Dancing With the Stars premiere recap: Dancers, Take Your Mark
Thirteen Mirrorball hopefuls shake what their mamas gave them...with varying results.
Ah, fall. That time of year when the leaves begin to change and the smell of glitter is in the air. Breathe it in, Dancing fools. Dancing With the Stars is back! Doesn’t it seem like only yesterday we were crowning Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater rulers of the ballroom? Boy, time flies when you’re practicing samba rolls alone in your apartment.
Not only is everyone’s favorite dancing extravaganza back, but it’s celebrating a very special milestone: DWTS is 25 seasons old! I guess that means it’s about time DWTS gets its life together and moves out of its parents’ basement. It won’t, because it has no direction and also having your mom do your laundry is a perk too good to just give up like that.
But yes, it’s true, we’ve been watching celebrities and “celebrities” shimmy their way around a dance floor for 25 seasons now. What a journey it’s been! So many cha-chas, so many tears. And now, it’s time for that journey to begin for the 13 new celebrities vying for the Mirrorball. Cue the music, Ray Chew. It’s time to dance!
Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke
Cha-Cha, “Aint Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations
Just so we’re clear, everyone (and Erin Andrews): Heel leads are no-nos in latin dances. There was a lot of confusion about that in Terrell and Cheryl’s (do they get extra points because their names rhyme? They should) critique. Let us never speak of this again. Aside from the heel lead, NFL star Terrell Owens comes out first and performs a respectable cha-cha. It’s fun, and you can tell he’s really putting in some effort. We’re only hearing a full critique from one judge per dance tonight, and according to Len, this one was entertaining, but Terrell needs to be bigger, broader, and more full on.
Judges’ Score: 15/30
Debbie Gibson and Alan Bersten
Foxtrot, “Lost in Your Eyes” by Debbie Gibson
One week in and we’re already getting a number set to one of Debbie’s own hits. I won’t rest until I see Debbie and Alan out there jamming to “Only in My Dreams.” Debbie is elegant enough in her foxtrot, but the highlight of the routine is the partnering between Debbie and newly promoted pro Alan. You can already sense some chemistry. Debbie is making DWTS her comeback after dealing with complications from Lyme disease, and she’s getting emotional. DWTS is a place for dancing, but it is equally a place for crying. Bruno tells our ’80s icon to watch her shoulders, and Len wants more body contact while in hold. Lots of things to work on while dancing through a mall, or whatever else ’80s singer-songwriters like to do in their spare time.
Judges’ Score: 17/30
Sasha Pieterse and Gleb Savchenko
Cha-Cha, “Like That” by Fleur East
Carrie Ann tells Sasha that she looked fierce on the dance floor and had a nice mix of sexiness and technique, but I’m with Len: Sasha looked like her nerves were in control. She’s on the show to get in shape for her wedding, and in rehearsals, she and Gleb seem to have a lot of chemistry, but this Pretty Little Liar seems very hesitant in most of her movements once the routine begins. She has rhythm (perhaps thanks to her professional ballroom dancing parents?) but needs more confidence. She seems to have potential, and if anyone can bring it out of her, it’s that handsome taskmaster, Gleb.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Drew Scott and Emma Slater
Foxtrot, “Our House” by Madness
Drew Scott, one half of Property Brothers, tells his partner Emma that if they bring home the Mirrorball, he’ll remodel her kitchen. Has a pro dancer ever been so motivated to win? Drew and Emma seem to get on well, despite a huge height difference, and even though Drew is the “real estate” half of Property Brothers, here’s hoping we have a construction-themed dance in our future. Sure, a contemporary piece about making settlement would be ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers. Unfortunately for Drew, he has the enthusiasm but lacks the technique. His hands are clunky, his feet are clumsy, and Len thinks the entire thing lacks finesse.
Judges’ Score: 16/30
(Recap continues on page 2)
Barbara Corcoran and Keo Motsepe
Salsa, “Money Maker” by Ludacris feat. Pharrell
What is with Keo getting paired with sexually energized cougars? More power to Barbara Corcoran, but we’re only one week in and it looks like poor Keo needs a vacation from the never-ending wave of sexual advances his Shark Tank partner is putting out there. I mean, she’s not wrong: Keo is a fine male specimen. If only Barbara could dance as well as she can hit on young hot dudes. Her salsa leaves a lot to be desired. As Bruno points out, her face is serving it, but her body doesn’t match. She seems to be loving it, though. Also, anyone who can come on DWTS and week one look at Bruno and ask, “Who is this guy?” is already winning.
Judges’ Score: 14/30
Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold
Tango, “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes
Jordan’s introduction is all about how he starred in Hamilton on Broadway, but why aren’t we leading with the fact that Jordan was the surprise hit of Grease: Live!? He played Doody! It was a confusing time for all of us. Jordan comes with some built-in dance skills, so he’ll probably get the brunt of the fan “ringer” outrage this season, but dang it if he isn’t just so enjoyable to watch. He and Lindsay are a great pairing, and Lindsay is definitely at the top of the list of pros who deserve a trophy. Jordan is confident on the floor, easily mixes tango technique with his personality, and it seems like the judges are already in love. Everybody loves Doody!
Judges’ Score: 22/30
Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd
Cha-Cha, “Come Get It Bae” by Pharrell Williams
Here’s your second DWTS lesson of the night: Do not go on the record saying you’ll “never do Dancing With the Stars,” because the producers will find that footage and they will play it immediately after your first performance on Dancing With the Stars. Oh, Nick. He seems hesitant in rehearsal and is quick to remind us all that his boy band was of the non-dancing variety. They were pointers. And crooners. “Una Noche” forever, you know what I’m saying? On the dance floor, though, he gives it his all! He’s stiff and Len thinks it “could’ve been slicker,” but the enthusiasm is there. Hey, if nothing else, his wife is very, very excited to take him home.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Vanessa Lachey and Maks Chmerkovskiy
Cha-Cha, “Woman” by Kesha feat. The Dap-Kings Horns
Raise your hand if you’re already sick of the “married couples competing” gimmick DWTS is hitting hard this season with Nick and Peta versus Vanessa and Maks. Luckily, Vanessa doesn’t need a gimmick. She is great in this cha-cha routine. She owns the dance floor, hits all the latin flourishes, and she and Maks look good together. Maybe I am just blinded by that glittery Babybjörn Maks is rocking, but Mama can dance. Bruno praises Vanessa’s posture and her well-placed footwork. The judges love a good ol’ traditional cha-cha, and Vanessa and Maks deliver one.
Judges’ Score: 21/30
Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson
Foxtrot, “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles
Frankie is surprisingly good and all, but the best thing to come out of this routine is Witney letting slip that while Frankie is totally cool with Wit calling him Agent Cody Banks all day, Alfonso Ribeiro was not okay being referred to as Carlton. Keep the hot goss coming, Witney! Back to Frankie: This is another solid pairing, and Frankie is extremely endearing. He loves the show, but is so nervous. Unlike some other celebtestants, those nerves make no appearance on the dance floor. As Bruno points out, this foxtrot doesn’t always have the natural flow it should, but it is quite lovely. Carrie Ann is moved by Frankie’s vulnerability, and if you’re already moving Carrie Ann with your first routine, you’re on the right track.
Judges’ Score: 19/30
(Recap continues on page 3)
Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev
Tango, “So What!” by Pink
Has Artem ever looked as happy as he did when Nikki was body slamming him both in the WWE ring and on the dance floor? It’s clear Nikki’s biggest challenge this season will be giving up control to her partner and toning down her strength and power to show off a more graceful side. Artem is pumped they have the tango this week, because the dance demands power. Nikki may talk about DWTS being out of her comfort zone, but she looks confident once the routine starts. Len thinks she has great body contact in hold, but needs to work on keeping her chin up. Fingers crossed Nikki body slams Len in the finale this season. Or Len slams Bruno. Just give me some hilarious body slamming, that’s all.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Derek Fisher and Sharna Burgess
Salsa, “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow
Derek Fisher’s mother for everything! DWTS is her favorite show, and the NBA legend doesn’t tell his mom he’s joining the cast until rehearsals start. He video chats with her to break the news, and Mama Fisher is all of us. By which I mean she shrieks with joy and then quickly reminds her son that Len will be watching his footwork. The choreography in this salsa is killer (you had me with synchronized dribbling), which is to be expected with Queen Sharna at the helm. Although the judges find the routine entertaining and praise Derek’s ability to command the floor, his technique needs real work. Mama Fisher warned you, Derek!
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Victoria Arlen and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Cha-Cha, “Born Ready” by Disco Fries feat. Hope Murphy
Crying over a cha-cha is bad, even for me. Victoria is a paralympic athlete, who, at age 11, slipped into a four-year vegetative state. She spent 10 years in a wheelchair before learning to walk again. Now, here she is dancing IN NEON PINK FRINGE PANTS. The girl doesn’t do anything half-assed. Victoria explains that she has no feeling in the lower half of her body, so much of her performance relies on ultimate trust in her partner. She has a way to go technique-wise, but you can tell she is having the time of her life. Afterward, Victoria tears up, and her family, sitting in the audience, are all crying. Carrie Ann calls it one of the most joyous routines she’s ever seen. You guys, this isn’t even “Most Memorable Year” week yet.
Judges’ Score: 19/30
Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas
Cha Cha, “Don’t Worry” by Madcon
Lindsey here is a violinist who has performed on the show a few times and is friendly with some of the DWTS crew (Derek Hough choreographed and starred in one of her music videos), so she does have some dance experience. That experience, paired with her time spent performing in front of live crowds, serves her well on the ballroom floor; she already looks comfortable. Len is pleasantly surprised by her prowess in a latin routine, and deems her cha-cha with Mark — full of crisp, clean leg movement and good hip action — his favorite of the night. You do you, Len. All I know is that it’s great to have The Ballas back in the ballroom for season 25. It just feels right.
Judges’ Score: 22/30
And so goes the season 25 premiere into the history books. If the season starts with Len Goodman saving Sharna and Alan from the middle of the desert in a sparkly golf cart, one can only imagine how it’s going to end. Gird your loins, people.
Dancing With the Stars