Dancing With The Stars: The Kirstie Kurse?

Kirstie Alley began this season of Dancing With the Stars looking like a legitimate contender to win, but at the rate things are going, she’s going to need massive support from the voters (and more choice performance spots late in the show) to get to the end.

Even though Monday’s episode was massively padded (nine dancers spread over two hours), “Classical Night” had its charms. The orchestra was expanded to 46 members, and the usual overmatched singers were out of the picture entirely, replaced by soprano Katherine Jenkins on the dances where vocals were called for. And most of the dancers continued their slow progress, with Kirstie being one of the exceptions.

Kirstie was fighting a hip strain in rehearsal, but seemed to be getting through her waltz well enough until having to execute a slide … during which one of her shoes came off. The slight delay while she re-shoed herself threw off her timing somewhat, and while the judges have been awfully kind to her and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, her resulting score of 22 still put her in seventh place. She is handling the on-the-floor issues as well as can be expected, but as we get closer to the end of the season, one wonders if her body is going to continue to cooperate, or if voters will have second thoughts about supporting someone who can’t seem to get through a dance unscathed.

Other notes from the night:

Warding off foes: How can we tell DWTS regards Hines Ward as one of the favorites to win this season (and for all we know, he’s running away with the votes every week)? Because his rehearsal package portrayed him as vulnerable and self-doubting, owing to the lack of vocals in his musical selection. Remember how Jennifer Grey and Nicole Scherzinger always seemed to be coming apart at the seams in rehearsal, only to kill when it came time for the performance? Hines nailed the drama of the paso doble wonderfully, and a strikingly-outfitted Kym Johnson came through with fine choreography. They didn’t have the night’s best score (a 25), but they’re still running near the front of the pack.

A contender after all? I hadn’t thought Petra Nemcova’s good scores last week had much bearing on her chances; it still seemed that she was a longshot to make it past the midpoint of the season. But even having to move out of her ballroom comfort zone into the paso doble didn’t seem to affect her too much, as she was just aggressive enough with Dmitry Chaplin. Her score of 23 puts her solidly in the middle.

Is that really our Anna? Anna Trebunskaya has a reputation as relatively easygoing, but she was stern in rehearsal this week with Sugar Ray Leonard, apparently assuming they were next on the chopping block unless they got better in a hurry. Ray only seems to absorb a little of the choreography every week, because a good half of his performances is made up of boxing ring-style mugging. But the judges gave him a 21, which could get him into next week.

Len’s gonna be mad! Mark Ballas keeps putting Chelsea Kane in jeopardy with use of unconventional choreography, since there’s nothing Len Goodman hates more. Their Harry Potter-themed Viennese waltz was highly untraditional;  besides, Mark came across as if he was highlighting himself at the expense of his partner. But while Len huffed and puffed, she still gave the pair an 8; combine that with 9s from Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba, and Chelsea topped the leader board.

Bye bye bunny? Kendra Wilkinson has a big problem, besides being the one dancer who seems not to have improved over these last three weeks. Her main issue with the voters might be that she doesn’t seem totally committed, and that can be fatal to one’s chances. Even more so than Romeo, she’s coming across as if she finds everything about DWTS to be corny, and after her Viennese waltz with Louis Van Amstel ended, she complained about lack of rehearsal time, as if her week has fewer days in it than everyone else’s. Bottom line: If you don’t want to be there, the audience will usually oblige you.