The Spinoff takes its place on the judging panel.
The Spinoff takes its place on the judging panel.

Pop CultureMay 14, 2018

Dancing with the Stars NZ Power Rankings: Another star bites the dust

The Spinoff takes its place on the judging panel.
The Spinoff takes its place on the judging panel.

It’s week three but it feels like we’ve never had a world without Dancing with the Stars. We’re down one Real Housewife™ but there’s still eleven contestants left. We power-rank those who remain, and farewell one more star.

ELIMINATED:  Naz Khanjani (and Shay) – Cha cha

This is me immediately after (and sometimes during) writing these power rankings.

Naz had something that nobody else in this competition had: a goddamned narrative. And even better, she had a narrative that people (or at least me and my social bubble) want to watch. Each week we saw more of Naz, and not just the Naz who came out of a season with the most lacklustre NZ Bachelor – it’s a new Naz, ready for whatever fame Dancing with the Stars generally brings people. I was here for it. She did this again in her goodbye speech, when she said “I’m really quite nice” and proceeded to give the most gracious Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality speech ever.

After an injury this week, Naz’s regular partner Tim was replaced by Gilda’s partner Shay, and she justifiably feels pretty emotional about having to do a dance that her partner got injured doing (and was then adapted to take out the choreography that gave him the injury). I have nothing sassy to say about Naz’s performance tonight and over the preceding weeks. She’s vulnerable, she’s sexy, she’s fully embodying the surprisingly decent cover of the surprisingly decent Camilla Cabello song ‘Havana’. Through the first three weeks, you could feel Khanjani reframing the narrative around her – not an easy thing for someone who became famous through a reality show to do, especially on her particular genre of reality show – and each week she came out with one of the most watchable and compelling performances.

This is absolute horse shit, but Naz did what she came here to do: she reframed her narrative.

SCORE: 20.

Dai Henwood banter: None! Dai is pretty respectful of Naz being quite emotional after her dance.

10. David Seymour (and Amelia) – Rumba

Come on, dude.

“We’re looking at a little drama.”

Bless Amelia’s soul, trying to teach David Seymour – a person whose attempts to appear like a real person are about as close to am-dram acting as I’ve ever seen – how to bring the drama. Also bless David Seymour’s soul for saying that Bic Runga is our finest lyricist and vocalist, as workshopped and media-trained an answer as you could possibly get. When Rachel says that he tries to do everything right, she’s dead-on about Seymour as both performer, politician and person. He’s trying to do everything right, and the sweat is so visible it’s basically fogging up the computer screen I’m looking at as I write this.

But, good lord, if there are two things you’d put together it would not be David Seymour and the rumba. Look. He’s just not a dancer. He’s not. He is as much a dancer as I am a vegan – it’s just not meant to be, and the attempt is embarrassing to both of us.

Also, the face Seymour makes when he’s given twelve points is Ralph Wiggum when Lisa Simpson breaks his heart. Send him home so I don’t have to keep screenshotting this face, please.

We don’t choo-choo-choose you.

But also don’t send him home, because I want to keep looking at his silly beautiful charming face, and I don’t know why. It confuses me, angers me, and makes me question my commitment to homosexuality. I need a few weeks to work this out, honestly.

SCORE: 12.

Dai Henwood banter: “What a week in Parliament, Winston’s been making a few comments about you!”

9. Zac Franich and Kristie – Jive

In which Zac Franich plays a villain from a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Oh, absolutely not. I can’t with this – it’s another week of Zac continuing to be pretty stiff while Kirstie almost literally dances circles around him to make him look good. It’s the dancing equivalent of putting up expensive bunting to hide the fact that you didn’t buy any actual Christmas decorations. The judges seem to like him enough to give him scores higher than five, so I don’t know what’s happening here. Maybe they’re blinded by his shiny, shiny tan.

There’s also a moment where Zac plays Kristie’s leg like an electric guitar that is completely unacceptable.

SCORE: 17.

Dai Henwood banter: “We don’t need a plumber because the pipes are in working order.” This is about Zac Franich’s arms, and is a horrifying image that I feel dirty typing on the internet, where it will be allowed to remain for future civilizations to one day come upon and be similarly horrified.

8. Sam Hayes (and Aaron) – Jive

She done got herself flipped.

Let’s get it out of the way: Sam Hayes did a back flip. Was it impressive? Absolutely.

Did it make up for the fact that the rest of this dance (to ‘Dog Days Are Over’, a completely underrated and unheralded banger of a song) was strangely conceived and awkwardly performed? Absolutely not. And in fairness, judge Rachel (who is as honest and upfront as Rachel McKenna, who I assume is her namesake) calls them out on this too.

Hayes fares a bit better this week and seems to be genuinely enjoying herself, but once the backflip is done and dusted you can feel her rushing ahead to get the dance over with; she looks genuinely relieved to have gotten through it without messing up. She’ll probably hang around for a while, because she’s very likeable on camera, which is why she’s on the primetime news. This is not Rockin’ Rog rocket science.

Also, there’s the ending with a hat, which conceals that they’re kissing for… no apparent reason? Or maybe they’re not kissing and they’re hiding nothing! Why would you do this? What’s the motivation? Is it performance art? Is this Marina Abramovic? What am I meant to get out of it? Why am I devoting this much thought to a Dancing with the Stars performance? Look at the hat!

Not the most efficient way to kiss, but you do you.

And also, Mike McRoberts was there, emanating gold light and being the most handsome man on television, in New Zealand, the world, the universe, existence, everything.

My god, man.

SCORE: 20 (19 points for the back flip, one point for Mike McRoberts).

Dai Henwood banter: “What a dance. I have 17 questions.” Dai Henwood proceeds to ask her nowhere near that amount.

And because it has to be acknowledged, Judge Rachel burn: “Sam, I really want to love your dance.” That’s how she ends her critique. No ‘but’. Just… that. It is a masterclass in shade, and it would be remiss of me not to include it.

7. Robert Rakete (and Nicole) – Viennese Waltz

I could talk about the dancing, which is entirely competent, and as someone who is not familiar with Rakete’s work (I have never watched The Wiggles and I’m not a 35 year old wine mum who absolutely loves Criminal Minds and mall massages so I haven’t listened to The Breeze), I find him to be a disarmingly charming presence. But that’s not the story here.

The story is the absolutely horrendous version of ‘I Have Nothing’ that we’ve been saddled with. Now, ‘I Have Nothing’ is a beast of a song, but it is also secretly a terrible song – it’s slow as molasses, it goes from a 2 to a 10 and absolutely nowhere in between – and the only vocalist who can sell it is Whitney Houston. For the most part, Dancing with the Stars does well with its covers of famous songs. This is not the most part. This is distractingly bad, and also not terribly well suited for a dance of any kind. ‘I Have Nothing’ has one place, and one place alone: Track two on The Bodyguard album. Let’s leave it there.

SCORE: 18.

Dai Henwood banter: “That thin piece of silk was no match for Robert Rakete’s back muscles.” Apparently Henwood is trying to be Mae West sometimes?

6. Shavaughan (Shav) Ruakere (and Enrique) – Quick-Step

No, Shavaughn is not swiffering the dancefloor with her dress.

After a genuinely touching video package where Shavaughan dedicates her dance to her friend Helena who passed away from cancer two years ago, it’s not surprising that Shavaughan gives an emotional performance – and not just the full-7pm-drama-face she gave last week, but a truly beautiful, physically connected performance. Also there’s a bit at the start where she swiffers the floor with her (really lovely) dress, which is a lot more impressive than my description and the above photo would suggest.

It’s a solid performance, easily her best and most memorable so far; there’s a spontaneity and a fire to Shav(aughn) that I haven’t seen from her since she played the ill-fated Roimata. If she keeps going on like this, she’s gonna be a contender.

Also, she’s one of the Prime Minister’s favourites, which has got to count for something, right?

SCORE: 23.

Dai Henwood banter: “Movement. Excitement. Passion. Emotion. I’ve said a lot of words.” That you have, Dai. That you have.

5. Rockin’ Rog (and Carol-Anne) – Viennese Waltz

That’s a lot of commitment towards being Babe of the Day.

Yes, that is a tattoo on Rockin’ Rog’s dance partner, which unfortunately looks more like a brand than any tattoo a human being would deign to receive. No, I do not think it is permanent. Yes, they joke about it being permanent and yes, I think even if it is a temporary tattoo, it is too permanent. However, this is not Tattoos with the Stars (nobody commission that), it is Dancing with the Stars. And we are here to waltz.

If you told me ten years ago that I would be watching Rockin’ Rog (Farrelly) do a Viennese Waltz to Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ on Dancing with the Stars, I would be shocked. Mostly because ten years ago I didn’t know who Rockin’ Rog was, barely knew who Metallica was, and absolutely did not know what ‘Nothing Else Matters’ was except a song for basic bros who can’t handle an alcohol percentage in the double digits. (Although judge Rachel says this song was the first dance at her wedding which… is a thing to know.)

But honestly even two weeks ago I would be shocked – and it’s that shock that rockets Rockin’ Rog straight to the moon for me. I don’t come to Dancing with the Stars for good dancing, I come to see a trainwreck and I come to see celebrities – or at least people that other people think are famous – do something weird. And sometimes that means that you get a radio jock doing a waltz to a 90s rock song, like something out of Moulin Rouge! if they made Moulin Rouge! for people who like stockcar racing.

This is all a lot of me putting off the fact that I kind of love Rockin’ Rog now. I want to be his babe of the day, is what I’m saying. I hope he stays around long enough to do more weird shit like this – imagine him doing a Quick Step to Pearl Jam! A samba to Nickelback! The possibilities are limited only by the styles of dance they do on the show and the amount of white man rock that exists in the world.

The face of a man who just aced a waltz to a Metallica song.

SCORE: 20, as if scores mean anything on this show.

Dai Henwood banter: “That fierce dancing expression” – the first and last time Roger Farrelly has been called fierce.

4. Jess Quinn (and Johnny) – Samba

If wig was a thing on this show, then this would be… wig.

Look at that photo. Tens, tens, across the board. I love Jess. I am a member of the cult of Jess. I don’t follow her on any social media, since I don’t want to be influenced, but I am fully sold. Quinn seems genuinely stoked to be there, and even more importantly, she seems to actually be having fun when she dances. Who would think that looking like you’re having fun doing your job (although this is technically not a job but more of a ‘gig’) would make you more appealing to watch?

Also there’s a lot of fringe on that dress, and we all like it when fringe-y things go shake-shake-shake.

SCORE: 21.

Dai Henwood banter: “I wondered where all the highlighters in my room went.” I, for one, am ready for Dai Henwood to turn into the straight version of Quentin Crisp.

3. Chris Harris (and Vanessa) – Jive

Chris Harris, making Mary Proud.

How much do you want to bet that former-Black Hat Chris Harris is familiar with ‘Proud Mary’ only as a CCR song, and is one hundred percent unfamiliar with the highly superior Ike and Tina Turner cover that is the basis for this performance? How surprised do you think he was when he heard the tempo shift up for the first time? Do you think he is aware of the 2003 VH1 divas performance of ‘Proud Mary’ that paired Beyonce and Jewel to sing this song, a duet that is about as 2003 as the film Lord of the Rings: Return of the King? I have all these questions, and more.

Honestly, I love Chris Harris, and I’m surprised to be rooting for him this hard in the competition. He seems like a total dork, also seems to be working his cricketed ass off, and seems like he’d be fun to sit down and have a beer with, if I was one to drink beer. Also his partner Vanessa seems like a BLAST and they have a fun chemistry together. They will go far, much like a ball that Chris Harris threw in his time in the Black Hats.

SCORE: 24.

Dai Henwood banter: “[Proud Mary noise.]”

2. Suzy Cato (and Matt) – Cha cha

Look at that FACE.

I said when Suzy Cato was announced that she was the absolutely perfect contestant for Dancing with the Stars. She’s the most famous person on the show and she’s ready for a comeback, even though she’s truly never left our hearts. And she’s the novelty contestant, because it’s both funny and delightful to see her perform.

Suzy’s going to win. She has complete confidence on stage, and she’s smiling and performing all the way through in a way that nobody else is (except maybe the two people above Suzy, and the Black Hat below). Her dancing ability doesn’t matter one bit, even though she’s a more than competent dancer. What matters is the fact that everybody knows her and everybody loves her. She ticks every single box that Dancing with the Stars provides her – she was an absolute coup for the show, and she proves her worth every week (and I bet there’s more than a few people who will stop tuning in if she ever gets voted out.)

SCORE: 21.

Dai Henwood banter: “You’ve just been bedazzling and you’re covered in bedazzles.”

1. Marama Fox (and Brad) – Viennese Waltz

Absolutely breathtaking.

This is the best performance on the show to date. Watch it tomorrow; watch it now. Marama brings in poi (which Rachel, pretty stupidly, calls props) and she uses them beautiful. It’s a simply stunning performance.

You don’t expect moving moments on shows like this, or at least I don’t. I wait for each dance and hope that there’s enough to provide me with jokes, snark and commentary. I have no snark here. This is just a flat-out great performance. If the last two weeks of Marama Fox having the best goddamned time on New Zealand television didn’t convince you that she deserves to stay, then this should. This is a Māori woman, and a Māori woman of age, rank and status in our society, taking poi on network television in this country and incorporating them into a European style of dance. It’s a subtly political moment, and a highly entertaining and moving one.

Shows like Dancing with the Stars are dumb fun, even if there’s a good cause behind it all. But it’s moments like these that marry the status of a celebrity with both the culture they represent and the culture they have to blend in with, that turn the show from disposable TV into appointment viewing. Congrats, Marama. You didn’t do good – you did great.

Bow down.

SCORE: 24.

Dai Henwood banter: Also none! He is stunned, as he should be in the presence of memetic royalty.

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