LOS ANGELES - Just one week away from the "Dancing with the Stars" semifinals, the heat is on for the five remaining couples.
It was a performance-packed two hours for week eight. The name of the game: stamina, as all five competitors had to perform two full routines, and in one of the dances they were joined by a second pro for the trio dance.
Here's a rundown of the evening's scores, from highest to lowest:
Normani Kordei: 1st dance: 40 out of 40; 2nd dance: 39 out of 40; Total: 79 out of 80
Normani is every bit the star in the contemporary routine perfectly choreographed by Val. For the individual routines, the pro dancers were given the assignment of choosing music, storyline and choreography that lets us know what they've learned about their celebrity. Sadly, Normani has had to deal with a great deal of bullying and she felt for a time it broke her and made her especially guarded. Val's dance was about breaking free of the past and becoming more confident in the world. The audience went nuts for the dance, as did the judges, who used words like mesmerizing, touching, commanding, spellbinding, and healing. A perfect score!
They go in a completely different direction for the trio dance. Alan joins Normani and Val in a country-themed jive. She looks every bit the pro that they are. The only ding to their score comes from head judge Len Goodman who didn't like one small portion of the routine that had Normani jump up on the judges table and dance.
Rashad Jennings: 1st dance: 36 out of 40; 2nd dance: 39 out of 40; Total: 75 out of 80
Rashad has Emma teaching him the jive this week for their individual dance and Rashad's goal is to up his "wow" factor. In talking about what she's learned about her partner in these past months, Emma says Rashad is the ultimate teammate who is always happy and upbeat, and that people just gravitate toward him. The judges all agreed that since we are eight weeks in, he should be a bit sharper and more detail oriented. Still, he got four 9s!
Rashad came back on fire for the trio dance. Witney joined Rashad and Emma for an Argentine tango that was pure heat and passion. Len said not only was that there, it also had great storytelling. Still, he knocked off a point for his footwork. It was a 10 from the others, with Carrie Ann Inaba saying this was his best dance yet.
Simone Biles: 1st dance: 36 out of 40; 2nd dance: 36 out of 40; Total: 72 out of 80
We see eye rolls and hear giggles when Simone learns what song Sasha has chosen for their foxtrot: One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." He explains to her that, like the song says, he wants her to believe that she's beautiful, and wants her to be real and raw and show America another side. Simone says she is feeling more comfortable in the ballroom (and out of the gym) but clearly it's hard for her not to go on autopilot and just "perform." All the judges call her out on that point. Carrie Ann was questioning her authenticity; Julianne Hough wants to be wowed; and Bruno Tonioli says he needs to see something surprising, unique and unforgettable.
The judges chose troupe member Britney to join Simone and Sasha for their paso doble. Simone seemed to respond to having a different coach's voice teaching her. Plus, it must have been fun to have another young woman in the rehearsal room. Carrie Ann said she saw definite improvement from the first dance and Simone was more engaged; Julianne said the artistry was all there but sometimes Simone blended in too much; Bruno agreed that efficiency often overtook artistry.
David Ross: 1st dance: 36 out of 40; 2nd dance: 29 out of 40; Total: 65 out of 80
The emotion of this whole journey so far swept over David this week. Lindsay chose the song "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw for their waltz because she thinks the lyrics perfectly describe David's way with people. He talks about his own parents and how they instilled strong values in him and he just flat out breaks down. Len said this was his best dance to date; Bruno praised the honesty he brought to the dance floor; Carrie Ann thanked him for listening to the notes the judges had been giving him; and Julianne told David he represents what the show is about; taking someone with no skills, taking them on a journey, and learning how to dance.
Things went way south for their team dance. Hayley jumped in for a paso double with an intense, gladiator theme. Len thought it was too rough and didn't have enough actual dance steps; Bruno likened David to Godzilla!
Bonner Bolton: 1st dance: 30 out of 40; 2nd dance: 28 out of 40; Total: 58 out of 80
Bonner knows he needs to try and do more of everything; more movement, more sharpness. But his body and his mind are fighting him. His body is still in a lot of pain from his bull-riding accident last year; as for his mind, he says it's been hard to revisit the accident again and again each week. Sharna chose the current hit song "Believer" for their Argentine tango because it's about overcoming adversity. Bruno and Carrie Ann said they appreciate how hard he's working; Julianne admitted that for all the dancers week eight generally sucks but he needs to use that intensity in the routine; Len was much harsher. He said it's the audience's fault for voting him through even though he probably shouldn't be here. Ouch!
Bonner certainly looked like he had fun in his trio jazz dance with Sharna and Britt; sort of a J.R. Ewing on security camera type theme. The judges agreed it was a little more on the raunchy side rather than the sexy side. But at least Len tried to be nice this time and told Bonner he admired him for learning two full dances this week.
Who goes home?
There really wasn't much tension in the air when it came to the elimination at the end. No surprise to anyone that it was Bonner's turn to hang up his dance shoes.
Next week: the semifinals!