Jonathan Roberts on Dancing With The Stars: Week 6
With another week of dances in the books, it's time to check in with our favorite professional dancer. This week Jonathan once again gives us his perspective on all of the couple's performances. Then we make our way through some of the reader questions.
Along the way we learn about his past with Cheryl, Edyta, and Alec. He also touches on the difficulty of balancing what the judges want in a dance with what the viewers want. It probably won't mean the end of the questions, but Jonathan does his best to try and answer the age old DWTS puzzler, how the heck does the lift rule work anyway? And... Jonathan on waxing. All that, and more, after the jump.
Brett: I thought this week was a nice bounce back from what was something of an up and down week five.
Jonathan: I completely agree with you. Tonight's show was just incredible. When I saw Kristi's routine I thought to myself, this is the best routine of the night and there is no way anybody can even come close to it. Kristi was slick, fast, fabulous. Great choreography by Mark. It was fun. She has rhythm flowing through her body and she really was amazing. What Kristi has is she doesn't even make it look difficult. It's like she's doing an Olympic performance. Only she's not on ice, she's on wood. From the first moment the music started, to the final beat, she was on fire.
Brett: I agree. The thing that stood out for me was the move where she spun under Mark's leg three times. That kind of just typifies them. They don't just do in one time. They do it three times, and all three are really good.
Jonathan: Exactly. Kristi did a professional jive there. It was just absolutely fantastic, without any faults. She completely deserved the 10s. She was great.
Brett: Would you say that Mario & Karina were your number two?
Jonathan: For me, Mario & Karina, completely different routine, but the difficulty is because the jive is so fast it's easier to make that one be the real crowd pleaser. But what I really liked about Mario's routine is he actually led the routine. He did what a man is supposed to do. This is why the male celebrities often do better. It's because the women professionals can fake whatever is happening. Their partners may be the worst leader in the world, but they make it look amazing. Tonight, what was brilliant about Mario was that he actually led the routine. You could see the way his body moved, his hips moved, his timing. He placed Karina where she was supposed to be. He was just fantastic.
Brett: Did you think that the lift stopped it from being a 30?
Jonathan: They did actually have three lifts in the routine. The judges were nice to them. Len's a bit old fashioned. It was a little too sexy for him in the rumba. But that's what rumba is. Rumba is the dance of love and I think Carrie Ann marked him down a point for the lift. But I agree with Bruno. He did an amazing job. Great choreography, very sexy, very exciting, and I'm just really impressed with Mario. This was one of the few times in all of the shows that I have seen a male celebrity really lead his partner.
Brett: I was also really impressed this week with Cristián.
Jonathan: Yeah, Cristián did great. For me, Cristián normally has only been good on the faster dances. But tonight in the foxtrot, a little slower, he really was good. What I felt started out in his favor was that he just looked amazing. With the grey suit and the pink, him and Cheryl standing there together just looked stunning. He was smooth out there, and the judges acknowledged his good footwork. His frame was pretty good.
The thing with Cristián, as good as it was, I would like to see more from Cristián what I see of him during the practice packages and what I see of him backstage and hanging out. He's such a fun guy. He's got a great sense of humor. He's cool. He's down to earth. And I feel sometimes that when he competes, he feels he's competing. So maybe it's him focusing, or him trying to do well, I'm not quite sure what it is. But I think if he was, I don't know if relax is the right word, but if he was a little more the way I see him when he is goofing off and having a good time, that would get him the 10s he's looking for. His number really was good today. But knowing him personally I just get the feeling that we're not seeing all of his personality. Or a little something is held back. And often in the case of anybody, when you're really trying to do a good job, you work so hard toward the good job that you miss what you're really working for.
Brett: For Shannon & Derek I thought it was another good performance. It just seems to me that she hasn't quite got over the hump to where she's finishing a whole routine.
Jonathan: Shannon looked absolutely stunningly beautiful. When I first saw a shot of her I was just like, wow, she is a knockout. Her dress was great. I remember right in the beginning of the routine she had this amazing leg extension that went around. I could see Derek must have really worked on it with her. She pointed her foot, she held the leg, it was just stunning. And then a few moments later, I felt like Shannon needs to work on connecting her legs with the rest of her body. She's got these beautiful, incredible long legs, but sometimes they can tend to look slightly awkward in some of the moments. I did see her move her hips. I don't totally agree with the judges on their criticism there for her. I just think that overall, she's a breath away from being where Mario and Kristi are.
Brett: I would agree with you. It hasn't all come together, but there are moments that are amazing.
Jonathan: It really was the most passionate I've seen her. The connection between her and Derek was great. And the thing I have to say for Shannon is, and it's the same for Mario and Kristi, Derek is giving Shannon some really difficult steps in her routines. And she has done a great job doing them.
Brett: Jason & Edyta were the dance that I most disagreed with the judges over. I thought it was better than a 24.
Jonathan: Well, yes and no. I'm torn. I was a little disappointed with Jason's cha cha. First of all, his timing wasn't great. This is a case where I could see his teacher, Edyta, was keeping him on the beat. He kept having to look down to see Edyta's timing of her feet to make sure he stayed on time with her. Whether it was his nerves that day, or the pressure, or whatever, he was a little off. So I think him being uncomfortable with the timing, or his footwork, prevented him from having the showmanship with the rest of his body. The steps were all good, and the routine was nicely choreographed. Jason danced much more than he had the last couple of weeks. But it didn't deserve 10s, and maybe not even 9s. Maybe one 9. Just simply because I could see that he had to depend on Edyta for the routine.
Brett: With Marissa and Tony, I was actually most impressed by the fact that Marissa was able to harness herself to do the waltz.
Jonathan: Yes, the Viennese waltz is just continuous rotations and spins. If you're not used to that it really is tough. The only criticism for Marissa I would have is that I'd like the dance to have a little more power. Because she's a little shorter, she didn't have as much. Where someone like Jason is so big he takes one step and covers half the floor, Marissa has to work twice as hard. I felt like the Viennese waltz could have had more power, but other than that she swept around the floor and looked like she was having fun. She did all her spins great. She interacted well with Tony. It showed a different side of Marissa. We've seen her have fun, and excitement, and all this before. From the package they were going for princess, and I think she did exactly what she was going for. Often as teachers we have a goal for our students each week, and I think Marissa accomplished exactly what Tony wanted her to do.
Brett: And that leaves us of course with Marlee & Fabian. I think it's just kind of an echo of what you said last week, which is that it's all kind of catching up with her.
Jonathan: Yeah, the thing with Marlee, I have to say, she's looking physically better and better every week. She's tan and her costumes great. She had this complete green eye shadow and her hair's pulled back. I'm going like, wow, this is not the Marlee I remember the first week of the show. Dance wise, the two most difficult dances rhythmically are the samba and the mambo, which Marlee has had the last two weeks. I think if any weeks are going to be hard it will be these two weeks, and it did show. Again tonight I could see, not that she was holding back, but that she was working so hard on the timing and the rhythm that you didn't get to see the Marlee we've seen in some of the other weeks.
Brett: Yes, and I think that if she could get the right dance next week, she could still bounce back.
Jonathan: Sure, the thing is, Marlee is a competitor. She wants to win. She works really really hard. She has a great mental state and work ethic. If she can make it past these two weeks and the difficulty of the timing and the rhythm of the dances, I really think she could challenge very far into the competition. But she's got to be able to find a way, or Fabian has to be able to find a way, whether it's using their visual eye contact, or he's touching and leading her. She has to come out and really hit the dance and go for it. The last two weeks she's looked tentative and hesitant and hasn't really commanded the floor like she did the first couple weeks.
Brett: Alright, I've got some reader questions for you now. Getting back to the Mario & Karina performance, it's something that comes up often, the lift rule. Sabercat and ORKMommy both wrote in wondering why it is that women can flip over their partners but can't be swung around. Do you have a succinct way of summing the lift rule up?
Jonathan: Yes. Supposedly, a lift is a move that you cannot do on your own. Let's define it more though. A lift is a move where both your feet leave the floor, in a move you cannot do on your own. Because half the moves done in the competition you cannot do on your own. You need your partner.
Brett: So, something like the flip Edyta did tonight. She could do that by herself.
Jonathan: That's kind of a fine line. Of course, Edyta could easily do a cart-wheel by herself. Now, the fact that she went off his knees, that's just kind of a grey area. That's where the couple takes a risk and asks if this move is worth getting a point knocked off from the judges to get the fans and the crowd loving what I'm doing.
Brett: It really does make it hard.
Jonathan: That's the thing. As teachers on the show we really have a lot of strategy that we try to use each week. You have to figure out a routine that will make the judges happy, and get people to vote for us. They're both equally important. The judges tend to like things that are a little more technical. Not quite so flashy. Of course they want to see the personality and people going for it. But let's take Len, and sometimes Carrie Ann. They really want to see good feet and legs, perfect posture, all those things. And a lot of people that are watching that aren't trained dancers or are just watching for pure entertainment, they're never going to notice how much your foot points in a rumba walk. Or if you take a heel lead, who cares? They want to see a flashy spin, a twist, and a drop. So as teachers we really have a difficult job to come up with a routine that first of all makes the celebrity look great, but then pleases the judges and comes across great to the viewers.
Brett: Emily writes in and says you are her favorite pro. She loved the samba number last week and was wondering who choreographed it. Does one person do it, or do you all get together and come up with it?
Jonathan: The number we did last week, Louis van Amstel did most of the choreography, but often in the pro numbers we get together and one person has an idea. Then we each kind of contribute our own little bits and it develops into a whole piece. The professional numbers are funny because we spend so much of our time working with the celebrities that they are always done last minute, late at night, early in the morning. We never have enough time to rehearse, so I'm always amazed that they end up looking pretty decently, because the celebrities are our priority.
Brett: Rod wrote in with some trivia that I didn't know. Apparently Cheryl said in a recent interview that you were one of her first instructors.
Jonathan: Yes. Interestingly enough, on the show it just worked out. Both Edyta Sliwinska and her husband, Alec Mazo, myself and Anna, and Cheryl are all from the Bay area. So we all grew up there together. We all either danced or taught out of the same studios. Cheryl and one of her first amateur partners used to come stay at my house in San Jose when I'd bring instructors and teachers over from England. And for a very short time I did teach her a little bit. We've been friends for ages. I've known Cheryl since she was twelve or thirteen I think.
Brett: Rod also asks, since we saw Cheryl's new studio on the show, do you have any plans to open your own dance studio?
Jonathan: Definitely not. A dance studio takes a lot of time to run and be successful and do well and I travel too much to be able to invest myself in something like that. Cheryl has a great support base with her mom being there, so she can still be free to travel and stuff like that.
Brett: Emily was a big fan of you and Marie and wants to know if you'll be performing anywhere.
Jonathan: We're still working things out. I don't know if schedule wise we are going to make anything in Vegas work out. But I do speak with her every week and I'm sure you'll see us again. You can tell Emily, if not me and Marie, I'll make Donnie dance with her.
Brett; Well, there ya go. She also wanted to know if there has been any announcement on another tour, and if so, will you be participating?
Jonathan: They are working out dates for the next tour, and I definitely want to be a part of it.
Brett: Kaitlyn writes in, outside of Anna, who is a given, who is your best friend among the other pros?
Jonathan: Ya know, I don't know. I'm such good friends with Cheryl, Alec, and Edyta because I've known them for so long. I'm great friends with Karina. I would say all the pros are really close and we're like a family together.
Brett: I think that's something that really comes across on the show, and it's one of the things that makes the show so enjoyable.
Jonathan: Yeah, except for the times I tried to poison Derek and break his neck. Other than that, we all get along.
Brett: Next we have Liz who is sixteen and has been doing ballroom for a year and a half.
Jonathan: Oh, great.
Brett: Apparently she's writing her AP English paper on you and Anna, and she's wondering if you think of yourself as a role model, and do you have a role model of your own?
Jonathan: Thank you, for thinking of Anna and me as role models. I would say for me, if anyone wants to think of me as a role model, I would encourage you that it's never too late to dance. Most of the dancers on the show started when they were very young, and I didn't start until I was about nineteen or twenty. I just had great teachers and practiced a lot and was able to develop my skills good enough to be on a show like Dancing With The Stars. So I would just encourage people, if you have a love and a passion for dancing, that you go for it and you pursue that.
Brett: Would you say that you have a role model in dancing?
Jonathan: Ya know, when I first started dancing, my first partner and I had a coach named Tommy Newby. I don't know if role model is the right word, but he was the best coach you could ever have. He completely supported and nurtured and helped me to win my first U.S. Championship. He was a huge part of my initial success and love for dancing.
Brett: Great. She would also like to know if you have a favorite style of ballroom to dance or to teach.
Jonathan: I like all the dances equally. To me, it's the music that makes it great, so if it's a great cha cha and the music is fabulous I love it. Then I hear a great tango and I love that. So I don't have one specific favorite. It's really the music that moves you and makes you enjoy it.
Brett: And finally, we have a fun one from the green eyed gal. She asks, what did Anna think when you came home with a waxed chest. That has to be one of the most memorable filler segments on the show. You were a great sport for doing it.
Jonathan: Well, first off I'll say, I will never do that again. Women are definitely tougher than men to do that regularly. It was very painful. Anna did not like it. She thought it was weird. So, thank you, but never again.
And on that humorous note, we end another week of Jonathan's commentary. He'll be back next week to give us his thoughts on the week seven performances. As always, feel free to leave questions for Jonathan in the comments and I'll get to as many as I can.