'Dancing with the Stars' Season 18 Recap: Week Eight Performances (Celebrity Dance Duels)

By Michael Pascua,
With a new challenge for the celebrities, how will Abby Lee Miller shake up the scoreboard?

The pressure continues to grow on Dancing with the Stars. This week began with an opening performance performed by Mark Ballas and, while the song “Get My Name” is moderately catchy, Mark should stick to dancing because his section with Witney was much better. In general, Mark Ballas’ song was lively and fit really well with the choreography, but the dancing pros was my focus.

We welcomed all our contestants and it seemed that all the performers looked fit enough to perform for this week including Amy, whose back gave her trouble last week. The couples stood nervously as they were told one by one their outcomes. Charlie was first to know that he was safe.

Abby Lee Miller and the kids from Dance Moms were on the show. She was looking for musicality, emotional changes, and “pretty much everything.” In the end, Abby at least tried to give criticisms that were dance related and not just the vague Ricky Martin-style “feeling the music,” and I appreciate that she knew she could be over-the-top.

Round One - Solo Dances

Charlie & Sharna
Dance - Quickstep
Song - “My Heart Goes Boom” by Miss Li
After Len said that his performance wasn’t special, Charlie lost a bit of his positivity. Sharna wanted to make sure he was still going for the gold. Charlie’s mother arrived to help inspire him to keep competing. As the couple danced, the two had a nice levity to their performance. Having Charlie in a Ballroom style that kept him in hold helped the performance a lot because it reminded me a lot of his ice dancing skills. He even had moments where he looked like he was leading the dance. The couple covered a lot of ground and I appreciated how they transitioned from the floor to the stage.

Len still hasn’t figured out if the score was 10-worthy yet. Abby tried to point out the bounce in the knee as a problem, but Bruno tried to correct her. She did point out that Charlie had great musicality. Bruno thought he was a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred. Carrie Ann thought Charlie found his stride. Score: 40 (10,10,10,10)

Danica & Val
Dance - Tango
Song - “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde
Danica asked Val if they truthfully had a shot to make it to the finals. Val was confident. He knew that she would fight through the steps even if she was in pain. The couple created a strong and powerful character for Danica but Val made sure that there was a lot of content. The opening sequence was a waste of non-tango, but once the two got into hold, the sharp movements accentuated by the gliding across the floor looked beautiful. I wouldn’t have known that Danica had rib issues. Her head was up and her arms had as much power as her face.

Abby loved the performance, she suggested keeping an eye on the shoulders. Bruno thought it was a majestic performance; she pulled it all together. Carrie Ann felt like a proud mother because of the artistry. Len thought that once the dance got to the tango, it was perfect. Score: 38 (10,9,9,10)

Meryl & Maks
Dance - Rumba
Song - “Read All About It, Part III” by Emeli Sandé
Maks wanted a story about a dysfunctional relationship to get into deep character. Meryl explained that Maks was a softy/teddy bear and the couple knew that they could get past any struggles. The couple began at a table with thrown plates a bit like a contemporary piece, but Meryl tried to point her feet even without shoes and there was some Rumba content. In the end, the routine may have been too edgy without enough Latin content.

Bruno was reminded of A Streetcar Named Desire and loved the routine. Carrie Ann appreciated the fluidity of the steps where even Meryl’s eyes were emotional. She suggested more content. Len loved the mood and feeling of the routine. Abby called out Meryl for having flat, skater’s feet. Score: 36 (9,9,8,10)

Candace & Mark
Dance - Foxtrot
Song - “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On” by Sam Cooke
Candace was excited to be safe for a week and was so close to the finals. Mark compared her to being the turtle in the race. The foxtrot had the two acting really silly during practice, but Candace still had the encouragement from her family when she got home. The couple began on a sofa arguing over the remote control. I liked the characters of the routine, which helped Candace dance with more confidence. Candace would once in a while second guess her foot positioning or arm extensions, but the dance was week eight worthy.

Carrie Ann appreciated the growth of the performance, even with the few moments. Len thought it was a joy to watch. Abby said some words about dropping Mark. Bruno loved the sitcom spirit and appreciated Candace’s growth as a performer. Score: 36 (9,9,9,9)

James & Peta
Dance - Viennese Waltz
Song - “6-2″ by Marie Miller
Peta explained how frightening the elimination lights were for the couple and they knew that they were on the bottom of the leaderboard. Peta wanted to make sure that James’ posture was perfect and the frame left him frustrated. His fellow band members of Big Time Rush came to watch the two practice which helped lighten the pressure. James and Peta had this wonderful flow right from the beginning of the dance. James’ arm extensions were great, though his shoulders occasionally rise up and he’d squat when turning. The two have a nice chemistry that wasn’t as vulgar as their dance last week and I appreciate that Peta didn’t mess around with too much story line.

Len appreciates the flow of James' movements but when they were in hold his bottom sticks out. Abby loved Peta, but James was the perfect frame for her. Bruno loved the chemistry, but agreed with Len’s criticisms. Carrie Ann loved the charm, but she agreed about the posture issues. Score: 36 (8,9,10,9)

Amy & Derek
Dance - Argentine Tango
Song - “Heart Upon My Sleeve” by Avicii
We went back and watched Amy’s troubles last week and the amount of pain she was in. The chiropractor told her that she was okay to compete. Derek decided to show Amy the dance first, but the Argentine Tango targeted her back issues. Amy began on a chair but immediately showed wonderful leg motions and placement. If anything, Amy looked sharper with her leg placement. I appreciated the attempt at interesting arm work, but it could have been done with Amy standing equally as fine. The content of this dance was amazing though considering the smoke and mirrors that Derek slipped into the routine.

Abby told Derek how much she appreciated how amazing she made Amy look; she tried to tell her dance girls how amazing Amy is. Bruno was spellbound and thought he was in a trance. Carrie Ann thought the routine was perfection. Len said the routine was terrific. Score: 40 (10,10,10,10)

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