Katherine and Jaleel make fab first impressions on what Len calls "the best first show of any season"

By Aaron Parsley
March 20, 2012 08:30 AM
Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC (2)

Dancing with the Stars is back on its toes!

A new round of ballroom competition began Monday night on ABC – and if the season premiere is any indication, it’s going to be a hot one. “Without a doubt, this is the best first show of any season,” head judge Len Goodman said after the night’s final performance.

Keep reading to find out who took an early lead, but beware: spoilers ahead.

Two couples – Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins and her partner Mark Ballas, and Family Matters star Jaleel White and his pro Kym Johnson – tied with the high scores of the night, 26 points, which included a pair of nines for each.

“That was exquisite,” judge Burno Tonioli told an emotional Jenkins. “You’re setting the bar so high that really you have a lot of live up to.”

“Jaleel,” you are the icing on the cake,” Carrie Ann Inaba said of the actor’s foxtrot.

“I’m telling you, I thought I was watching Gregory Hines.” added Bruno, referring to the late, Tony-winning Broadway headliner.

Latin Heat

The crowd couldn’t contain itself for Cuban singer William Levy and his pro partner, Cheryl Burke. Bruno stood on his chair and declared the couple “the hottest package of the season.”

Even Len was impressed, saying: “You performed it right on the edge, but you kept control which is a hard thing to do.” They earned 24 points.

The View co-host Sherri Shepherd was yet another who made a very good first impression with her foxtrot with partner Val Chmerkovskiy.

“I loved watching you dance,” Carrie Ann said. “You have so much joy.” Tonioli agreed, saying, “You can move, very, very well. You’re light on your feet and … you light up the room.” Shepherd racked up 23 points.

Actor-turned-pop singer Jack Wagner scored 23 points too for his foxtrot, which Bruno called “springtime romance at its most uplifting.” Len was less impressed. “Your technique is poor,” he told Wagner.

Another 23-point earner, Disney star Roshon Fegan, who with Chelsie Hightower performed a hip-hop infused cha cha that Bruno called “unbelievable.” Carrie Ann told him, “That is the coolest spin on the cha cha that I have seen in any season.” Len had issues with the routine, though: “Technically, the performance was very low,” he said.

And Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus earned 23 points themselves for their cha cha. “There’s a naturalness about your dance,” Len told the soul singer. “There’s a rhythm and I loved the way you move”

‘Channel Sofia Vergara’

Maria Menounos and three-time champ Derek Hough kicked off the season premiere with a vibrant cha cha that earned the pair 21 points. Len said it was a “great start to the show,” but Bruno advised the TV host, whom he called “curvaceously delicious,” to channel Sofia Vergara.

After NFL star Donald Driver and partner Peta Murgatroyd performed a crowd-pleasing cha cha, the audience booed the judges’ score of a meager 21 points. And Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy earned a relatively low 20 points for what Len called a “very ambitious” foxtrot. “I see great potential here,” Carrie told him.

Tennis icon Martina Navratilova and her partner Tony Dovolani were also in the bottom with just 20 points but heard encouraging words from the judges. “You’re so beautiful and refined out there,” Carrie Ann said. “I’ve never seen this side of you. I want you to work on your turns. Work on your spots.”

Dancing returns with more performances on Monday, followed by the first elimination of the season on Tuesday.