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Jonathan Roberts on Dancing With The Stars: Week 9

by Brett Love, posted May 13th 2008 2:00AM

Jonathan Roberts - Dancing With The StarsJust like that, we are one week away from the finals. The final four met up at the ballroom Monday night to make their best cases for going forward to the big finale showdown next week. With the fan vote in play, who we will be seeing in the finals remains too close to call.

Jonathan Roberts is back this week to give his thoughts on all of the performances, and tackle some reader questions. Read on past the jump for his thoughts on adding lifts, ballroom in the Olympics, how the pros are cast on the show, and which MMORPG helps to fill up his free time.

Jonathan: A lot of great dancing tonight. A great semi-final, I have to say, dance wise.

Brett: I was really impressed. There were a lot of good numbers, but my favorite of the night was Kristi & Mark's tango.

Jonathan: Kristi definitely has the hardest, most technically difficult routines of all the celebrities on the show. Mark sees that she's really talented and he pushes her to her fullest every single week. I don't know if any of the other celebrities could do what she does in her dances each week. As far as the speed, the technicality, the tricks, the slickness, Kristi is ahead of the pack in that regard.

For me, her tango was just incredible in the togetherness with Mark, the snappiness, the staccato movement, the quickness of her head and her feet. It was definitely much more emotional. Really a great job. I almost felt in the tango that she was trying so hard that it lost a little bit of that naturalness that I've seen from her in some of the other dances. As good as it was, I could see that the pressure had almost got to her a little bit in the tango. In the jive I saw her flow more and look like she was having fun. There is definitely a big difference in dance between feeling you're having fun and looking like you're having fun. Sometimes you can feel absolutely freaked out and scared to death on the inside and it looks great. So, you never really know what goes on inside the person's head. Whatever she was feeling inside, her jive looked more natural and relaxed in it.

Brett: My thing with the jive was that there were a couple of spots where it almost looked like Mark was out-dancing her a little bit. He was so animated that it took the focus away from Kristi.

Jonathan: Yeah, as the judges have commented in the past for Kristi that they want to see more emotion. She really does have to step up her game in that respect. As good as she is, especially with Mark, because he doesn't hold back. He just goes for it. And he keeps setting the standard higher and higher for Kristi. You can really see that Mark wants to win. I think for Mark, after being eliminated early last year with Sabrina, who a lot of people thought was going to win, he's doing everything he can to win this competition and get Kristi there. Technically she really has been fantastic, but she's got to come out with that extra little bit. Still, nobody can touch Kristi in the technique department.

Brett: You'll have to help me out a bit with Jason & Edyta's first dance. I didn't quite make it home in time to catch it and only saw the judging, so I'll have to wait for the west coast feed to see that one. Apparently it was pretty spectacular.

Jonathan: I could have easily given Jason three 10s in the foxtrot. I absolutely loved Jason's foxtrot. It was subtle, it had finesse and great technique. His long legs and long arms, he just stretches out and fills up that whole floor. He had great posture. I saw more personality tonight from Jason in his foxtrot than I have seen before. He really came out and sold the number. Edyta looked absolutely stunning. All the moves and tricks she choreographed with him came across perfectly. You can really see that her choreography is shining and showing him off today. Sometimes the moves, in general, show off the woman. But Edyta's choreography tonight really showed him off in the foxtrot. I thought he did a superb job.

Brett: And they were good again in the pasa doble. I thought he really presented himself well.

Jonathan: Definitely. His posture was better. He was quicker with his legs and feet. He didn't pose quite so much as the first time. Last week, in the samba, Jason looked either unrehearsed or like he just hadn't got the samba. That was totally gone this week. He sold the pasa doble and really had two very strong numbers. The competition is great this year, it really is. My prediction is Jason & Kristi in the final, but with the show that Cristián is putting on right now, it's a tough one.

As a general comment, I do have to say that this week, with the randomness of what dances the couples picked, Jason & Edyta really got lucky. Foxtrot was one of Jason's stronger dances in the beginning and the pasa doble, due to the music and the strength of the dance, is really great to make it look strong and showy. Kristi got very lucky with the jive and the tango. Those are easier dances. Whereas, let's say Cristián with the Viennese waltz, that's a bit tougher to sell and show off. And definitely with Marissa and the rumba, that's a harder one to make look exciting and dramatic. I think the randomness of which dances each couple got came into play this week.

Brett: Yes, that was just unfortunate luck for Marissa, drawing the rumba, because it was going to be an uphill battle no matter what.

Jonathan: That's the thing, and the judge's did acknowledge this. I agree on the one hand with Carrie Ann that it needed to be more interesting and exciting, but I also agree with Len saying this is the rumba, and it's not a pasa doble or a quickstep. It's definitely harder to sell a rumba. Marissa really has improved for me. I was actually quite impressed with her quickstep. She flew around the floor with Tony. She had great posture. The speed of her feet and legs has incredibly improved from the beginning of the show.

Of course we saw her bubbly personality, and you could just see that she loves every moment on the show. She's just so happy to be there. This is the ninth week and Marissa is just as happy as the first week to be on the show. That really says something. She loves to dance, and loves being out there in front of her fans. You can't help but like her. Most people, the stress, the tiredness, and the exhaustion is starting to get to you. And I can't see that at all with Marissa. You can see Marissa, sometimes when the judges have said mean things, she wells up a bit and it gets to her emotionally. So I know Tony must be doing a dynamite job making her feel positive and encouraging her in the back.

Brett: Getting back to Cristián & Cheryl, the judges made a point that echoes back to what you were saying last week. The fact that the injury to his arm has focused him and it's actually been a positive for his dancing.

Jonathan: Absolutely. For me, with Cristián tonight, his Viennese waltz was OK. It didn't blow me out of the water, but was very good. There was nothing that was the wow factor. Whereas the samba, especially being the dance he had to face again after the injury, his rhythm was just fantastic. You can really see the Latino blood in him. His hips were going. His body was moving. I really enjoyed his samba. He got a total standing ovation for that and the judges really praised him. I agree, his samba just got everybody up on their feet.

Brett: Given what all of them did, it really could be anybody going home tomorrow. With the fan vote, it's almost impossible to call.

Jonathan: Exactly, this season you just do not know what's going to happen. I've told you my prediction, but I could be wrong. Marissa thought she was going home from week one, and here it is, the semi-finals, and she's still there. She's the underdog, but going into the ninth week, I'm not sure if she's still the underdog, because she's been doing so great. It's going to be a great finale.

Brett: Getting to some reader questions, Tammy asks if you think adding the lifts helped or hurt the competition. A number of readers thought that it put too much focus on the lifts, and took away from the dance moves.

Jonathan: I think that comes down to a matter of opinion. Knowing the three judges, Carrie Ann and Len are going to look more often to the dancing part, where Bruno often looks more toward the emotion and style. That's his natural tendency. I wouldn't say it detracted from the dancing. Just that the more lifts there are, the less basic dancing you do. Lifts are always more exciting to do. I do think, in general, lifts give the advantage to the male celebrities because it's often much harder for the men to swing the celebrity ladies around. Whereas with the male celebrities, Edyta can just whip herself around, or Cheryl can put herself through something.

Brett: Saragee has a question about scoring. So often we'll see something where two couples get the same score, but when you put the two numbers next to each other, one is clearly better. She wonders if there should be a decimal system so the judges have more room to differentiate those performances.

Jonathan: I would love to see with the scoring that they do it kind of like ice dancing in the Olympics where you have a technical score and an artistic score. It would probably take too long, which is why they don't do it on the show. But sometimes you have a routine that the technique is great, they perform it flawlessly, but it didn't quite have the wow factor of another routine. Or you might have a routine that isn't technically as difficult, but they come out and just sell that routine with a great performance. I wish there were two different scores to kind of differentiate that.

Brett: I think that would be better, and also deal with some of the complaints.

Jonathan: I'm the same way as some of your readers. I hear what the judges say and then I hear the scores, and I compare what they gave one couple with another and go, wait, that doesn't make sense. But I know, having judged other dance competitions myself, there are so many things you take into account, sometimes you don't remember what you gave the other couple. So, it's kind of tough. I do think having two different categories would be an improvement.

Brett: Kind of along similar lines, Selma wrote in wondering if you know anything about the movement to get dance sport into the Olympics.

Jonathan: At this point, it will never happen. If you think there is drama with the ice dancing, with the judges, the problem right now in ballroom dancing is that the judges of the championships can also teach. It's too grey of an area when you can teach the couple that you are actually judging. Until the sport is fixed so that the judges that judge the championships can't teach the couples competing, I don't see it ever being there. As far as artistry and athleticism, absolutely ballroom dancing should be in the Olympics. There's no question at all. The difficulty I think, if say we compare ballroom dancing to ice dancing, is so much of it is opinion. All the arm movements and the style and the emotion. One person might like one thing and another might like something else. What ice dancing has is the jumps, which you have a square. They make the jump or they don't. They do three rotations or they don't. In ballroom we don't even have jumps to regulate a basic technique. To me, it should be in the Olympics, but there are a lot of things that should be fixed in order to have that happen.

Brett: It's something I would really like to see. I'm for as many things as you can jam into the Olympics. It just makes it more interesting.

Jonathan: Yeah, and you know, the women look great.

Brett: That's always a plus, and it's great for television. Maybe that's what will end up selling it. It's great for TV. Shows like Dancing With The Stars can only help it there.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Brett: Iman writes in and she was recently featured with a choir at Carnegie Hall and it got her thinking about trying ballroom dancing. She wants to know if someone having musical ability helps when trying to take up ballroom.

Jonathan: Absolutely, if you have some sort of a musical background, whether it be you play an instrument, or you sing, or you just had music playing in your house growing up and you are used to moving to a beat, that just helps you immensely.

Brett: Emily is curious about next season already. Apparently a little impatient, she wonders if you will be back, and how they go about casting the pros each season.

Jonathan: They definitely match us up with the different celebrities. They cast the celebrities first, and then they match the pros up with them by personality, height, and looks and everything. So, we don't know yet what's going to happen.

Brett: I did not realize that it was dependent on the celebrities.

Jonathan: Well what if you had six amazon women all six foot and above? Then, let's say Mark and Louis, who are both 5'10" or so, that wouldn't work. So they have to match things up that way.

Brett: green eyed gal has an interesting question. She would like to know what you were doing before you became a professional dancer, and I would add to that, the classic, if you weren't a dancer what do you see yourself doing as a career.

Jonathan: I have no idea. I started dancing right when I started college and it just completely changed my life. If I wasn't dancing I think I would be involved in something working with people in some sort of performance aspect. I love communicating with people, and I love being in front of people. What that would actually mean, I have no idea. I really can't imagine my life without dancing.

Brett: Tabitha has a question that follows along those lines. She wants to know, when your schedule does free up, what is it you like to do with your free time.

Jonathan: I like to spend time with my wife Anna. I don't get a lot of time, but I like to play golf. And I actually play a lot of computer games. It sounds funny, but I love playing my computer games.

Brett: Now are you just on the computer, or do you play any of the consoles? Xbox or Wii?

Jonathan: Mostly just the computer. Particularly, I play World of Warcraft.

Brett: Oh, one of those. I've stayed away because I think I would just get sucked in and never get back out.

Jonathan: It does do that. So, yeah. That's the problem with those games.

Brett: Breid would like to know, given what a strenuous undertaking the show is, how do the pros and the celebrities prepare before the season.

Jonathan: From the professional side, this is our trade and our field. The challenge for us on the show is not so much physically, it's more mental. Figuring out how to make choreography and how to be able to get our partners to look their best. That's the challenge. All of us that have competed before as professionals, that physically is much harder than what the show requires.

For celebrities, any sort of dance background they have is a huge help. The more visual they are, the easier it is. Especially the longer you make it in the competition, the more you have to be able to pick up the moves really fast. And I find there are different kind of learners. Some people are very kinetic. Some are auditory. And some are visual. The people that are visual definitely have an advantage on the show. Take Mel B. for example. She's never done ballroom before, but with the Spice Girls she would stand there and have to copy the different moves and be aware of moving around and what they were doing. That's a huge help when the pressure is on with the show, being able to pick up the steps really fast.

And that will do it for another week. Jonathan will be back with us one more time next week to run through the dances and make a final pick for who is going to take home the mirror ball. As always, feel free to leave your questions in the comments and I'll pass along as many as I can.

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Brett and Jonathan,

Thanks again for a great column! I've really enjoyed reading Jonathans insights on the performances and learning some "fun facts" about him in the process.

Please don't forget to revisit our teaser question about Jonathan's retirement status! It would be awfully cruel to leave us hanging all summer!

May 19 2008 at 12:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Brett-Thank you for the interviews with Jonathan and taking the time to ask our questions! I cannot wait to view this each Tuesday. I will really miss it. I wish this could continue although DWTS will be over. I really enjoyed getting to know Jonathan better ( I know it is obvious he is my favorite Pro Dancer)!

My questions for Jonathan are-"When the judges give their critique of the dances, do you as a professional dancer get to discuss this further when the show is over?" Do you ever state your disagreements, etc.? I know on Larry King last season when Bruno made the comment that Marie didn't deserve to be in the finals, you came back and defended her and stood up for her. I felt that was very honorable of you!

Also, and yes I am kind of impatient, will there be a summer tour and will we see you anywhere this summer?

I hope you and Anna have a great summer, get to take a relaxing vacation, and hopefully, both of you will be back next season to entertain us more and more!


May 17 2008 at 10:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know if you are still doing the interviews with Jonathan Roberts but if you are I had a few questions....

My questions

I know that you and Anna no longer compete but do you still compete with other dancers?

If you had the option to compete with any professional ballroom dancer who would it be and why?

May 15 2008 at 3:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder what Jonathan thinks about a future show idea: one with all men celebrities and then one with all female? I think it's very difficult to equitably judge/vote for men and women at the same time. I think the women end up with a disadvantage.

May 14 2008 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I want to know what happens to the costumes after the shows are done?

May 14 2008 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have heard many comments at work regarding Edyte and Cheryls apparel, I too find the dress disconcerning.. I AM glad Karina is out she showed too much flesh and it took away from her talent as a dancer. NO one in ballroom dancing would allow such dress, I AM surprised the judges allow this to continue week after week, AS for Marissa, SHE is a joy to watch WIN OR LOSE she is a favorite amongst my friends and entertained us the entire time she has been on, she gets our votes. WAY TO GO MARISSA and NO MATTER GOD Bless you ,,,and happy MOTHERHOOD may you have rich and splendid days ahead , YOU , your husband and that new baby...

May 13 2008 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a question for Jonathan. I'm new to the show this season so I apologize if this has been asked before. Do you think it is fair to take points off the celebrity's score because the judge doesn't like the choreography? I remember a few weeks ago one of the judges penalizing Kristy because they didn't like the back-and-forth style. The professionals are in charge of the choreography and, like it or not, I think the celebrity should be judged on execution.

May 13 2008 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My question - and it might already have been answered - is how does they pick the songs to dance to during the show?

May 13 2008 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm not an ice skating fan, but what do you call the "triple lutz" thing, if it's not a jump? (maybe that's what he was referring to...figure skating, not ice dancing...I'm assuming there's a difference)

Can anyone clarify this even more?

May 13 2008 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to airneri's comment

airneri, ice dancing involves a pair of skaters essentially dancing on ice. They don't do lifts above the man's shoulders, they don't do jumps (such as the triple lutz you mentioned) and they don't do those fast spins that are often associated with skating. They have required elements that they have to do, many involving footwork and certain types of holds. Those required elements correlate with the type of dance routine that they're required to do. The competitions consist of two required dances that all competitors execute, along with a free dance. The required dances are picked well ahead of time but it's not the competitors who pick the dances, much like DWTS.

Pairs figure skating, on the other hand, is probably what you're more familiar with: jumps, spins, the death spiral, lifts above the head, etc. It's more athletic and has its own set of required elements. They do a short program of mainly required moves and they do a long program, as well.

Ice dancing was a controversial addition to the Olympics all those years ago. Critics said the judging would be too subjective, that it's not really an athletic endeavor, and that it's just too artistic. Those are a lot of the arguments against ballroom dancing being included as an Olympic sport, as Jonathan alluded to. He was completely right in comparing ice dancing with ballroom dancing but just wrongly attributed jumps and spins to ice dancing.

May 13 2008 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Billieb35, the same thing jumped out at me. While I would most equate ballroom dancing with ice dancing when it comes to Olympic sports, ice dancing does not incorporate jumps. They don't really do rotations either, if he's referring to spins. I don't want to nitpick Jonathan, but that was a faulty analogy. Ballroom dancing and ice dancing are actually pretty comparable in that they have a few rather vague guidelines to incorporate into the routines and the proper execution of those guidelines by the competitors is in large part subjective in the judges' eyes.

I think to some extent the judges on DWTS give scores relative to each competitor's ability. For instance, a 10 for Kristi might mean that she performed to the highest of her ability. A 10 for Jason would mean that he performed to the peak of his ability. When you compare them side by side, they look a little lopsided and arbitrary since Jason's peak ability is less than Kristi's. I've come to the conclusion that the judge's may not be judging the competitors against each other.

May 13 2008 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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