It was a Very Good Year: Dancing’s Week Three Focuses on Telling Personal Stories

Even without Elisabetta Canalis, Dancing With the Stars‘ Season Thirteen continued as Week Three showcased emotional performances fueled by the celebridancers’ personal stories. Each pair was asked to choose either a Ballroom or a Latin routine to perform a routine that evokes an emotion from the celebrity partner’s most memorable year of his or her life. Although the ‘tell a story through dance’ angle is nothing new to DWTS, the concept of picking a most memorable year of life was a new twist on an old theme.

Rob Kardashian opened the evening with a foxtrot with partner Cheryl Burke. Kardashian’s dance took him back to 2003, when his father, Robert Kardashian, Sr., passed away after a battle with esophageal cancer. Set to Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” (his father’s favorite song), Kardashian’s routine was surprisingly suave and mostly fleet of foot, as well as thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Head Judge Len Goodman declared that the “dash” was put into “Kardashian,” and that he hoped Kardashian, Sr. was looking down on his son and saying “Rob, you did good.” 24 out of 30.

Next in line was singer Chynna Phillips, who danced the rumba to “Hold On” – a song released and made famous by her own former group, Wilson Phillips, in 1990. Written by Phillips herself when she was just a teenager, the song illustrated the struggles she was enduring at the time, and Dovolani’s choreography meant to do the same. But, to be honest, the routine looked slow and a little bit boring. Good intentions were had by all, and some of the dance was indeed pretty, but despite high praise from the judges, it failed to deliver for this particular viewer. 25 out of 30.

For Chaz Bono, 2011 was the year marked by the routine, a rumba to his father’s song “Laugh at Me.” Despite being one of the most emotional stories of the night, Bono’s actual routine divided the judges on technical content, but the feeling it evoked was undeniable. Bono’s appearance on the show, and his journey through this year, are acts to be admired, and while it might not have been the best dance of the night, Goodman claimed it was Bono’s best dance of the season so far, and Bruno Tonioli gave him credit for tackling a difficult dance. 18 out of 30.

Reality star Kristin Cavallari chose to highlight 2005 with a samba to Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” That year was the year Cavallari graduated from high school and moved to Los Angeles, as well as the year she made the decision between going to college and pursuing a career in entertainment. While she may have made a splash as a cast member of Laguna Beach and The Hills, Cavallari’s career in entertainment will probably never include serious involvement in dance. Most of her movements were stilted and awkward, and she looked wildly uncomfortable as partner Mark Ballas shook his hips more competently than she did. 24 out of 30.

Carson Kressley chose not to forget 2003 as he pulled on the memory of the premiere of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and the first time he felt really good about who he was, the first time he felt comfortable in his own skin. His tango to “It’s My Life” by No Doubt was dramatic and entertaining, and featured good posture, lines, and precise footwork. Hailed by Goodman as putting the “boy” in “flamboyant,” and as “strangely sexy” by Carrie-Ann Inaba, Kressley’s performance was probably the most energetic of the evening, and a crowd-pleaser, to boot. 23 out of 30.

Army veteran J.R. Martinez chose to pay tribute to the year he was injured, and his fellow servicemen and women who didn’t return home, with his rumba to Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This.” “Tonight, you did something extraordinary,” Inaba told Martinez upon the completion of his dance, which was emotionally-weighty, beautifully-executed, and painfully raw and poignant, a heartbreakingly powerful tribute to those who have been lost. Martinez is an inspiration in so many ways, the least of which is his talent on the dance floor – and even that’s pretty amazing. 26 out of 30.

With the help of partner Tristan MacManus, Nancy Grace recalled 2007, the year she gave birth to her twins via an emergency C-Section. Doctors told Grace that she and her daughter were dying, but when both came through, the first song she heard was Andy Williams’ “Moon River.” Her waltz was lyrical and elegant, and Grace and MacManus were reminiscent of the figures in a music box as they tenderly and gracefully moved about the floor. Grace’s posture faltered every once in awhile, but never long enough to severely detract from the overall performance. 21 out of 30.

With a rumba to Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity,” TV hostess Ricki Lake recalled 2010, a year filled with personal strife. In addition to the dissolution of her marriage, Lake’s home also burned down. But it was the dark before the dawn, and Lake soon met her new love. The dance was lovely, expressive, and technically sound, and earned her high praise – and the highest scores of the night – from the judges. 27 out of 30.

Looking to rebound from a less-than-well-received dance during Week Two, World Cup goalie Hope Solo took to the floor with partner Maks Chmerkovskiy for a cha-cha to Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight.” Her experience at the 2011 World Cup fueled her dance, but the tomboyish Solo looked uncomfortable for most of the dance, putting too much weight and strength into her walk, too heavy on steps that should have been light and airy. She did, however, try to embrace the playful sexiness of the cha-cha, which, considering it seems out of her comfort zone, at least exhibits a willingness to open up. 24 out of 30.

Closing out the night was actor/producer David Arquette and his rumba to Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child.” He chose to take a look back at the last year and to dedicate his dance to his daughter. The dance kicked off with a display of good synchronicity, and Arquette managed to keep it up throught the remainder of the routine. After a jive in Week Two that didn’t quite impress the judges, his smooth and fluid movements in the rumba did indeed appear to mark that things might just get easier. Inaba called it a good comeback, and “pure and honest.” A lovely way to close out the night, it earned a 24 out of 30.

With Ricki Lake at the top of the leaderboard, and Chaz Bono at the bottom, separated by nine points with everyone else gathered closely between, Season Thirteen continues to be anyone’s game. The results show airs Tuesday, October 4, 2011, at 9/8 Central on ABC.

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