Back in the Ballroom: DWTS Season 29 Premiere!
Updated: May 10, 2022
It is time to break down the 2020 Premiere of Dancing With The Stars! Hooray!
(cover photo for this post is from the @dancingabc Instagram page)
First off, the opening number made me so happy! I love the song “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and I love when the pros get their time in the spotlight. It was wonderfully staged and started the night on a great note!
I didn’t really have expectations about Tyra Banks, the new host, besides my initial disappointment about the change being made in the first place. However, I was glad that Tyra’s arrival was treated with gratitude and grace. Tyra said that she and her family have been “fans since day one,” and seemed really happy to be there, so I respect that. The judges also made a point to welcome her to the show, which I thought was nice. The ballroom did feel pretty different, but that wasn’t just due to Tom and Erin’s absence. It was also the absence of a live audience and the socially-distant staging.
(click on each team's name and score to view their dance clip)
The jive is my favorite of the ballroom dance styles performed on the show. AJ’s jive was a great way to start the night off, but I kept getting distracted by how goshdarn awful Cheryl’s costume was…I hate to be so negative, but there is really no other way to describe it. Oh well, the costume department is still great. They do so much, and they can’t be expected to make every outfit amazing all the time. At the judges' table, Carrie Ann, Derek and Bruno gave AJ good compliments, but also great, substantive critiques, which I appreciated. I have always hated when the judges are pressured to sugarcoat their notes. I grew up a dancer, and I was taught that being singled out to receive a correction is actually a good thing because corrections are how you learn!
I noted that Chrishell said she had no previous dance experience, which is always a cool journey to watch on DWTS. When the music for her tango started, I was happy to recognize “Raise Your Glass,” another one of my favorite songs. Chrishell’s tango was a bit of a slow start, but I thought she had a lot of potential, and she was putting in the work. She’s just new to this. Her scores were pretty low, but she received those scores and the judges’ notes with a really good attitude.
I will say this right now: all I know about ballroom dance technique is from watching Dancing with the Stars. However, since I’ve been watching the show so closely for so long, I do feel that I have a decent idea of what elements are required for the different ballroom dances. When I saw Vernon’s foxtrot, I thought something looked off with his frame or his posture. I could see he knew the steps, though.
The first thing I noticed was Anne’s really fun attitude. And that she made a comment along the lines of, “how many people a half-century-old can say they are on Dancing with the Stars?” (that is not verbatim), and I remembered how well Kate Flannery did last season. In her Cha Cha with Keo, Anne started out on the dance floor alone, with Keo entering a few counts later. I think that shows that the choreographer has confidence in the student, especially for a first dance.
Right off the bat, Jeannie made it clear that she was a long-time viewer, she had no dance experience, and she was really happy to be there. The energy she brought into the studio made it obvious that she knows what the spirit of the show is about. And WHOA! She went after that salsa with energy and GUTS! She had an amazing start and is one to watch out for. Also, I thought it was fantastic how she and Brandon were wearing the same shade of neon green from head to toe, right up to her eyeliner. What can I say, I love some consistent color coordination.
Jesse & Sharna—Quickstep 6/6/6
I was really surprised when they said Jesse was doing the quickstep. That’s a dance that is usually saved for later episodes, so I always assumed that it was a harder style that isn’t the best for a first dance. He did pretty well, though. Also, I thought it was cute that he knew Sharna from her previous seasons on the show.
In my previous DWTS post, I commented that Skai is super young. She was so poised and graceful!! She walked in to that rehearsal room and introduced herself to Alan like she had been doing just that every single day for the last ten years. I was drawn to her, and I was glad to discover that Alan is her partner. Alan is my favorite among the current pros, because he always seems to have a good relationship with his partners. They are comfortable around him and trust him, and I think that shows a lot about him as a person. He was also a standout on the short-lived Dancing with the Stars Juniors, where he proved that not only is he a great partner, he is also a great mentor for young dancers. He’s got this cool-older-brother vibe about him. I think he and Skai are a great pairing. Skai’s first time out on the dance floor was very impressive, and she earned the highest scores of the night thus far.
Kaitlyn’s first dance with Artem was a very solid start. It was entertaining to watch, and I liked how happy she was to be there.
My very first impression of Nev is that he seems like a genuinely sweet guy. His foxtrot with Jenna was charming, but the production team did one of my least favorite things to see on the show: they brought out the fog machines. I will complain about fog in the ballroom every single time it shows up. Footwork is so important, and with the fog, we can’t see it!!
(Then, at this point in the episode, we got a special message from Len Goodman! It was good to see him, and to hear him give his encouragement and spout his usual phrases, such as the iconic, “a 10 from Len!”)
I loved Johnny’s excitement! He mentioned that, as a figure skater, he doesn’t have a lot of experience with partner work. In spite of that, I thought his partnering with Britt looked pretty nice! I also thought his arm movements were great.
HELLO, JUSTINA! When Sasha asked Justina if she could dance, she said “I’m Latina.” And then she ABSOLUTELY KILLED IT with her first Latin dance! For her Cha Cha, she radiated power, and her facials were out of this world! I’m glad she is with Sasha, because he has this goofy, fun vibe about him and Justina is the embodiment of “fun mom energy” (I may be using that phrase because I know her as Penelope Alvarez from One Day at a Time, but I still think that’s accurate). This was my favorite dance of the night, and it tied for the highest score.
Charles’s approach to learning ballroom dance reminded me of another reason athletes always do so well: they can be COACHED. They know how to listen to their partner, take and apply those critiques, and strengthen their overall performance. I think Emma is a good match for him, since she always seems like a talented and tough coach. Charles’s salsa was pretty good for a first dance, and I was a little disappointed by how hard the judges were on him!
I thought again about how Monica is a cheer coach, and realized that she’ll be ready for that “one more time” (which is never actually true) mentality that comes with perfecting a routine, so she has that advantage. She was doing a foxtrot, though, which has a lot of soft and flowy movements, and cheerleaders trained to be sharp and and tight. Also, there aren’t supposed to be any lifts in the foxtrot, and her feet accidentally came off the ground at one point! Uh oh!!
Nelly’s first performance was so entertaining! He had a really great stage presence and sense of rhythm. And those flips! They came out of nowhere and they were awesome! His posture could use improvement, and he was wearing sneakers, which was odd, but I am excited to see how he grows as the competition continues!
Carole & Pasha—Paso Doble 4/4/3
Like the quickstep, I was surprised that Carole was given the paso doble as her first dance. That’s usually not done until later in the season. In the Paso, it’s really important to have strong, well-shaped arm movements, which was not the case for this performance. But that’s not really Carole’s fault, because she was given a pretty hard dance for the first week. She was having a lot of fun, though, and was really engaged, which I respect a lot.
At the end of the night, Skai & Alan and Justina & Sasha were tied at the top of the leaderboard with a score of 21, and Carole & Pasha were at the bottom with 11. Overall, I think this was a great start to the season. Everyone had such a GREAT attitude. Something that I noticed with each opening night performance, the celebrity contestant knew the routine and was executing the moves, but their bodies were still getting used to moving that way. I think that shows a lot of potential for growth over the course of the competition, leaving me very optimistic.