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Aly Advances to ‘DWTS’ Semifinals

This week, we’re treated to something everyone’s been waiting for this season of Dancing with the Stars: Aly Raisman’s parents. They became mini-celebrities during the Olympics as they freaked out excitedly during her performances, and though they’ve been in the audience a lot during “Dancing With the Stars,” this is the first time they’ve appeared in one of Aly’s pre-recorded segments.

This week we were down to five contestants, but oddly Aly’s entire segment was about how she came in fourth place a bunch of times and it was really depressing. Could it be a giant sign asking America to make sure she lasts until at least third? The show certainly pulled out all the stops this week, with Shawn Johnson (a previous “DWTS” champ), Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, and walking meme McKayla Maroney all showing up to talk about how awesome Aly is.

As soon as this week’s first dance — a crowdsourced Afrojazz selection — comes up, I realize why Aly needed all that support this week.

Asking two white people to dance Afrojazz is already a chance to look really bad, and Aly’s pro partner Mark Ballas has skirted the line of appropriateness before. Sure enough, he went all out with this one — ‘tribal’ costumes, headpieces, face paint, even a stuffed lion prop. (He seems to have stopped just short of blackface, luckily.) The dance itself is great, though. Aly looks powerful and confident, and she makes the challenging moves look easy. I’m very impressed with her. The judges were, too. Carrie Ann Inaba pointed out some of the more difficult elements of the dance (which was nice, since this is the first time we’ve ever seen it on the show) and praised Aly and Marc for nailing the physicality, and head judge Len Goodman said that they did a great job staying in sync.

Aly and Mark’s other dance this week was a much more expected rumba, a mainstay on the show. It’s usually a very sexy dance, which meant we got the “little girl Aly is turning into sexy lady Alexandra before our very eyes” spiel again. “If I don’t make it to the finals I don’t have a chance of winning the mirrorball trophy,” Aly explains very obviously. Mark seems to have taken my advice this week and toned down both his outfit and his facial expressions — he’s in a dark costume so that Aly is the spotlight, and it works. The choreography is subtle and doesn’t rely on tricks. It’s basically the polar opposite of the afro-jazz routine, and that’s a smart move because it shows off Aly’s range.

The single best moment of the entire week, though, is when the three judges do impressions of Aly’s mom freaking out. It’s glorious. Fortunately, they like the dance too — Len says that it was sexy without being raunchy (a regular problem when it comes to rumbas on this show) and Bruno Tonioli says that the dance nails the balance between sexuality and sensuality.

This week, Aly got 59 points out of 60, which tied her with football player Jacoby Jones for first place. That meant that she easily landed in the semifinals, with soap opera actor Ingo Rademacher, who had been in danger for weeks, exiting the show in fifth place. This week’s Tuesday results show also happened to be the 300th episode, so hopefully there was cake backstage. They’ve earned it!

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