Glitz. Glamour. Spray tans.
ABC’s Dancing With the Stars is back, and while it might not be better than ever, it is, as always, mindlessly entertaining. It boasts an eclectic cast that, while it might warrant a season-long change in title from Dancing With the Stars to Dancing With People Who Were Attached to Stars, has brought rhinestones and rhythm (or lack thereof, in some cases) back into our living rooms as the days get shorter and the days get colder.
NBA player Ron Artest (now known as Metta Worldpeace) and professional partner Peta Murgatroyd opened Season Thirteen with a cha-cha set to “Krazy” by Pitbull, featuring Lil’ Jon. Worldpeace was clumsy and moved heavily around the floor, displaying…not much musicality at all. Although entertaining enough, the content of the cha-cha was hard to spot, and while it could easily be chalked up to being the first week of competition, and the first overall dance, it’s probably safe to say that he won’t be able to get by on entertainment alone if he doesn’t exhibit some ability to actually perform the dances. His score of 14 out of 30 was the lowest of the evening, eight points below the leaders.
Following in the footsteps of his sister Kim, who was a contestant during Season Seven, Rob Kardashian took to the dance floor with two-time champion Cheryl Burke. Performing a Viennese waltz to “Lake Michigan” by Rogue Wave, Kardashian appears to have about as much ballroom ability as his sister did, as he also displayed very little musicality and a tendency for flat-footedness and rough, jerky movements, and will most likely have to rely on his “fan base” (read: his sisters’ fanbase/the fanbase of the trainwreck that is the Kardashian-Jenner family and their show) to keep him in the competition, because his dance skill will not. 16 out of 30.
Stilted and decidedly non-fluid, the cha-cha performed by Laguna Beach and The Hills star Kristin Cavallari was hardly stunning, and the hip action was basically non-existent. Carrie Ann Inaba told Cavallari that her hairography was stunning – too bad it’s a dance competition for the feet and the rest of the body. Maybe as she becomes more comfortable, her stage presence will improve, but currently, she’s not exactly making a strong case as for why she needs to stay – other than to fulfill the quota for token skinny blonde who’s mostly famous for partying. 19 out of 30.
Fifteen seconds of Chynna Phillips dancing by herself to open her Viennese waltz to “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys was…interesting. With balletic movement that, in theory, would have been lovely and fit well with the dreamlike quality that the Viennese waltz possesses, in practice, it looked like a little girl pretending that she was a world-famous ballerina. When they began to dance together, the quality of the dance improved, and brought Phillips to the top of the leaderboard with a 22 out of 30.
As one of the oldest celebridancers this season, for television personality Nancy Grace to start out with the cha-cha – as runner-up, sixty-year-old Kirstie Alley did last season – might have been a bit of a risk. But Grace gamely rose to the challenge and executed a cha-cha that wasn’t absolutely irredeemable. Shaking her hips (sort of) to Cee Lo Green’s “Cry Baby,” she appeared to be having a good time, and perhaps as she gains confidence (who thought Nancy Grace would ever come across as even vaguely shy about anything?) she might continue to follow in Alley’s footsteps. At the very least, she was passable on the floor, and in the interview segments, not totally abrasive.16 out of 30.
Quite possibly one of the last people anyone ever would have expected to be on Dancing With the Stars, David Arquette seems to be one of the celebrities who is most excited to be participating. Even though his footwork for the Viennese waltz wasn’t spectacular, that he was at least trying to be good was evident, and it’ll be interesting to see if his partner, reigning champion Kym Johnson, can turn him into a dancer – not just an oddball adding something new to his resume. 18 out of 30.
Giving Elisabetta Canalis’ job description as “actress” is laughable; even more so is calling her a “star.” Canalis’ claim to fame (at least here in the United States) is simply that she is the most recent ex-girlfriend of George Clooney. Partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s baby brother Val, she proved that not only is she not an actress, she’s no dancer, either. She lost count mere seconds into her cha-cha to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and never really found it again. The inclusion of a prop bed to kick off the gimmick of the dance earned the ire of Head Judge Len Goodman, and her awkward, stilted, uncomfortable movement earned her a 15 out of 30 for the night.
With a Viennese waltz to “Satellite” by Dave Matthews Band that was elegant and beautifully executed, USA Women’s Soccer gold-medalist goalkeeper Hope Solo looked more like a fairytale princess gliding across the floor than like the hard-playing soccer player she is. Her chemistry with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy was lovely to watch, and led to possibly the strongest visible connection between partners for the night. 21 out of 30.
“You put the ha-ha-ha in the cha-cha-cha,” Goodman told Carson Kressley on the first results show Tuesday night, before Kressley and partner Anna Trebunskaya were asked to perform their cha-cha as the first encore dance of Season Thirteen. Sassy and fabulous – much like Kressley himself – it might not have been technically perfect, but there was unbridled joy in every step, and unparalleled showmanship that, as his technique becomes refined, might combine to make him a real contender. 17 out of 30.
If there is anything to be said about J.R. Martinez, it is that he is an impressive, inspiring, and wildly admirable person, a true champion even before the first steps of his dance were taken. An Iraq veteran, Martinez sustained terrible injuries while serving overseas, and the former soap opera actor is the picture of perseverance. His Viennese waltz to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” was smooth, graceful, and while it, like all of the dances of the evening, had its hiccups, was good enough to land him in a tie for the top spot on the leaderboard with a 22 out of 30.
Reminiscent perhaps of past celebridancer Marissa Jaret Winokur (possibly appropriate, considering both played Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, with Lake creating the role in the 1980s film, and Winokur taking over as the film was adapted to the Broadway stage), Ricki Lake was pleasant to watch as she performed the Viennese waltz with partner Derek Hough. Hough, who returns to Dancing With the Stars this season after a year off, may be the right partner for Lake, who seems excited but a bit hesitant. Hers is the kind of personality that will most likely shine in the more upbeat dances, and that’s something to look forward to. 20 out of 30.
The most talked-about celebridancer this season is undoubtedly Chaz Bono, the son of Sonny and Cher, and the admittedly-shy Bono expressed reservations about how the audience would react. “I hope it’s good,” he said, and when he stepped onto the dance floor with partner Lacey Schwimmer, it was indeed to a gracious reception. His cha-cha to “Dancing in the Street,” by Mick Jagger & David Bowie, was joyful and pretty impressive for a man with a larger build, and he looked like he was having the time of his life. It may only have earned him a 17 of 30 from the judges, but with a spirit like he seems to display, an infectious smile, and a true desire to do well, the only things in store for Bono are good ones.
Overall, it was a bit of a step backwards from last season’s premiere, but as has been shown in previous seasons, the quality of the show rises as the competition itself heats up. With most of the group sitting at the same general level of skill at this point, it might be interesting to see how the rest of the season unfolds.
The results show aired Tuesday, September 20, 2011, at 9/8 Central, on ABC.