Welcome to the ballroom, it’s been waiting for you. How fun is “New York Night” you guys? First, we’ve got an insane opening number choreographed by Mandy Moore that celebrates the city that never sleeps — they highlight angry pedestrians (very accurate), but skip over commuters crying on the subway (am I speaking from experience? Maybe!) — with a guest appearance from Tiler Peck, the principal dancer from the New York City Ballet. There is TAP DANCING (more tapping on dance shows, please and thank you). We get a visit from The Mark Ballas, who is sorely missed on this show. And praise the ballroom gods for both that troupe 80s Wall Street-themed dance that I will treasure forever, and the shout out to Newsies. We’re all living the big city dream tonight. Let’s take a look at how the Big Apple celebration translates into our contestant’s routines.
DeMarcus Ware and Lindsay Arnold
Foxtrot, “Boy from New York City” by The Manhattan Transfer
DeMarcus calls himself a “big, chocolate piece of steel” and there’s no going back from that. What a delight to watch. Lindsay and DeMarcus are a little nervous about their foxtrot since the smooth, elegant dance can be tough for such a big guy. There’s also the little, not-so-important fact that the former football star had TWO AND A HALF DAYS to learn TWO routines. What an overachiever. Not only does he perform the routine with gracefulness and lightness of foot, but even Len himself comments on how good DeMarcus’s footwork is for week two. DeMarcus is the front-runner, right?
Danelle Umstead and Artem Chigvintsev
Cha Cha, “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift
Danelle and Artem’s performances provided some emotional moments in week one, but week two is a whole different game: It’s time to cha cha, you guys. Danelle feels overwhelmed by the faster style in rehearsal, but Artem decides they are going to embrace her disease and choreograph a solo for Danelle that features her (sparkly) walking cane. Artem is a treasure, people. Danelle stumbles a bit post-solo, but the judges are impressed that she recovers so quickly. Len calls the routine “competent” which, like, isn’t great but isn’t terrible either.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
John Schneider and Emma Slater
Charleston, “New York’s My Home” by Sammy Davis Jr.
Serious question: Is Emma actually from the ’40s? She perfectly looks the part of 1940s NYC train station patron. The performance has some Charleston, but it’s not as speedy as I typically enjoy in this style. Still, Emma and John are playing up the Broadway aspect of the City that Never Sleeps, and this routine does not disappoint on that end. The judges are wowed. Bruno can’t get over John’s high kicks, and although Len wanted more Charleston (same, girl), he loved the performance. Carrie Ann tells John that he’s “the Greatest Showman,” and honestly, I hope someone has called Hugh Jackman. Tough break, bud.
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Nancy McKeon and Val Chmerkovskiy
Cha Cha, “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel
First Danelle is on I.V.’s and antibiotics, now Nancy has fractured her foot. What is happening on season 27? Of course, Val, resident teddy bear, blames himself. He is in charge of Nancy! This happened on his watch! It’s not like he has to beat himself up too much — the judges all love their “Uptown Girl” cha cha, which, for the record, is not the first song I think of when I’m ready to cha cha. Still, they make it work. It’s not the smoothest, but both Bruno and Len call out Nancy’s confidence, which has got to make a girl feel good — broken foot or not.
Judges’ Score: 21/30
Alexis Ren and Alan Bersten
Argentine Tango, “Swan Lake” by Ray Chew Live
When you roll in and say you’re dancing an Argentine tango to Swan Lake after getting mentored by New York Ballet principal Tiler Peck, um, ya better bring it. The judges like this one a little more than I do, but my opinion is worth nothing (it’s fine, guys, really). Carrie Ann is so-so on the clunky lifts but is thrilled to see so much tension infused into the routine. Bruno notes how difficult it is to dance that style to that piece of music, and loves the dynamic lyricism of the ballet mixed with the sensuality of the Argentine tango. And Len, well, Len Goodman gives out the first nine of the season. So yeah, he was into it.
Judges’ Score: 25/30
Joe Amabile and Jenna Johnson
Foxtrot, “New York State of Mind” by Matt Beilis
With this show being on hiatus for so long, I forget just how spectacularly dramatic it can be. Case in point: This week Joe is not dancing a regular ol’ foxtrot — our favorite grocery store owner is dancing a REDEMPTION FOXTROT. He has so much to prove! Can. He. Do. It? I mean, kind of? He remembers all of the steps to his sweet little love story set in NYC. That’s an improvement. He still has a lot of work to do both performance-wise and on the technical side, but as Carrie Ann reminds him “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” That’s a much nicer end to things than last week!
Judges’ Score: 17/30
Tinashe and Brandon Armstrong
Argentine Tango, “New Dorp. New York” by SBTRKT featuring Ezra Koenig
If anyone has been in an NYC club and seen two cute people in futuristic clothes break out into gorgeous Argentine tango, please let me know. We all deserve that club. That’s the story Tinashe and Brandon’s routine tells. It’s all insane lifts and tricks and I’m sorry, did you see how high Tinashe flew in that first jump? The whole thing was very smooth. Len tells them it didn’t really take him back to a smoky Argentine club (but Swan Lake did, dude?), but Bruno and Carrie Ann are all in on this routine. The power, the precision, and those freaking miracle lifts.
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Milo Manheim and Witney Carson
Charleston, “Living in New York City” by Robin Thicke
My notes for this dance simply read: AHHHHHH. This was so fun, you guys. Admittedly, I was disappointed when Milo and Witney announced this would be a “subway-themed” Charleston, and they did not mean the Five Dollar Footlong variety. But these two balls of energy dancing as NYC subway performers more than made up for it. Bruno is thrilled to see that Milo, in just one week, has learned how to control his legs. The placement in this routine is perfection. Carrie Ann, like me, is simply wowed by how much Milo is bringing it, and it is only week two. Good lord, week two? Doesn’t feel like we’ve lived a lifetime already?
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Mary Lou Retton and Sasha Farber
Waltz, “A Natural Woman” live performance by Sarah Bockel from “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”
Well, make me cry why don’t ya, Mary Lou? After her gorgeous waltz to a song that means so much to her, Mary Lou talks about how wonderful it felt out there on the dance floor, how moving it was to really open up, and, to put a little button on it, “I felt pretty,” she says. Anyway, just bawling over here. Mary Lou looks like a different dancer in this routine. It is simple but moving, and although she has some shoulder and neck issues to iron out, all three of the judges get swept up in Mary Lou. Thanks for making us all feel pretty, lady.
Judges’ Score: 22/30
Juan Pablo Di Pace and Cheryl Burke
Quickstep, “42nd Street” by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
Welcome to Ballroom, baby. We have rules here! Juan Pablo, who enjoyed getting down and dirty in his week one samba, is having some issues wrapping his head around the ballroom frame. Although he and Cheryl work on it ahead of their Broadway-themed quickstep, there’s more work to do. Not like that stops them from racking up some great scores. Juan Pablo is such a performer! He sells his white tuxedo tails and his Gene Kelly jump, and the routine is so light and fun that his less-than-perfect frame is easily overlooked.
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Evanna Lynch and Keo Motsepe
Samba, “Can’t Touch It” by Ricki-Lee
Who is this woman? Sweet, little Evanna Lynch comes out decked in white fringe and owns the runway, er, ballroom that has been temporarily turned into a runway for “New York Fashion Week.” She could push it even further (couldn’t we all, always?), but there’s none of the tentativeness about letting her fierce, sexy side out that she shows in rehearsal. Ya girl can roll those hips! Evanna and Keo’s main goal for the routine is to please Len — seriously cannot get over the ‘5’ he gave them in week one — and they succeed. It’s a proper samba that allows Evanna to shine, he tells them. There is no Grumpy Len, and certainly no ‘5’ paddles to be found.
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Bobby Bones and Sharna Burgess
Foxtrot, “Theme from New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra? Definitely not. Fake Sinatra? Sure, okay. Sharna tries her hardest to rein in some of Bobby’s exuberance for the typically elegant foxtrot style, but honestly, why even try? Bobby’s exuberance is what makes him so special! The guy loves to dance. He loves to dance so much that sometimes he even adds in his own choreography when he feels moved to do so. No, kids, that flossing at the end of the routine was not part of Sharna’s ode to classic New York. Carrie Ann thinks he’s still rough around the edges, but he’s a joy to watch. What more do you want? Okay, maybe some technical prowess, but still, a joy.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
I have no clue who is going to be sent packing tomorrow night, but I do know one thing for sure: I need to get “wink on two and shake it on three” tattooed on my body. Thanks, Len! You are the gift that keeps on giving.