By Aria Ahmed
Last Monday, the long awaited premiere of season 20 of Dancing With the Stars aired on ABC. The lineup of twelve contestants was certainly star-studded: Willow Shields, Riker Lynch, Redfoo, Suzanne Somers, Charlotte McKinney, Patti LaBelle, Noah Galloway, and Nastia Liukin were amongst the competitors. The judges panel is no less prestigious: Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, and Julianne Hough will be deciding who stays and who goes. And just like all the seasons before this one, it looks like it’s going to be a good one.
Now let’s start at the bottom of the leaderboard, where Charlotte McKinney and Redfoo were tied with 22 out of 40. McKinney, partnered with Keo Motsepe, has lately gained fame for a certain Superbowl commercial for Carl’s Jr., performed a jive. The judges seemed to be mostly pleased with her, though they advised her to focus a little more on technique since she already had energy. Redfoo, part of the famous LMFAO duo, seemed to be in a similar situation. The commentary on his dance with Emma Slater deemed his energy a little on the wild side and would be improved with better technique. One step up the leaderboard was Willow Shields, star of the hit movie The Hunger Games as Primrose Everdeen. As the youngest competitor ever on the show, she performed a Cha Cha with Mark Ballas and the judges seemed impressed by her upbeat personality which shined through in her dance. She ended up with a 25 out of 40, identical to Suzanne Somers. The comedian, who’s paired with Tony Dovolani, performed a Cha Cha as well, and the judges praised her but asked for her to put a little more of herself into her performance. These four rounded out the lowest scores of the night.
Up the leaderboard one more spot was the oldest contestant of this group, the seasoned entertainer Patti LaBelle. Partnered with Artem Chigvintsev, she performed a Foxtrot that was judged as seeming elegant and impressive given her age. Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player in the NFL, was one step above her on the leaderboard with a 26 out of 40. He did a Cha Cha with Peta Murgatroyd that featured some unfortunate footwork and a seemingly forced smile according to the judges. Both Chris Soules and Noah Galloway got 26s as well. Soules, the latest star of ABC’s program The Bachelor, was paired with Witney Carson. His Jive gave the judges a unanimous impression that he has plenty of potential. Noah Galloway, the inspirational double amputee from a war injury and now motivational speaker, performed with Sharna Burgess. His Cha Cha left the judges feeling awed and inspired by the work and effort it must’ve required for him to dance. The middle of the pack seems likely to continue to improve, which could pose a challenge to these next four.
In the fourth spot on the leaderboard was Robert Herjavec, a “shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank and successful business man. He and his partner, returning champ Kym Johnson, did a Cha Cha that left the judges rethinking their first impressions of him- they believed him to be uptight and bland, when in fact he had great energy and provided plenty of laughs. Next up was Nastia Liukin, the Olympic gymnast, whose professional partner is Derek Hough. Their Foxtrot was praised and applauded but did however feature a lift, which was not a permitted move. Riker Lynch, member of the band R5 ( who, amusingly, is actually Derek and Julianne’s second cousin) has Allison Holker as a partner. The twosome did a Jive that was explosive due to all of Lynch’s energy, even though his grace could be improved, he was indeed entertaining to watch. And number one on the leader board was the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore: Rumer Willis. She scored a 32 out of 40 with her partner Val Chmerkovisky for their Foxtrot. Their dance seemed packed with power and effort, and their effort must’ve paid off considering their seat on the leaderboard.
Of course these rankings aren’t for the entire season, and as all the seasons before this one I’m expecting many ups and downs. But the contestants are all in the game and as always, they’re playing (or rather, dancing) to win. Tune in to the rest of the season to see who is left holding that famous mirror-ball trophy.