If life gives you lemons, you, well, make interesting use of them. And that’s just what Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross did Monday night in preparation for his first dance of the “Dancing with the Stars” semifinals. But more on this later.
Tonight, it was all about a miracle season, and nothing short of a World Series moment for Ross, who is on his way to the finals of “Dancing with the Stars.”
The news seemed to startle the judges’ panel, as the results meant Olympic champion Simone Biles was out of the competition, despite having scored a perfect 80 out of 80 on the night. Ross had the night’s lowest total score, 70 out of 80. (Competitors move to the next round based on total viewer votes and judges’ scores.) It was a visibly awkward moment as head judge Len Goodman placed his dismayed head in his hands in complete disbelief of the results, while Bruno Tonioli stood with his mouth agape in shock.
Nevertheless, Ross will be competing next Monday night against Normani Kordei (who also scored a perfect 80 on the night) and NFL running back Rashad Jennings, for the mirrorball trophy.
Coming off last week’s waltz, which Len Goodman called Ross’ best dance, Ross nonetheless found himself Monday night going into the competition at the bottom of the leader board. He and Arnold were the second couple of the night to compete, kicking off the first of their two dances with a sophisticated fox trot, set to “You Make Me Feel So Young,” by Michael Buble.
Decked out in black tie, tails and top hat, Ross did his dapper best with the demanding foxtrot, which requires seamless movements and elegance.
Now, about those lemons. Their judge/coach Julianne Hough in rehearsals told Ross to place one lemon (which she produced from a bag of the citrus fruit) between his butt cheeks. Ross complied, slipping the lemon into the backside seam of his sweat pants, and smiling broadly. Hough pointed out it was something her own dance teacher many years ago also advised her to do to make sure the derriere is in perfect alignment for ballroom dance. Or as Hough told Ross: “Get that booty tucked under. … As a ballplayer he tends to stick out this butt.”
Following his live performance, a jubilant Julianne remarked to Ross, “You squeezed your lemons!,” to thunderous applause. “I’m really proud of you.”
“The citrus hit the spot,” said judge Bruno Tonioli.
“Tonight you continued to entertain us. Are you the best dancer? Are you Gene Kelly? No, but I could watch you all night.” Len Goodman said: “Can I mark it as a great dance? My brain is telling me one thing, my brain another.”
Ross’ first score of the night: 34 out of 40.
For his second dance of the night, Ross performed a tango to “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran. In his pre-dance video package, in which he (and every competitor in round two) had to talk about the biggest supporters in his life, Ross discussed his journey to the major leagues.
Ross’ parents talked about the “chunky kid,” who was a natural when it came to baseball, while his high school coach remarked he knew that Ross, from an early age, was a special kid.
Ross himself revealed that it was a conversation with then Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein that changed his life. “He basically told me to re-evaluate my [bad] attitude. … It turned out to be the most important conversation of my life. … I stopped playing the game for myself and started playing for the team.”
Ross and Arnold delivered a decent-enough tango, prompting Bruno to praise Ross’ navigation of the difficult corners of the dance.
Julianne told the ballplayer: “I’m so over calling you the fan favorite because you are so meant to be here. … You have teh heart, but the hard work you’re putting into this. … This is what this show is about.”
Bruno said,”In this one you went for it like a torpedo in a tuxedo. … Well done.” Len Goodman in his judges’ remarks said: “Nobody has worked harder, tried harder and given me more enjoyment than you.”
His second dance score: 36 out of 40; total for the night, 70 out of 80.
Normani Kordei and her pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy led the first round off with a Viennese waltz, danced to “Desperado” by Rihanna.
During rehearsals week, judge Len Goodman was their judge/coach. His challenge was to “give him 12 bars of Viennese waltz in proper hold.” “I want to be transported back to Vienna,” Len said in the duo’s pre-dance video package. “Whatever Len wants, Len gets,” Kordei and Chmerkovskiy said in unison.
The judges’ panel picked up on one slip-up in the highly stylized choreography, each of them remarking that the semifinals means a lot of nitpicking in every step of the dance. Her score: 36 out of 40.
Simone Biles and her pro partner Sasha Farber were joined by their judge/coach Carrie Ann Inaba, who wanted Simone to just cut loose in the dance and let her emotions shine through. For their spirited jive, danced to “Faith” by Stevie Wonder (featuring Ariana Grande), Biles did just that, obviously having a blast with the choreography. Judge Bruno told her she positively nailed the dance, channeling her inner Tina Turner. Her score: a perfect 40 out of 40.
NFL running back Rashad Jennings and his partner, entered the night in the No.2 spot on the leader board, dancing a rumba to the strains of “Say You Won’t Let Go,” by James Arthur. Bruno’s challenge to the football player: Rashad must “[polish] his hand and feet [movements].” In their rehearsal video, Rashad pointed out the various fingers he’s broken in his career, adding that “I wear a size 14 shoe!”
Their steam rumba resulted in a standing ovation from the ballroom and Judge Carrie Ann pointed out his refinement and elegance. “You were painting a canvas with your body,” she said. “It was passionate and artistic.” Len Goodman said, “You’ve shown me you have tremendous dance talent.”
His score: 38 out of 40
For the second part of the evening, each competitor had to dance a style they had not yet competitively danced, while also relating the story who they each consider to be his or her biggest supporters in life.
Normani Kordei told the story of her upbringing in Atlanta and New Orleans, and the obstacles she and her family had to overcome, including Hurricane Katrina, and the sacrifices her family made for her to follow her dreams. The singer said one of her greatest memories was sitting on the couch watching “DWTS.” She shared a backstage tour with her smiling grandma, who was also in the audience Monday night.
Dancing a jazz routine to “What a Wonderful World” by Ray Chew Live, Kordei and Chmerkovskiy were joyous and inspiring in their New Orleans’-twinged routine that sent the ballroom into a frenzy cheers and applause.
Len was completely thrilled with the dance, offering up a one-man standing ovation during his judges’ comments.
Her second dance score: 40 out of 40; total for the night, 80 out of 80.
For her second dance, Simone Biles performed a rumba to “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato. Her foster parents talked about their daughter’s love affair with gymnastics from an early age, and about her unstoppable smile through wins and losses, and the moment she won Olympic gold. The emotionally charged rhumba danced by Biles and Chmerkovskiy, earned the Olympic champ a second perfect score on the night.
Her score: 40 out of 40; total for the night, 80 out of 80, which tied her with Normani and Val.