Dancing With the Stars, Season Premiere Recap

Editor: Pleases welcome guest author Sarah Johnson Carter as one half of this season’s DWTS review team.

Last night, “Dancing With the Stars” kicked off its thirteenth season in a larger, grander ballroom with returning hosts Tom Bergeron, and the newly wed Brooke Burke Charvet. Twelve new couples descended the new (and fraught with even more fall potential) staircase to be introduced to the audience.

First up was NBA champ Ron Artest and perky Peta Murgatroyd, the newest female professional dancer. Their Cha Cha was lively and entertaining, but not strong technically. Alas it was not Len’s “cup of tea,’ and they were awarded 14 points. I must point out here that forcing the couples to climb that towering flight of stairs to Brooke’s “sky box” to hear their scores after an exhausting dance could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Next on the floor was reality television personality Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke doing the Viennese Waltz. First, I need to know…is there an unlimited supply of Kardashians? While I was somewhat distracted by Cheryl’s collar, I didn’t think the dance was awful. Rob might do better if he could loosen up a bit. Carrie Ann declared that Rob has potential and the couple scored a 16.

Reality star and self-proclaimed non-bitch Kristin Cavallari performed the Cha Cha with Mark Ballas. The dance was energetic and full of smiles. Carrie Ann pegged Kristin as one to watch, and Bruno gave her some characteristically creepy, yet hysterical, compliments. Their total was 19 points.

Chynna Phillips, the singer from Wilson Phillips and wife of Billy Baldwin, is partnered with nice guy Tony Dovolani. Their Viennese Waltz was gracefully beautiful. The judges were impressed (Len was beaming), and the couple received a 22, which would end up leaving them tied for the highest score of the night.

Legal commentator Nancy Grace and the new Irish professional Tristan MacManus took their Cha Cha to the floor. It was the first, “I might have to hide my eyes” dance of the evening, but I was pleasantly surprised, Nancy has a great attitude, and the judges awarded the pair 16 points.

Movie star David Arquette performed the Viennese Waltz with his partner Kym Johnson. David seemed to be trying very hard. It was lovely to see his daughter Coco in the audience with his estranged wife Courteney Cox. The judges remarked on David’s mistakes, but gave the couple a score of 18.

Then came the battle of the brothers between Maksim Chmerkovskiy and his little brother, Val. Battle away, guys! Val danced the Cha Cha with Elisabetta Canalis, Italian model and ex-girlfriend of George Clooney. Elisabetta struggled when she didn’t have Val to hold on to, and the judges awarded them 15 points. Maks performed the Viennese Waltz with soccer star Hope Solo. Hope worked hard to emphasize elegance over athleticism. The judges were pleased with the performance and the couple received a 21.

“Motivational host” Carson Kressley and Anna Trebunskaya brought some sparkly flair to the dance floor with their high energy Cha Cha. The routine was lots of fun and couple was definitely a crowd favorite. The judges agreed that the dance was high in entertainment value (even Len seemed tickled), and gave them 17 points.

The emotional high point of the night came next with J.R. Martinez, an actor and army veteran who had more than thirty surgeries for injuries that he sustained during the war. This inspirational hero performed a fluid and emotional Viennese Waltz with his partner Karina Smirnoff. All three judges praised the pair and the couple scored 22 points, tying Chynna and Tony for the high score of the night.

Actress and television host Ricki Lake was excited to be partnered with Derek Hough. Go Ricki! Inspired by Kirstie Allie’s performance last season, she hopes dancing will help her regain her figure. The judges enjoyed their Viennese Waltz, and they were awarded 20 points.

Finally, author and activist Chaz Bono and his partner Lacey Schwimmer closed the evening’s performances with a crowd-pleasing Cha Cha. I was happy to see Chaz put all the media attention aside to deliver an energetic and fun dance. Bruno called it a joyous debut, and the couple earned a score of 17.

Tonight’s Results Show will end one couple’s quest for the coveted mirrorball trophy. It looks like Elisabetta and Val’s combination of a low score and small fan base could signal that the end is near for them. While there wasn’t one couple that ran away with the lead, J.R. and Karina seem to have the talent, chemistry, and emotional appeal to go far this season. I’ll be watching!