Amazingly, Dancing with the Stars NZ continues despite Naz’s untimely and controversial departure from the show. And as surely as the sun rises and sets, the power rankings come in.
ELIMINATED: Zac Franich (and Kristie) – Paso Doble
We bid adieu to the third Bachelor!
The one thing I will give Zac Franich is that he seems like the quintessential Kiwi bloke who I would have no idea how to talk to at a party, and would hope for his girlfriend to come over and rescue me from whatever conversation we were having. It’s nobody’s fault, I just feel we’d have nothing to talk about. I will also give him a lot of props for being honest about his depression after what sounds like a genuinely shitty time (being ditched by his kayaking partner when they were going to go to the Olympics).
And honestly, Zac fared pretty well this week, despite going home! He was fun! He played a matador who was waving a cape and killing a bull! For the first time, he seemed like someone who was having fun onstage. I didn’t hate it!
But jesus, Kristie is such an amazing dancer. She’s the star of this pair. I’ve been kind of dreading watching Zac dance over the past weeks because I never want to see men humiliate themselves, for some reason ingrained deep in my lizard brain, but I’ve always wanted to watch Kristie dance. She’s electric, she’s everything you want in a dancer, and everything I would want in a star. I will miss her.
May you save lives, in the water and elsewhere, another day.
Dai Henwood banter: “Loving this fierce pointing scenario!”
But for the rest of them…
9. Rockin’ Rog (Roger) Farrelly (and Carole-Ann) – Samba
Heterosexuality is a sin.
Dai Henwood banter: “Well, Charlie’s my son, what’s he doing biting your finger?” In fairness, Rockin’ Rog just made a Charlie Bit My Finger joke.
8. David Seymour (and Amelia) – Viennese Waltz
David Seymour mouthed the words as he did his Viennese Waltz, and I can’t unsee it and can’t think about anything else. You know when you see someone mouthing along to a song on the bus and you laugh but don’t call them out of it because you know you’ll do it yourself at some point, and you will hope that somebody doesn’t call you out when that happens. It was this, except on camera, in front of hundreds of people in a studio and hundreds of thousands of people at home. I can’t explain it, and it makes me feel for him far more than I would expect to feel for David Seymour and I have read all 200-ish pages of his 2017 book.
“From the minute you start dancing until the moment you stop, I can’t breathe.” Camilla speaks for us all.
Dancing with the Stars is the best chance a New Zealand personality has for image rehab, as Naz handily proved with her time on the show. And I look at David Seymour and what is happening here not as image rehabilitation, but image canonisation. Whatever David Seymour does in his future career – bad, good, deplorable or embarrassing – this is what he will be remembered for: that awkward guy who consistently got low votes but was weirdly charming, and nobody could really explain why.
David Seymour has always been a little bit of a joke, as politician, party leader and social media incompetent, but Dancing with the Stars takes him out of the realm of joke and puts him into the realm of something else: Celebrity.
Still doesn’t make him a good dancer, so here he remains.
Dai Henwood banter: “First up, David. Your thoughts on the Budget?”
6. Jess Quinn (and Johnny) – Cha cha
Man, ‘Senorita’ is such a goddamned tune. I don’t like Justin Timberlake (outside of ‘Mirrors’, which is one of the hugest pop songs of the past five years), but it’s hard to deny the call-and-response catchiness of this.
This is the only time that Jess has seemed anything less than comfortable and completely forthright. In this performance there was a little bit of the aw shucks giggliness I assume every New Zealander learns as a defence mechanism for awkward situations in their preteens; that it’s taken until Jess’s fourth dance for this to come out is stunning.
She’s still a frontrunner in this competition, and she’s unlikely to go home anytime soon. I continue to have nothing funny to say about Jess Quinn, and as someone who has to climb three floors of stairs on the daily, really empathise with her fear of stairs.
Dai Henwood banter: “Straight off the bat, down the stairs, you nailed that.”
6. Robert Rakete (and Nicole) – Quick Step
I don’t know what about Robert Rakete isn’t connecting with the judges. He might be screwing up quite a lot – I wouldn’t know, I am a writer of snarky opinions on celebrity shimmying shows, not a celebrity shimmier myself – but he seems to be performing just fine to me.
It might be that his charisma is carrying him through some lacklustre dancing, which might be a good metaphor for what Rakete does on The Breeze (I wouldn’t know, because I’m not a 35 year old white wine drinking soccer mum).
Dai Henwood banter: “Back to your primary school, it’d be nervewracking if I did it.” Robert Rakete fires back with a dig at Dai Henwood’s height, which he must’ve heard about as many times as he’s referenced Shakira this past week. Seriously, Dai referenced Shakira a lot this week. I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s up with him. It just happened.
5. Shav (Shavaughn) Ruakere (and Enrique) – Paso doble
Shav does a lot of very endearing and cute explanation of the narrative of this piece after the fact, but it doesn’t quite distract from the awkwardness of this particular dance. There’s a physical stumble, and a nervousness that permeates throughout but which comes out right at the end, when she’s huffing and puffing (understandably, because she just danced) and is shaking with emotion or nerves or something between the two.
I get a sense that she’s still relying on a bit of actorly put-upon fierceness here. She always gives us full face, but it doesn’t ever quite reach her body, and it leads to an awkward disconnect between the two. It’s like when you’re smiling at someone when you’re stuck in a conversation with them, but texting your best friend to come and pick you up immediately.
Also, goddamn, Enrique is a good dancer. That’s why he’s the dancer, and Shav is the star.
Despite this, she gets the highest score in the competition so far! So what do I know.
Dai Henwood banter: “I tried to do that when I was eleven, it didn’t go so well.”
4. Sam Hayes (and Aaron) – Rumba
Real talk: ‘Halo’ is one of the worst Beyonce singles. It is maudlin, gross, and every day of my first year at uni I walked past the dance studio to hear it blasting from shitty speakers. It’s a first draft of Kelly Clarkson’s much superior ‘Already Gone’, and should be treated as such.
Despite acting lessons from Madeleine Sami (pictured above), which seems like a delightful thing that every human should be allowed to do, Sam’s dance seemed a little stiff and awkward, not like a rumba. But the judges disagree with me, and I’ve never encountered a rumba before watching this show, so what do I know! Grains, grains, grains of salt all around.
Points given for Madeleine Sami, who is a genius in our time.
Dai Henwood banter: Missed it. I write these things live, you guys.
3. Chris Harris (and Vanessa) – Viennese Waltz
There is nothing more adorable than Chris Harris telling his kids that he wears makeup for the show, and even gets a spray-tan. I am the least paternal person on the world, and even seeing Chris Harris do this second hand makes me wish that I could be a dorky father dancing my way around on Three for charity.
It could be easy for Chris to be the novelty contestant at this stage, but he’s moved from being a novelty vote into someone who is actually fun to watch dance. These days he’s not the drunk uncle at the wedding who you have to avoid because he’ll go on about how he wishes they would play the uncensored version of ‘Gold Digga’; he’s the uncle who you actually want to hang out with because he’s a damn good time
Is he the best dancer? No. He’s former Black Hat Chris Harris. But is he is a joy to watch? Yes. And that’s what we’re here for. Joy. Not dancing. Let’s rename it Joy With The Stars.
Dai Henwood banter: “Your footwork from where I was looking was very footworky.”
2. Suzy Cato (and Matt) – Rumba
Talking about Suzy is only slightly harder than talking about Jess Quinn, because Suzy is such an icon. She does her job just by showing up. She’s the queen of everything, she is the queen of this show, she is still definitely going to win.
However, and this is where I disagree with the judges, this dance shows a completely different version of Suzy Cato. The Suzy we’ve seen up until this point has been fun, she’s been kooky, and she’s been charismatic. This is the first time we’ve seen her not necessarily dial those aspects of herself back, but put them to the side and give us something more vulnerable and more sexy (or what the mainstream finds sexy – honestly give me Lisa Loeb glasses any day) and it’s really satisfying to watch.
Also, props for whoever convinced Suzy Cato to dance to ‘Love The Way You Lie (Part II)’, the only time I can imagine Suzy Cato dancing to a song that has had any involvement with one Marshall Mathers. (Although I would love a late-season quick-step to ‘Lose Yourself’.)
Dai Henwood banter: “Do you think that was sauce or do you think people were whacking the end of the bottle to get some more out?”
1. Marama Fox (and Brad) – Paso Doble
Look, there’s a reason why Marama is always my favourite or second favourite of the week. From the start of this competition, she’s looked like she’s been having fun when she dances. But these past two weeks, she’s come at the competition with something more than just having fun. She’s come to win.
And more importantly, she’s bringing her ahurea every week. Last week, she danced with poi. This week, she did a paso doble to ‘Tarakihi’ (which absolutely bangs, have you heard Dame Kiri sing this?), not just with her partner but with a third man dressed in Māori warrior garb. This is not only technically impressive, and more of a challenge than what anybody else is doing in the competition, but goddamned beautiful to watch.
You also have to be aware that this is a Maāori woman of age, on primetime TV, not just performing her culture but blending with another (pretty goddamned colonial) culture for an audience of several hundreds of thousands a week. That’s a political act, even if you’re not thinking about that while you’re watching it.
Marama Fox isn’t just topping this competition, she’s making it better, more important and opening our eyes a little bit more every week she’s on it.
Can’t wait for her quickstep.
Dai Henwood banter: Nothing good enough to transcribe, unforch.
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