Dancing With the Stars season premiere recap: 13 new contestants put their best feet forward
Season 27 of Dancing With the Stars kicks off with so much glitter and sparkles that I had to look away for a moment. It’s probably not more glitter and sparkles than usual; it’s just that there is an adjustment period after going so long without DWTS. But now that we’re enveloped in bright, shiny things once more, everything feels right. Here’s the deal, guys: 13 new contestants of varying celebrity status have convened in the ballroom in hopes of taking home the Mirror Ball Trophy. They’ll each dance two routines over two nights before someone gets the boot. Let’s see how the new crop fares on night one.
Mary Lou Retton and Sasha Farber
Cha-Cha, “Treasure” by Bruno Mars
First female gymnast to win Olympic gold for the all-around is certainly impressive, but honestly, I’d lead with the first woman on a Wheaties box. If there’s not a routine this season that starts with Mary Lou jumping out of a giant Wheaties box, what are we even doing here? With Sasha at her side and the ballroom covered in red, white, and blue, she doesn’t look the least bit nervous. She comes out to cha-cha with a ton of energy — usually a great thing, but her over-excitement causes her to rush in places and lose timing. Still, it’s a good start, and the judges agree that if Mary Lou can relax a little, she’ll be in a great spot.
Judges’ Score: 19/30
Milo Manheim and Witney Carson
Cha-Cha, “Free Free Free” by Pitbull featuring Theron Theron
Serious question: Can we get Witney her own zombie podcast? She’s given the subject a lot of thought. This sudden interest in the undead is because her 17-year-old partner is an actor from the Disney original movie Zombies. For us oldies, Milo is also the son of actress Camryn Manheim. In their rehearsal package, Witney is literally teaching Milo how to walk the cha-cha, but once the music starts, Milo doesn’t look like a novice. He dances with so much gusto! The judges warn him about controlling his limbs — he’s very tall — but overall, they’re impressed. He also starts the dance with that thing where he jumps over his partner’s head — you always get points for jumping over your partner’s head.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Evanna Lynch and Keo Motsepe
Foxtrot, “Do You Believe in Magic” by Aly & AJ
Harry Potter‘s Evanna Lynch is on the show because she was rejected from multiple dance colleges when she was younger. She’s in great hands with Keo. She’s in especially great hands with Keo in his blue-green sparkle suit. Evanna and Keo perform a classic foxtrot, and although all three of the judges agree that Evanna has the makings of a dancer (hear that, English dance college admission officers?), there’s room for improvement. Len didn’t think the style suited her (disagree, dude). Both Carrie Ann and Bruno want Evanna to work on her shoulders and extending her lines. They score her pretty low. Don’t they know she’s Luna Lovegood?
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Danelle Umstead and Artem Chigvintsev
Foxtrot, “Rise Up” by Andra Day
There’s no getting around this: having a blind partner is the biggest challenge Artem’s faced on the show. Not like challenges are anything new to Danelle. Um, yes she’s blind but she’s also a Paralympic alpine skier. Take that in for a second, it is incredible. Artem has to teach Danelle their lovely little foxtrot by touch; I could watch the rehearsal footage for the entire hour. Danelle is extremely graceful out on the floor, and you can tell she is putting all of her trust in Artem. According to the judges, she needs to relax and work on her shoulders, but mostly they can’t believe what they just watched.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Bobby Bones and Sharna Burgess
Jive, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” by Travis Tritt
No joke, Dancing friends: I was literally writing in my notes “it’s getting a bit manic” when Bobby and Sharna’s jive ended and Bobby, full of emotion and possibly a jug of coffee, completely freaks out in the best way possible. The man is having the time of his life, and whatever the quality of his dance is, it is always wonderful to watch people who actually enjoy their time on this show. Carrie Ann is with me: She knows Bobby’s jive wasn’t technically sound, but she was charmed by his “wild rockstar” energy. Bruno calls the performance “exquisitely demented,” which is honestly more of a description of this entire series than anything else.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Juan Pablo Di Pace and Cheryl Burke
Salsa, “Dinero” by Jennifer Lopez featuring DJ Khaled & Cardi B
Will Cheryl’s 21st season as a DWTS pro be her next Mirrorball win? It’s a possibility. Yeah, yeah, it’s only week one, but her chemistry with Fuller House star Juan Pablo Di Pace is, um, palpable. You can’t teach chemistry, folks! They perform a sexy, sultry salsa that I will immediately be rewinding and watching again. Bruno tells them he’d “pay for that” and Len utters the phrase “hunk with the junk in the trunk” and the ballroom is forever changed. So, they liked it. A lot.
Judges’ Score: 22/30
Nikki Glaser and Gleb Savchenko
Salsa, “YES” by Louisa featuring 2 Chainz
“You look like you should be constantly emerging from a pool in slow motion,” comedian Nikki Glaser says upon meeting Gleb. Have truer words ever been spoken in the ballroom? In life? Nikki has zero dance experience, and her salsa with Gleb is awkward, but you can tell she’s giving it her all. Isn’t that what really matters? Not on this show! The judges are not impressed. Carrie Ann appreciates that Nikki let her wild woman out, but she needs to think about her body working as a whole. Bruno calls out Nikki’s lack of hip action. And finally, it only took seven dances for Grumpy Len to make his first ballroom appearance of the season — he was not pleased at all. Grumpy Len never is!
Judges’ Score: 17/30
Alexis Ren and Alan Bersten
Jive, “Good Golly Miss Molly” by Little Richard
Sorry to inform you, friends, but “Instagram model” is a real thing! What a world. Alexis here has over 12 million followers (great for votes!) and is doing DWTS because it was her late mother’s favorite show. There might be some camera issues during Alexis and Alan’s ice cream shop-themed jive, but from the parts that we do see, it’s clear that Alexis can dance. She keeps up with Alan, and although her flicks and kicks aren’t totally there, her legs look good. Doesn’t the jive seem like a rough pull for week one? Maybe not with Alan, whom the judges all commend for his choreography. And I shall commend him for working that paper ice-cream shop hat. Good work, Alan!
Judges’ Score: 21/30
John Schneider and Emma Slater
Foxtrot, “Good Ol’ Boys from Dukes of Hazzard” by Waylon Jennings
Bo Duke, as I live and breathe. John Schneider is also a country music artist and an actor with a long career, but most people — including partner Emma — know him from The Dukes of Hazzard. They lean hard into that recognition, and his first spin on the dance floor is all Dukes themed. John is a big surprise of the night! The foxtrot is tough for a first dance, what with getting the frame and posture right, but John does well. Len thought he lacked “finesse,” but Carrie Ann and Bruno are both in John’s corner.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Tinashe and Brandon Armstrong
Jive, “I’m a Lady” by Meghan Trainor
Admittedly, I had to look up who Tinashe is because I’m an old person. But then she walked out onto her stage and got the Beyoncé hair blowing in the wind treatment, and I became a fan. The singer is partnered with Brandon for his first season as a pro. This is a delightful turn of events. Our little Troupe Brandon is all grown up! And, you guys, he gives good choreography. He gives so much good choreography that Carrie Ann even asks for less of it so that Tinashe can really shine. What does this mean? No one knows. Still, it’s clear Carrie Ann, Bruno, and Len are all sweet on Tinashe. Could Brandon, our Brandon, make it to the finals in his first season?
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Nancy McKeon and Val Chmerkovskiy
Quickstep, “It Don’t Mean a Thing” by Club Des Belugas
Bless you, Valentin. It’s only week one and already he’s sporting a tuxedo with tails. That boy came to win. Two-time champion and newly betrothed (oh you haven’t heard that Val and Jenna are engaged? Have you been locked in a dark, empty room for several months?) Val is partnered with Facts of Life star Nancy McKeon. She wants to show her daughters that you need to face your fears in life. Her fear is fringe. Or, maybe, doing something completely foreign to her in front of millions of people on live television. One of those two things. But she doesn’t look scared! She looks like she’s living. She also looks a little like Mark Ballas. Carrie Ann praises Nancy for her animated facial expressions — she’s a storyteller! — but Bruno, um, did not care for them. You can’t please everyone!
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Joe Amabile and Jenna Johnson
Quickstep, “Fish Out of Water” by Leo Soul
Oh, Joe. Joe. Joe. Joe. Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise star “Grocery Store” Joe had two goals coming into this show: To get rid of his embarrassing nickname — he wants to be called “Dancing” Joe — and not to get eliminated first on another ABC reality show. There’s a good possibility neither of those things will happen. The first, because Grocery Store Joe is really catchy and also his first routine is grocery story-themed. The second, because he has a lot of trouble in his quickstep with Jenna. The judges remark on his charm and good looks, but all three of them try to avoid any talk of dancing. Typically, that’s not a great sign.
Judges’ Score: 14/30
DeMarcus Ware and Lindsay Arnold
Cha Cha, “Sweet Sensation” by Flo Rida
Are retired NFL Super Bowl champ Demarcus Ware and season 25 Mirror Ball champ Lindsay Arnold pandering to me? Don’t they know I, unfortunately, have no sway over the outcome of this show? Still, longtime readers will know I will always favor a sparkly blazer, no shirt combo above all else and hello, their cha-cha featured Demarcus jumping over Lindsay from the floor — no stairs necessary. Choreography of my dreams. The rest of it was fun, too! Len praises Demarcus’s presence on the dance floor, and Bruno couldn’t believe how light he was on his feet. Carrie Ann starts talking about the “inner light” that shines when Demarcus dances and instantly I realize just how much I’ve missed this show.
Judges’ Score: 23/30
For those dancers who did not score as well as they would have wanted — I’m so sorry Grocery Store Joe! — all hope is not lost. All 13 couples will be dancing the same style in a new routine tomorrow night. Scores from both dances will be factored into the first elimination of the season. So dance your little hearts out, you precious baby birds! You can do this!