Warning: This post is about Dancing With the Stars, and while it does not include spoilers on who was eliminated this week, it does describe the dynamics between two of the couples on the show through this week’s performance.
Derek was my favorite. I was glad when he was back because I love his choreography, and I love the way he moves, and I love the way he always wins.
But this time, Derek didn’t get paired with the same kind of partner. He’s frequently paired with partners you might consider a challenge, like the heavier ones, or the ones with a disability you’d think would make it impossible for them to dance; but then their confidence and tenacity and drive are amazing and they make it far in the competition.
But this time he got paired with someone who is challenging in her own way.
She doesn’t believe in herself.
They’re doing something new this season; or at least, something I don’t remember them doing in past seasons. During the results shows, they’re showing more of the behind-the-scenes stuff, including stuff said that didn’t make the show edit – like the stuff caught on live mics during the dances or right after that are usually muted out during the live shows.
And I’m seeing a side of Derek with Marilu that is making me think that he’s a bad Dom.
He blames her when things go wrong. She’s a 64 year-old actress who has trained all of SEVEN WEEKS to work with a highly-acclaimed, award-winning professional dancer who’s been training his whole life.
In these last few episodes, they’re showing him being a bit of a douchebag to her, like losing his patience and outright blaming her for a low score. Last week, she had a fall and when you watch the footage, it looks like he pushed her pretty hard. Then in this week’s package, she says she felt like she was pushed.
It almost seemed like he’s trying to sabotage their scores because he wants out of the losing team, as though dancing with someone who isn’t showing improvement is going to ruin his reputation.
But here’s the thing – the way he keeps undermining her confidence is the REASON she’s not improving. What really struck me this week is how they showed him talking about his plan to build her confidence up. All he did was tell her that none of her mistakes mattered.
That’s not how to help someone improve! When someone you’re collaborating with makes mistakes, you find constructive ways on working with them to improve their performance. Telling them their mistakes don’t matter anymore is a signal that you’ve let your frustration build up to the point where you’ve given up on them. That their improvement is no longer a priority for you.
This week another pro, Val, got emotional when he expressed his pride over his partner Laurie’s pure joy, passion, and olympian-level drive to soak up the knowledge of dance he’s spent his own life learning. To see the big, bad-ass Russian cry the way he did came off very much with a sense of the deep, paternal-like love he seems to have developed for his young partner.
A week or two ago, they had a moment where he was pushing her really hard and she pushed back. He was getting frustrated and she called him out, reminded him that she’s doing her best and yelling at her when she doesn’t get something right away doesn’t help her learn it faster. He calmed down, apologized and they went on to nail their performance.
So this week, when he hides his face with a hat for a while while the cameras are on him and he’s really breaking into the cry, there’s no question that he feels exposed in showing his own vulnerability within this relationship. I think it’s beautiful. Their performance brought tears to my eyes, as it did the judges.
I know it’s just a silly dancing show and it has nothing to do with kink. But very frequently as I’ve been watching this season, I’ve noticed parallels to BDSM with these two couples. Derek and Marilu’s relationship seems toxic and unfulfilling. She’s trying so hard to please him, and his displeasure is palpable; whereas Val and Laurie’s relationship seems very much like the “daddy” types here (non-sexually speaking) in the way that he shows vulnerability, emotion, and pride and even awe in her progress.
But here’s the thing – in seasons past, when Derek has been with the winning type and Val has been with the challenging member of the cast, their attitudes were reversed. I always thought Val was the asshole and Derek was the shining star.
Which just goes to show that the problem in some relationships may not be the individuals within them, but the pairing itself.
Two final thoughts:
In googling Marilu Henner to ensure I was spelling her name correctly, i saw an article in which Derek defends himself by saying that the editing has been doing him a disservice this season; that in fact, he and his partner had a deep heart-to-heart talk where they aired out some things and hugged it out, but that wasn’t shown. I know that editing plays a big role in perceptions of things, so all of this is really based on what I’ve seen on the show and not what the reality probably is.
And secondly: this was my favorite dance of the night, and it’s sexy – so even if you don’t watch the show, watch this: