‘Dancing with the Stars’ 2011 Semifinals Recap — a New Cha Cha Master, Ricki Lake Rises Again

“Dancing with the Stars” 2011 continued November 14 as semifinalists Ricki Lake, J.R. Martinez, Hope Solo and Rob Kardashian duked it out dancefloor-style for the three available spots in next week’s “DWTS” finale. Each couple was charged with performing a whopping three routines. While a surprising celeb took a leap toward the top spot on the leaderboard, another took a mighty fall thanks to an ill-timed injury. Here’s a full recap.

Round One

First to dance in the semifinals were Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy with a Paso Doble. Hope struggled with shoulder pain, and had her doctor pay her a visit with a big needle and a shot that she’d been saving for the Olympics. (Serious stuff, folks!) Maks hoped that Hope’s natural intensity would help her to do well.

A wild-haired Hope began their Paso chained to the “DWTS” staircase. She did indeed show good intensity, but at the same time, there was something awkward and bulky about the performance. It looked like they were enmeshed in an awkward power struggle. Len Goodman said it had plenty of “attack” but that it “lost control and finesse”. Bruno Tonioli agreed with Len, claiming that she needs to combine “energy with artistry”. Carrie Ann Inaba said she “nailed the character of the dance” but knocked her for “losing a little bit of your shaping” while in hold. Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s “Dancing with the Stars” 2011 semifinals scores: 7, 7, 7 = 21.

Competition frontrunners J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff followed. J.R. found his dances for the week “challenging” because of the need to be “serious”, but tried to devote himself to the craft. J.R. asserted that he does “mess up a lot” as a new dancer, and faced a big challenge after twisting his ankle during rehearsals.

J.R. and Karina’s Zorro and Catherine Zeta Jones Paso Doble was well-played from a characterization standpoint. J.R. attacked the dance with a seriousness befitting the style. As the crowd continued to cheer, Bruno said he enjoyed the “role playing” but said the posture “wasn’t quite there all the way”. Carrie Ann gave him credit for attacking the routine with such intensity while injured, but called him out for poor posture. Len shared “for me, this dance didn’t suit you” and thought it was “more zero than Zorro”. J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff’s “DWTS” scores: 8, 7, 8 = 23.

Third to hoof it were reality star Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke. Rob hoped to make Cheryl proud with his dances, and Cheryl thought her partner’s strength would help them to stand out. Rob called it “my time to peak” and “bring everything I got”.

Rob and Cheryl’s Samba began with the two entering the ballroom on a teeny weenie float. Rob really got into the dance and shook his moneymaker. But the best part was his big ol’ grin. Carrie Ann shouted “who are you? What was that?” and loved the “bootylicious” performance. She thought it was “fantastic”. Len groaned over the intro, but when they got started, it turned into “oh yes”. Bruno yelped “that’s how you turn a handicap into an asset” and told him to “keep using that butt”. Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke’s “DWTS” semifinal scores: 10, 9, 9 = 28.

Last to dance during round one were Ricki Lake and Derek Hough with a Samba. Ricki entered rehearsals worried that she’d failed to live up to others’ expectations, but declared that she wanted to really enjoy herself. She confessed to having “weird feelings” about being lifted and worried over “breaking” Derek. Still, onward they pressed.

Big Bird outfit aside, Ricki looked pretty good out there shaking’ her moneymaker. I’d call it a fleet-footed and fun rebound from last week’s disastrous instant dance. Len called it “fabulous, fabulous, fabulous” and predicted she’d made the finals. Bruno declared “I need sun shades” and loved it. Carrie Ann praised her for working hard to keep her shoulders down. Ricki Lake and Derek Hough’s “DWTS” semifinal round one scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30.

Round Two

Argentine Tango was the word for round two. Len said he was “really looking forward” to being able to “compare and contrast” the couples against one another. The old Brit likened the style to “a husband with his girlfriend”. Lennie! And then a small herd of pro dancers demonstrated the sizzlin’ style. You know, just to make the celebs look bad. To set a ridiculously high bar.

And because we needed to know the stars better, pre-taped segments telling personal stories also aired prior to their respective Argentine Tangos. Just so ya know.

Up first was Hope Solo. From her introductory clip, we learned that the soccer star was born in Richland, Washington and referred to herself as “a dirty little kid” who liked to play with all of the boys. A self-proclaimed “daddy’s little girl”, she had a hard time when her parents divorced. She cried when she shared that he didn’t have the “capacity to be a husband and a father”. She shared a memory of watching her dad be arrested for kidnapping her and her brother. She reconnected with him later, but he passed away before the World Cup in 2007. Hope shared “when odds are against me I find a way to defy them.” Go girl.

Hope looked the part of the vixen propped up on the judges’ desk at the start of her “Whatever Lola Wants” dance. And she went on to execute some pretty fine moves. As with her first routine, she was in character. But, she also looked a little bulky, a little too athletic, at times. Len called it “far far better than the Paso Doble” and “well done”. Bruno agreed, calling her “sexy and really into Maks” and said she didn’t look like she wanted to “kill him all the time”. Carrie Ann liked how well they worked together and appreciated how “ambitious” the lifts attempted were, but thought they lacked a little in grace. Hope and Maks’ round two scores: 8, 8, 8 = 24.

The injured J.R. Martinez was up next with his tale and Argentine Tango. He talked about growing up with his single mom, who told him to smile no matter what you’re going through. He shared that he joined the army on September 12, 2002 in order to get money for college and serve, though he never really imagined he’d wind up in a war. He worried that he would be a guy who “scared everybody” but his mom assured him that he’d be judged for the person he is inside. Co-stars Susan Lucci and Cameron Mathison appreciated him for his ability to rise to the occasion. J.R. called “positivity my secret to success”.

J.R. looked smooth in his velvety green jacket and black pants. He worked it, but I could see the pain in his face at times. Kudos to him for pulling it off and working through the discomfort. He was clearly in agonizing pain at the end, poor guy. Bruno said he was in “Latin lover mode” and called their “sexual interplay absolutely beautiful to watch”. Carrie Ann loved the passion of the routine and praised him for “commanding” the lifts. Len said “I was transported to the back streets of Buenos Aires” with “the lady of the night and the gaucho looking for love”. J.R. and Karina’s “DWTS” round two scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27.

Kim, Khloe and Kourtney’s little bro followed with his personal story and dance. Rob declared that “I’m just beginning” in life, unlike the other remaining competitors. Mom Kris Jenner talked about how his dad was so excited to have a son, and Khloe confessed that she and her sisters dressed him up like a girl regularly. Rob was 16 when his dad died of cancer. He said that it was his dad’s dream for him to go to USC, so Rob worked hard to make it. happen. Step-dad Bruce Jenner called “DWTS” the “best thing he’s ever done”, and Rob praised the show for giving him his newfound sense of confidence.

When his Argentine Tango with Cheryl began, Rob looked all sorts of James Bond. There were a few awkward stumbles at times and he seemed a little less sure of himself than he was during the Samba, but all in all, a good go at it. And a super-spinny ending, too! Whoosh! Carrie Ann started by saying there’s no way to fake good dancing, and said their dance wasn’t fake. Len said it’s not where you start but where you finish, and “you’re finishing strong”. Bruno claimed “you started out as a goofy outsider and now you look like a leading man”. Rob and Cheryl’s round two scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27.

The last semifinalist to dance in the Argentine Tango round and share her inspirational tale? Ricki Lake. Ricki shared memories of her childhood, including the revelation that she was molested in her own home. She turned to food in order to cope. But friends noted that she always bounces back. Following her divorce in 2003, she moved to LA to start over.

Looking much better in a simple red number, Ricki delivered a pointed performance on Derek’s arm. Her movements were by and large sharp and crisp and of course, she was in character throughout. Len liked the “contrast of movement from fast to slow” and how the lifts were just “part of the dance”. He called it “really, really good”. Bruno was “totally transported into the underworld of Buenos Aires, the handsome stranger entrapped by the femme fatale”. Carrie Ann appreciated the development of Ricki’s “core strength”, asserting “you’ve always had the passion, but now you’ve got the pop”. Ricki and Derek’s round two scores: 9, 10, 10 = 29.

Round Three

Round one? Done. Round two? Finito. So what remained? The Cha Cha Cha relay! The couples were assigned with dancing back to back in a quest for so-called bonus points: 10 for the winner, 8 for second place, 6 for third and 4 for fourth. Ouch, sucks to be last.

Ricki and Derek opened the relay with good precision and decent speed. Hope and Maks picked it up. Their bit… a little awkward. Hope stumbled a little. J.R. and Karina followed, and unfortunately, J.R. was clearly in pain. He shook it well, but looked uncomfortable and tentative. Rob and Cheryl finished the relay with their segment. Rob certainly picked a great time to peak. He was the mac daddy. (Oh yes, I did just say that.)

Len called the relay “fruity and tasty” and thought he’d pick a different winner than his co-horts. Bruno called the whole night “a fantastic show” and praised the couples for tackling a “very hard task”. Carrie Ann appreciated being able to see them dancing one after another. She was surprised by what she saw. When the scores came in, 4 points went to Hope and Maks, 6 went to J.R. and Karina, 8 went to Ricki and Derek, and 10 went to Rob and Cheryl.

So who gets the boot and falls a week short of the “Dancing with the Stars” 2011 finale? Well, first off, I’m completely bummed that poor J.R. is injured right now. He’s been solid all season long and deserves a berth in the finale. That said, Hope should be the one to go come results time. But you never know! Tune in to tomorrow night’s results show. Or you can just check in with me. You know I’ll be watching.

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