Dancing With the Stars 2014 Premiere Recap: The Force Is Strong With Season 18!
As a wise little green guy one said, "Do or do not; there is no try." Dancing With the StarsSeason 18 just got it done, serving up a pretty strong premiere. Not bad, spring dancers. Not bad.
As expected, an ice dancer topped the premiere night leaderboard and the two more senior celebs were stuck at the bottom. But surprise, surprise, DJ Tanner can move — and keep up with Mark’s aggressive new hairstyle. Amy also proved she can shine, even with prosthetic legs, jet lag, and very little rehearsal time. Most impressive.
There are a lot of changes to take in this spring — Erin Andrews as new co-host, Ray Chew leading a new band, and the return of the Celebriquarium — but the judges stuck to tradition with some confusing calls. (Meryl, you were robbed.)
So who will be the first to go home next week? Well, everyone will dance again on Monday but The Powers That Be will know by tomorrow morning who is going home. That’s how it works with the new voting/elimination change. Tonight is the night to vote, based on this lineup. Will The Force help Billy Dee overcome the lowest score (which, sadly, was justified)? Will Diana sink or swim into Week 3? Will we see the first “surprise” elimination and have someone in the middle of the pack get blindsided? The “21 club” is often a dangerous place to be, but we’ll see.
Who impressed you the most this week and why? Do you agree with the judges’s calls or are you frustrated about anything that happened?
Here’s a quick rundown of where the couples stand after Week 1.
Charlie & Sharna — 27
Candace & Mark — 25
Danica & Val — 24
Meryl & Maks — 24
Amy & Derek — 24
Cody & Witney — 22
NeNe & Tony — 21
James & Peta — 21
Drew & Cheryl — 21
Sean & Karina — 20
Diana & Henry — 18
Billy Dee & Emma — 15
Read on for a full recap of the premiere night action:
BIG INTRO: Jordin Sparks in the audience to support her boyfriend Jason Derulo, who performs his song “Talk Dirty” with the pro cast and his own dancers. It’s the first time ever for a musical guest to accompany a season’s opening number. Mark’s hair, though. It gives him a couple of extra inches, but do we love it? Go Emma Slater for getting a big opening showcase with Jason. It’s a sexy intro, but funny how they are focusing so much on a pop star and the pros when the “Stars” of the show are supposed to be the celebs.
MEET THE BAND AND SINGERS: It’s definitely scaled down, showing Ray Chew on a keyboard, with about a dozen people in the band. The cast comes out one at a time, but not down the stairs like last year.
1. NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani — Cha-Cha-Cha — NeNe wants to bring personality and have fun. Tony said she has enough personality for both of them. He wants to showcase her as much as possible. She wants to shake her bon-bons. She’s never taken a dance class before, but she has a lot of soul. NeNe has her good eye on Meryl and Charlie as big competitors. She actually starts with her own little solo showcase. Tony looks like he’s having fun too. LOVE the tassels on her shoes. She looked completely comfortable out there. It can’t be easy to go first, but she looked great. The skybox is back, too!
JUDGES: They moved the judges table back to the other side. Tom said they’d be joined by a guest judge pretty soon. Len Goodman told NeNe that’s the way to get the party started. It was like an all-you-can-eat buffet of fun and entertainment. It needed a bit more pressure through her feet to get more hip action but great start. Bruno Tonioli said that’s his kind of girl. He thinks she has so much to give, with plenty more to come. He loves her energy. A bit tighter on the footwork. Carrie Ann Inaba wondered if she was crying. She was! Carrie Ann said she has this incredibly larger than life personality and it came out. Carrie Ann said she’s a big voluptuous woman and she needs to dance bigger.
SCORES: Erin Andrews gets to interview people back in the Skybox/Celebriquarium. Tony was sweating up a storm but he had fun. 7 (Carrie Ann), 7 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 21 out of 30.
2. James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd — Foxtrot — Peta has a shocked reaction to being paired with James. She met him once before for dinner. They “hit it off” earlier in February and then he went on tour. Is this really a surprise or did they know it was coming? James said he would take Peta on another date but right now they are just focused on the show. So it’s a semi-showmance. Peta went down that road last season with Brant. Is this different? Her dress is beautiful. How funny that a Big Time Rush singer is dancing to a One Direction song. The golden lighting is questionable, but he seems like a decent dancer.
JUDGES: Bruno said James is on a mission. Such attack and determination. He loved the fact that he put a lot of effort into the dance, but he has to breathe. It has to look a bit more effortless with more gliding. His footwork has to be slightly more precise but as a first effort it was very, very good. Carrie Ann said she’s making little hearts in her notebook because James is so darn cute. (Carrie Ann’s hair is cute too!) James has potential to be great in ballroom. He lost a little control in one point. Nice job, though. Len said he and James are here for a bit of eye candy for the ladies. He thought James did a good job. He attempted to give the footwork a try, but it was a bit messy. He needs to keep his frame in one place.
SCORES: 7, 7, 7 = 21. Eh. Seven is too much of an easy cop-out. It’s the judges “meh” score. Erin asks them about their nerves and how knowing each other helped their relationship.
3. Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy — Foxtrot — Winnie Cooooopeerrrr! She’s so fun and giggly. She fangirled all over Val. Her first impression of Val is that he’s way cooler than her. She gets way too excited about things to be cool, he said. Val said he and Danica complement each other well. He’s sarcastic all the time … like when he complimented her skirt. (D’oh!) There’s always been a bit of “little girl” to her and she wants to go on the journey here, and maybe find the woman within? They have natural, easy chemistry on the dance floor. She doesn’t seem like a little girl at all. This band’s singer doesn’t sound too different from the last band’s singer. Danica ends the dance with a kiss for Bruno.
JUDGES: Carrie Ann said Danica is so adorable and her enthusiasm for the dance takes it to another level. Be careful with your shoulders. They have great energy together. Watch her energy though and she gets a bit over expressive with her mouth. Len said she’s holding a bit tight with her left hand on Val’s shoulder and that lifts her shoulder. His first impression is “terrific.” Bruno called her a saucy little girl. “I love a good kisser.” He loves her exuberance. Bruno took the kiss pretty seriously! She’s a good actress and sold it so well, but yes watch her shoulders. And she needs to control her moves.
SCORES: 8, 8, 8 = 24 out of 30. The judges are sticking together so far tonight.
4. Sean Avery and Karina Smirnoff — Contemporary — He’s been a bit of a “bad boy” in the past, saying some controversial stuff. He said if the judges give him a score he doesn’t like, he’ll jump over the desk. And yet he talks with a monotone. It’s like he’s never felt emotion. It’s just his dry humor, but this could get awkward. Nice lifts in the routine. Good singer. Karina has amazing lines but it just looks like Sean is moving from lift to lift to show her off. She’s getting the bigger showcase. Great lifts but not seeing the connection between the two of them yet.
JUDGES: Len said The Iceman Cometh. It was full of intensity, which he loves. The lifts were terrific. Between the lifts and running about, it could’ve used more finesse. Bruno thought he’d be a lump of ice. He used the upswell of the music very well. Work on the links and transition. Carrie Ann thinks he’s fascinating to watch. Contemporary is all about authenticity and connection between man and woman and they had that. (Really?) Sean smiled.
SCORES: 7, 6, 7 = 20. So Sean’s favorite movie is Footloose?
5. Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater — Cha-Cha-Cha — Lando Calrissian is here! With Emma! She’s beyond adorable. He’s turning 77 in early April and he has arthritis. He’s not exactly an Olympic ice dancer. Emma said her ex-boyfriend could do the best Wookie impression. Star Wars! R2-D2! Emma looks amazing in her Princess Leia garb. This danbe rules even with Billy just shuffling across the floor. Who cares. He gets a pass. She looks amazing, though. He really needs to work on everything, though. Extending. placement. Finesse. Musicality. OH MY GOD EWOKS!
JUDGES: Bruno said may the Force be with him. He can’t forgive Lando for freezing Han Solo. He got the wrong character, he played it so dainty. He wanted bigger and more powerful like Darth Vader. The audience boos but … it’s fair. Carrie Ann said he’s the most relaxed dancer she’s ever seen. His hips are still going, but they’re going to need more from him. It was too simple. Len said he was on time and he didn’t forget the routine. it was entertaining. he just needs to come out with a big more.
SCORES: 5, 5, 5 = 15 out of 30. It hurts, but it’s fair. Vote vote vote!
6. Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Cha-Cha-Cha — Meryl said she was excited to see her partner was Maks. “He’s a good looking guy.” Maks joked that he wants to marry Meryl and he checked to make sure she’s not dating Charlie. He also addressed the elephant in the room that Derek helped her and Charlie win gold by choreographing some of their ice routine. Maks stole Meryl away from Charlie in the opening. She dances like a ballerina. She’s just as good as you’d expect, spinning like a pro and even getting pretty sexy. She looks good with Maks!
JUDGES: Carrie Ann said that was really exciting to watch. It’s hard to hear her over the screams. Len said she’s nice on ice but also good on wood. (!) Sigh. Oh, Len. Bruno said she’s the queen of spins. She was going so fast he thought she was fracking for gas.
SCORES: Erin talked to Charlie before talking to Maks and Meryl. Charlie knows what a hard worker Meryl is. Charlie said Maks is lucky to have Meryl. True. Meryl said their partners here are their instructors, which is different. Maks and Erin get a little cute. Erin puts pressure on Maks, pointing out how Meryl and Charlie won a gold with Derek’s help. Nice! 8, 8, 8 = 24. Too low, but the bar must be high for her.
7. Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas — Contemporary — Faith and family are most important to her. Mark is now a member of the family. She’s worried that she’s not going to be the “sexy girl” for him. Well, he already had Bristol, so that bar is low. Candace is already competing with Danica. Stop! You are your own person, DJ Tanner! Oh, Mark gets to dance to Ellie Goulding. He loves her. This is such a So You Think You Can Dance style routine. They also do nice lifts, but she’s given more to do than Sean. She is a true focus of this dance — even Julianne Hough would have to admit it this time.
JUDGES: Len said “Candace, you can dance. Well done.” Bruno said he was torn between ecstasy and torment. He felt every minute of it. They used the floor so well. She’s a contemporary dancer. Carrie Ann wondered where that came from. She wants to work with Candace, and she wants to see the dance again. We have a contender!
SCORES: 9, 8, 8 = 25 out of 30. Highest score so far! And from a woman with no previous dance experience or an athletic background. She could win this. They show a backstage package between Candace and Danica; Candace’s boyfriend Jeremy dumped her to go out with Danica. High school drama!
8. Cody Simpson and Witney Carson — Cha-Cha-Cha — Witney asks him right off the bat if he has a girlfriend. He does. He wants him to be careful with his partner. Wit doesn’t have a boyfriend. Set her up, Cody! The way Witney moves is distracting to him sometimes. Well, he is a 17-year-old boy and she’s a gorgeous 20-year-old woman, so… Sorry, Gigi! Oh he’s good. And she’s good with him. But he’s got to reign in his energy and desire to show off.
JUDGES: Bruno said they are like the poster couple for the energy of youth. Fresh, cool, spunky, lovely individual style. Charismatic. Watch your basics, though. Carrie Ann said she feels very old right now. He has big feet and he has to work on his technique. Great upper body excitement though. Work on your lower half. Len said full of confidence and attack but he needs a bit more finesse.
SCORES: Cody said his girlfriend understands. It’s awkward in the Skybox. Witney and Gigi are good friends. Anyway … 7, 7, 8 = 22 out of 30. Eh. Guess that’s fair. He did seem a little better than James.
9. Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke — Foxtrot — Drew said he knows how a dog feels now when he wears the cone. Cheryl hashtagged him #oldmanproblems. They seem to have a nice connection. Their Foxtrot has a Monopoly theme. Her green dress is … quite something. He’s not bad. He could be this season’s Bill Engvall. Comedians are on a streak — from Andy Dick and Bill to maybe Drew. He could use a bit more content next time, though. Just to move more.
JUDGES: Carrie Ann said every season there’s one contestant who makes everyone smile and they may have found their crowd-pleaser. It took her way back. She liked the classic approach. Len said that was very watchable. He enjoyed it from the first beat of music right through. Bruno said he did a lot of content, it could be slightly better, but it was so entertaining.
SCORES: 7, 7, 7 = 21 out of 30.
10. Amy Purdy and Derek Hough — Cha-Cha-Cha — Amy has been a double amputee since age 19. Her legs don’t move like regular legs. Her pants are out there! They definitely help the movement visual. The camera focuses on her feet maybe more than they would for another dancer. She seems pretty good. What she doesn’t do seems more related to practice time than ability.
JUDGES: Len said they can’t judge her any different from any other star, and that’s how she’d like it. She got a bronze in the Olympics and a gold in the Cha-Cha. Bruno said we have Wonder Woman in the room. Timing, shapes, performance level. How does she do it? Carrie Ann said she’s in shock. She’s never seen anything like that. She is more than a dancer, she’s a beacon of light in the world. And the connection was killer.
SCORES: 8, 8, 8 = 24 out of 30.
11. Diana Nyad and Henry Byalikov — Foxtrot — Diana thinks she’s the #1 fan on the show. She is a bit of a fish out of water when it comes to the Foxtrot, Henry said. She doesn’t wear heels well, she’s uncomfortable in them. “It’s wrong for the human foot to be arched that way.” Truth. Henry makes enough facial expressions for both of them out there. She does a good job, classy and classic.
JUDGES: Bruno said she’s a mermaid attempting to dazzle in dry land. She didn’t do badly at all but she still hasn’t found her footing. She has to be lighter and smoother, but she’s a performer. She’s selling it. Carrie Ann said she’s like a slowly opening flower. She’s not feeling her feet quite yet, but she had good technique in her hold. Len said it needs more finesse, lift her rib cage. He wasn’t expecting it to be as good as that, though.
SCORES: Diana said Bruno isn’t so bad, it’s Maks. Maks came over to kiss her. Who screamed so loud? Henry said that live dance was the best run all day. 6, 6, 6 = 18 out of 30. Diana said it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Diana joked that Meryl has asked for help with her turns. She’s a jokester, but it’s live TV, Diana. Don’t go too far off script.
12. Charlie White and Sharna Burgess — Contemporary — Charlie is the cutest thing ever. Sharna was so excited to be paired with him. He said there’s kind of an awkward transition going from ice to the floor. He knows there are high expectations for him. Their connection is amazing. Love the spins and lifts. Sexy. Cool. Whew. These two! Dang.
JUDGES: Carrie Ann said those two are a perfect match. It’s a nice yin yang combo. Poetry in motion. Len said this was a good dance for Charlie. It’s like ice dancing without the ice. He’ll be interested to see how Charlie does next week. Bruno said he’s an artist. It’s a hard standard to maintain, but that was astonishing.
SCORES: 9, 9, 9 = 27 out of 30. Erin asks him how much of an advantage an ice dancer has. Same question to Meryl, although she didn’t get as high a score. Sharna said Charlie had some awkward parts to his dance, but they were invisible from here.
NEXT WEEK’S DANCES: The dance styles were revealed for Week 2, based on what the celebs told the producers they wanted to dance.
Amy: Swing dance
Meryl: Swing dance
Billy Dee: Tango
BIG SURPRISE: A big surprise shaking up the competition will be revealed at the start of next week’s episode. OK then!
The first elimination is next week, so vote for your favorites tonight!