One couple earns the first ten of the season from the tough panel of judges before a shocking elimination rocks the competition.
It was a wild and unpredictable night of performance as the juniors took control on "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors."
Not only did they shock everyone by picking songs from well before they were born like the theme to "Space Jam" and Run-DMC's "It's Tricky," but they absolutely killed it on the dance floor. And yet, just like the parent series, it sometimes doesn't matter if you're the best or the worst because the audience will choose who they're going to choose.
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This week saw the first ten of the season (the judges have been pretty stingy on that front so far), but it also saw the most shocking elimination of the season yet. Not just because it wasn't the weakest dancer, but because this was also one of the biggest and most entertaining personalities in the entire cast.
Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I've spent the last sixteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Mandy Moore, and Adam Rippon, because they are really being sweet to these kids. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
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Miles Brown & Rylee Arnold (w/ Lindsay Arnold)
Can we just go ahead and give Miles the junior Mirrorball. This kid just brought "Space Jam" to the ballroom in epic fashion with a hip-hop-infused jazz routine that was shar sharp and so on point, we can't believe he only got to rehearse it for one day with them because of his strict "black-ish" filming schedule. Yes that was one sentence. Yes, we're that excited. Miles is so sharp, so good and so in command of himself on that dance floor, we're even more in awe than ever before.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9
My Score: 9
Mackenzie Ziegler & Sage Rosen (w/ Gleb Savchenko)
For her choice, Mackenzie chose herself, performing a cha cha to "What If." Her dance training kept her arms and hand positioning looking very sharp, but she's still not quite comfortable at all times in the partnering, especially when there's a trick involved. It wasn't as sharp as it needed to be everywhere, but it was eminently watchable and she definitely has the potential to surge to the finale.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9
My Score: 8
Jason Maybaum & Elliana Walmsley (w/ Emma Slater)
We love that Jason chose Run-DMC's "It's Tricky," proving that he's an old soul, and his vision for the piece was spot-on. Unfortunately, Jason's dance technique isn't quite as strong as the choreography, the fun and the overall vision. But he attacked this with gusto and still has personality for days making him so much fun to have around. Plus, he is improving with his dance swagger, which is what the show is all about.
Judges Scores: 9, 8, 8
My Score: 7
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Akash Vukoti & Kamri Peterson (w/ Witney Carson)
Akash is adorable, and we love that he spelled a 45-letter word in the middle of this dance because spelling is kind of his thing, but it didn't make all that much sense creatively. We can let that slide, but the problem for Akash is that he doesn't seem to be improving much as a dancer, and if anything, he looked more scared than usual in this Charleston. It's a boppy style with a lot of hop and he just didn't have it. It might be time for Akash to G-O.
Judges Scores: 7, 7, 6
My Score: 5
Sky Brown & JT Church (w/ Alan Bersten) [
Looks like we've got ourselves another front runner here. Sky absolutely killed this samba with hip action for days, plenty of fluidity of movement and she absolutely nailed the character of the dance. This was performed with such passion and confidence she really did look like another prop out there, every bit JT's equal. That was very impressive.
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 7
My Score: 8
Mandla Morris & Brightyn Brems (w/ Cheryl Burke)
Mandla showed some real growth this week, and he definitely put some swag on that cha cha. He still needs to work on his attack and feeling more confident in his movements. What betrays his lack therein is the expressions of his face, which is an area he needs to work on. He's so focused on the choreography, he's losing track of the performance aspects at times. But he's definitely moving in the right direction overall.
Judges Scores: 8, 9, 8
My Score: 7
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Ariana Greenblatt & Artyon Celestine (w/ Brandon Armstrong)
What it lacked in diverse content in the general dance, this piece totally made up for in multiple lifts. You don't often see kids attempting lifts in these types of dances for multiple reasons, but both Artyon and Ariana were great in them. The piece was a lot of fun and very high energy, we just wish it had more legitimate content throughout over what amounted to club dancing for much of the first half.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 10
My Score: 8
This competition is tightening up, with only Akash really standing notably below the other competitors. Above him is a vastly improving Sky, while Jason and Mandla continue to fumble in the middle of the pack. The leaders remain solid at the top, so unless someone makes a big move, we can probably predict our Top 3 right now.
And yet, Akash and Sky both managed to pull off another week while it was Jason Maybaum who saw his time on the show come to an end. Sure, he wasn't the strongest dancer, but he was easily the most outgoing and entertaining person on the cast.
Like we said, this kid has personality for days and it's a shame his time comes to a close just as he's starting to show signs of growth as a dancer.
"Dancing With the Stars: Juniors" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET, and don't forget "Dancing with the Stars" every Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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