Let's journey to the sparkly past (and freaky future) by way of ballroom dance

By Maggie Fremont
October 25, 2016 at 03:34 AM EDT
Credit: Eric McCandless /ABC
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It’s ‘Eras Night’ on Dancing With the Stars, which means we’re treated to some fun costumes, new dance styles (what up, jitterbug), and lots of our young contestants and pros revealing they know nothing about history. ‘Merica! We also get the return of ballroom hero Len Goodman, the first Team Dance Challenge, and a good 30 seconds of Laurie Hernandez giggling about women burning bras in the 1960s. So, yeah, it’s a good time.

Let’s run through the dances, which are not in chronological order of assigned decade, because DWTS likes to keep you guessing. To the dance floor:

Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, 1960s

Quickstep, “One Fine Day” by The Chiffons

Laurie’s going to the prom, you guys! Val makes it clear their version of the 1960s isn’t the hippie/anti-government one, which is all good with Laurie because she has no idea what that means. Instead, they’re off to Laurie’s first prom. She even gets a corsage. If only all proms looked like this one. And if only all prom dates did splits like Val. The duo dances a fun, bubbly quickstep. Most of the judges love the blend of lightness with Laurie’s inherent strength of movement. It’s Len, of course, who finds fault with a lot of Laurie’s technique. Val brushes it off, though, citing Len’s obvious jet lag. And when Carrie Ann calls him out for putting lifts in the routine, he tells her the 60s are about rebellion. Val’s so cheeky tonight. Just get Laurie home before curfew, okay?

Judges’ Score: 34/40

Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke, 1990s

Rumba, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith

True Confession: I saw Armageddon in the theater four times back in the day. Animal crackers make me feel things now. So, yes, Aerosmith’s weepy anthem screams the 1990s to me. The routine is just okay on its own, but if you imagine Cheryl as a sparkly asteroid and Ryan as a steely, stubbly Bruce Willis, it gets so much better. It’s the most tragic love story of our time! The judges don’t see it that way, and although there seems to be increased chemistry between the couple, everyone on the judges’ panel wants more out of the performance. They’ve basically given up on Ryan improving technique-wise, so it’s all about getting into character. Carrie Ann thinks Ryan looks like he’s just doing what he’s told, rather than feeling the movements and connecting to the music. In Armageddon terms: He needs to be less of a Colonel Sharp, and more of a Harry Stamper.

Marilu Henner and Derek Hough, 1920s

Charleston, “Never Forget You” by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox feat. Addie Hamilton

Marilu once played Roxie Hart in a production of Chicago, so she’s feeling the Charleston. Derek, on the other hand, is having trouble with the two-dance week. Derek is super old now, so it takes him a few seconds to pick up choreography, rather than zero seconds. We don’t feel bad for you, you glorious starfish. Unfortunately, Marilu may have overcompensated for feeling comfortable in her dance style. The judges go easy on her, but overall, the majority of the 1920s number looked out of synch and low-energy. Bruno points out the end was a big ol’ mess. They did capture the essence of the decade, though, plus Derek did some tap dancing. There are also points to be had for tap dancing.

Judges’ Score: 29/40

NEXT: Lift free since ’53!

Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold, 1950s

Jive, “Good Golly Miss Molly” by Little Richard

Another true confession: I want to live inside this routine. Calvin and Lindsay are so bright and energetic, plus I’m always a fan of a red lip in a yellow outfit (that was Lindsay, not Calvin). Calvin and Lindsay have been improving each week, but their big claim to fame is the power of their lifts. They aren’t allowed lifts in the jive, though, so it’s all about crisp, clean footwork. There’s one catch: Due to football injuries, Calvin can’t really point his toes like he’s supposed to in the jive. Lindsay instructs him to focus all his energy on his feet and the judges will take notice. Lindsay’s right! The judges commend him not only on his high energy, but also his excellent technique. Len, especially, is proud to see his improvement over the past few weeks. Lifts? They don’t need no stinkin’ lifts!

Judges’ Score: 36/40

Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev, 1980s

Tango, “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi

The best part of this routine is the enthusiasm with which Artem embraces the 1980s theme. He’s rocking guyliner, whips out a giant brick of a cell phone, and dons a glorious hair-band wig. Artem tells us it’s his first time ever wearing one, but he promises it won’t be the last. How lucky we are to be alive right now. If only the enthusiasm had carried over into the routine: The judges think Maureen starts out right — lots of 80s glam-rocker attitude — but she goes wrong pretty quickly. She loses steam and there are several stumbles. But Carrie Ann loves that even though she went wrong, she kept going. She also suggests some more body contact while in hold. Team 80s needs to pull it together before the team dance.

Judges’ Score: 28/40

Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber, 1930s

Foxtrot, “Cheek to Cheek” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

Terra is feeling a bit down on herself for falling to the bottom of the leaderboard after an awkward paso. Sasha wants his girl to shake it off. To help remind Terra what she’s doing this for, her husband and two kids show up to rehearsals. Terra wants to show them how to push through obstacles and accomplish goals. So, out on the dance floor she goes! She and Sasha dance a lovely, elegant foxtrot. They look so in sync and connected, and Terra is back in her comfort zone. That wonky paso is completely forgotten. Carrie Ann commends Terra for committing to every moment in her routine and Len gives a nice shout-out to Sasha for the work he’s doing this season. What a perfect pairing.

Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko, 1970s

Samba, “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band

Have we all cooled off since last week’s sexy Argentine tango? No shower is safe anymore. The couple is feeling great about scoring a perfect 40, but now the pressure is on…and it’s really getting to Jana. The samba is fast and it’s not coming as easily to her as she and Gleb would like. Things get tense, there are tears, but Team Hotties settles into it. They put forth a disco-era samba set in a laundromat. According to America’s Dad Tom Bergeron, this is historically accurate. Unfortunately, according to Len, the routine isn’t accurate to the dance style. Our Head Judge and Gleb get into it and everyone is very uncomfortable. Len wanted a little more samba, Gleb thinks it was a nice mix of the style and some ’70s fun. He tells Erin “It’s not a dancing competition, it’s a TV show,” which I don’t think will sit right with everyone. Can’t it be both?

Judges’ Score: 34/40

NEXT: Some Team Dance time travel

James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess, 1940s

Jitterbug, “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra

This is Queen Sharna’s eighth season and sister wants her Mirror Ball trophy. Sure, Laurie and Val were favored from the start, but James is a real contender. Also, he takes care of our girl Sharna when she needs it. Ugh. He’s adorable. Sharna injured her knee during dress rehearsal, but still dances their 1940s jitterbug because she’s a champion. The story of the routine — Army guy falls in love with Sharna — is fun and fits the ’40s vibe perfectly. There are a few extremely minor mishaps, but Sharna explains she had to make some adjustments and James was just taking care of his partner. THESE TWO. The judges love the theme and choreography and Julianne is left wanting more, but in a good way. She also says they always dance as if it’s their last. This better not be some ominous sign! Heads will roll, but not in the good way.

Judges’ Score: 36/40


Team Past: James and Sharna, Maureen and Artem, Ryan and Cheryl, Calvin and Lindsay

Because they have the highest cumulative scores, Laurie and James are made team captains and get to select their teams. Laurie goes for girl power and James gets the athletes (plus Maureen). It seems like James’ team, Team Past, would be the underdogs, and their rehearsal footage indicates as much. But when they get on the dance floor, that theory goes out the window. They dance a gorgeous Viennese waltz to a Scottish folk song, also known as the theme from Outlander. The judges are right: It’s really refreshing to see an elegant dance style executed well in a team challenge, as opposed to the showy numbers full of tricks we usually get. Team Past was completely in sync with one another and it was a true team dance. Carrie Ann calls it her favorite of the night.

Judges’ Score: 38/40

Team Future: Laurie and Val, Marilu and Derek, Terra and Sasha, Jana and Gleb

The ladies are feeling pretty good about their chances as they let their male pros get to work on the choreography for their theme of apocalyptic young-adult novel. Things get a little tense in rehearsals when they try to put something together despite crazy travel schedules. Terra is having the toughest time. The other pros don’t know how to choreograph for her, so they have to explicitly ask permission to put in certain steps or Sasha has to have them constantly change things. Terra’s embarrassed and doesn’t want to hold her team back, but they eventually work it out. The concept is cool, but maybe not as effective from my seat. Carrie Ann points out that because the theme called for no facial expressions, all the judges had to look at were the shapes, a lot of which weren’t in sync. It’s not as clean as Team Past.

Judges’ Score: 35/40

With those team scores added to individual scores, James/Sharna and Calvin/Lindsay are the couples tied at the top of the leaderboard. It’s starting to look like Laurie doesn’t have the trophy in the bag just yet. But before we can begin speculating on who we’ll see in the finals, there’s an elimination to announce. The two couples in jeopardy are:

Maureen and Artem

Jana and Gleb

It’s been a nice little run through time (do this theme again, please!), but the journey is over for Maureen and Artem. This better not sour Artem’s new affinity for wigs.

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