Dancing With the Stars premiere recap: The First Dance
Time to dust off those dancing shoes, spit-shine your DIY mirror ball trophy (don’t judge my life), and breathe in that sweet, glitter-filled air (but, like, not too hard or you might choke, and we’re just getting started). Welcome back to the ballroom! Dancing With the Stars season 24 is upon us. Season 23 champion Laurie Hernandez was cute and all, but it’s time for her to make way for a new celebrity to claim the top spot in a nationally televised dancing competition. Also known as, the greatest honor any human can ever possibly achieve. Will it be another Olympian, perhaps? A reality TV star? A Charo? Only time will tell.
Normani Kordei and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Quickstep, “Good Time Good Life” by Erin Bowman
You guys, you know I love a good family story, and Normani here delivers immediately: She’s been watching Dancing With the Stars with her grandma since Normani was twelve years old. Grandma even had a little notebook to keep scores! It’s only a matter of time until Grandma is seated in the front row talking about how proud she is of her granddaughter. TEARS WILL FOLLOW. Normani has a tough job to get through on week one — she’s up first and dancing the quickstep. It’s a tall order, but Normani has a lot of energy, and you know performing won’t be her issue. Julianne thought she had great precision in her movement, but Len asks for more body contact and less messing about. Grumpy Len is here and he’s not sorry about it. Grumpy Len is my aesthetic.
Judges’ Score: 27/40
Nancy Kerrigan and Artem Chigvintsev
Viennese Waltz, “She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel
A recapper should perhaps remain unbiased, at least at the start of the season, but this is Nancy Freaking Kerrigan. She makes me cry as soon as she takes the dance floor. Welcome to season 24, folks. We’ll be talking about crying a lot. Nancy is excited to be competing again but stressed when Artem greets her at the skating rink shirtless, while riding on a Zamboni. Does Nancy not know what show she signed up for? Shirtless Zamboni riding is DWTS 101. Out on the dance floor, though, Nancy is a graceful goddess. Of course, the Viennese waltz is the perfect style of dance for her, but still — you can’t knock those arm extensions. Julianne and Carrie Ann both tell Nancy to work on her spotting during turns and to have a little more focus in her eyes (focus on the Artem, Nancy!), but all four judges agree it was a beautiful start to her season. Sigh. Like Nancy, I’m sad it’s already over.
Judges’ Score: 28/40
Chris Kattan and Witney Carson
Cha Cha, “What Is Love” by Haddaway
Chris Kattan, of Mango and Mr. Peepers fame (neither of which his partner, Witney, has ever heard of), has a bit of an uphill battle to fight here on DWTS. He broke his neck not too long ago, and it definitely puts some limits on his dancing. It does not, however, slow him down in the energy department. Chris is committed to dancing and really, what more can we ask? He kicks off his ballroom journey with an homage to his Night at the Roxbury character. He’s having fun! But the judges jump all over for him for… not being able to dance. He’s not the worst first week performer I’ve seen, but Len’s grumpiness is rubbing off on everyone else. It’s a little early in the season to be saying this, but bless you, Julianne Hough, for offering an actual critique rather than piling on. Sure, her critique boils down to, “Be you, but, like better,” but still.
Judges’ Score: 17/40
Bonner Bolton and Sharna Burgess
Cha Cha, “Move” by Luke Bryan
Meet Bonner Bolton. He’s a professional bull rider. In his spare time, he likes to lift bales of hay, flex his forearms, and show his abs to cameras. I don’t hate any of it. Neither does Sharna, apparently, who is blushing a whole lot when she first meets her partner. These two are already getting the hot chemistry edit from producers, so, beware. Out on the dance floor, they do look pretty nice together. Julianne’s right: Bonner looks a little hesitant in some of his moves, but there’s real potential there. Most of the critiques are basically just the judges drooling over themselves, which is understandable. Very handsome Bonner does himself and his partner no favors when he naively talks about how Sharna was “drilling him hard all week.” Or is he some kind of mastermind? Please keep this bull rider around long enough for us to find out.
Judges’ Score: 22/40
Charo and Keo Motsepe
Salsa, “Cuban Pete” by Mambo Compañeros
What in the name of sequins is going on here? Charo is a force, that which neither Tom Bergeron nor her partner Keo can contain. She is glorious. Once again, this is the perfect style for the dancer. The salsa plays to Charo’s strengths, which are performance value, high energy, and shimmying her maracas, of course. The judges give her great critiques. In short, lots of energy, but work on content. So Charo is expecting some knockout scores. When she gets less than that, all hell breaks loose. In the best way. I’m looking forward to all the creative ways Keo can attempt to get Charo off the ballroom floor before pouncing on Bruno this season.
Judges’ Score: 21/40
Nick Viall and Peta Murgatroyd
Cha Cha, “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake and Tiësto feat. Justin Bieber
Ah yes, the ABC synergy portion of our show. Nick Viall, America’s latest Bachelor, has arrived on Dancing With the Stars looking to win. Or, at least, looking to not embarrass himself. Peta (missed you, Mom!) tells her partner that he’ll be “the best Bachelor on the show.” “I hope I can aim higher than that,” he says. HAVE TRUER WORDS EVER BEEN SPOKEN? Nick already seems pretty game: He’s got some hip action and is down with wearing a super low-v. That’s like two points right there. For all the goofing off in rehearsals, he’s not terrible. Peta’s a great coach, so even the smallest bit of potential could mean improvement. Carrie Ann thinks if he relaxes a little, all his movements will seem smoother. The dude faced a firing squad of women in sequined-gowns. How can he be nervous over a little ballroom dancing?
Judges’ Score: 24/40
Heather Morris and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Viennese Waltz, “Make Something Beautiful” by Ben Rector
Let’s get it out of the way up front, yes, Heather Morris was at one time a backup dancer for Beyoncé. No, she does not know why Bey spent a good portion of the Lemonade video wandering in the fields. The woman is a mystery! So, is Heather being a dancer completely fair? Not really. Do we care? Nope. Both she and Maks know that this little fact will mean greater pressure to be perfect. They mostly meet this pressure in their Viennese waltz. The routine is elegant and refined and I would like Heather’s dress, please. Also, as the judges point out, her partnership with Maks seems like it could be a great one. It’s a little bit of opposites attract. The judges want to see more of Heather’s personality, whereas Maks… does not have that problem. Let’s see him push Heather to put more of herself out there on the dance floor.
Judges’ Score: 28/40
David Ross and Lindsay Arnold
Quickstep, “Go Cubs Go” by Steve Goodman
Apparently David Ross is known as Gramps. HE IS FORTY. I get it for baseball, but in life? This is detrimental to my fragile self-esteem. Already, this pairing is great. Lindsay’s done wonders with athletes who have sunny outlooks on life, so her partnership with David has real potential to go far. David tells Lindsay that his only real dance experience is grinding up on his wife, and I could not love him more. Then he utters the words: “Is Grandpa sexy?” while moving his hips and now I’m all in. With all the talk about his age and lack of gracefulness, one would expect a trainwreck, but his quickstep is so charming. The judges can’t stop smiling and applaud him for his lightness of foot and his quality of movement. Not too shabby for an old man.
Judges’ Score: 28/40
Erika Jayne and Gleb Savchenko
Salsa, “XXPEN$IVE” by Erika Jayne
It’s Erika Jayne’s world, and we’re all just living in it. The fabulous Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star has arrived and she’s ready to win. She’s also more than willing to give Gleb her Lamborghini if they take the mirror ball this season. So, I think Gleb is ready to win, too. If there were any doubts as to Erika and Gleb’s drive, they start the routine with Erika sitting on a giant unicorn. Can every routine start this way? Their salsa (to one of Erika’s dance hits) errs on the raunchy side, and the judges ask for more content next time. However, Erika’s a little bit raunchy, so she’s fine with the critique. Carrie Ann and Julianne both applaud her sensuality and confidence, but Carrie Ann is excited to see Erika outside of her comfort zone. Get this girl in a Viennese waltz, stat!
Judges’ Score: 24/40
Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater
Cha Cha, “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars
As if Rashad couldn’t be any more endearing with his mega-watt smile and positive attitude, he tells us that he was an asthmatic, chubby kid with a learning disability. Now he’s blown away that he’s on Dancing With the Stars. Every off-season, Rashad likes to learn something new, and dance is what’s currently on the top of the list. Like he really needs it — he’s so smooth out on the dance floor, covered in gold. There was squealing coming from my living room (I’m alone). He’ll definitely need to work on inhabiting the character of each dance, but for a first week cha cha, he is one of the best of the night. Emma’s just excited she finally has a partner with actual muscles. What a brave new world this is!
Judges’ Score: 31/40
Mr. T and Kym Herjavec
Cha Cha, Theme Song from The A-Team
Get ready for a season full of “I pity the fool” jokes. It’s basically how Kym (welcome back, Kym!) greets her new partner after he Mr. Kool-Aids through the wall. Typically, great entrances lead to high expectations, but those expectations aren’t to be met. Mr. T’s heart is in the right place — he works with kids a lot and he wants to show them that just by trying, you’re winning. It is most definitely the true DWTS attitude. But, also on DWTS sometimes winning means winning. Unfortunately, what he has in heart, he lacks in technique. Kym is pretty nifty with choreography though, so we’ll see what she comes up with for her partner next time.
Judges’ Score: 20/40
Simone Biles and Sasha Farber
Tango, “Untouchable” by Tritonal and Cash Cash
Well, these two are just adorable bundles of energy, aren’t they? Since the cast announcement, this pairing has really been the one to watch. Guess what? They don’t disappoint. Simone may say she’s nervous and that this is all very new and scary for her, but she’s the greatest female gymnast of all time, so I don’t really believe her. She’s a performer and a perfectionist and she should bottle and sell her giggles. On the dance floor, Simone is completely confident in all of her movements. As expected, the judges go ga-ga for her. Len appreciated the balance between performance and content, and all of them commented on her great poise and solid frame. She’s been the early frontrunner for a reason, you guys.
Judges’ Score: 32/40
The season 24 premiere ends as most expected, with Simone and Sasha sitting at the top of the leaderboard. But, who are your early favorites? Which partnerships are you liking the most? Think on it. Discuss in the comments, and until we meet again, may we all find a way to channel our inner Laurie Hernandez’s.