Break out the sparkles and glitter guns: Season 17 of “Dancing With the Stars” has burst like a sparkly confetti bomb and cha-cha’d directly into ballroom-loving hearts.
Along with the premiere of a new season comes a slew of Glitterdome changes. “DWTS” has been reduced to one night per week this season, so the producers have cut out all the unnecessary fringe. No more Celebraquarium Sky Box (the prime real estate has been converted to condos, according to host Tom Bergeron). The celebs and their ballroom pro partners have all been moved to a courtside red-carpeted mosh pit/sexy bus stop within spitting distance of a gyrating Bruno and the other judges.
The grand staircase is gone, and a cool, glitzy Mandy Moore number introduced the stars and the pros. No Harold Wheeler Band was mentioned. Cohost Brooke Burke-Charvet has been relegated to the practice room and has taken a page from Christina Milian’s old “Voice” role as social media correspondent.
All the stars really came out with toes pointed and sparkles ablaze this first week out. The judges even gave out the season's first 9s!
Leading the pack with what seemed an unprecedented three 9s was “Glee” star Amber Riley, paired with defending champ Derek Hough. Turns out the erstwhile Mercedes from McKinley had always had a jones for ballroom dancing: It was “something I’ve always dreamed of,” Amber said.
Though their rehearsals were, as Derek said, “like a virgin couple on our wedding night,” their cha-cha looked like it had been around the block a couple times. Amber looked fierce in her body-hugging shiny fringe number and headband.
The routine was fast. It was Beyonce-levels of fierce. And it was fun! This woman is a performer. Nice to see her some of “Glee” castmates come out in support, because Amber really brought the house down.
“You are the tigress of Season 17. That’s how you take it. that’s how you shake it. That’s how you make it yours!” Bruno boomed. “Superstar!” Carrie Ann kowtowed. “You turned that cha-cha out!” Len needed the medic: “I’m palpitating, perspirating, I’m flatulating,” he said. “Week 1 and you come out and dance like that. Incredible!” Total: 27 out of 30.
Corbin Bleu had a lot of expectations riding on him going into the first week. The actor, best known for his role as Chad in “High School Musical,” came into the program with some hoofing experience. Certainly, Karina Smirnoff was excited to work with him. “I’ve seen him move before, and he’s such a class act,” the pro dancer said.
Karina had her work cut out for her in the first week, choreographing her first contemporary routine ever (“It’s like my second hip-hop!” she exclaimed, hands shaking). Dressed in white with a golden back-light, and intertwined with a romantic bed sheet, Corbin and Karina threw themselves into the dance with abandon.
The routine had Carrie Ann whooping with delight. “That was beautiful and passionate,” she said. “It flowed emotion.” Len lauded the routine for being “full-on, it had attack, it had attitude.” Bruno said the routine was “strong, powerful and athletic,” but with a “wonderful tender touch.” Total: 24.
New mom and wife Elizabeth Berkley Lauren has had training, but closed the door on dancing around the time “Showgirls” came out. “It was a difficult time,” she revealed. Also difficult: Having her partner Val Chmerkovskiy, who learned English from Elizabeth’s “Saved By the Bell,” reveal that he much preferred Tiffani Theissen’s Kelly Kapowski to Berkley Lauren’s Jesse Spano.
Elizabeth didn’t let Val’s clear love of “the other one” deter her; she’s trying new roles and wants to get the stink of “Showgirls” off her. And the specter of Nomi Malone was pushed down the stairs when she performed her contemporary routine.
Carrie Ann called Elizabeth a gorgeous, sensuous, poetic angel, “far superior” to her “Showgirls” persona. Len liked the “beautiful light and shade.” “The original showgirl is back!” Bruno crowed. “Extend your lines even more ... and you can fly high.” A.C. Slater would be proud. Total: 24.
Jack Osbourne is taking on “DWTS” not just to follow in sister Kelly’s footsteps, but to raise awareness for multiple sclerosis. Jack was diagnosed with MS in May 2012 and wants to debunk the stigma that people with MS are “not able to do anything.”
His fox trot with Cheryl Burke was very jaunty and fun -- he dressed in a sharp gray suit and bow tie, and Cheryl in a peekaboo dress with fringe scraps. The routine had dad Ozzy on his feet, and his mom Sharon in tears.
“You’re going to give your sister a run for her money,” Len declared. “Jack, I’m telling you what, you can dance!” “Joyful, playful and uplifting,” Bruno said, taking particular care to point out how well Jack handled “the intricacy of the footwork,” (though he also cautioned him to “watch your turns”). “That was nothing but class, and you were so smooth,” Carrie Ann swooned. “I’m blown away! It’s in the genes! The Osbourne genes.” Total: 23.
Before her pregnancy, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi admitted that she was a “hot mess.” But now that she’s had a son, the "Jersey Shore" mainstay said, she wants to show that she’s a different person ... even though “I still really think I’m a hot mess.”
The 4-foot-9 Snooki, paired with fellow small person (and former Troupe member) Sasha Farber, came out to prove great things come out in small packages, and they created quite the compact couple -- with a great reveal from a drab black dress to a fringy hot pink number -- walking off like stars at the end.
“You know how to party!” Carrie Ann exclaimed. “That was great. The tone of your legs was really nice.” Len likened Nicole and Sasha to “a little pocket rocket” (though not the kind that Carrie Ann was thinking of). Bruno loved “the way you went for it” but cautioned Snooki to keep the back of her legs stretched. Total: 23.
“Pretty Little Liars” hottie Brant Daugherty started off the competition on a hot note with pro partner Peta Murgatroyd. Theirs is definitely a showmance in the making. Peta got the award for “most subtle flirt” at the “DWTS” get-go, asking the "PLL" actor right off the bat if he was single (he is. So is she).
He’s doing the show to make his mama proud. “If we can make everyone cheer and my mom cringe, we’ve done our job here,” Brant said amiably.
Judging by their cha-cha, they’re doing quite well. Set to “Blurred Lines,” with Brant in the Robin Thicke role and Peta as a buoyant but more clothed model that pranced around him, their perfromance established Brant as a contender for female votes and put him in serious contention to add another “threat” to his single-threat resume.
Len told Brant to “Sail on! That was fabulous!” Bruno pointed out Brant’s lost timing in the corner, but said the routine had “plenty of hot morsels” and was “a sizzling teaser of things to come.” Carrie Ann said she can “definitely see double-threat potential. “This chemistry is going to be fun to watch.” Total: 22.
Milian, the singer/actress/social media correspondent, said she's not really sure what she’s doing on the show. “I think people are going to have higher expectations of me as a performer,” she worried. “I’ve never danced with a partner before.”
She said she’s also not sure of pro partner Mark Ballas’ “slightly unusual” choreography. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said, close to tears. But getting through her first routine, a contemporary number set to Zedd’s “Clarity,” seemed to loosen her up a bit.
The judges’ comments didn’t hurt either. “I think you are better than you think you are,” Carrie Ann said, “but you’re not connecting with the audience. ... I want you to open it up more ... and let it live.” Len agreed: “Be proud, lift up, and go for it,” he said. Bruno said he “loved the torment, I loved the intensity,” but also told Christina to “remember about your hands.” Total: 22.
“I wanna leave,” Leah Remini said shortly before taking the floor for the first time with Tony Dovolani. “I am not a dancer. At all.” Mostly, the “King of Queens” actress said, she joined “DWTS” to do two things: “I need to lose weight. I need to not look silly.”
It seems like she’s well on her way to accomplishing both with her fox trot. Jennifer Lopez showed up to cheer on her non-dancing friend, and even wiped a tear after Leah’s debut performance.
“Very surprising turn for someone who’s never done it before,” Bruno noted. “She went Miley Cyrus for a moment. I can’t wait for the twerking next week.” “You are sass and class,” Carrie Ann said, but she suggested that Leah “extend a little more with your arms.” Len said he thought the routine was “a little bit careful in places,” but liked how it was “clean, it was precise.” Total: 21.
“I’m just happy to be here,” said Valerie Harper after her first dance with Tristan MacManus. The 73-year-old Emmy winner was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of the year and was given just three months to live. Eight months later, “I’m way past my expiration date, and I’m dancing,” she said.
Bonny Irish lad Tristan gave the TV actress the perfect first vehicle: A lovely fox trot, set to “Some Kind of Wonderful.” Valerie was dressed in royal blue, and the smile on her face and her ease of movement was infectious. Here was a woman living each moment to its fullest.
I loved how Tristan backed away at the end of the routine to give Valerie the sole spotlight (you guys, he’s straight!). “It’s good to be alive,” Valerie said, “and it’s even better to be dancing.”
“How can you criticize a national treasure?” Bruno wondered. “You were radiant, stylish, you move very well,” he said, though he cautioned Valerie to watch the shoulders and “hold your balance a bit more.” Carrie Ann thanked the actress for being on the show: “Yes, you have to work on your spots, but you brought me to tears with your courage.” Len lauded the performance: “It was gentle, it was understated, there was an ease and elegance to it,” he said. Total: 21.
Comedian and actor Bill Engvall said he would rather be doing the “let’s just drink a beer dance,” but alas, that’s not the kind hoofing they serve up in the Glitterdome.
The funnyman from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour has been paired with Emma Slater from the Troupe, and there may be a little bit of a culture clash between his raucous, country-fried high-fives and her British propriety.
“I would love to be the rednecks’ dancing king,” Engvall declared. And he made a pretty convincing case during his “Hot Stuff” fox trot. His purple lame vest didn’t quite go with her hot pink number, but Emma was so pleased with his performance at the end that it didn’t matter. She still wrapped her legs around him anyway.
“You came out and gave it plenty of welly, it needed a little more fluidity, but you went out there and you did it,” Len said. “I felt something -- I don’t know what it was, but I definitely felt something,” Bruno sniffed. “I could actually sense a smidgen of sophistication.” Carrie Ann was surprised at Bill’s “good frame and good musicality.” His hands, however, could be “a little more smoothie woothy.” Total: 18.
Former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson has eased out of the end zone, away from the ESPN studios and out of his football comfort zone to enter the ballroom with Sharna Burgess. “It’s a little bit effeminate to me,” he said, swinging his hips. “So embarrassing.” A little bit of that mortification eked out at the start of his and Sharna’s disco-themed cha-cha routine.
“It’s like the Empire State Building trying to be a Rockette,” Bruno said. “You had plenty of steps ... but sometimes you lost timing.” Carrie Ann said Keyshawn was “far from feminine” but needed to “have that confidence at the beginning.” Len liked the NFL star’s attitude, but said he needed to learn a little bit of technique. Total: 17.
The judges were not buying any of Bill Nye the Science Guy’s weird science. The bow-tied fact machine, who could pass as Andy Dick’s nerdy professor uncle, may demand his freshly minted pro partner Tyne Stecklein know the difference between a beaker and a flask (one has a neck) when he’s not trying to hit on her with some creepy chemistry talk (“sexual tension ... but from an evolutionary standpoint”), but the judges thought his routine lacked all the essential cha-cha elements.
Sure, he looked like a wet noodle. But the audience lapped him up like a piping hot bowl of Top Ramen, chanting “Bill! Bill! Bill!” for the “Beauty and the Geek” partner at the end.
Len, who clearly likes things smoother than what went down on the dance floor, likened the routine to being waxed: “Painful while it happened and lovely when it was over. ... You’re willing, but not that able.” Bruno said this routine’s “formula is not going to get you the Nobel Prize.” Carrie Ann, however, said Bill was the heart of the show. But even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. Total: 14.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Will Bill Nye say bye-bye next week? Who has your early vote to win the coveted Mirrorball trophy? Will Bruno ever apologize again for being creepy? Did you like Jesse Spano, or are you like Val and more a fan of “the other one”?
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