Melanie LaPatin
July 07, 2011 AT 12:56 PM EDT

Hello, everybody! To start this week’s blog, I thought I’d try answering a few comments from last week, since you seem to like that, and frankly, so do I. (And yes, of COURSE, I read your comments! Sometimes twice! Are you kidding? I’m human, and a slightly neurotic human at that!)

To Scarlet. Yes, starting this week, I will do my very best to remember to mention what each dance is when I’m writing about the dancers. Sorry about that. This stuff is so hardwired into my brain, I forget sometimes that not everyone speaks salsa as a second language. ;)

To GP, and to everybody else who’s been befuddled by my (and the judges’) admiration for Ryan. I hear you, and I understand. The best way for me to try and explain it is: You know how chocolate ice cream is good, and so is vanilla, but some people will like one and not really be all that jazzed about the other (and maybe even really DISLIKE the other)? Maybe, in a way, dancers are like that. Two dancers can both be very good, but for some intangible reason we may never understand, one moves us and the other doesn’t. Maybe it’s like that with Ryan. Aside from the fact that, technically speaking, her work is excellent, she’s just a flavor that the judges and I really like. (And THANK YOU so much for lending an ear to Jerry Reid’s “Out Without Your Boyfriend” from my crazy Ballroom Remixed album. I know it’s a fast one, but that’s what makes it such a good COMPETITIVE jive — it puts the “sport” in “dance sport.” Muahaha!)

To Kate, regarding keeping the couples together vs. mixing them up every week. I always love it, too, when we get to see new partners — the excitement of seeing who clicks. (Sometimes people you’d never expect to, do!) But I’m really enjoying seeing the same couples dance week after week in different styles, too. For one thing, we get to see the give and take of how each of them steps up in a new genre of dance — who instantly “gets” it and who needs a little extra support. And for another, it lets these couples bond as partners. As incredible as the amount of faith they have in each other as dancers is from day 1, it can’t compare to the kind of trust they can develop over time, through trial and error. I think, in the end, it will — or should — allow them to scale even greater heights.

On top of that — aren’t you sorry you asked now, Kate? Haha! — it can take YEARS for dancers to master the art of lead and follow partnering, so if even one of a pair understands the principles involved, whew! Lemme tell ya, it makes life SO much easier for them. This is why, when they DO switch partners, you’ll often see tears. Either they’re overjoyed because they know their partner knows what they’re doing, or they’re completely and totally panic-stricken because they know they don’t!

To whitneylu. Jean Marc’s wife, France, still choreographs with him occasionally, but she loves being a mom to their two kids, and I think devotes most of her time to parenting now.

To Mary Jo. Do I think the bottom three are victims of their dance — like, as you suggest, Nick and Iveta with their Bollywood number? Well, sure. But that’s a big part of the competition for the dancers: not just to dance the heck out of their regular styles, but also to undertake what are alien genres for them, master them, and wow the judges and the audience at home. So yes, I think dancers can be victims of their dance. But that’s the challenge. If they rise to it, they move on. If they don’t, they shuffle off. :/

Speaking of challenges, who met theirs head-on last night? My picks for the Top 3 couples are:

·        Caitlynn and Mitchell. I totally agreed with the judges on this one: the way they performed their contemporary number (yay! I remembered, Scarlet!) was breathtaking. They were both so committed, it left zero room for fear. Whatever was gonna happen was gonna happen, and they embraced that, heart and soul. Stunning. Okay, I’m gonna stop talking about it now, because I’m running out of adjectives for “amazing.”

·        Clarice and Jess. From a technical perspective, what really blew me away about their contemporary routine was how beautifully they nailed its light and shade. (For lack of a better description, “light and shade” is like the sort of “hard” and “soft” movements, and the back and forth between them.) But beyond that, their performance was so heartfelt. I percent believed it 100 percent. To me, it seemed like the kind of performance that would give anyone, whether or not they are a dancer or even a dance fan, an appreciation for the art.

·        Marko and Melanie. Was their jazz routine perfect? Nope. There was a stumble. Or two. So why are they still in my top 3? Because they brought such tremendous attitude to their performance, and threw themselves into it with so much don’t-think-just-DO-IT gusto, that it didn’t matter. They were technically sound, and just as (or more) importantly, they were so committed to their characters, they all but disappeared into them.

What about everybody else?

·        Sasha and Alexander. Technically, I thought they were on the money for the most part during their hip-hop number. And it was fun. Sweet. Cute. But neither of them utilized the music to the extent that they could’ve, and it didn’t seem… maybe “sincere” is the right word? It didn’t seem like they felt it. She came closer than he did to convincing me, but overall, just didn’t do it for me.

·        Jordan and Tadd. Their waltz was NOT easy to pull off, and they did a good job, especially considering that neither of them has a background in ballroom. Yes, some of their transitions were a smidgen choppy, but they seemed very aware of the lines that were required for this style of dance, and their closed-position work was very nice, too. A joy to watch; I was impressed.

·        Chris and Ashley. Critiquing these two feels like kicking puppies. But I’ve got to, so here we go. The bad parts of their salsa: The energy was low. He needed a lot more articulation and punch to his movements. And I wanted SO badly to feel it, for them to MAKE me feel it, and I just didn’t. But there were good parts, too: She could actually make a very slinky salsa dancer with continued work. And he… hey, he gave it a real go. It wasn’t terrible, by any means.

·        Ryan and Ricky. In a way, they had it kind of easy in their jazz number, because, as the judges noted, the choreography DID play to their strengths. But to their credit, they did dive in feet first and transformed into very believable fashion zombies. Ryan seemed to lose it for a second, but she got it back, which is kind of a neat trick in and of itself.

And that’s it for Lady Cha-Cha this week! Let me know what you think, and rest assured, even if I don’t reply to all your comments — did I write a novel this week, or what?! — I do read them. Oh, and if your clicking finger still has any “click” left in it, please use it below to check out “Bad at Being Good,” a mischievous jive from my Ballroom Remixed album, performed by Kerry Butler (who’s currently knockin’ ’em dead in Broadway’s Catch Me If You Can).

Check out Melanie LaPatin’s album of unabashedly offbeat ballroom dance songs, Ballroom Remixed, featuring ace of clubs Lucas Prata, electropop Boy Wonder Kyle Brylin, and Spain’s answer to Lady Gaga, Romy Low.

Read more:

‘SYTYCD’ recap: Virgin territory

Lady Gaga to guest judge on ‘SYTYCD’

Melanie LaPatin: About that cha-cha

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