The contemporary routine is here to stay. What are all these bare feet doing in the ballroom?

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 19, 2013 at 06:28 AM EDT

Dancing With the Stars

S16 E1
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Welcome back to Dancing With the Stars! It’s season 16, and whether you’re watching because of the cast or in spite of it — No more Maks! Low star power! What’s a Zendaya? — Planet Mirrorballus is still the finest Fabergé egg/escapism destination in the great Glitter Galaxy, and I’m still on board to recount the highs (sparkly tears of joy) and lows (pit stains) of all the fabricated drama. It’s not supposed to be about the cast anyway — it’s about the dancing! Ha, well, we’ll see how that works out.

Tonight we learned that the contemporary routine — a.k.a. Barefoot in the Ballroom — is here to stay. What a nightmare for some of these couples to have to do all this flailing and flopping first! None of the three contemporaries we saw tonight crashed and burned, but I still think the style is weird for the ballroom and will be very painful to watch as less talented dancers attempt it. DANCMSTR Len Goodman is not impressed.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhhhhh-ber!

Zendaya and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 24/30 Wow! That was a seriously savvy contemporary routine, their mirrored fluidity and fearlessness only intensified by some bizarre fake rain and Val’s turquoise and navy striped socks with yellow sneakers. The Shake It Up actress even mounted the judges’ table — bold move.

This girl really seems to dig herself, so she’s the perfect partner for Val. Her age — at 16, she’s the youngest Star ever! — will throw an amusing wrench in his plans to never wear clothes. They’re goin’ places, for sure. Even if it’s just “slumped against a wall” in an extended version of Val’s pep talk this week (“I don’t want you to be good. I want you to be incredible.”) — I’m into it. Really good pairing.

Pit it or quit it, Val!

NEXT: Did everyone notice Aly Raisman has boobs? Alexandra Raisman and Mark Ballas: 21/30 I’m sure it was a great cha cha routine, but I’m also sure everyone will remember two things about Aly’s segment and they are…her obscenely pushed-up breasts! What the heck? I guess those pink fringed balloons were the couple’s way of bringing to life the lyric “Live while we’re young,” Planet Mirrorballus style.

She’s excellent! I mean, of course. Aly won the freaking Olympic gold medal for the floor routine. The ballroom is simply less bouncy and she’ll need to be so, too. Based on technique alone, they’re out in front (Mark inching one of his spats just ahead of both of Aly’s heels). But if they play up the “suddenly sexy” theme each week, I’ll get annoyed. And already, Aly’s robotic responses (in monotone: “I’m excited I’m really happy about it I had so much fun”) are making me a little sad.

Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough: 21/30 Twinsies! Kellie has really short Derek Hair right now because she shaved her head last year in solidarity with a friend who had cancer. This was a fabulous cha cha cha to start out the season — they’re both whip-fast, are as thin as/bear the energy level of a Pixy Stick, and Kellie’s sparkly bodice/fringed skirt combo made it look like she was NFB (nude from behind) — a classic DWTS costuming trope. What could be a better re-introduction to the series?

Of course their placement might have been a bummer scores-wise, but in the end I think going first will only help this couple — otherwise everyone would be complaining even harder about how Derek always gets a young hottie who can dance. And yeah, that’s a valid thing to whine about. But I like this couple so far, and I’m intrigued by how impressed Derek was by Kellie’s “flexible back.” I’m just imagining all sorts of “flexible back” synapses lighting up across the command center of Derek’s noggin (a.k.a. “the judges’ leader board”). Don’t worry — they’ll get their high scores soon enough.

NEXT: To be fair, the icing is the best part of the cake Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus: 21/30 So cute. Soooooooo cuuuuuuuuute. Need I say more? These two also made the most of their contemporary assignment by placing figure skating champ Dorothy as some sort of music box ballerina come to life in a winter wonderland. I loved the Ice Capades-esque moves — the lift where she threw her legs out, the illusion of a side-by-side arabesque while Tristan was kneeling. He was very hobo chic tonight with side-swept hair, significant scruff, and tall brown socks paired with clam diggers. Oh, God, and the suspenders. Did I mention I thought they were cute together?

I loved Dorothy calling herself an “olllllllld Olympian” after Brooke pointed out Olympians’ stellar track record on this show — that was a fun way of managing expectations while endearing herself to the audience and dodging a basically non-answerable question. And how cool is it that watching Kristi Yamaguchi win season 6 was Dorothy’s “reason to be” during her recovery from breast cancer?

Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff: 20/30 It’s crazy that this pair pulled off that cha cha cha — in the pimp spot, no less — after only about 10 days of rehearsals, though I feel a bit duped because they’re also the only pair who got a boost from a sea of glowsticks held by a stir-crazy crowd desperate for a moment. Ha, whatever! I was just kidding. I love rainbows and I love props, the more superfluous the better.

It seems the Super Bowl champ stands to gain the most momentum from his personality and performance quality over technique — he was “all icing and no cake,” said Len — but there’s plenty of time. WE THE VIEWERS DEMAND CAKE and we’re going to get it.

“I think you have the potential of becoming season 16’s steaming sex machine — you can grind it! — but yes, work on feet placement.” –Bruno Toniol, and also DWTS in a rainbow-studded nutshell.

Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson: 20/30 Kym is the only dahhhn-suh I can think of who looks like she’s wearing heels even when she’s barefoot, so at least their contemporary routine had that going for it. I was so revved up from the pair’s Dirty Dancing-style lift in the water that anything would’ve looked fine to me. You have to hand it to Ingo — an actor “best known” (LOL) for playing Jax on General Hospital — for pulling off a contemporary routine featuring bogus non-ballroom moves like “cartwheel out of repose” in Week 1 of a televised ballroom competition. I’m really digging him and their pleasant Aussie chemistry so far.

Highlight: Carrie Ann lunged at the opportunity to use the word “amalgamation” when explaining what contemporary meant. She didn’t fall! Not yet.

Better highlight: Ingo’s adorable little boy! (endorsed by commenters Colleen, Lorie, orville1970, DonnaW, johoallen, and SpeechTeacher89)

NEXT: How Lowe can you go, while thrusting? Sean Lowe and Peta Murgatroyd: 19/30 ABC’s golden boy Sean kicked off his ballroom regime by complaining about how the tabloids have focused a lot on his personal life. “I never openly talk about it,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s necessary.” Sean. Hi. We all just saw you slut it up on The Bachelor. Your personal life was the only plot of the show! Get a grip. Literally, grip yourself and feel free to rub yourself down (Peta’s advice). Also, PLEASE stop calling yourself a virgin. It’s becoming more of an absurd sex scandal than if you had simply “never openly talked about it.”

Anyway, pinball wizards (?!) Sean and Peta’s “The Power of Love” foxtrot was middling at best, despite Peta’s always-incredible back-snaps and what Bruno called some “very effective pelvic thrusts” from Sean. Disagree! Those were weak. Sean needs to put some refinement and finesse into the mix, claimed the male judges. “I liked it rough!” yelped Carrie Ann. “You had a fearless exuberance. That’s gonna take you far.”

Wynonna Judd and Tony Dovolani: 18/30 There’s no way I remember anything about this cha cha cha other than the fact that it was held in The Church of Princess Sparkle — previously only a vague term for my headspace while watching Dancing With the Stars, now a full-fledged reality! Our esteemed forehead-tiara enthusiast, DWTS singer Carmen Carter, took the lead on “I’ve Got the Music In Me,” and it was just superlative in every way — expect that small issue of Wynonna Judd’s dancing, of course. She didn’t do much on the floor, to be honest. Tony got it right with the “I worship her” final pose — very appropriate for church, and Princess Sparkle surely approved. But there’s no real merit here. Wynonna’s Elvis facial twitches towards Bruno and ability to keep up with his sexual innuendos will probably make her his pet for the season.

Non-hidden gem: the gorgeous Ashley Judd in the audience, struggling to play along with mom Naomi’s urgent call/text/vote! hand gestures.

Victor Ortiz and Lindsay Arnold: 18/30 The boxer and new pro Lindsay suffered from the dreaded second spot — reality TV’s equivalent of making it seem like you were never even there. But Victor’s foxtrot showed technical promise, he’s got a backstory rife with struggle, and from the little footage we saw, he actually seems really funny. A little nuts, too. I mean, what sane person would agree to be on Dancing With the Stars? (On a stretcher, with a broken jaw post-fight. Or just in general!)

NEXT: This isn’t one of your 26 restaurants, so enough already with the dog Lisa Vanderpump and Gleb Savchenko: 18/30 Nope. Sorry. That dog has GOT to go. I don’t care if Real Lapdog of Beverly Hills Giggy is a main character on other shows. He has no place in the ballroom — plus, as Tom mentioned, the dog was clearly hammered. And look what has become of Troupe member Sasha! Once a dancer, now a pup butler.

Anyway, their foxtrot was pretty bad, full of wonky arms and “staggering about” (said Len), and if Lisa couldn’t get comfortable “connecting private parts” with new pro Gleb in a mere ballroom standard, imagine how she’ll recoil from his junk in the samba or rumba!

I feel like Gleb might need a different stage name. Hot Face? Eh.

Esteemed Colleague Email Interlude:

Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess: 17/30 And now, the softer side of Andy Dick. (Though I’m not sure too many people remember his other, quasi-gem-like facets.) The actor brought up his addiction troubles, apologized to everyone he’s hurt, and called Dancing With the Stars “the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had — and it’s undeserved.” This was both strangely sweet and mildly depressing. But the depressing part melted away during their foxtrot — turns out Andy Dick really is taking this seriously and has…wait for it…a decent sense of rhythm! That’s right — I can’t see him looking anything but awkward in the Latin dances let alone a contemporary piece, but the foxtrot really suited his strengths: keeping a beat and charming the crowd. “I liked the slightly deranged side of it. It’s comedic!” cried Bruno. “Like watching the ugly ducking come to life,” agreed Carrie Ann. “This had the fluidity of RoboCop!” charged Len. Buzzkill.

Andy chastised Brooke for asking about the pressure of this show for a recovering addict, and I gotta say I’m on Space Queen’s side here. Not only was his package all about his sobriety, but someone in her ear made her say it. Brooke cannot be held accountable for such things! But she can be praised for this: After Andy mentioned his next dance “could be smoother,” BBC chimed in: “You can always be something more on this show.”

BROOKE! OMG. You can always be something more on this show. I’M MELTING. I’m a pile of glitter.

I’m loving new pro Sharna, by the way. So sweetly reassuring to Andy — and seems funny, too.

D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke: 12/30 The judges gave the actor/comedian’s cha cha cha all 4s — a shockingly low score and a clear knock for D.L.’s not having rehearsed enough. Neither he nor Cheryl looked that into it (Cheryl’s new bangs expressed ennui the hardest), so I’m pretty sure it’s fine with everyone involved if this is the first pair to go.

Finally, a text from my mother:

“WHAT?? THAT’S what the new show Splash is about?”

Yep. See you next week!

EW’s first official hidden gems collection won’t be ’til next Tuesday, just ahead of the first results show of the season. Isn’t it funny the way I so capriciously throw around the term “official”?


Fringe Fairy

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