Dancing with the Stars Premiere Night: Let the Ballroom Games Commence!

The 29th season of Dancing with the Stars premiered last night with the glitz and glamour that we all know and love with this show but had a couple of differences. The ballroom was absent of an audience and had distanced the judges due to COVID-19 restrictions. We also saw a new judge and a new host. The opening included the pros walking towards the ballroom individually and then dancing by themselves in the middle of the dance floor. It was a fitting opening for the times, but I must admit I’m not sure I would have liked it if the pandemic didn’t exist. I liked that the premiere did not drag on and went from contestant to contestant quickly. This could have something to do with the fact that there are 15 contestants in the cast, but I didn’t like how the premiere would drag on and take way too many commercial breaks between contestants in the past. I also liked that there wasn’t any voting this episode as to potentially prevent the voting fiascos that have happened with the last couple of seasons. Judges’ scores should have more bearing; this is a dance competition, remember? Speaking of judges, I thought Derek Hough was a great addition to the judges’ table and felt like a natural progression in his career from a successful and iconic dancer to judging his peers. I like that Len Goodman is going to pop in every now and then; it is disappointing that he could not be there due to COVID-19 travel restrictions from the U.K. to the United States, but he’ll be back soon enough.

I thought Tyra did a surprisingly good job last night. I was monitoring social media while watching the show and taking notes and people were tearing her apart, saying that she should be the first one eliminated. This is a little much, guys. Of course, I miss Tom Bergeron and wish he were there with Tyra, but she was able to hold her own and make the hosting duties her own. It was a little annoying that it is about her right now since she is new, but I think the newness will wear off and she may not be that bad in the future. It’s the first episode; give her a chance to redeem herself or sink her own ship.

Now onto the contestants. Below was the order of the cast’s performances, the judges’ scores, and my thoughts on the performance:

AJ McLean (partner: Cheryl Burke)

Dance: Jive to “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd

Score: 18

Thoughts: I was expecting more out of AJ McLean considering he was in a boy band, is used to choreographed dances, and has an ounce of rhythm. I noticed that he did fall at the beginning and I think that this may have gotten to his head throughout the performance. I am rooting for him and hoping he does better, but thought the performance was clumsy. I’d be surprised if he makes to the finals.

Chrishell Stause (partner: Gleb Savchenko)

Dance: Tango to “Raise Your Glass” by Pink

Score: 13

Thoughts: I wasn’t sure what to expect with her considering I’m familiar with her, but don’t know a lot about her. I thought the performance was stiff and a little sloppy. It also felt like the dance was over rehearsed. The score was harsh, though. I don’t think it was as bad as a 13. I’m not sure how far she is going to make it in the competition.

Vernon Davis (partner: Peta Murgatroyd)

Dance: Foxtrot to “All of Me” by John Legend

Score: 17

Thoughts: Everybody knows that most football players do well on the show as there are many parallels of coaching and movement between the two that help to make them successful (Emmitt Smith, Donald Driver and Rashad Jennings won in the past too). I think Vernon has potential and am excited to see what he can bring to the table throughout the season. However, I thought his performance was a little stiff and not as fluid as I would have liked to see. The scores could have been better, but I’m satisfied. I would like to see him improve and potentially get to the finals, but this may not be the case.

Anne Heche (partner: Keo Motsepe)

Dance: Cha-Cha to “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

Score: 18

Thoughts: Anne Heche is quirkier than I remember, but I think she has a good heart and wants to do well in the competition. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her either and thought that she could have been bad. However, she surprised me. Heche danced with purpose and it wasn’t a bad performance. I did think she was a little stiff and needs to work on having more fluid movement. I predict she will be eliminated mid-season.

Jeannie Mai (partner: Brandon Armstrong)

Dance: Salsa to “Tell It to My Heart” by Taylor Dayne

Score: 18

Thoughts: I thought that her performance was surprisingly good, but she sometimes overdid it with some of her movements. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her, but she does have a lot of potential. Whether this gets her to the finals remains to be seen.

Jesse Metcalfe (partner: Sharna Burgess)

Dance: Quickstep to “Part Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder

Score: 18

Thoughts: I thought that Jesse was going to do a better job than he did on this dance. He was not controlled, and his posture was off. He had an intensity in his face that wasn’t appropriate for the quickstep. I’m not sure how long he will last in the competition.

Skai Jackson (partner: Alan Bersten)

Dance: Tango to “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj

Score: 21

Thoughts: I think Skai is one of the frontrunners in the competition and has made her presence known with this performance. I was in awe of her technique and am excited to see what she will give in the upcoming weeks. Her scores were well deserved.

Kaitlyn Bristowe (partner: Artem Chigvintsev)

Dance: Cha-Cha to “Stupid Love” by Lady Gaga

Score: 20

Thoughts: My first thought once they started to dance was “Oh my, Artem finally has a ringer!”. She had fluid movement in her dancing, and I think she has great potential to make it to the finals. I would like to see Artem win a Mirrorball in the United States (he previously won the Glitterball on Strictly Come Dancing, which is the U.K.’s version of Dancing with the Stars).

Nev Schulman (partner: Jenna Johnson)

Dance: Foxtrot to “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra

Score: 20

Thoughts: I thought Nev was good overall, but his movements were a little clunky and his hold was awkward. The smile that was plastered on his face was refreshing to see as well. I hope to see him get far in the competition.

Johnny Weir (partner: Britt Stewart)

Dance: Cha-Cha to “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls

Score: 18

Thoughts: This dance was everything I expected it to be, which was a good dance. I think their scores should have been higher. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in the finals, but who knows with this show?

Justina Machado (partner: Sasha Farber)

Dance: Cha-Cha to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Score: 21

Thoughts: Justina’s dance was surprisingly good. It was rhythmic and she looks like a natural dancer. I am rooting for her, but I’m curious to see how she will do with the ballroom dances. She may be a dark horse and make it to the finals, but we will have to wait and see.

Charles Oakley (partner: Emma Slater)

Dance: Salsa to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent

Score: 12

Thoughts: Basketball players are typically never that great on the show. The only basketball player that has been on the show that has had more than an ounce of rhythm was Derek Fisher and he got 11th place out of 13 contestants in Season 25. Charles Oakley was no exception to this rule. He was stiff and it didn’t look like there was a lot of movement. I don’t think he is going to make it that far.

Monica Aldama (partner: Val Chmerkovskiy)

Dance: Foxtrot to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts

Score: 19

Thoughts: Monica really surprised me. Her dance was good, had fluid movement and she kept up with the tempo and choreography well. I would like to see her go far in the competition and am curious to see how she does with the Latin dances.

Nelly (partner: Daniella Karagach)

Dance: Salsa to “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly

Score: 16

Thoughts: Nelly was not bad but wasn’t the best dance I saw. It didn’t seem like he was moving his hips much, but he does have a natural rhythm and “groove” as Carrie Ann Inaba put it in her critique. I think he will be eliminated early or mid-season.

Carole Baskin (partner: Pasha Pashkova)

Dance: Paso Doble to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

Score: 11

Thoughts: The package showed one of the most awkward meetings I’ve ever seen in the show’s history. Pasha started to say what he was thinking when he met her, but I was also thinking “I wonder what Pasha is actually thinking”. The dance was not great, but I thought it was harsh to score her with an 11. She danced with a purpose, even though the movements were stiff and messy. I’ve seen worse on the show from other contestants.

Next week is an elimination week. I’m not sure whether a double elimination will happen this week or a single elimination since there are 15 contestants this season. If there is one person eliminated next week, I have a feeling it will be Charles Oakley. If there are two people eliminated next week, I think it will be Charles Oakley and Chrishell Stause. Carole Baskin may be saying “Hey all you cool cats and kittens” to America for a couple more weeks.  

(Picture Courtesy of ABC/Disney)

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