“Dancing With The Stars” Recap: Season 18, Episode 1

Turn up the lights, put on your dancing shoes, The Ballroom is open! Season 18 of Dancing With The Stars has returned to ABC and this season promises new excitement and old favorites. Season 10 competator Erin Andrews joins Tom Burgeron as his new co-host and this season also introduces new musical director Ray Chew and his band.

Season 18 opened with a sensation and scintillating performance of the hit single “Talk Dirty“ by Jason Derulo. His dance moves are sick and maybe he could compete in Season 19 of DWTS! A shot of the crowd revealed Derulo’s lovely fiancee Jordin Sparks beaming with pride. “Talk Dirty” has a fiery, sexy Latin beat, and the professional dancers were really able to express the sensuality that makes Latin dancing so exciting to watch. That really got the ballroom pumping and the crowd was rabid with anticipation for the competition to begin. And did the ballroom look a little different to you? It looks like there’s a smaller stage near the orchestra pit. I wonder how that will be used.

Judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli looked happy to be back in the ballroom. Carrie Ann’s hair was the perfect amount of tousled after the hot opening number. I’d heard a rumor that DWTS will have lots of guest judges this season, and Tom Bergeron just confirmed it. In a few weeks, guest judges will join the panel as a rotating 4th judge. This feels a little like when So You Think You Can Dance brings in celebs (like Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Katie Holmes) with dance backgrounds.

And on to the competition. The celebrity contestants have only been working with their pros for a few weeks, so my expectations are low. Of course, I am expecting Meryl/Maks and Charlie/Sharna to dominate the completion, so maybe Season 18 is going to be a battle for third place.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 NeNe Leakes
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Up first, and dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha, Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes, and her partner, Tony Dovolani.
Nene Leakes brought a lot of spunk to her Cha-Cha-Cha. But that is her personality: ballsy, brash, and supremely confident. Her smile was blindingly white, and her legs looked perfectly fierce. I wish that Tony Davolani was a little taller and that NeNe was dressed in a color that was more suitable of her vibrant peacock personality.
Scores from the judges: 21 out of 30, with 7s from each judge. A great start.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 James Maslow
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Dancing the Foxtrot, Big Time Rush member/actor James Maslow, and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd
Peta Murgatroyd’s reaction to James Maslow walking into the dance studio was priceless. They had dated (Which totally means something more, me thinks.) Was it a little weird to anyone else that a guy from a boy band was dancing the Foxtrot to a song by a different boy band? James has great moves, and I’m sure it’s from the dancing that he does as part of BTR. And he was nervous, which is so endearing! Carrie Ann Inaba summed up my feelings about James perfectly: Big Time Crush.
Scores from the judges: 21 out of 30, 7s from each judge. Erin totally went there and asked about their previous relationship in the post-dance interview. James played coy and said that he and Peta are keeping it professional. I totally think there will be some extracurricular practice between James and Peta. What a steamy scandal!

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Danica McKellar
Danica McKellar

Dancing the Foxtrot, Wonder Years actress Danica McKellar, and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Danica is precious. I love that she is smart and beautiful and truly excited to be there. She is a perfect role model for girls. Her dance to “Walk Away” was a little innocent and cutesy but her buoyant energy was contagious. She will be fantastic when they get to upbeat dances like the quickstep and jive. Danica said she is hoping become more womanly through her experience on the show. I would like that too, because she was in an Avril Lavigne music video last year and she looked unbelievably sexy and beautiful. She needs to know that smart can be sexy and own her womanhood.  But, I kinda hated her outfit.
Scores from the judges: Carrie 8, Len 8, Bruno, 8 Total 24 out of 30. I think they gave Danica extra points for cuteness, but I don’t mind because she is really adorable. And smart.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Sean Avery
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Dancing a Contemporary Dance, Former NHL player Sean Avery, and his partner Karina Smirnoff
Hockey players have very fast feet, but holy cow, this had the potential to be a train wreck. Fortunately, Sean is strong and he did a good job lifting Karina. Wardrobe smartly dressed him in black and he knew enough to stand back like a stagehand and let Karina do her thing. Sean revealed his post-dance interview that he is a fan of the movie Footloose and his favorite scene is when Kevin Bacon dances/does gymnastics in the grain depot. Maybe Sean should re-watch the part where Ren teaches Willard how to dance. It is a little more apropos.
Judges scores: Carrie 7, Len 6, Bruno 7. Total 20 out of 30. I thought they were generous.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Billy Dee Williams
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Dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha, Actor Billy Dee Williams, partnered with Emma Slater
Emma was totally sweet meeting Billy, she is clearly a fan. Oh my Gosh, they are doing a Star Wars dance!!! Storm Troopers, a Lando Calrissian Cape, Ewoks!!! I hope they’re not using this much flash to call attention away from Billy. Of course, we all know that Billy’s 77 years old; we can’t pretend he’s not. No one expects him to do flips. But Ewoks … seriously. Disney was throwing the entire Star Wars arsenal on the dance floor.
Judges scores:  Carrie 5, Len 5, Bruno 5. Total 15 out of 30. Boo! It’s not like he was clomping around like Master P. Give him the same credit and the same respect that other older competitors like Florence Henderson earned.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Meryl Davis
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Dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha, Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis, partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Maxs is back after a two-year absence. His powerful sexuality will be a stark comparison to Meryl Davis’ classically beautiful Disney Princess persona. After their dance, I am speechless. Their Cha-Cha-Cha was like watching two professional dancers. The judges are drooling.
Judges Scores: Carrie 8, Len 8, Bruno 8. Total 24 out of 30 Obviously they are holding Meryl to a much higher standard because her dancing was the finest I have ever seen on DWTS. She deserved higher.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Candace Cameron Bure
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Dancing a Contemporary Dance, Full House actress Candace Cameron Bure, partnered with Mark Ballas
Candace has a face I miss seeing on TV. I like that she is a little modest and wholesome. Her confident dance was the opposite of how she was selling herself to her partner Mark. Her floorwork in her contemporary dance was awesome. She has an emotional depth as a dancer that I doubt she ever expressed as a child actress. She looked strong in her lifts too. I was ready to give her a pass because I worshipped Full House, but she really brought it. We will see if this dance was lightning in a bottle, or if Candace can repeat her emotional intensity and become this season’s sleeper favorite.
Judges Scores: Carrie 9, Len 8, Bruno 8, 25 out of 30.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Cody Simpson
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Dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha, Pop star Cody Simpson, partnered with Witney Carson
Cody is only 17, so youth and the lack of experiencethat age brings are a disadvantage for him. Witney is a new pro on Season 18 of DWTS. She was in the dance corps last year and I think I remember her as a contestant on a recent season of So You Think You Can Dance. This tea mhas energy and heart, but they don’t have heat, yet. I know that in dance, the woman is the flower, and the man is the stem, but Witney stole all focus from Cody during their Cha-Cha-Cha to Ke$ha’s “Timber.” She is all smiles, healthy curves, and blonde hair. But, Cody has a legion of teen followers; so expect him to go far regardless of how he dances.
Judges Scores: Carrie 7, Len 7, Bruno 8. Total 22 out of 30. I would say 18 of those points were earned by Witney. The rest were earned by Codys hair.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Drew Carey
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Dancing the Foxtrot, The Price is Right host Drew Carey, and his partner Cheryl Burke
Drew recently lost 80 pounds and wants attack new challenges with his new body. Creating healthy goals is something everyone can aspire to. Drew’s Monopoly floor was cool, but the giant CG car and shoe were so strange. Drew’s dance was really silly and fun.  I wouldn’t expect many steamy dance moves from Drew, but he’ll be able to ride his lovable goofball personal to about the middle of the pack. He seems like a sweet guy, but I’m not expecting him to win the mirror ball trophy.
Judges Scores: Carrie 7, Len 7, Bruno 7

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Amy Purdy
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Dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha, Amputee Paralympic snowboarder, Amy Purdy partnered with Derek Hough
Before the competition, I hadn’t heard of Amy, but her back story is riveting and I was rooting for her before the first note of her music. As a dancer, she was fantastic and if you hadn’t told me that she was a double amputee, I wouldn’t have known.  I remember when Heather Mills was on the 4th season of DWTS, all anyone could talk about was that she had one leg. That won’t be the conversation with Amy, she is an athlete and a dancer. Period.
Judges Scores: Carrie 8, Len 8, Bruno 8, for a score of 24 our of 30.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Diana Nyad
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Dancing the Foxtrot, Swimmer Diana Nyad, partnered with Henry Byalikov.
I was riveted by Diana’s attempts to swim from Cuba to the US, and followed her progress in the news. You’ve got to admire someone who fails 4 times at her life’s goal before finally succeeding at the age of 64. Competing on DWTS was another of Diana’s life’s goals and her refusal to give up in the face of adversity should carry her far. Like a true competitor, Diana told Erin Andrews, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” The biggest surprise about Diana is her dry sense of humor.
Judges scores: Carrie 6, Len 6, Bruno 6, for a score of 18 out of 30.

Dancing with the Stars Season 18 Charlie White
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Dancing a Contemporary Dance, Olympic gold medalist Charlie White, partnered with Sharna Burgess
Charlie is so earnest and lovable, it may be very hard for him to express sexuality and carnal emotions.  I stand corrected. Charlie’s dance was intimate and raw, and he showed what a talented dancer he is.  Charlie and Sharna performed on the new, intimate stage in front of the band. I love the song “Let Her Go,” by Passenger and the band’s rendition was hollow and haunting. Charlie reaffirms that he is the competitor to beat.
Judges scores: Carrie 9, Len 9, Bruno 9. Score 27 out of 30.

Next Week, the celebs will be doing dances that they told Dancing With The Stars producers that they were excited to try. So next week…

NeNe Leakes will be dancing the Jive
Amy Purdywill be doing the Swing
Meryl Davis will also be doing a Swing dance
Candace Cameron Bure will be Rhumba-ing
Danica McKellarwill dance the Samba
Drew Carey will be dancing the Jive
Sean Avery will dance the Salsa
James Maslow will also dance the Salsa
Diana will be dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha
Billy Dee Williams will be dancing the Tango
Cody Simpson will be dancing the Tango
Charlie White will also be dancing the Tango

I’m not sure if this is next week’s dance order, or simply the order that Tom Bergeron read the names. And, did anyone else think that Erin Andrews did a great job? She was radiant in red and bravely asked the questions that we were all thinking.

What did you think of the season premiere of Season 18? Whose dance did you like the most? Who do you think should leave the competition?  I’d love to read your thoughts below.