“Dancing with the Stars” was going back to basics after the All-Stars season proved America really wanted to see celebrity dancers struggling instead of doing well. So as Season 16 started, I was looking forward to a trainwreck as big as Martina Navratilova or Macy Gray! But seriously, this season seemed to be cast so well that there would be somebody for everyone.
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Here’s what happened on the Season 16 premiere:
As the parade of stars walked down the stairs, I couldn’t help noticing Wynonna Judd had the biggest chest I think we’ve ever seen on “DWTS”! And of course, Lisa Vanderpump was wearing her favorite color, pink. Go Dorothy Hamill, too! I was rooting for the older gals.
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough: Cha cha cha
On her first “DWTS” package, the country star described how “American Idol” had changed her life. As the first crossover between the two top reality shows, Kellie was going to be exciting. The golden couple looked adorably goofy in rehearsal and Kellie’s body resembled a fierce showgirl. When the dance started, everyone in the press room was stunned into rapt silence because Kellie was so good. She looked like a professional! Where had Kellie been hiding all this grace? The dance was frisky and easy and fun and involved Kellie rotating her body a lot. The reporters applauded afterwards for this solid start to the competition. Judge Len Goodman said she sold it and Bruno Tonioli raved “that was full blast!” But to him, Kellie needed more work on the legs. Carrie Ann Inaba praised her incredible torso movement. She got straight 7s to start the season, but honestly, she deserved more.
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Victor Ortiz and Lindsay Arnold: Foxtrot
Right off, the boxing champ revealed how his parents abandoned him when he was young. Wait, is this already personal story week? I thought we were going to have more time to ease into the personal revelations. Whew. Then we were introduced to new pro Lindsay, who seemed extremely good-natured. Quick switch to the dance, in which the “DWTS” fog machine did its duty for the first time this season. Victor seemed a little uncertain and slow in his first dance but not bad and I liked the way his gray shoes matched his suit. Uh oh. I had to take it back as there was some awkward footwork in the middle of the dance. Victor was shaking his head when they were done, as though he knew he’d screwed up. However, Bruno said he was light-footed (I thought the exact opposite) and he did well. Carrie Ann mentioned his posture was open, unlike other boxers on the show, while Len thought it lacked the “wow” factor. Victor told a silly story backstage to hostess Brooke Burke-Charvet about deciding to do “DWTS” after he’d been knocked out and then got straight 6’s.
Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson: Contemporary
We met the soap star’s family in Hawaii in Ingo’s introductory clips. He’s quite the athlete but was having trouble lifting his fellow Aussie, Kym, in rehearsal. Dressed in his white sleepwear (at least that’s what it looked like), Ingo twirled Kym around in the show’s first contemporary dance (in the first week at least). Ingo writhed around on the floor and all the lifts required tons of strength, which he obviously had in spades. Carrie Ann tried to explain contemporary dance first, then praised Ingo’s athleticism. But Len wasn’t convinced by the performance. Bruno said Ingo was like Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” which didn’t make any sense at all. He only got a 20, which didn’t bode well for modern dance. I would have rather seen him try jive!
Lisa Vanderpump and Gleb Savchenko: Foxtrot
Lisa was shown meeting one of the show’s new dancers with her dog Giggy in hand. The Pomeranian quickly upstaged Gleb but we switched to practice where the hunky pro was grabbing Lisa’s butt and pressing up against her. The dance started with the pair in black and white like an old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, then switched to color so we could see Lisa in her pink gown. She was bobbling quite a bit and didn’t seem to be taking Gleb’s direction too well. Too much rose wine for the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star? She probably wasn’t drunk, but looked it. Len said it was acceptable but there was too much staggering about. I couldn’t have said it better myself! “Oh, my darling,” Bruno smiled. He said Lisa danced like there were rocks around her neck—very funny! And Carrie Ann’s verdict? She said the dance suited Lisa but she had to learn to hold her own with Gleb. “It was terrifying,” Lisa said backstage.
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D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke: Cha cha cha
The comedian was talking about the rough neighborhood he grew up in and my, my, do we have to hear about all these heavy things on week one? I was unprepared. D.L. and Cheryl were both dressed in black in rehearsal and he displayed a lot of tattoos up and down both arms. The dance opened with Cheryl removing D.L.’s jacket and he was walk-dancing, trying to do a little boogie and oh, it was so awful … someone in the press room said, “This is Master P bad.” (As in, the worst dancer in “DWTS” history.) He just couldn’t move at all and there was a section in the middle where D.L. held his arms aloft but even that was stiff. Wow, it labored to a big, bad finish. In a word, painful! “OMG,” Bruno said, as reporters backstage laughed. “The problem is timing,” he added. Was that all? Just the beginning, in my opinion. Carrie Ann stuttered “yikes” and said he had to practice harder for next week (did I mention there was no elimination show this week?). Len said this was rough. No, painful, Len, painful. But my prayers for at least one trainwreck celebrity this season had already been answered! He got straight 4’s — was that a record low score?
Zendaya Coleman and Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary
So this couple, a 16-year-old with her 26-year-old pro, was going to try contemporary dance. She’s already danced hip hop, so this should be a breeze. They started out dancing in the rain through the miracle of television and did side-by-side leaps and hops and then Val lifted the youngster onto the judges’ table. She was cute and fluid, no problem for the “Shake it Up” star. Still, I wasn’t warming to the idea of having contemporary dance on Week 1. I wanted something more structured. Carrie Ann was applauding and praising her maturity. “That was great,” Len said in an imaginative bit of commentary. Bruno couldn’t wait to see her do other dances. I couldn’t either, because this one was too airy fairy for me. Backstage, Zendaya tried to downplay her dance experience, the usual “DWTS” practice.
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Sean Lowe and Peta Murgatroyd: Foxtrot
The born again virgin “Bachelor” recapped his life which ABC reality fans know too much about already. Sean looked quite dorky trying to follow sexy Peta around in rehearsal. In the dance, Sean looked like a complete novice gamely trying to keep up. He ran his hand through his hair during one move in this dance in an attempt to get votes from female fans, but sorry, it did nothing for me. Some of Sean’s side-by-side moves with his pro looked stiff and tentative but he kept on smiling and seemed to get better as the performance progressed. He and Peta didn’t seem to be connecting as a couple yet, though, and it certainly didn’t bring back memories of Peta and her previous partner, the fabulous Gilles Marini. Len said it lacked finesse and so did Bruno; Carrie Ann claimed he had a fearless exuberance. Sean’s fiancée Catherine was smiling and acting loyal in the “DWTS” audience.
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas: Cha cha cha
We were treated to a bunch of shots of Aly doing gymnastics, which proved, again, that she would be the obvious person to be this season’s winner. Mark seemed excited to finally have a partner with a chance to win again. When the dance started, everyone remarked on Aly’s breasts getting quite a boost, a change from her drab Olympics outfit. This dance was good but I didn’t like Aly sticking her tongue during the number out in an obvious attempt to look sexy. In fact, the gymnast and Mark didn’t quite connect as well as I thought they would on paper. Maybe they just had opening night jitters. But unlike me, Bruno liked the sexy stuff and was inspired by the partnership. Carrie Ann thought it was too safe for the athlete but Len said “well done!” This would bear watching, though – I never would have thought I’d enjoy Kellie Pickler dancing more than an Olympics star!
Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus: Contemporary
Life recap time again and Dorothy talked about the fame that came out of her winning the Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1976. She recalled how she suffered from breast cancer while watching Kristi Yamaguchi winning “DWTS” some seasons ago. The number opened with Dorothy dancing in a winter scene and then Tristan picking her up to lead her into an elegant modern dance. They seemed to have the connection that Aly and Mark lacked earlier and it was just very pretty and soft and elegant for the most part. It ended with Dorothy being snowed on in the ballroom, how appropriate. According to Carrie Ann, Dorothy was already a winner and that performance was golden. Like me, she had noted the strong chemistry with Tristan. Len loved the gentle spirit of the dance while Bruno said it had melted his heart. He did point out a few balance issues, which I had seen as well, but nobody’s perfect on night one!
Watch Monday Night’s Season 16 Premiere of “Dancing with the Stars”:
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Wynonna Judd and Tony Dovolani: Cha cha cha
Wynonna recapped her life as a country music star and member of the Judds and fast forwarded to her marriage to husband Cactus, who lost his leg in an accident last year. Again, TMI, folks, but “DWTS” was obviously ramping up the drama this season. The country singer and All-Stars champion started the dance with some window dressing with a soul singing performance from the “DWTS” singer with the headband, you know the one. Performing to “I’ve Got the Music In me,” Wy shook it gamely and appeared to have good rhythm, but she did move slowly which made me fear her doing the faster dances later in the season (hopefully she lasts awhile with that country fan base). But she did a cool little attitude-fueled move with her arm at one point and followed Tony really well (take note, Lisa Vanderpump). Len said cha cha cha was a hard dance but thought the singer did a good job. Bruno said Wynonna’s timing was good but she had to go for it even more. Wynonna started twitching her nose in imitation of Bruno, which was hilarious. Carrie Ann, though, thought Wy really worked it. Meanwhile, Ashley and Naomi Judd were crying and holding hands in the audience, which was cute. Naomi mimed “call me” to Wy – mom trying to upstage her again? Ha.
Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot
Andy remembered how drinking and drugs wrecked his life and apologized to everyone he’s ever hurt. He sat on the couch with Sharna and it became like a therapy session. The practice didn’t look promising and Andy admitted he didn’t know what he was doing. The comedian even broke down in tears. It would be a traditional foxtrot and the best that could be said was that Andy really tried. In fact, reporters thought he looked cute and sweet. He wielded his cane in the air very gracefully at one point in the dance and maintained eye contact with Sharna. What a surprise! The press room erupted in applause, the most so far this night! Andy had pulled it off. Bruno said it was like watching Woody Allen doing the foxtrot, charming yet geeky. Some murmuring in the press room as the reporters really enjoyed it. Carrie Ann called him an ugly duckling while Len said it had moments of sophistication but it lacked fluidity. Andy said boo and so did everyone backstage. Everyone loves an underdog and the usually cynical press crew had already adopted Andy. Brooke asked him if he was concerned about the pressure of the show (she meant driving him to drink! Ouch). He got one five, from Len, which was unfair. It didn’t matter. Watercooler alert — Andy would be what everyone would be talking about tomorrow!
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff: Cha Cha Cha
The football star had undergone knee surgery before the season, so he was tardy starting rehearsals. So would he excel like all the other football players who had been on this show? He looked a little bowlegged and seemed off balance from time to time, but the sexiness and powere were so there and soon, we were all cheering in the press room at one of his crowd-pleasing moves! Yes! Carrie Ann said he had the moves (an understatement) but he had to work on his posture. Len claimed it was all icing and no cake, meaning he could entertain but had no dance skill. Jacoby looked surprised. Bruno predicted he’d be the sexiest Season 16 star (or something like that, I couldn’t hear).