LOS ANGELES -- "Dancing with the Stars" took a page out of the "Bachelor/Bachelorette" playbook and began the season with the most dramatic premiere ever!
Supermodel Christie Brinkley tripped while rehearsing her foxtrot with Val Chmerkovskiy a few days before the competition began. She fell, broke her arm, and had to have surgery to fix it. Her 21 year old daughter, and fellow model Sailor, waltzed in to help fill the void.
There's a new look to the ballroom (host Tom Bergeron said it's like being inside Willy Wonka's golden ticket), and the judges will be looking for something different. They tell us they plan to be stricter than in recent memory and want to bring back more technique and correct steps.
The groundwork was laid out for another drama that will most likely come NEXT week. For round one, there is no audience vote. The judges' votes will carry over to week two. And the show is trying a new "live" voting system that will see "real time" elimination. That brings extra excitement for everyone EXCEPT on the West Coast. No doubt we'll be hearing a lot about that in the weeks to come!
Here's a recap of the first night dances, from highest judges scores, to lowest judges scores:
James Van Der Beek- 21 out of 30
James said the reason he wanted to pursue this opportunity was to show his five kids that they shouldn't be afraid to try new things. He's paired with former champ Emma Slater and they dance a tango to Imagine Dragons hit song "Whatever it Takes." These two certainly don't make this look like round one! Head judge Len Goodman thought James had drive and purpose; Bruno Tonioli said James was totally in character and in control; and Carrie Ann Inaba called James a true leading man, with style, technique and flavor... but reminded him to point his toes!
Hannah Brown- 20 out of 30
ABC's most recent "Bachelorette" did not end her season with an engagement that "stuck." After saying good-bye to her short time fiancée, Hannah said she's ready to just have some fun. Her pro partner is Alan Bersten and they start the competition with a Cha Cha to Whiney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." Len was pleased to see lots of crisp, clean Cha Cha steps; Bruno thinks she has the right attitude and is expressive and enthusiastic; Carrie Ann praised her posture, form and attitude and wants to see more.
Lauren Alaina- 19 out of 30
The young country singer also started the season with a Cha Cha with her partner Gleb Savchenko. They danced to the Shania Twain country anthem, "Man, I Feel like a Woman." Bruno said he felt like he was watching a sultry Southern belle, who was also very polished; Carrie Ann liked the beginning of the routine that was a bit untraditional; that's exactly what Len disliked.
Sailor Brinkley-Cook- 18 out of 30
The entire ballroom was behind this young woman and her valiant effort to step in for her injured Mom. With only three days of training, she pulled off a more than competent foxtrot with partner Val (performed to Christie's ex-husband's song about her, "Uptown Girl"). The duo received a standing ovation, and of course Mom couldn't hold back the tears. Carrie Ann thought Sailor showed poise and spirit and speculated we may have uncovered a goldmine; Len said the dance was lovely, and while he would like to see more body contact, he told her with more practice she can overcome a lot. And Bruno agreed that he can't wait to see what she'll do with proper rehearsal time.
Mary Wilson- 17 out of 30
The Motown legend may be 75-and-a-half (and she's very proud of that half!), but you'd never know it. She's paired with Brandon Armstrong, who showed the appropriate amount of respect to this "Supremely" iconic performer. Carrie Ann and Bruno were both a bit star struck, with Carrie Ann praising Mary's true elegance and sophistication. Bruno told Mary she knows how to sell it to the crowd! And Len joked that he's the same age and he'd like to do a foxtrot as well as she did!
Karamo Brown- 17 out of 30
The reality star of the Emmy winning series "Queen Eye" bounces off the walls when he learns his partner is Jenna Johnson. They perform a salsa to "Juice" by Lizzo that all three judges felt was a bit disappointing. Len wants to see more hips and more rhythm; Bruno would like Karamo to work on his hip action; and Carrie Ann felt he underperformed and was too reserved.
Kel Mitchell- 16 out of 30
Kel's known more for comedy but he knows he's going to have to tap into some different characters to stay in this competition. He's partnered with former champ Witney Carson and they perform a tango to the Jonas Bros. hit "Sucker". Bruno thinks Kel is headed in the right direction, with the right attitude and determination; and Len liked his attack and attitude and sees plenty of potential.
Ally Brooke- 16 out of 30
Ally's no stranger to the ballroom. She performed here with her previous singing group Fifth Harmony, and supported her band mate Normani when she competed here. She and partner Sasha Farber did a Cha Cha to one of Fifth Harmony's songs, "Work From Home", that the judges were a bit so-so about. Len thought there was too much hip-thrusting and gyrating and Carrie Ann wants her to work on her balance.
Kate Flannery- 15 out of 30
By the smile on Kate's face, "The Office" star clearly likes being here. She is assigned the new guy, partner Pasha Pashkov, and they perform a Cha Cha to Donna Summer's classic, "She Works Hard for the Money." Carrie Ann was impressed with her sure-footedness; Len advised her to straighten her legs and her hips would follow but praised her "sparkle"; and Bruno thought the routine was effective with her moves clear and precise.
Ray Lewis - 15 out of 30
The NFL Champ said he plans to go full speed with this new type of competition, but also plans to have fun. He's paired with former champ Cheryl Burke and they dazzle the crowd with their salsa to Nelly's "Hot in Herre". The duo got the audience hyped up and invested, but the judges weren't completely impressed. Bruno praised Ray's charisma but cautioned him about stepping out on the wrong foot. Len agreed there were a few mistakes, but also sees a lot of potential.
Sean Spicer- 12 out of 30
The former White House Press Secretary showed his's "all in" for this by taking the dance floor in a lime green puffy shirt and dancing to a Spice Girls song. He's dancing with former champ Lindsay Arnold, who admitted that she knows there's controversy surrounding Spicer but she's going to form her own opinion. At rehearsal, Lindsay tells Sean he's at a preschool level. And he admits this is more frightening that facing the press corps! The judges called the routine entertaining and fun, but also said there weren't too many elements of salsa in the number; Bruno also pointed out Sean had no rhythm.
Lamar Odom- 11 out of 30
The 6'10" former Laker and NBA Champ has his work cut out for him. The good news is he's paired with Peta Murgatroyd, a DWTS favorite who has taken a couple years off to be a Mom. She does her best to choreograph a foxtrot given their dramatic height difference and Len acknowledged how difficult that task can be. He encouraged Lamar to go for a little more finesse and elegance next week. Bruno's advice to Lamar was to relax and feel the music; and Carrie Ann complimented him for standing up straight, and smiling through (most) of the routine.
All twelve couples will be back for a second round of dancing next Monday, September 23rd. The judges scores from round one will be added to the judges scores for round two, plus the live audience vote from the Eastern and Central time zones.