DWTS 14 Week 5 results: DeGraw goes

It was Latin week “Dancing with the Stars” and Gavin DeGraw was puppy-dog cute, but that didn’t cut it and this gringo was gone at the end of Tuesday night.

Still, DeGraw and his partner Karina Smirnoff gave a very entertaining performance despite how bad and unrecognizable his samba form was. That’s a real credit to Smirnoff. She was able to access the weaknesses of her celebrity and play to his strengths. What was DeGraw’s strength? His sheer enthusiasm and willingness to exude boyish charm on stage no matter how bad his dancing was. Smirnoff came up with a beautiful entrance and a routine that actually played off of the mismatch of their abilities. The song, “Sweetheart from Venezuela” by Harry Belafonte,  actually commented on a language barrier that their dancing emphasized.

Smirnoff also knew that DeGraw was in danger because it was Latin week and while DeGraw got his highest score of the season dancing the rumba, it was his posing and commitment to the performance rather than his hip movement that got them there. Samba requires constant hip movement and a lot of booty shaking, that DeGraw just doesn’t come by naturally.

DeGraw had already been in the bottom two twice before showing that he didn’t have a large fan base.  Week 2, DeGraw and Smirnoff weren’t the low score with 21, but they scored higher than Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy who had 20 and were tied with Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya. Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy were tied with DeGraw and Chmervkovskiy for the lowest score of the first week with 20. With the combined scores of week 1 and 2, DeGraw and Smirnoff were one point ahead of Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy. Yet Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy didn’t end up in the bottom two. That week the lowest scoring team of Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani were eliminated.

Week 3, DeGraw and Smirnoff were tied for the bottom spot with four other teams: Wagner and Trebunskaya, Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy, Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus and Gilbert and Maksim. Wagner and Trebunskaya left the ballroom that week, but the next week it was Shepherd and Val. That seems to indicate two things: The teams of Gilbert and Maksim and Knight and MacManus have a strong fan base.

Knight and MacManus’ fan base is strong enough to lift her from last place on the leader board Week 4, despite that horrible choice of songs–“Bohemiam Rhapsody” for the tango. Instead, Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower were in the bottom two with Shepherd and Val. Shepherd and Val were eliminated.

Gilbert and Maksim and Knight and MacManus were at the bottom of the scoreboard–only ahead of DeGraw and Smirnoff–and yet they weren’t in the bottom two. It was Jaleel White and Kym Johnson.

White and Johnson were able to save themselves in the dance off which was a cha cha cha. Neither team had performed that dance before. They both had been given the foxtrot. Yet we know that Jaleel can move those hips and he and Johnson did some real dancing while DeGraw was mostly walking through it with Smirnoff dancing around him.

Carrie Ann Inaba said that White’s performance had “a strong cha cha flavor” while  DeGraw was “good in hold” and head judge noted that DeGraw gave his all.

Bruno Tonioli noted that White had great rhythm and fantastic turns and great shape.

It was no surprise that all the judges picked White and Johnson as the better dancers. To his credit, DeGraw noted that he had a good time and his participation on DWTS had resulted in a family reunion.

This cast has been so much more positive and filled with grace compared to the sour grapes of last season with Chaz Bono and Hope Solo. Last season also saw the introduction of three new professional dancers: Val Chmerkovskiy, Peta Murgatroyd and Tristan MacManus. Murgatroyd and MacManus are still in the competition, but consider how MacManus has not employed elaborate sets, particularly this week.

Think of Chelsie Hightower’s jungle bird concept. What about the differing scenarios for the Argentine tango that Murgatroyd, Mark Ballas and Cherly Burke thought up for their celebrity partners. The same can be said for Maksim and Hough. Johnson thought up soda fountain scenario during week 2 for the jive. White also was Stephan Urkelle for Week 3 when he and Johnson performed the rumba.

MacManus isn’t asking Knight to be anything but herself. Why not? She’s obviously a performer and has natural grace. Some of his dance moves haven’t shown her off to best effect as she is a thick girl. Compare that to the imagination Smirnoff has shown.

A look at DeGraw’s performances over the last give weeks shows a regular guy who has natural rhythm but isn’t a natural dancer. Still he was able to give entertaining performances thanks to Smirnoff’s concepts and his willingness to push himself and take on personas. Remember when he channeled both Marlon Brando and Elvis during Rock Week?

Week 1: Foxtrot

Week 2: Jive (Bottom Two)

Week 3: Personal Story Rumba

Week 4: Rock Week Tango

Week 5: Latin Night samba

Choreographer Liz Imperio talks about her dance piece.

Dancers, feathers and fringe perform “Macy’s Stars of Dance”

About Jana J. Monji

I've written for the Rafu Shimpo, LA Weekly, LA Times and, more recently, the Pasadena Weekly. I formerly worked for a dot-com more interested in yodeling than its customers.

Posted on April 18, 2012, in Dancing with the Stars Season 14, Gavin DeGraw. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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