyá, consistently one of the top male contestants this season, sings with Boyz II Men.]
He and partner Kym were assigned a Viennese Waltz. As Hines said:
“I’m putting in some extra hours at home. I kind of relate what I go through in football to this dance competition. I’m writing the plays down on paper, and I’m replacing Kym with a pillow. I can kiss her – (kisses pillow and laughs.) When I do my dance in my apartment it gives me a comfort level to better understand the routine, so the next day when I go to rehearsal I can add personality into my dance routine. Being at the top of the leaderboard definitely raised the bar for me to really elevate my game, because we go as far as I go.”
Kym had explained to him that the Viennese Waltz is a very romantic dance, and Hines commented that he’s just not a very romantic guy – thus ‘romancing the pillow.’ Apparently it worked:
- Len: “I tell you what, Hines, you’re becoming the MVP – the “Most Valued Partner,” because every dance you do is just great. It’s got such great musicality, it’s lyrical. You’re flat-footed, unfortunately, which gets on your wick a bit. [I have no idea what that means, and I was afraid to look it up. I’m hoping it’s a cricket term, Len being British and all.] You’ve got to get your feet working a bit more. But as a performance and a dance, you’re second to none.”
- Bruno: “As a performance it is pure pleasure from start to finish. And the chemistry you have with Kym really is flawless – you’re made for each other, [he goes off into rhapsodic and semi-coherent imagery.] You couldn’t be more fluid – you look like you’re taking off – we don’t know where you’re going but we want to go with you.”
- Carrie Ann: “Once again an excellent performance. But I did see something – something strange was happening in the beginning – it sort of felt like you were thinking too much. I saw this look in your eye that I’ve never ever seen since day 1… it looked like you were thinking about the dance as opposed to just letting it flow through your body. It’s a tiny correction [looking at the other judges, who were protesting] yes, because I usually get drawn in… [Len – “You saw him thinking?”] Yes, and I think for this kind of dance we don’t want to see thinking! [Len buries his head in his hands, and Bruno says “Hines and Kym, don’t worry!”]
Before they got their scores, the MC said “Hines, I have to ask you this – every week you’re smiling, you’re always sweet, but I keep hearing about this ‘silent assassin.’ When are we going to see him?” Hines answered “I’m just trying to, you know, lay under the radar, and hopefully we find our way into the finals.”
Andrew Pueschel, the ballroom dance instructor I interviewed, noted that one of the things that really set Hines apart was how he accepted and used the judges’ comments:
Hines takes it seriously…he treats it as if it’s football. [The week he was learning the foxtrot] he watched tapes of [fellow contestant] Ralph to see what he was doing. [Macchio’s foxtrot was rated highly the week before.]
That’s what we do. We watch the videos of other dancers. If we’re eliminated in a competition we stay to watch the finalists. Hines listens to the judges. A lot of people shrug it off, or they take it personally, because it hurts their egos, but he has no ego. He goes into it with an open mind every time—he’s the perfect student.
That was then. Let’s see what’s happening now. All three NFL guys are still in the hunt, rather to my surprise. Doug Flutie is not by any means a natural, and his dances generally feature at least one obvious misstep. But the judges keep encouraging him, and he is definitely getting better. Perhaps that’s what makes them upset about Antonio. As the guest judge said to AB last week,
You’re getting away with what you do know, with what comes natural to you, and that’s amazing. You put a little bit of effort and you show us an amazing cha cha.
This was not meant to be a compliment. Basically, Maks was accusing AB of being the antithesis of everything he has been in his NFL career. Perhaps the problem is that this is a lot easier for him than it was for Hines. Perhaps the judges are trying to goad him into being less confident (some would say arrogant) and more of a lunch pail guy.
My elder daughter was told by her college oboe teacher, who is in the Pittsburgh Symphony, that everyone eventually comes to the end of their talent. He studied at a very distinguished university with a teacher who was considered at the time one of the best oboists in the world, and believes that the reason he is the only one of his class who has made a career out of the oboe is because he was the least talented person in his class. He says “by far,” although I’m not sure I believe that. But he says the others didn’t get to the point where they really had to work at it until it was essentially too late to learn how to do so. He claims he came to the end of his talent quite early and just had to put his shoulder to the wheel.
Perhaps this explains why Hines was consistently at the top of the “leaderboard” and why AB finds himself at the bottom. If he wants to have a chance of taking home the Mirror Ball Trophy, he’d better get busy, because the difference between him and the top contenders is increasing each week.
And in the end, maybe the Mirror Ball Trophy is not what he, or ultimately Steeler Nation, really wants. Although Hines commented that he was in the best shape of his career due to the dancing, it certainly didn’t help him on the field during the 2011 season.
Was this due to the focus on the dance competition, an artifact of his age, or some combination of the two? There’s no way to know. But one thing we do know is that if the Steelers want to have a chance to excel this year, they need AB to be the AB of the past few years, not an AB who has mad dancing skills but has neglected his football preparation.
But hopefully we won’t have to choose. Let’s see how things went in Week 6.
The evening was “Famous Dances” from stage shows, movies and TV.
Von Miller: Jazz Routine, Michael Jackson’s “Bad”
I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about, so I’m going to let the judges do the talking.
- Bruno: Oh yeah, don’t mess with the boss. That was bad-ass. You got the Jackson shuffle, very well done, you even attempted the little West Side Story reach which is so difficult to do… I have to say, Michael Jackson, the key of it was hitting those moves like lightning. He was on it like, sharp beyond belief. And just a couple of times you didn’t quite go there, but overall you did a fantastic job.
- Carrie Ann: You were livid, I kind of saw at the beginning you were a bit nervous, and then as you came down through the tunnels you were killing it. You just embodied him 100%. I saw the joy coming through your body—you were free, your movements got sharper. What I loved was that everything had your own spin on it. Cause you’re bigger—there’s only one King of Pop. There’s only one Michael Jackson. But you brought your own style flavor. It had a rougher edge to it, and I loved it.
- Len: It’s not Thriller Miller, it’s Bad, but I mean good bad. You didn’t need that wind machine – you’ve got a fan here (pointing at himself.) That was terrific!
Doug Flutie: Bollywood Routine
Again, the judges were encouraging, and he has definitely improved. Not quite enough, though…
Antonio Brown: Recreating Kevin Bacon’s performance in “Footloose” (Jive)
The video montage before they danced began with Antonio admitting that when Sharna had picked one of the other men to win the competition (Wanya) he was pretty upset:
“To see a teammate switch teams and get down on our team was kind of like a stab in the back. I just need to get this off my chest, and tell you we have a team, we should be encouraging, we should have each other’s back. Last week I kinda felt like, like you kinda downed our team.”
Sharna apologized, but Antonio broke in and said “Maybe you just felt like you were just being honest, but I just feel like if we’re a team, we should believe in our team, regardless if you switch sides. Even if you believe someone else is going to win, you should never show that. This is our team, we should be hungry to win it. I wanna win it, I feel like you should wanna win it too, because, like, you haven’t won it yet.”
Sharna later said “I knew something was up with Antonio, but I didn’t know that he felt that I had given up on him. That upsets me that he feels that way.”
Antonio: “You learn where you’re wrong through adversity. Some people could quit, could give up. I’m not a quitter. I don’t give up under adversity. I SMILE in the face of adversity. So if you wonder why I keep smiling in the midst of everything, it’s because that’s what I’m here to do. I’m not here to give up or quit.”
Sharna: “The jive is a difficult dance. It is going to take a lot more focus and a lot more time. I know the judges [are going to be looking at the technical aspects of the dance.] There’s a lot of technique that is unlike any other dance that we’ve done.”
Antonio: “I’m listening to the judges, going home and trying to perfect my moves…I’m not on the show just to get by—I’m here to win and I’m here to give it everything I’ve got.”
He also ditched the microwave cover haircut, for which I am profoundly grateful…
- Carrie Ann: [After dancing around for a while in a state of high excitement] Okay, THAT’S the way to bring the house down at the end, it was incredible. You had a big boo-boo in the beginning, but….you killed it!
- Len: There are four weeks to go and this competition is anyone’s to win or lose. It’s as much about the will to win as the skill to win. And you came out with a great attitude, produced your best dance, and just keep it up! [Applauds!]
- Bruno: Antonio, tonight you’ve proven that you are a leading man. You performed this dance as the center of attention throughout. You never lost focus. We only could look at you—you’ve got it all. Hard work pays off, and you proved it.
Here are the full results for tonight, in the order the couples danced:
- Kim and Sasha: 8/8/8
- Von and Witney: 8/8/8
- Jodie and Keo: 9/8/8
- Paige and Mark: 9/10/9
- Nyle and Peta: 8/8/9
- Ginger and Val: 8/8/8
- Doug and Karina: 7/7/7
- Wanya and Lindsey: 10/9/10
- Antonio and Sharna: 9/9/9
It was an elimination night again, combining the scores from the last two weeks with the viewer voting. The three couples “in jeopardy” were Paige and Mark (which just goes to show how important the viewer votes are,) Doug and Karina, and, astonishingly, Von and Witney. Doug and Karina were eliminated. Quite honestly, I was amazed he lasted as long as he did. It’s kind of ironic that tonight’s dance was his best, and was very watchable. As Carrie Ann said, he was actually dancing tonight.
And speaking of the importance of viewer votes, the fact that despite his very poor scores last week Antonio and Sharna weren’t “in danger” just goes to show that you can’t let him down now, Steeler Nation. Antonio wants to win this after all, apparently, so let’s get out there and help. He’s on his own toward the end, if I recall correctly, but quite honestly if he works as hard and does as well as he did this week he’s got a chance.