by Irvin K

Disney Night marks the halfway point of the season, so we’ll revel in the Disney magic, and take stock of the remaining dancers while we’re at it.

This is shaping up to be a rather excellent season of Dancing with the Stars! All of the mediocre dancers were methodically eliminated, leaving nine dancers who all range between decent and incredible. We powered through their memorable years, and have forged emotional connections with the remaining stars. At this point, the conclusion of the season is foregone: Normani and Simone battling for supremacy. But getting there will be fun, and it’s an open question of who’ll get third place after those two.

Normani & Val

Thus Far: Val and Normani keep delivering time and time again. Without Derek and Mark upping the ante for spectacle, Val’s choreography is doing wonders for Normani. Val has excelled at Disney Night year after year (recall Rumer’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and Ginger’s “Belle”), and this year was no exception. Our favorite number of Disney Night was their gorgeously staged “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You,” complete with martial arts choreography mixed into the paso. The cherry on top: the song’s original singer, Season 9 champ Donny Osmond, sang live as they danced.

Prognosis: It’ll be tight between Normani and Simone, but Val’s wealth of experience gives him an edge over Sasha. Our pick to win it all.

Simone & Sasha

Thus Far: Simone’s athleticism is not in doubt. The girl can dance! But she’s not really connecting with the audience beyond “the Olympic gymnast that we really like.” She’s not as bubbly as Laurie Hernandez, so the producers keep chucking storylines at her hoping one sticks. Learn to be sexy! Learn to emote! Learn to assert yourself! If she wants to win, we need to be invested. That said, Disney Night was good for her. Like the other prospective winner, Simone got to dance accompanied by the original singer singing live: Auli’I Cravalho singing “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. The vocals, choreography, and production design combined for a beautiful number.

Prognosis: Simone’s all but guaranteed a spot in the finals. It’ll be interesting to see if she can unseat Normani; a lot will depend on Sasha’s choreography.

Rashad & Emma

Thus Far: Emma is making the most of having a partner who can actually dance, and is between the ages of 16 and 60. For Disney Night, Rashad and Emma were the subjects of some corporate synergy, dancing to “Evermore” from the new Beauty and the Beast. Emma was dolled up in a Belle dress that looked far better than Emma Watson’s, and Rashad danced a waltz that was charming, though rather stiff.

Prognosis: When a football player actually exerts a modicum of effort, he goes far! Will he win? No, but plan on Rashad sticking around until the bitter end.

Nancy & Artem

Thus Far: Seems Artem is now the designated partner for celebrities with too many feelings. Nancy is a good dancer, but part of her process is freaking out over either not being good, or being so good that people compliment her. Freak outs aside, she does pull off some great dancing. This week, she was a spot-on doppelganger for Giselle, dancing to “How Does She Know” from Enchanted. It looked like a fairytale.

Prognosis: She may not be the next Kristi Yamaguchi, but she’ll continue doing well. Especially because Artem is looking to capitalize on having a decent partner.

Nick & Peta

Thus Far: In an average season, a dancer of Nick’s caliber would coast to Week 8. As things stand, his dancing is not bad enough to get him kicked off, but not good enough to make him a contender. For Disney Night, Nick shaved for the first time in a year and a half, to be a convincing Pinocchio. The number was adorable, because Nick’s willing to lean into the ridiculousness. And it was nice to highlight a Disney song less than twenty years old (the only one this week).

Prognosis: He’s by far the most likable Bachelor we’ve had on DWTS (yes, the bar is low). If he gets Bachelor Nation voting and doesn’t turn off regular viewers, he may yet get some time to improve his dancing.

David & Lindsay

Thus Far: David is the surprise dark horse of the season – an older athlete who can actually dance, and is willing to be completely ridiculous in the process. Lindsay works wonders with such celebs, and last season got one to third place. David drew the short straw this week, jiving to a new song from Cars 3 that no one cares about yet (if ever). But at least he got the hardest and fastest dance out of the way.

Prognosis: With competition this steep, David’s age might catch up to him, but we’re really rooting for him to stick around.

Heather & Maks/Alan

Thus Far: As predicted, Maks is making a right pig’s ear of things. Instead of leaning away from Heather’s dance experience to give a semblance of fairness, his choreography keeps incorporating her styles of dance in lieu of ballroom. The judges are absolutely calling them out on this. It stinks, because Heather should have been a huge success on DWTS. For Disney Night, Heather and Alan did a somewhat underwhelming rendition of “For the First Time in Forever.”

Prognosis: Not good. Viewers who were skeptical of Heather being a professional dancer and still competing have not had their minds changed, and the Gleeks may not be enough of a voting bloc.

Bonner & Sharna

Thus Far: Bonner has one problem: he’s far too earnest. It may be his undoing, because he’s not winning on the strength of his dancing. After a few weeks, earnest reads as boring. There was a showmance story arc being developed, but that’s been seemingly scrapped, because Sharna seems too playful for someone like Bonner. Not doing Bonner any favors is comparing him to Sharna’s last partner, James, who was a hoot every week. In fairness, Bonner did very well this week as Wreck-It Ralph, with Sharna as Vanellope (breaking with the tradition of her being Jasmine).

Prognosis: Looks like it won’t be Sharna’s season, yet again, and we’re rather sad about it. Bonner’s fine, but in this season, fine isn’t enough.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ll just watch the Disney Night opening number on repeat.

What are your thoughts, Mirrorballers? How will the rest of the season play out? And what was your favorite Disney Night number?

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