Another season of Dancing with the Stars kicked off on Monday night, with no shortage of fancy footwork to hit the ballroom.
Although the night consisted of many highs from a number of talented contestants, it was Olympic gold medalist ice skating partners-turned-DWTS-competitors Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who gained most of the buzz leading up to the show’s 18th season.
Davis made her dance-floor debut with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and the two pulled off an eloquent 24-points-out-of-30 cha cha that judge Bruno Tonioli called “fantastic.”
But it was White and partner Sharna Burgess who not only topped Davis and Chmerkovskiy’s score with a 27-point contemporary, but landed the highest marks of the night, causing judge Carrie Ann Inaba to call the routine “poetry in motion.”
Every contestant, in fact – from NeNe Leakes to Billy Dee Williams – earned praise in some capacity for strutting their stuff in the ballroom.
Judge Len Goodman called Leakes’s 21-point cha cha with Tony Dovolani “an all-you-can-eat buffet of fun and entertainment.” And although Inaba was also a fan, she did say that for “a big, large, voluptuous, sensual woman,” she was “dancing a little small to try and match Tony.”
Peta Murgatroyd and James Maslow proved they had more than just chemistry outside of the ballroom. They danced a happy-go-lucky 21-point foxtrot that, naturally, had Inaba blushing. “I have a big time crush on you because you are just so darn cute,” she told Maslow, while the other two judges said the routine needed to be tidier.
The judges were fond of adorable Danica McKellar’s 24-point foxtrot with Valentin Chmerkovskiy, but if there’s anything to improve upon, Inaba told her she was “a little over-expressive with the mouth.”
A Surprise from Sean Avery
In the first of three contemporary routines of the night, Sean Avery and partner Karina Smirnoff surprised judges with the former NHL star’s ballroom intensity, but the 20-point dance was critiqued by Goodman for lacking a bit of “finesse.”
Billy Dee Williams and partner Emma Slater ended with the lowest score of the evening for their 15-point Star Wars-themed cha cha, but not without the efforts of the actor – who is 77 years old and has had two hip replacements – being recognized by Goodman, who told him he did a “good job,” despite some criticism from the others.
The biggest “wow” moment of the night came from Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy and her partner Derek Hough, who danced a flawless 24-point cha cha that had judges in awe.
“You got a bronze medal in the Olympics, you got a gold medal in the judges’ chair,” Goodman told Purdy, who danced effortlessly despite having two prosthetic legs.
“How do you do it? I’m gobsmacked,” Tonioli said.
Critics Were Wowed
Tween sensation Cody Simpson graced the ballroom with a funky 22-point cha cha with Witney Carson that earned a standing ovation from his girlfriend in the audience, along with praise from Goodman, who said the number was “full of confidence, full of attack, full of energy.” The judges did critique his overall technique though.
Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke were ever the lovable duo, dancing a cheery 21-point Monopoly-themed foxtrot.
Diana Nyad and Henry Byalikov scored 18 points for their dance, but at least Goodman said, “I wasn’t expecting it as good as that.”