DWTS 14 Finals: Can Katherine Jenkins win?

Last night, 15 May 2012, Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins and her professional dance partner learned early on that they had survived the cut and were moving on to the finals. That’s despite posting the lowest combined score for two dances on Monday night. TV hostess Maria Menounos and her partner Derek Hough were eliminated instead, leaving two hunks in the finals: telenovela actor William Levy and NFL wide receiver Donald Driver.

Maria Menounos would have been a long shot because only one winner has been a TV hostess (Brooke Burke).

  1. William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 28 (9, 9, 10) + 30 (10,10,10)  = 58/60
  2. Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 28 (9, 9, 10) +29 (10,9,10) = 57/60
  3. Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 29 (10,9,10) + 27 (9,9,9) = 56/60

Jenkins suffered from a back muscle spasm and that may be critical to her performance in the finals. Ballas will have to choreograph in a way that will not cause further pain or damage, but Ballas can be unpredictable. It wasn’t so long ago that Disney star Chelsea Kane had to have a heart-to-heart with Ballas about his artistic risks during season 12. Kane and Ballas finished third behind the winer Hines Ward and Kym Johnson and the runner-up Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

The belly dance-themed salsa routine on Monday night was risky, but did include salsa moves, however, it was that unsupported back bend that caused Jenkins to break out in tears, unable to complete the move. Ballas making a butterfly over Jenkins didn’t add to Jenkins’ difficulty level and at that stage in the performance was a high risk as her back was unsupported. Further, earlier Ballas and Jenkins had performed on their knees and Jenkins obviously wasn’t wearing knee pads–another risky decision.

Of course, Ballas isn’t the only professional dancer who takes risks in choreography. Burke and Levy’s rumba during week 6 (Motown Week) was deemed too steamy by head judge Len Goodman. He gave the team an 8 compared to the 9 from judge Carrie Ann Inaba and the 10 from judge Bruno Tonioli.

Derek Hough’s Bollywood-inspired samba had too little samba for Goodman and the team got marked down to a 7 compared to the nines the other judges awarded. Peta Murgatroyd was more successful with her R&B inspired samba for Donald Driver this last week. That allowed Driver to samba without being compared to the kind of hip movement we already know Levy has.

Yet Hough, Burke and Murgatroyd’s risk taking weren’t physical, but thematic.

Driver has stage presence, but he doesn’t emote or smolder as much as Levy. Driver also doesn’t have that sensuous and fluid hip action that Levy does. Both men suffer from a tendency to be flat-footed (not extending their feet and ankles) and sickle footed. Jenkins almost always has turn out, beautiful lines and extension in both her hands and feet. Driver and Levy don’t always reach full extension as consistently as Jenkins. Jenkins, however, has problems projecting anger or a commanding, dominating presence as is required for the paso doble. Both of the men are capable of that as well as the lighter mood that Jenkins is best at projecting.

Katherine Jenkins holds the high score for the cha cha cha (29), quickstep (29) and waltz (29). She’s tied with Maria Menounos and Levy for the high score in the rumba (27). Menounos has the high score for jive (29), paso doble (30), Viennese waltz (28) and Argentine tango (30). Levy has the high score for the foxtrot (30), samba (30), salsa (28) and tango (28). Driver doesn’t hold the high score for any of the dances.

The team who posts the highest score during the freestyle usually has the advantage. There’s always the possibility of complete disaster such as artistic meltdown between Anna Trebunskaya and Olympic gold medal figure skater Evan Lysacek who finished second during season 10. Can you remember Marie Osmond’s doll-themed freestyle with gentleman dancer Jonathan Roberts without cringing? That was season 5 and Marie Osmond finished third (Hélio Castroneves and Julianne Hough won).
Julianne Hough won twice–with Ohno and Castroneves in seasons 4 and 5 respectively. Her brother Derek has won three times: season 7 with TV hostess Brooke Burke, season 10 with singer Nicole Scherzinger and season 11 with actress Jennifer Grey. Ballas has won twice: during season 6 with Olympic gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and season 8 with Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson. Cheryl Burke has also won twice: with Drew Lachey during season 2 and Emmitt Smith during season 3.
Burke has finished second twice: season 3 with actor Gilles Marini and season 13 with reality star Rob Kardashian. Burke has finished third once–during season six with actor Cristián de la Fuente (who had an injured shoulder).
Ballas has finished third twice: during season 11 with political advocate Bristol Palin and season 12 with Disney star Chelsea Kane.
While both Ballas and Burke have experience planning and training a celebrity successfully into the finals, Peta Murgatroyd is only in her second season as a professional dance partner and this is her first time in the finals. Yet she has proven to make smart choices and takes fewer big risks than Burke who went too raunchy for Len Goodman. Then there’s Ballas who sometimes seems choreographing more for his own personal gain or self expression than as a strategic plan for his celebrity.
With the teams so closely matched, the votes of the viewers will really count. What do we know about the DWTS audience? Over 13 seasons, six women and seven men have won the mirror ball trophy.
Maria Menounos would have been a long shot because only one winner has been a TV hostess (Brooke Burke). Three actors have won (Monaco, Grey and Martinez) and three singers (Scherzinger, Lachey and Osmond).

Only one non-American has won (Castroneves who is Brazilian). Castroneves won over British singer Mel B. French man Gilles Marini placed second behind American Johnson. Other foreign nationals who have made the finals were: Brit Kelly Osbourne (season 9) and Chilean Cristian de la Fuentes (season 6). Both finished third. Katherine Jenkins and William Levy would be at a disadvantage here.
The largest group of winners have been sports figures: Olympic gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson, Olympic old medal speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, racer Helio Castroneves and football players Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward. That would give Donald Driver an advantage.
Yet looking at Google Trends, the hot topic in America last night and early this morning was Katherine Jenkins with neither Donald Driver nor William Levy making the top 40 search list. This DWTS finals will be hard to call and expect incredible routines and high emotion on Monday night.

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 16, 2012, in Dancing with the Stars Season 14, Donald Driver, Katherine Jenkins, Maria Menounos, William Levy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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