'Dancing with the Stars' recap, Couples take a first spin around the ballroom

For The Baltimore Sun
"Dancing with the Stars" is back with a new, shinier mirror ball trophy.

The opening credits tell us that 10 years ago a tradition began, and we see brief clips of some of the past winners. Then we're told tonight a new dance era begins, before this year's "stars" are introduced. This year more than ever it's hard to defend the show's definition of "star." I have no idea who half these people are.

During the opening dance number I notice that the show can say all they want about a new era, but Mark Ballas is still going to wear spats.

Alas, Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews are doing the introductions, which means Alan "Voice of the Balls" Dedicoat is once again absent from this part of the show. I will always miss you, Alan.

Willow Shields & Mark Ballas, Cha-Cha

Shields says she's best known for playing Primrose Everdeen in the "Hunger Games" films. Then there's a dorky "Hunger Games" parody. Willow is only 14 years old. I can tell you already I'm not happy about the show having someone so young compete.

It's fine for Week 1. She's got, as they say, legs that go all the way to the floor. Mark's also done a good job of choreographing in a way that's age appropriate.

Len Goodman calls it sparkling but says she needs to straighten her legs more. Julianne Hough agrees with Len's comments about the legs but says it was good. Bruno Tonioli says it was "delightfully lively." Carrie Ann Inaba likes her posture and thinks she'll go far.

Erin points out that when "Dancing with the Stars" first aired, Willow was only four years old. And then they show a really adorable picture of 4-year-old Willow holding up some recently caught fish.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 7

Oooh, they've upgraded the mirror ball. Instead of being sparkly, tacky, and silver, now it's sparkly, tacky, and gold. This is announced with an appropriate accompaniment of angelic choir. I do love how this show knows when not to take itself too seriously.

Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson, Cha-Cha

Apparently, Robert is one of the sharks on "Shark Tank," a show I've always meant to watch. He shows off a Ferrari to Kym and tells her if they win, the car is hers. According to Wikipedia, Herjavec is married, otherwise, I'd think they were trying to start some sort of "showmance" rumors with these two, with all the flirting and innuendo and giggling denials. But wait! Gossip sites are saying he split from his wife (of 25 years!) at the beginning of March. Stay tuned for further developments!

In the Cha-Cha, Robert's having a hard time with the hand that's not holding onto Kym - it's too flat? He's stepping lively, though, and it's not as bad as I feared it would be.

Julianne says she's completely blown away by Robert's infectious energy. She compliments his sharp legs and toe pointing but wants him to work on his musicality. Bruno said it was so much fun and he connected with the audience well, but points out a couple of timing issues. Carrie Ann says he was a little off music the whole time. However, his hips were pointed in the right direction. North? Not at the floor? I have no idea. Len also has comments about Robert's hips.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Julianne: 7, Bruno: 7

Robert and Kym are ECSTATIC about those scores, as well they should be.

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker, Jive

Riker is the bass player and a lead singer in a band called R5. He also had a brief stint on "Glee."

He "crowd" surfs his way onto the dance floor. (I say "crowd" because there's no way those weren't trained, reliable stagehands.)

Their jive makes me think of a comment Allison made about Riker's dancing in rehearsals: "Rough around the edges." But I think there's potential.

Bruno was apparently standing on the judges' table to get a good view. Then he continues to stand up there and compares Riker to "[his] friend" Billy Idol. Carrie Ann says it wasn't graceful but was explosive, exciting and athletic. Len says it was full-on, flat-out, and then goes on to give him some tips for the foxtrot next week. Julianne is excited about this partnership, particularly Allison's penchant for modern choreography.

Erin tips us off that somehow Riker is related to Julianne and Derek Hough - their mothers are first cousins, apparently.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 7, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8

Charlotte McKinney & Keo Motsepe, Jive

Charlotte is a model, best known for her Carl's Jr. Super Bowl ad. She says she's doing "Dancing with the Stars" to show America that there's more to her "than just boobs." She says this while apparently topless. Then she does a skit topless. Then the first part of their rehearsal footage is about how her endowments are going to bounce too much during the jive. So Keo tapes them down over her shirt. I'm not sure this is how to make America forget about your boobs.

She's a little shaky on rhythm but she's clearly flexible. I don't think this will be Keo's year, though. Poor Keo. I want him to get a ringer next season.

Carrie Ann points out that Charlotte missed the beginning of the song. Len liked that she didn't get fazed by her mistakes. Julianne wants her to work on her legs. Bruno says she covered her mistakes well and had wonderful energy.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 5, Julianne: 5, Bruno: 6

Not unfair, given the number of mistakes.

Patti LaBelle & Artem Chigvintsev, Foxtrot

Patti LaBelle is one of this year's stars that doesn't need the quotes around the word. Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, books on the New York Times bestseller list - she's Patti Freakin' LaBelle!

When she first meets Artem, she compliments him, telling him that he smells nice. She's 70 years old, so rehearsal is taking it out of her.  

They're dancing to one of her biggest hits, "Lady Marmalade." She's graceful, but I don't know that she'd survive a jive.

Len says that Patti "rang [his] bell." And Tom cracks that that's a "pretty rusty bell." And then Len shames him into not starting that sort of innuendo. I would love to be a fly on the wall when those two are off-camera together.

Anyway, Len said it was easy and natural. Julianne points out her presence and then calls her a "graceful goddess." Bruno calls her "true showbiz royalty" and thanks her for being there. Carrie Ann praises her gracefulness and Patti starts getting teary-eyed. Hold it together, Miss LaBelle!

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 6

Huh. Those numbers don't quite match the comments - the boos are a tiny bit justified.

Chris Soules & Witney Carson, Jive

Chris is a veteran of both "The Bachelorette" and more recently "The Bachelor." He's apparently a country boy, so we're getting cowboy boots, ten gallon hats, and a tractor right off the bat.

Witney's having a hard time not squeezing his pecs during rehearsal. So he just grabs her and rubs her face in his chest. That's kind of funny.

Their jive is a fun homage to Chris Penn's character from "Footloose." I swear, it's even some of the same moves.

Julianne wanted Chris to point his toes a little more. Bruno says he was rough and rugged but totally charming. He wants him not to hunch forward so much, like he's chasing a hog. What on earth does Bruno know about chasing hogs? I need to hear this story. Carrie Ann is clearly tongue-tied in front of the strapping young man. Len says Chris is like the truck on the dance floor: in need of a little polish. In response to the inevitable boos, he says, "It's the truth; I don't lie about these things." He likes Chris' potential, though.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 7

Michael Sam & Peta Murgatroyd, Cha-Cha

Sam is most famous for being the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. Currently, though, he's an unsigned free agent and is training for the upcoming combine.

They won the song lottery of the evening, drawing the irrepressibly catchy "Uptown Funk."

Bruno and Julianne both mention some foot issues. Julianne points out his groove and likes the chemistry between him and Peta. Len calls his footwork "atrocious" but has positive things to say about his "rear" and his overall showmanship. Carrie Ann tells him he's a beautiful, gorgeous man with an incredible body. She warns him, though, not to stick his booty out too much.

It's obvious when Erin's interviewing Michael that she really does feel most at home when interviewing an athlete. The skybox is just a different form of sideline.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 6, Julianne: 7, Bruno: 7

Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough, Foxtrot

Nastia won five gold medals in gymnastics at the 2008 Olympics. So, essentially, meet Derek's latest ringer.

She's already got that "lean way back in hold" posture that the female pros have. She's sensational, as is to be expected.

Carrie Ann calls their routine clean and polished but she's going to ding them for a lift. Julianne says it was amazing and starts to give her some seriously technical and picky type of direction that means she's really, really good already. Bruno says pretty much the same thing.

Coming back from commercial break, the judges are doing a kick line to "New York, New York." Such fun.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8

Stefan "Redfoo" Gordy & Emma Slater, Cha-Cha

Redfoo is half of the former pop duo LMFAO. He's also the son of Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records and was a guest judge on Dancing with the Stars last year.

It's going to take me a bit to warm up to Redfoo, I must admit. Every time I look at him, I think about how he and I are the same age and I just can't get it. Even more perplexing than that is what Emma's wearing: it's essentially a halter type bathing suit with a ruffle attached to the butt.

Len says Redfoo dances like his hair - "a little bit wild and unkempt" - and calls the dance fun. Julianne expected more wiggle, repeats that it was fun. Bruno talks about his foot placement - as if Redfoo is going to be about technique. Carrie Ann says Redfoo knowns how to work the hook, but he needs to work on the whole dance.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 5, Julianne: 5, Bruno: 6

Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess, Cha-Cha

Noah is an Army veteran who lost his left arm and left leg and is now a fitness model. Noah points out that the difference between him and previous competitor Amy Purdy is that she has both her knees and he's missing his left knee. It makes a difference in terms of how he can put weight on that side of his body, especially when turning.

It's interesting that he's costumed with his left pants leg hemmed at the knee, so that his artificial leg is more on display. I wonder if that's how he normally wears his pants or if that was to show off what it does while he's dancing.

Julianne first praises the connection between Noah and Sharna. Then she explains that usually the male partner leads with the left arm. Since Noah is missing his left arm, Sharna's creative solution in choreography is impressing Julianne. That's enough to get me to rewind and rewatch because Sharna dealt with it so well I didn't even notice the difference on the first viewing. It's VERY well done on Sharna's part as a choreographer and as a partner.

Bruno calls Noah "a titan among men." He also praises Noah's connection with Sharna while dancing. Carrie Ann starts crying talking about how Noah is challenging her perception of dance.

Noah seems to take the stairs easier two at a time than one at a time.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 7

Huh. Again, I expected higher scores based on the comments.

Suzanne Somers & Tony Dovolani, Cha-Cha

Suzanne is another bona fide star, known for her sitcom work in the '70s and her Thighmaster commercial in the '80s. Because of Thighmaster, Tony shows up to meet her in a leotard and tights. God love ya, Tony. You gotta like how he keeps his sense of humor even when he's once again given the role of "Squire to the Woman of a Certain Age."

They're dancing to "Let's Get Physical." WRONG BLONDE, show. And Suzanne's in great shape, but that leotard is not flattering to her at all. She's also missing quite a few steps. And when you're wearing neon yellow leg warmers and tennis shoes, you can't hide any errant foot placement.

Bruno tells Tony not even he would try to pull off the crazy outfit he's wearing tonight. He then talks to Suzanne about how she started on the wrong foot a few times. Carrie Anne tells Tony, "I love you way more harder now." Which about sums up my feelings, too. Carrie Ann compliments Suzanne's legs and then Len tells her she's "in lovely condition." That sounds like he's talking about a car. Julianne echoes Len's later comments that the routine was a little safe.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 7

Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy, Foxtrot

Rumer is labeled an actress and a singer, but even she seems to admit that we probably know her best because of her famous parents: Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.

Apparently Rumer & Val already know one another through mutual friends. She's pretty tough on herself in rehearsals because she's a self-professed perfectionist.

She looks great - all long arms, long legs, great posture and dramatic face to match the music. After the routine, they show both her parents in the audience. Bruce is smiling in his grim faced way.

The judges are rushed for time. Carrie Ann says Rumer is "in it to win it." Len says this might be Val's season. Julianne has chills and calls them the "couple to watch." Bruno says Rumer has the best arms he's seen tonight.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8

Len called it "the dance of the night" as he raised his paddle.

Scoreboard

Rumer & Val: 32

Riker & Allison: 31

Nastia & Derek: 30

Robert & Kym: 28

Chris & Witney: 26

Michael & Peta: 26

Noah & Sharna: 26

Suzanne & Tony: 25

Patti & Artem: 25

Willow & Mark: 25

Redfoo & Emma: 22

Charlotte & Keo: 22

Prediction for who's going home next week: Charlotte & Keo. I think the DWTS audience will vote for potentially goofy/funny (Redfoo) over busty spokesmodel, even if she did seem nice.

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