Dancing With the Stars, Season 19, Week 1

Dancing With the Stars is certainly glad to have Len back: their opening montage starts with him!  Him and Bruno taking leave of the Queen and meeting up with the other judges, then the pros and the stars are all presented, and the montage segues into the opening number.  A quick reminder of there being a results show this week and of Julianne Hough now being a permanent judge and we’re off into the dances:

Antonio Sabato, Jr & Cheryl Burke: Cha cha cha to tne Enrique Iglesias song that on network TV must be known as “Tonight(I’m Loving You).”  Cheryl explains it’s been a while since she had a “sexy” partner, so she intends to show it off with this one.  Whether he’s actually comfortable with it or not.  She gives him a content-heavy routine and he technically manages it, but his hips don’t, and he’s awkward through most of it.  The judges blame the issues on his footwork(causing a memorable Freudian slip from Bruno), and he gets a 7 from Bruno and 6s from the others for a total of 25.

Lea Thompson & Artem Chingvintsev: Foxtrot to “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole. We learn from their fluffs he has won Strictly Come Dancing and she got told many years ago by Mikhail Baryshnikov she shouldn’t be a dancer.  He assures he disagrees with Baryshnikov be though, and he turns out to be more or less right about her ability: she proves to be nicely smooth and light on her feet.  Not perfect; Julianne and Bruno both chide her for posture issues, much to the aggravation of Carrie-Ann, who calls it one of the best opening foxtrots she’s ever seen.  The scores are straight 8s for 32.

Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy: Jive to “Bang, Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj.  In the fluff they talk of chemistry and she reveals a liking for him beforehand, then revels in getting to touch his abs.  For the dance, he sets up a light show on the stage and brings the audience in until they’re dancing in the round.  Not that the dance even needed any frills; Janel has more brightness and energy than any of the lights or screen projections, though the judges were a little reserved about the technique in her kicks and flicks.  Bruno gives a 8 and the other three 7s for 31.

Lolo Jones & Keo Motsepe: Cha cha cha to “Tell Her” by Razzle Kicks.  In the fluff she talks about her not having sex and how she’s not used to engaging in any kind of physical closeness with men, so Keo on top of everything else has to get her used to that.  But it seems during the routine the only real contact they make with each other is the texts they exchange at the beginning-which apparently happen at the wrong moment in the choreography which she says throws her off, resulting in her looking lost and out of it for the entire routine.  She also insists to the judges every rehearsal they did was better and shows them her ability to cha cha, but they must judge the official routine, and 6s from Carrie-Ann and Len and 5s from Julianne and Bruno leave them with 22 points.

Betsey Johnson & Tony Dovolani: Cha cha cha to “Material Girl.”  She turns out to be lots of fun right from the fluff, where she shows her ability for both stumbling down and doing cartwheels, she brings the light side out of Tony too, and they do a memorable routine featuring racks of her costumes and too much attitude to care about her relative lack of technique-until a boa doesn’t come off one of the racks as easily as it was supposed to(Tony says the stagehands secured it on, not realizing it wasn’t supposed to be secure), and that wrecks the end up.  The judges all mourn this, and make clear their liking for her even as they break out straight 5s for 20, to much booing.

Tavis Smiley & Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot to “Pride and Joy” by Marvin Gaye.  The fluff has him talking about how serious he generally is, and how he wants to do “one last silly thing” by his 50th birthday.  She sets to work trying to get him to lighten up, and she gets him to act silly in the studio before coming out to do a light and fun routine where he even begins it at the microphone pretending to sign the song.  She does more of the harder part of the dance than he does, but the judges generally have more praise for his performance than they do technical criticisms, Len even calling him, “nifty for fifty,” and an 8 from Julianne and 7s from the others leaves them with 29.

Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas: Cha cha cha to “Birthday” by Katy Perry.  The entire family gets exposure through the fluff, which shows them seeing her off to LA(and later we learn her father actually gets to approve her costumes and Mark’s choreography!).  We also learn she’s not allowed to dance at her school and so has only done so in her room.  She starts the routine on a big birthday cake with balloons, then she descends, joins Mark, and oh dear, it turns out she’s actually really good.  Good enough Len even tells her, “Quack, quack, you’ll be back,” though Julianne tells her when she does she should get “down and dirty,” then hastily starts explaining what she means to Sadie’s father.  Hopefully he forgives her when she and Bruno break out the 9s, combining with 8s from Len and Carrie-Ann for 34.;

Michael Waltrip & Emma Slater: Cha cha cha to “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf.  In the fluff he takes her for a car ride and then says he hopes she’ll take him to the final because she took his good friend Bill Engvall there.  Indeed, Emma does the kind of the thing she’d done with Bill, choreographing a routine where she does all the hard stuff and hopes for his personality to sell it, enhanced by an opening clip of him driving in a DWTS-themed racecar that kind of steals the routine.  Though that might be because he’s a bit stiff(he blames the costume, which parodies his regular jumpsuit but apparently isn’t designed the same way), and also she actually gives him so little content the judges feel the need to call them out on it. Bruno even calls him “a golf cart trying to keep with a Ferrari” and instructs him to tune his engine.  Carrie-Ann gives them a 7, but 6s from the others leave them with 25.

Jonathan Bennett & Allison Holker: Jive to “Dance With Me Tonight” by Olly Murs.  In the fluff he reveals DWTS was the favorite show of his recently deceased father, and he even describes being on the show and even preparing for it as therapeutic.  Doing a jive after that for the dance to be good requires it to be joyful, and it really is, and it not only makes hearts like but rouses everyone, until initially it’s hard to hear the judge’s comments over the audience.  It probably doesn’t help that situation that time constraints actually keeping Bruno from saying much, though Len and Julianne do note while he’s got the performance down the technique still needs tweaking, giving him 7s.  Carrie-Ann does not, and she and Bruno give 8s for 30.

Tommy Chong & Peta Murgratroyd: Cha cha cha to “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg.  The fluff has pot smoking jokes, Peta noting his biggest asset is his personality, and Tommy taunting partner Cheech, because he said he would never make to this show.  But he’s a good sport, evening showing up for the routine to sit with Tommy in a car until Peta draws him out to dance with her.  And then, it turns out that as well as personality and the knowledge of how to use it(and Peta’s choreography to perfectly showcase it), Tommy also has an ability to move and work with the music, and even a very odd sex appeal.  The judges all admit freely they really weren’t expecting him to be as good as he is.  Though Len still only gives a 6, but 7s from the others leave them with 27.

Randy Couture & Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot to “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra.  The fluff has Karina working on softening the UFC champion up, and him spending time feeling clumsy and hating that; it is made clear just how far he is outside of his comfort zone, though he does admit to having  soft side in there.  Indeed, it seems tonight, even as he proves light on his feet and just softened enough, if still a bit imposing, he doesn’t quite realize how good he is.  At least not until the judges tell him so, and he gets a 7 from Len and 8 from the others to total 31.

Bethany Mota & Derek Hough: Jive to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift(of course someone was dancing to that).  In the fluff she talks about how she’s done most of the work she’s famous for from her bedroom, and never been judged for anything in person before .  So naturally Derek has her start surrounded by bedroom walls, which then part so she can join him on the floor.  He’s taught her well; she nails the moves of the jive very well, until Carrie-Ann expresses surprise at how good she is, apparently forgetting this is Derek teaching her.  However, they also note that in between the moves she wasn’t as sure of herself or energized.  I assume Derek will have that fixed next week.  Meanwhile, she gets straight 8s for 32.

Alfonso Ribeiro & Witney Carson: Jive to “3-6-9” by Cupid featuring B.o.B.  In the fluff, he says that while he did start out dancing on Broadway as a kid, it’s been a while.  When he and Witney talk strategy, his is to lose weight and hers is to win, and he then is shown struggling and saying he needs help.  But you’d never have guessed any of that just by watching the routine.  It’s a difficult one, and he still comes out and nails to an extent that noone before him has been able to do all night, and the performance isn’t any problem either.  Len sums it up: “Without question the best of the night,” and the others agree.  So to the scores; straight 9s give him the lead with 36.

Yep, Alfonso is our leader.  Did anyone predict that one?  There certainly have been a number of surprises tonight, making it maybe just as well there won’t be an elimination until tomorrow. The most likely candidate for that one at this point seems to be Lolo & Keo.  Poor Keo…

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