DANCING WITH THE STARS Debuts; Season 14 Premiere Recap
The two-hour premiere of DANCING WITH THE STARS showcased this season's rag-tag group of actors, musicians, and TV personalities turned dancers - to the sound of an extremely generous panel of judges. To what judge Len Goodman called "the best first show of any season," the harshest of criticisms came in the form of, essentially, pats on the heads.
This season features a standard slew of stars from every medium, including singer Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff, musical legend Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus, football player Donald Driver and Peta Murgatoyd, Disney star Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower, former Little House on the Prairie child star Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, TV personality Maria Menounos and Derek Hough, tennis pro Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani, TV personality and actress Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy, former actor and recording artist Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya, actor Jaleel White and Kym Johnson, UK classical singer Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas, and telenovella actor William Levy and Cheryl Burke.
For those unfamiliar with the show's format, DANCING WITH THE STARS is hosted by Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke-Charvet, the celebrities perform choreographed dance routines which will be judged by renowned Ballroom judge Len Goodman and dancer/choreographers Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.
In the March 19th season premiere, contestants and their partners were given the choice of either a foxtrot or cha-cha. No one will be up for elimination this week, instead, scores and the numbers of votes will be averaged with next week's, and the contestant headed home will be decided thereupon.
Maria Menounos & Derek Hough
Though Menounos may consider herself a "dude with boobs," and would rather be wrestling than rehearsing, her Fran Drescher laugh and perfectly sculpted for television personality proved to be an adequate opener for the fourteenth season. Menounos and Hough cha-cha-'d to Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger," which resulted in what judge Carrie Inaba called "confidently flowing," though noted it was a bit jarring; as if Menounos' moves were captured on camera, and she were just flipping through the photos. She earned solid 7s all around, with judge Bruno Toniolo calling for her to "open up the sex pot," for the next routine.
Jack Wagner & Anna Trebunskaya
For the first round of dances, self-proclaimed "heart breaker," Wagner, and partner Trebunskay brought a whole lot of schtick. With synchronized kicking, their foxtrot to "Sugar Town" looked more like it belonged in a middle school talent show between a note-writing, never-speaking couple than a legitimate, well-rehearsed duo performing on national TV. Alas, Carrie Ann and Bruno generously praised Jack and Anna for the upbeat feel of the dance, while Len said Jack's "technique was poor," with over-the-top posture and haphazard footwork - though the costumes were nice.
Donald Driver & Peta Murgatroyd
Though it started just as schticky as Wagner and Trebunskaya's dance with Driver lip-synching, the routine proved to be the most impressive of the premiere so far. With enough energy to get Carrie Ann to stand up, arms flailing - Donald and Peta's cha-cha proved to be a powerful punch of controlled body rolls, splits, bedazzled lapelles that sat better with the audience than the judges themselves. Driver and Murgatroyd, like Menounos, received 7s from all three judges.
Gavin DeGraw & Karina Smirnoff
Singer/Songwriter Degraw and Dancing vet Smirnoff proved that having one of the most acclaimed professional dancers in the world as a partner isn't equatable with instant confidence. What was geared as a romantic foxtrot fell flat; DeGraw was visibly uncomfortable: "The foxtrot is a fluid dance, and you were stiff," Len said following the routine, in which he rated a 6.
Roshon Fegan & Chelsie Hightower
Fegan, of Disney fame, falls within the sect of competitors with prior dance experience. With a background of hip-hop and freestyle - admittedly not precisely the style of DANCING WITH THE STARS - it's questionable if it's, for the lack of a better word, fair, for him to be in a competition of otherwise novice dancers. Regardless of prior dancing work, Fegan was clearly more used to entertaining a pre-teen crowd than their parents. A shouting Bruno called him "unbelievable," while Len claimed the "technique [level] was very low;" there was simply too much hip-hop for the DANCING stage.