Magic Moments: Disney Night on DWTS
Updated: May 10, 2022
Disney Night, one of the most exciting nights of the year on Dancing with the Stars!! (cover photo for this post is from the @dancingabc Instagram page)
Everyone on the show from the performers, to the set designers, to the costume designers go all out to make each dance into a loving tribute to a Disney classic. I usually don’t love a lot of extra frills and special effects when it comes to a dance performance, but for Disney Night, I say BRING IT.
The Dancing with the Stars team has come to love gigantic, flashy opening numbers, especially on Disney Night. However, in this era of social distancing, that kind of spectacle is no longer possible. This year the opening was a nod to Fantasia, recreating the moment where Mickey talks to the conductor. It was a lot simpler, but I loved it. I also enjoyed the tribute to the Main Street Electrical Parade.
(click on each team's name and score to view their dance clip)
In rehearsals, Skai and Alan briefly discussed Skai’s near-fall last week. It was nice to see them laugh about it. I hope that Skai, wherever she is, knows that anyone who was amused by their stumble last week was not laughing at her; they’re laughing at Alan’s super-gelled invincible hairstyle.
I had high expectations for this week’s jive for a few reasons: First, the music was “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog, which I love. Second, the jive is one of my favorite dance styles to watch. Third, I think Skai has a lot of talent and I enjoy watching her. I loved the measured, graceful start. As the routine went on, though, it seemed like something was missing. It was choreographed to be a slow start that gains speed, but I felt like it never fully reached the point where the jive’s energy is supposed to be. The judges didn’t love it either, but they all gave Skai really good, specific critiques, which shows that they see her potential. In the past, when a contestant is simply not very good, the judges tend to focus on something done well or general improvement. After this jive fell flat, the judges put a lot of energy into telling Skai how she can prove, which means she is “almost there.” (See what I did there??)
Monica & Val—Viennese Waltz 7/7/7
Improvement for Monica this week! She had a slower dance, which suited her well. Monica and Val’s Viennese waltz to “Part of Your World” was lovely to watch. It looked like something out of Princess Ariel’s dreams, taking me to her grotto filled with “Human Stuff,” wishing she could be with her Prince Eric. Monica’s overall improvement this week shows she is on an upward trajectory, which felt fitting of a specific lyric I love from the “Part of Your World Reprise:” “I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I know something’s starting right now…”
Justina & Sasha—Charleston 7/6/6
A Mary Poppins number!!! Mary Poppins has an intimately special place in my heart. I grew up with the movie and stage musical, and one of my favorite Disney Night DWTS performances is Charlie White and Sharna’s jazz dance to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” In the package, Justina said that she felt connected to Mary Poppins herself, quoting the character, saying, “Anything is possible, even the impossible.” I loved that, because my personal motto is a similar Mary Poppins quotation: “Anything can happen if you let it.” Everyone that knows me knows that I am constantly reciting that line.
Justina and Sasha danced a Charleston to “Supercal,” but I didn’t love it. I felt like the energy wasn’t up to standard, but that wasn’t entirely the fault of the performers. There were a few eight counts where Justina and Sasha slid onto their stomachs like they were flying. The effect was cool, but I felt that section of choreography slowed down the number, and a Charleston is supposed to be nonstop action.
Perhaps my lukewarm reaction is an effect of my own personal bias. I have often preferred the Mary Poppins stage musical over the movie. There are a lot of differences between the two soundtracks, especially when looking at the song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I personally think the stage version of “Supercal” is superior to the movie version, and Justina and Sasha danced to the movie version.
Their scores went down from last week, but I love that Justina and Sasha cheered anyway when they received them.
AJ McLean is a showman for sure, which is perfect for a showy number like “Prince Ali” from Aladdin. “Prince Ali” is the perfect song for a quickstep, and AJ and Cheryl rocked it. It was high-energy, well-executed, and they both looked great in their costumes. I also really loved how, at the end of the dance, the projection screen showed the scene from Aladdin where Genie has his “Applause” sign. I thought that was a nice touch.
Bless my soul! (I thought) Anne was on a roll! Anne has the right personality for a fun and exciting quickstep. I loved watching this number, so I was surprised when the judges were pretty critical of it. Well, it just goes to show that I am not a professionally trained ballroom dancer.
Jeannie & Brendan—Viennese waltz 7/7/8
Ah, “Married Life” from Up. The happily-ever-after romance that warmed our hearts then shattered them to pieces, all in the span the first five minutes of the movie. Another one of my favorite Disney Night performances was also a Viennese waltz to “Married Life” (2:25 of this video). I think I liked Jeannie and Brandon’s version just as much. The turns were lovely, and I interpreted all of those spins as a representation of the years passing by as a couple lives out their lives together. I didn’t love the balloon drop at the end, though. Even though it fits in with the Up aesthetic, I felt like the sheer mass of them falling from the ceiling obscured the dancers.
Nelly & Daniella—Foxtrot 6/6/6
This foxtrot was to a song from Pixar’s upcoming movie, Soul. It was a jazzy piano song, and I loved the choreographed movements meant to imitate piano-playing. The dance was smooth, but didn’t look perfect. Like his first two dances, Nelly had a great connection with the music, but still looked a little stiff.
Oh, geez. The costume department went all-out with this piece, and the effect was slightly ridiculous. Poor Pasha looked like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.
I was a little confused when they said Carole and Pasha would be dancing a samba to “Circle of Life” from The Lion King. It’s a great song, but it doesn’t have the rhythm and bounce required for a samba routine. That’s okay, though, because as it turns out, the execution of the samba choreography lacked the rhythm and bounce as well.
Kaitlyn’s foxtrot last week moved me, and this week’s rumba had the same effect. I may be a little biased because she keeps dancing to songs I personally love, from “I Hope You Dance” last week to “How Far I’ll Go” this week. Outside of those songs, though, Kaitlyn has proved herself as a truly lovely dancer. Her arm and leg extensions were beautiful, and the way the pair spun around the dance floor looked so cool.
To start off, I loved the concept of this dance. “Be Our Guest” is another perfect quickstep song. Vernon and Peta’s costumes were inspired by Lumiere and his feather-duster girlfriend (who, as it turns out, goes by different names across mediums), and I appreciated the alternative costuming as opposed to the often-done Belle and the Beast. For the Disney Parks fans out there, the projection screens (where the live audience used to sit) showed images that gave off major “Mickey’s Philharmagic” vibes.
In addition to the excellent production elements, Vernon’s performance was great! The last two weeks, I kept feeling like there was something missing from Vernon, but this week he totally kicked it up a notch! His energy was through the roof, and he was sporting a HUGE grin the whole time. With the way he really threw himself into this dance, it felt like a real turning point for Vernon.
Nev & Jenna—Argentine Tango 8/8/8
For the first two weeks, the the most striking feature of Nev’s stage presence has been his giant, smack-you-in-the-face-with-its-charm smile. This week was his first time dancing “in character”…and he rocked it!! It was really, really good. I could say more about it, but the main thing I wrote in my notes is “NICE!!” in big letters, and I think that says it all.
This rumba was great! I felt that Johnny and Britt had a lovely connection throughout, and that this number was a turning point in Johnny’s DWTS journey. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.
DWTS has done Disney night for so many years, that sometimes it feels like they choose to use the same classic songs over and over again. So, I was looking forward to a Newsies-themed dance. I am pretty sure this their first Newsies tribute, and I am a really big Newsies the Musical fan. Unfortunately, this performance didn’t do much for me, probably because I love the show so much. I started off a tiny bit annoyed because, in the rehearsal package, Jesse said, “Newsies is about your big break,” and I was like, “Buddy. I think you've missed the most important point of the story.” For those of you who don’t know, Newsies (at least in the stage musical) is about rich business owners taking advantage of the underprivileged working class for their own personal gain, and the younger generation reacting by starting a citywide movement for justice.
Then, the dance was generally underwhelming, perhaps because of my own personal bias. Jesse and Sharna danced to “King of New York,” and I get more excited over “Carrying the Banner.” Also, because I know the soundtrack so well, I felt that the dance could have been better choreographed to match the music. “King of New York” is a big, showstopping tap number, which could easily transition into a great jive routine. I’ve listened to the song so much, I know exactly at which point in the music is the big dance break, the turning point that raises the level of excitement. In Jesse and Sharna’s jive, when they reached that moment where the dance break happens, I expected something more exciting to happen in the choreography instead of a twirl and choreographed runs traveling across the ballroom floor. It felt wrong. I would have loved to see a kicks-and-flicks section there instead. Also, Jesse needed to be in much more control of his leg movements. I did love Sharna’s dress, though.
Chrishell & Gleb—Viennese Waltz 7/7/8
This Viennese waltz was the perfect way to end the night. Chrishell’s performance was measured, graceful, and full of beauty. And Gleb gets an A+ for his touch of drama at the end! I loved it!
(do not read if you are avoiding spoilers!!)
This week, the bottom two couples were Carole & Pasha (again) and Anne & Keo. The judges voted to save Carole & Pasha last week, but decided unanimously to eliminate them this week in favor of Anne & Keo. I thought it was the right decision. Carole’s samba was…not great. The judges didn’t like Anne’s quickstep from earlier that evening, but they did recognize that she has more potential to grow. I think she has shown that she has a lot more versatility as a dancer and performer as well. Hopefully, she will do better next week.
And that was the end of this year’s Disney Night! I think this round of the competition did contain a touch of that classic Disney Magic, because there were many standout performances and turning point moments for many of the contestants. Everyone has remained committed, there's been a ton of improvement, and I look forward to seeing what happens next!