Dancing With the Stars: Athletes season premiere recap: Let's dance!
Let’s plaaaaaay dance! Wait, that’s not it. Go team! Score a samba roll! That doesn’t sound right. Regardless, welcome to a very condensed, all-athlete season of Dancing With the Stars, friends! Prepare thyselves for the frenzy to come. We’ve got 10 highly competitive athletes ready to take the dance floor for only four short weeks. Four weeks is not nearly enough time to go on the magical dancing journey our celebrities typically take in a season, but here we are. How cruel to give us figure skating darling and glamazon Adam Rippon for a mere four weeks. With the extremely short season, two couples will be eliminated at the end of the premiere based on judges’ scores and live voting. That will surely sting.
But let’s focus on the positive. We’ve got some high energy performances awaiting us. We’ve got a new DWTS jumbotron. We’ve got whatever that amazing sequined cowl-neck hoodie thing Jamie Anderson is wearing in the opening group number. We almost have it all!
Chris Mazdzer and Witney Carson
Salsa, “Mr. Put It Down” by Ricky Martin featuring Pitbull
It’s his first dance ever and silver medalist Chris Mazdzer is already flashing the abs? People are not messing around with this condensed version of DWTS. The luger also can’t resist flashing his beautiful smile. Clearly, this guy is having a lot of fun out there! Also, he’s kind of good? There’s lots of musicality and charm throughout this salsa, which as Carrie Ann points out, is not skimping on the choreography. All three of our refs, excuse me, judges are impressed with Chris’s first outing (and his toe-pointing skills, obviously).
Judges’ Score: 21/30
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lindsay Arnold
Cha Cha, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” by Stevie Wonder
Legendary basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells us that he may have “old feet,” but they’re also “dancing feet.” Well, go on with your bad self, Kareem. Lindsay takes care of Kareem here, as they battle the challenge of their height difference (Kareem is 7-foot-1 and Lindsay is 5-foot-4), among other things. Kareem is stiff, and mainly just letting the troupe dance around him, but he is wearing a full-on gold glitter tuxedo. That’s commitment!
Judges’ Score: 17/30
Jennie Finch Daigle and Keo Motsepe
Foxtrot, “All-American Girl” by Carrie Underwood
Before we get into the dancing, can we take a moment and thank the Mirrorball gods for allowing us to witness KEO ON A RANCH? Bless you! It’s easy to tell that Jennie is not as comfortable on the dance floor as she is on a softball mound. The good news is that although her face looks terrified, her body moves pretty well! She needs to work on trusting her partner, but she nails the breeziness of the country-gal routine. All three of the judges tell Jennie to loosen up a little because the girl has potential. Let’s just hope she has enough time to let that potential come to fruition. This tight timeline is so nerve-wracking, you guys!
Judges’ Score: 21/30
Jamie Anderson and Artem Chigvintsev
Viennese Waltz, “Feeling Good” by Avicii
Ah, if only all of us could be as laid back as two-time Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson is. She describes snowboard competitions as one moment of both chaos and peace — which is pretty much Dancing With the Stars summed up, too. Jamie finds rehearsals tough, but after she and Artem perform their snowy Viennese waltz, Carrie Ann tells Jamie that she’s being too hard on herself. It isn’t the cleanest performance, but there is some elegance. The judges could tell Jamie was nervous and therefore rushing. In her rehearsal package, Jamie gets honest: “I underestimated the whole situation.” Could all DWTS contestants get that put on a T-shirt?
Judges’ Score: 19/30
Mirai Nagasu and Alan Bersten
Salsa, “No Excuses” by Meghan Trainor
Mirai Nagasu, triple axel-landing extraordinaire, is living proof that The Secret works. Mirai wanted to be on Dancing With the Stars. Mirai publicly announced that she wanted to be on Dancing With the Stars. Mirai is now on Dancing With the Stars. What a world! She performs a routine chock full of lifts and tricks like they ain’t no thang. It’s quite a feat because that one trick where Mirai jumps and lands around Alan’s waist, um, that is most certainly a thang. Mirai and Alan have good chemistry and her biggest problem is that she’s “too eager” and “too full of attack.” That’s like telling a job interviewer that your biggest flaw is that you “care too much.”
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Arike Ogunbowale and Gleb Savchenko
Salsa, “Them Girls” by Whitney Myer
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge how freaking fun it was to watch Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale in the NCAA Tournament this year. Two buzzer beaters, one to take the championship title — come on! Heading into this season, Arike was the one dancer I was most curious about. And she has some moves! Are they necessarily ballroom moves? Maybe not. But as Carrie Ann notes, it is nice to watch someone dance when they look comfortable out there dancing. Bruno is surprised how much Arike really drew him into the routine. Len wants more hip action, which, like, that’s so Len.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson
Cha Cha, “Sissy That Walk” by RuPaul
“I’m not a scientist, but we’ve got chemistry,” says Adam Rippon of him and his partner Jenna Johnson. They are the couple of the season — and we haven’t even seen three of the couples yet. I don’t care. The bronze medal-winning figure skater and Jenna are glorious. As if there had been any doubt, Adam comes out onto the dance floor and gives it his all. But even more than the stellar armography and all the fire he and Jenna deliver, their cha cha is also extremely clean and precise. For Week One, this is pretty great.
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Johnny Damon and Emma Slater
Foxtrot, “Centerfield” by John Fogerty
A lot of past celebs let us know about some previous experience that they think will help them in this competition, but MLB star and two-time World Series champion Johnny Damon has some experience that he knows will help: He’s used to embarrassing himself on TV! That’s the spirit, Johnny! Johnny and Emma dance a foxtrot meant to celebrate Johnny’s career. He’s having a great time and is lighter on his feet than one might expect, but there still are issues. Mainly, his frame. The foxtrot is an extremely technical dance and how you move in hold is paramount. Should Johnny stick around, he’ll need to work on his frame.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Tonya Harding and Sasha Farber
Foxtrot, “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey
Move it, losers! I, Tonya star Allison Janney is in our midst! We are not worthy. The Oscar winner is in the ballroom supporting Tonya Harding, which honestly must be a weird friendship but I am into it. Before Tonya and Sasha step out for their foxtrot, Tonya reminds us all that she wasn’t really known for being the most graceful skater, so this could be interesting. Um, it is very interesting because “graceful” is the best way to describe Tonya and Sasha’s routine. The judges, who are quick to point out that they are only here to talk about Tonya’s dancing, also use words like “fluid” and “elegant.” Is Janney a good luck charm? Can she come every week?
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess
Cha Cha, “Finesse” by Bruno Mars
The saddest moment of this entire episode was seeing Sharna’s lower third during her introduction: Three-time DWTS finalist. Can someone get this woman a Mirrorball trophy, please? Could it be NFL cornerback Josh Norman? Honestly, maybe. We all knew the skaters would be good, but football players are a crapshoot. Josh lets us know exactly how this ballroom thing is going to go when he enters the room by jumping over Sharna’s head. And that’s not all this team has to offer. The judges note Josh’s musicality and style, and it’s clear he and Sharna have chemistry. Are Josh and Sharna the dark horses of season 26?
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Although this seems insane, based on the scores and live votes, it is time to eliminate two couples from the ballroom. This is disorienting. Someone hold me! Maybe Artem.
Three couples are put in jeopardy: Johnny and Emma, Jamie and Artem, and Tonya and Sasha. Obviously, that third one seems like the producers are trying to drum up some drama. It doesn’t much matter anyway, since Tonya and Sasha are ultimately declared safe, and it is Johnny and Emma and Jamie and Artem who are going home. What a whirlwind, right?