'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Rashad Jennings has the momentum after finale Night 1

For The Baltimore Sun

We’ve made it to Part 1 of the “Dancing With the Stars” finale. Tom Bergeron tells us Round 1 is a "Redemption" round, where contestants will dance a style they've done before and try to do it better this time.

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold

Viennese waltz

David acknowledges in his interview that he's not the best dancer on the show and thanks his fans for getting him this far. They watch video of his Viennese waltz from Week 4, and even he can see the things he wants to improve on for tonight.

I notice at the beginning that they've put straps on the bottom of his pants to keep them held down. It's a look that works for baseball pants but creates some weird pulling on the dance floor.

Len Goodman calls David a "Cinderella story" and says he's pleased for him. Len says there's been improvement in David's dancing overall, but not particularly in the Viennese waltz. He says David needs the lemon back because his butt was sticking out too much, and that David's shoulders were too high. Carrie Ann Inaba says David makes the best connection with the audience and judges. She has notes about his feet, though.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 8

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy


They finally replay the "stumble" from Normani's dance last week and I still struggle to see it. This just reinforces my statement that they were grading David on a curve to give them the same scores. During rehearsals, Normani lands wrong on her ankle and it bends in the way you don't really want ankles to bend.

She's wearing mid-calf boots during her dance tonight, so it's hard to see if she has on an ankle brace. She's also wearing the kind of body stocking/catsuit I used to point and laugh at in lingerie catalogs.

Julianne Hough says that since Normani danced in a bodysuit instead of a skirt, it made it easier to see that she didn't have all the body contact she should have. Bruno Tonioli calls it brilliant. Len says that costumes are like makeup in that they can cover up small blemishes, and Normani’s bodysuit highlighted the deficiencies in body contact.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 10

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater

Viennese waltz

Rashad first danced the Viennese waltz back in Week 2, so he should definitely show some improvement for tonight's performance.

On a completely shallow note, this dark green they're wearing is a nice shade that I wish we saw more often these days in clothes. It had a big moment in the ’90s, so maybe it's back now.

Bruno calls it polished, majestic, and smooth as silk. He says Rashad's footwork is unrecognizable from where it was earlier in the season. Carrie Ann praises Rashad’s pursuit of perfection. Len says he saw improvement in every level of that dance.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10

Freestyle Round

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold

Lindsay is reading comments from fans out to David. Dude. The internet is a scary place. Clearly, baseball bats are going to be a prop throughout this routine.

Lindsay is wearing what can only be described as stiletto sneakers. They're dancing to some dance team competition remix of "It Takes Two" and it's throwing me off. They get in a really neat trick where Lindsay does a backbend over a baseball bat while David spins her around. It's a cute routine, but David is still clearly the least talented of the dancers, and there's a fair amount of Lindsay dancing around him.

Len says the only thing missing from the routine was a beer and a hot dog. Julianne calls it entertaining. Carrie Ann thinks this was David's personal best.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy

Their routine, based on rehearsals, is going to include kid dancers. Blech. It's an interesting direction to go in for a pop star, picking a slightly down-tempo song and doing a lot of her routine in proper ballroom hold. It's a savvy choice — a hip-hop freestyle would look like what people expect a woman in a girl group to be able to do. This shows what's she's learned.

Normani leans into the mic to talk after Julianne starts her comments; this is something she did last week as well. She needs to know that this is not her time to talk; it's for the judges. Bruno says it was like watching angels dancing. Len says it was breathtaking.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater

Rashad says he used to sneak out at halftime of his football games to hear the marching band, and it sounds like he wants to incorporate some drumline music and moves into their freestyle. His shirt is giving me major flashbacks to mall shops in the early ’90s.

The routine starts with Rashad dancing with four male backup dancers for a long time before Emma comes out. That says something about their confidence in his dancing. After the first bit, he yanks off his hat and winks right at the camera as he tosses it into the audience. Charisma out the wazoo, this one. There's a bit of a drumline break in the middle, with a few too many flips and tricks that aren't perfectly executed for my taste. This may sound like a weird thing to say, but I think he could have done this whole routine without Emma.

Bruno says he's blown away. Carrie Ann says Rashad has been holding out on them because this number "turned this motha out." Len says Rashad is the one going into Tuesday night’s finale Part 2 with momentum.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10

So, basically, the freestyle dances meant nothing in terms of the competition, scoring-wise. But I guess they could sway some voters.


Rashad & Emma: 40 + 40 = 80

Normani & Val: 38 + 40 = 78

David & Lindsay: 33 + 40= 73

Tomorrow night each couple will be doing a fusion dance for a final judges' score, and a winner bill be announced.


It's going to be a close one.

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