'Dancing With the Stars': Niecy Nash breaks through, the first perfect score

niecy-nash-quickstep.jpgThough all the celebtestants performed well on "Dancing With the Stars," the Team Cha Cha scores made the biggest difference. While three couples got season-high scores, the "Cha Cha Challenge," as they called it, changed the leaderboard quite a bit.

1. Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Dance/Song: Quickstep/"Dancing Fool"
After Len express distaste for Maks going incrementally shirtless last week, of course Maks has the idea to take his pants and Erin's skirt off this week in rehearsal package. Erin is very paranoid about this, and understandably so. As we see when the number starts, what it actually was is a quick-change gimmick -- they start out in more formal black and pull away to reveal hot red (salmon) outfits. Erin messed up a little post-costume change, but before the meat of the number, in hold. Maks said in the package that it was very traditional and chroegraphy-wise it is. I liked it a lot. They covered a lot of floor, were entertaining and full of energy, and Erin danced it very well.
Judges: Len said it was her best dance so far. Bruno said it was "slick, lightning fast, and brighter than Len's tie," adding that Erin needs to watch that her shoulders tense a bit at times. Carrie Ann thought it was gorgeous and loved their attention to detail.
Score: 27 (9-9-9)

2. Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke
Dance/Song: Viennese Waltz/"I Saw Sparks"
Cheryl brought in Tony Dovolani to help coach Chad. Tony used a lot of football terminology, which Chad himself says helped. I will say he has a definite air of confidence and ease that hasn't been there with other softer ballroom dances. I can tell his lines have improved and he's finishing his moves more than before. Very nicely done.
Judges: Bruno couldn't believe how graceful and gentle Chad was, giving the tips to make sure he carries his lines through his fingertips. Carrie Ann agrees with Bruno about the lines and was mesmerized by his air of tenderness. Len thought his arms were full of fluidity adding that this is the night he became a contender.
Score: 25 (8-9-8)

3. Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough
Dance/Song: Waltz/"You Light Up My Life"
Beacuase of the song, Nicole is reminded of her aunt, who has Down Syndrome. In the package she says it's nice to think of something bigger than herself and the competition. It was a very pretty number and danced extremely well. I could tell she was dancing with purpose but also with joy. Oh and her aunt is there with some other family members, who give them leis afterward. Adorable.
Judges: Carrie Ann says Nicole is by far the best dancer they've had on the show but, while the movements were great, the connection was a bit off. Len loved the routine and the performance, though there were a few tiny technical issues he'd be glad to expand on in his trailer later. Bruno says she is as "close to dancing royalty" as possible -- though there were a few small mistakes.
Score: 27 (9-9-9)

4. Pamela Anderson and Damian Whitewood
Dance/Song: Waltz/"At This Moment"
In the rehearsal package, Pamela takes Damian to the California Wildlife Center, where Pam volunteers and helps out the animals (cleaning cages and everything). Very cool. The dance was pretty, but there were a few odd posture moments. Her footwork was good and she definitely had a soft, romantic vibe going. Overall, it was a solid performance.
Judges: Len said it was quiet and understated, though Pam needs to work on "firming up [her] upper body." Bruno complimented her on being pure and demure and agrees that she needs to work on her "top line." Carrie Ann saw huge improvement in her legs and footwork and loved the tone of the dance.
Score: 24 (8-8-8)

5. Niecy Nash and Louis Van Amstel
Dance/Song: Quickstep/"You're the Top"
Wow. I was not expecting her to be so good. Niecy made a seemingly huge leap in technique -- the posture was there, she was good in hold, the footwork was improved, and she had nice lines. Plus it was a very good performance. And she had a lot of personality. Very lovely.
Judges: Bruno said Niecy's footwork was better than ever and that it was her best dance ever. Carrie Ann agrees, saying it was perfect dance for her and that she loved. Len also agrees, though he adds that while she was fleet of foot, she has to lift up her ribcage.
Score: 25 (9-8-8)

6. Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya
Dance/Song: Argentine Tango/"Bust Your Windows"
I love this choreography -- kudos, Anna. That split spin with one of her legs on Evan's shoulder was nuts. He did a good job at being agressive, but it still had a sense of class to it. It wasn't wild agression. Host Tom Bergeron said they went "all James Bond on the tango," and I was just about to say the same thing. The technique was definitely there, and he had a great character. He totally deserved the standing ovation.
Judges: Carrie Ann said it was sexy, refined and the perfect combonication of power and control. Len said he was going to "dust of a paddle [he] hasn't used yet because it was fantastic." Bruno thought Evan danced like a "true alpha male."
Score: 30 (10-10-10) -- the first perfect score of the season

Now it's time for the Team Cha Cha challenge. Our six remaining couples are broken into two teams and the score received for the group will be added to their indiviual scores. The numbers will have two 30-second sections of unison dancing, and each couple gets a solo.

Team Gaga
Song: "Telephone" a la Lady Gaga
Here we have Nicole and Derek, Chad and Cheryl, and Pamela and Damian. They start out with the celebtestants walking it off the stage to their pro partners. Nicole is of course rocking the strut and following chest pops. Pam and Damian get the first solo. She had a choreography bobble or two but was pretty good. I could tell she didn't know the steps as well but she did try to sell it. Chad and Cheryl come out next. Definitely an improvement over the first time he did the Cha Cha. Good lines, good posture, and well choreographed. Nicole and Derek wrap up the solos with a very good set. I want a little more hip action from her but she did great for her first Cha Cha. The unison steps at the end were well done. Pamela looked more comforatble in the group sections for sure.
Judges: Len thought the unison parts were "right on it" and complimented Nicole on her first go at the dance. Bruno especially loved the end sequence and complimented Pamela on keeping up with the other girls. He also told Chad he "turned up the heat tonight." Carrie Ann noted that Pamela struggled but thought their collective sexiness will be tough to beat.
Score: 27 (9-9-9)

Team Madonna
Song: "Holiday" a la Madonna
This team consists of Erin and Maks, Niecy and Louis, and Evan and Anna. I like the vibe, but at the same time find the music a little distracting for some weird reason. It starts with Erin and Niecy dancing around/with Evan, who's doing some hip shakes. After the intro all-dance, Evan and Anna get the first solo. He was a lot less stiff than with his Samba last week. It's his first crack at the Cha Cha and he's doing well. Niecy and Louis are next. Like Pamela and Damian, they had a bit of a step bobble but she did sell it. If Niecy would've exagerrated some of the moves a bit, it would've come off better on camera (white, ruffly lace skirts don't necessarily track well). Erin and Maks close it out and, surprisingly, Erin experienced a little memory glitch too. Overall it was good though. The ending unison section was my favorite part. Bonus points for rippping off the white frillys on the ladies to reveal black boustier costumes -- two iconic Madonna looks in one!
Judges: Bruno liked that it was a Cha Cha with a Samba feel and complimented all the celebtestants before pointing out there was a syncronization issue in the last section. Carrie Ann thought it was a fun routine but would've liked to have seen the skirt-rip sooner and agrees with the sync issues. Len thought it was brave for the celebtestants to start off dancing on their own and commends everyone for dancing two high standards dances in a week.
Score: 24 (8-8-8)

Bottom Two: This is a tough call, but I'm going with Pamela and Niecy since they struggled the most in the team dances.
Who's Out: Sadly, it should be Pamela, considering she made the least overall improvement this week. Which is a shame because I like her a lot (which can be said for all the remaining celebtestants at this point).

Your thoughts? Do you like how the Team scores can effect things so much (Evan and Nicole ended up being tied and Niecy was in last because of them)? Did Team Gaga have any sort of advantage of Team Madonna? Were you surprised everyone danced so well? Think you know who's going home?

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Photo credit: NBC