DWTS 14 Week 7: Was Melissa Gilbert underscored?

Due to a delayed flight and jet lag, we were unable to comment on Monday night’s performances. From reading other articles, there seems to be a perception that Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were underscored for their Argentine tango performance on Classical Week of “Dancing with the Stars” season 14.

The judges gave Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy 21 points (7, 7, 7), but the fans felt she deserved a better score.

Looking at this team’s performance, frame by frame, I agree with the judges.


  • Her arms are stiff and inexpressive during the first lift and she looks fearful but not in a way that says this is my character being abducted.
  • The white dress high-waistline dress  isn’t what one would expect for Argentine tango and though it looks bridal enough, the dress would be better suited for a lyrical something like the rumba.


  • Her ganchos (hooks as the DWTS judges call them) are shallow although we rarely see ganchos performed well even by the professional dancers on DWTS


  • Her foot is flexed both going into and out of this move. Consider the beauty of Katherine Jenkins’ performance.
  • Jenkins gives lift at 0:42 and 0:36 have better transitions and her leg extension is lovely.


  • Her free leg (the one she isn’t standing on) is bent and not turned out. Her right arm is straight and not curved.


  • Her position rising is an unflattering squat with her bum out and her shoulders up.
  • Her left arm is straight.
  • Her face lacks expression.


  • Her legs aren’t close together on take off.
  • Her shoulders are up.
  • She looks tense.
  • Her feet are flexed going in and out of this move.


  • Her legs are flexed.
  • Her shoulders are up.
  • The transition is awkward.


  • This lift is better suited for swing or jive, but not Argentine tango.


  • The walk doesn’t have expression.
  • Her free warm is straight and her fingers apart instead of gracefully together.
  • Her shoulders are up.


  • The transition into this lift is awkward  as is the transition out.


  • The sudden lift up to change position probably indicates that Gilbert doesn’t have the core strength to get to her next position by herself.
  • At the beginning of the drag, her core isn’t strong. Look at her waist. She can’t sustain the drag in a straight body position for long.

While the judges criticized this for the excessive number of lifts, the choreography also saves us from looking at her awkward footwork. There were no nuances in her upper body or expression on her face.

What did the judges say?

Bruno Tonioli commented that “You’re extremely brave” for taking on Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” However, the performance looked like she was “riding the Cyclone in Coney Island. It got messy. Up and down, the lifts it wasn’t clean.” I agree with this. The lifts are easier for the female celebrities because the male pros know what they are doing whereas with the male celebrities, they have to learn the techniques.

Carrie Ann Inaba compared the dance to “Cirque du Soleil that went terribly wrong.” Inaba felt that for the lifts, the routine went for quantity with a lack of quality, making the performance a  “lift-fest.”

Len Goodman said that “dance is a marriage between the music and the movement” but found the routine lacked dance quality.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1786 “The Marriage of Figaro” or “Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata” is a comic opera with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte based  on an earlier comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais. The story, a continuation of “The Barber of Seville” several years later, is about how the Count Almaviva attempts to prevent his head servant Figaro from marrying Susanna on one particular day of madness.

The Count hopes to restore an old law whereby the lord has the feudal right to have sexual relations with his servant on the wedding night before she sleeps with her husband. The count tries to force Figaro to marry a much older woman, but his plans are thwarted and Figaro marries Susanna while the Count realizes that he really loves his wife.

In the opera, Susanna is not a damsel in distress. She shares snarky comments with the old housekeeper, Marcellina. She resists the Count and shelters the Count’s page against the Count’s anger. She cleverly conspires with the Countess.

There is nothing in Gilbert’s performance that suggests comedy or the sly servant duping a count. One supposed that Chmerkovskiy was portraying the Count. Gilbert’s face and body fail to express any character or mood and during week 7 this particularly problematic.

Gilbert was the weakest dancer on Classical Week, but White and Roshon Fegan have lacked the votes. This week when it came down to a rumba dance off, the judges were unanimous in voting to save Fegan and his partner Chelsie Hightower.

Fegan and Hightower have 25.1 for eight dances against White and Johnson’s 24.9. That’s pretty close. Compare that to the team of Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy whose average for eight dances is 22.3.

Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy  have never been in first on the leader board, yet they have been the low score for the cha cha cha (20), salsa (21), the paso doble (22), the Viennese waltz (tied with White and Johnson with 24), and the Argentine tango (21).
Of the two TV child stars featured on this season of “Dancing with the Stars,” the one with the lesser dance talent went forward. Unfortunately, it is also likely that Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy  will  outlast Fegan and  Hightower. Despite some great moves, Fegan and Hightower have been in the bottom-two three times while Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy have not once been in the dreaded spotlight of doom.





About Jana J. Monji

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

Posted on May 2, 2012, in Dancing with the Stars Season 14, Melissa Gilbert and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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