By Jennifer Broadwater
10:21 PM EDT, September 19, 2011
Monday night brought a new class of sequin- and tuxedo-clad famous faces to the dance floor with the season premiere of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
Like in seasons past, there will be a fair share of flexed feet, rhythmic hiccups and overblown costumes from the dancers -- not to mention awkward moments courtesy of the judges (that means you, Bruno Tonioli).
But there also will be the pleasant surprises: unexpected performances by underdogs and the ability to watch novice dancers grow more confident from week to week.
What you'll find here are my personal observations. I'm no dance pro -- just someone who enjoys dancing and watching dance. And before you read too deeply into any of my criticisms, I'll say this: My hat's off to any person taking on a new challenge as technically and athletically challenging as ballroom dance (not to mention the extra challenge of 4-inch heels and skin-hugging lycra) on live network TV.
The first week is both telling and tricky. The dancers have more time to learn their debut dance than they'll have any other dance on the show. So if a dancer can't seem to pull together this first dance, he or she isn't likely to fare any better in future weeks. But the next show might reveal weaknesses in other dancers once the pace picks up.
Ron Artest: The LA Lakers basketball star was quick to bare his chest -- something other male contestants work up to throughout the competition. But despite his signature machismo and wild side, his cha-cha with partner Peta Murgatroyd lacked substance or as judge Len Goodman put it: "all sizzle, no sausage." For a man with such a large frame, he needs to make his movements bigger and fuller.
My prediction: He'll stick around for a couple weeks, at least, thanks to his high profile.
Rob Kardashian: The reality TV star is lucky to have Cheryl Burke as his partner. You could see in his Viennese waltz that he took her tutelage seriously with how precisely he moved and placed his arms, but he still looked stiff. Bruno was right: He didn't seem to relax into the music and feel the dance.
My prediction: Rob unfortunately falls into the category of DWTS contestants who've make me scratch my head and wonder if they really fit the title of the show. Seems like there are a few dancers each season who would be better suited for the show: "Dancing with the offspring, associates and dating interests of the Stars."
Kristin Cavallari: Known for her role in MTV's Laguna Beach and The Hills reality TV shows, Kristin danced a simple and relatively slow cha-cha -- a safe strategy for week 1 by partner Mark Ballas.
My prediction: She'll look pretty on the dance floor, but won't be outgoing enough to really knock any of her performances out of the park.
Chynna Phillips: The singer/songwriter of the 90s pop trio Wilson Phillips was the biggest surprise of the night for me. I couldn't get a good read on what to expect from her prior to watching her Viennese waltz with partner Tony Dovolani. There's grace and fluidity to her movement and she holds her frame well. Tony mixed in some more advanced choreography than I would have expected in week 1.
My prediction: She'll be the sweetheart of this season. And she'll raise the bar for other dancers.
Nancy Grace: The outspoken TV show host and former prosecutor surprised me, for one, by taking the judges' criticisms of her cha-cha without talking back. It was a decent first week effort, but hers was one of the less memorable dances of the night. Perhaps most telling was that seemed to lose track of the choreography by her partner Tristan MacManus a couple times. Could it be first-week jitters? Perhaps.
My prediction: Her performances need more spunk if she's to stick around.
David Arquette: Arquette (mostly known for his role in the "Scream" teen horror flicks) will be a crowd favorite and rightfully so. He'll do well because he has great stage presence and can get into character in whatever dance he's presented with. In this case he said his goal was to do his "best impression" of a person doing a Viennese waltz. But it turned out better than just an impression. He's got a strong partner in Kym Johnson, reigning DWTS champ, as well.
My prediction: Comic relief and outgoing personality will help him on the stage.
Elisabetta Canalis: This Italian model and actress (mostly known outside the fashion industry for her former status as George Clooney's girlfriend) danced a cha-cha I can sum up in two words: super awkward. Her performance with partner Val Chmerkovskiy seemed to rely on cheesy props and baring skin.
My prediction: I fear she will fall into the category of women with great bodies who lack either the confidence or coordination to shake it. (See former competitors Kim Kardashian and Holly Madison.)
Hope Solo: Hope -- the popular U.S. soccer star and goalie -- had some graceful moments and some clumsy moments in her Viennese waltz with partner cheeky Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
My prediction: Athletes tend to do well on this show, either because they have great coordination and stamina or because they're wildly popular with viewers despite their dancing abilities. Hope will fall into one of these categories.
Carson Kressley: Fashion designer and celebrity stylist Carson Kressley will be just as fun and energetic on the dance floor as he is in every interview he does. He seemed to be genuinely having fun in his cha-cha with partner Anna Trebunskaya. He's not the most fluid dancer, but he's also not too timid to get goofy.
My prediction: He'll get by for several weeks on the appeal of his personality. If he works hard in practices, he could be one of those contestants who makes leaps and bounds in technical achievement.
J.R. Martinez: Martinez, an Iraq war veteran and actor on the soap opera "All My Children," gave one of the strongest performances of the night in his Viennese waltz with partner Karina Smirnoff. He seems to have natural musicality and a strong frame, which is important for a man leading the dance.
My prediction: His story and his experience and knack as a motivational speaker will make him warm the hearts of both judges and viewers. What seems to be a natural talent for dance will serve him just as well.
Ricki Lake: Despite all the self-deprecating humor during her interviews and practice sessions, the talk show host looked good on stage with partner Derek Hough. Her footwork could be improved, but she carried herself with elegance and didn't seem too jittery.
My prediction: If she can get comfortable in this element, she'll do well.
Chaz Bono: Held for last was one of the most anticipated dancers, Chaz Bono, a LGBT rights activist and author. Chaz, the child of Sonny and Cher, is not a natural dancer but had several exciting moments with some fun footwork mixed into his cha-cha with partner Lacey Schwimmer.
My prediction: He'll garner a lot of votes partly because of all the hype surrounding his mere presence on the show as someone who is transgender. If Chaz's efforts in practice are in earnest, he stands to improve in technicality, too.
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