DWTS 16, Week 1 – Power Rankings

And so ends our first post-all-stars episode of DWTS! Gotta say – overall, I think I’m happy.  Granted, my standards were pretty low, but I think this season’s cast has a lot of personality and potential – aside from a few low points (D.L., Sean, and Len, who was a complete asshat tonight), there were some pleasant surprises (namely Wynonna & Andy) and some promising contenders (Jacoby, Kellie, Dorothy, and maybe Aly).  So let’s break it down, shall we?

1.) Jacoby & Karina – I will be surprised if this guy does not win this season, let me put that out there.  I know, I know – some of you think he’s cocky and his footwork is messy.  But as I recall, many of our readers said the same thing about Donald in week one of season 14, and he really grew on people as the season wore on – I expect that Jacoby will likely do the same, especially since Karina doesn’t seem like the type to tolerate arrogance, and I think Jacoby has already improved since his initial interviews.  He was definitely the most charistmatic one on the floor tonight, for me – absolutely no fear, total attack, and you could tell he was having a blast.  Yeah, the routine was a bit chaotic and his feet & posture were pretty bad – but the potential is definitely there, and I daresay he did better with only about a week’s worth of rehearsal than some other couples did with the full 3 weeks.  I think Karina was probably wise to make that cha-cha feel like a touchdown dance – if you’re limited on time, stick with what you know will work.  She did the same thing with The Situation and managed to get him past week 1 with only a limited amount of practice.  These two will be around for awhile, and I’m interested to see how they develop.

2.) Zendaya & Val – For a girl that’s only 16, she dances with a maturity greater than many of the ladies this season – and some of them are old enough to be her mother! She’s probably the most naturally-skilled dancer this season, judging from what we saw tonight – she was fluid, relaxed, comfortable, and really seemed to get in the pocket of the dance.  And god bless Val for finally reaching the potential I thought he had back in season 13 – for a pro that doesn’t really know contemporary, that was a great routine, and the emotion was appropriate: it was innocent and casual, and not overwrought with the sexual undertone that so many of his dances with Kelly had.  I think this may be the season that we really see him become a contender – maybe the fact that he’s not stuck in the shadow of big bro this time has taken a bit of the weight off his shoulders, and he can really focus on stretching his chops and really making his partner shine.  And shine she will – she’s a gorgeous girl, and those legs are a revelation.  Definitely a bright spot this season – I just hope that she’ll overcome the Disney curse and get viewers to pick up a phone!

3.) Kellie & Derek – “Tinkerbell” is a pretty apt comparison for Kellie – she’s cute, she’s got a rockin’ bod, she can move, and she’s not afraid to giggle :-) Admittedly, I was prepared for her to really grate on my nerves – let’s just say the syrupy drawl and “I’m so backwoods and naïve, I don’t know how to pronounce ‘salmon’!” act on Idol got old really quickly for me back then.  But she has definitely matured now, and I think she’s hit a nice stride where she’s comfortable in her own body and more relaxed & organic in her mannerisms.  And my god, this woman has a waist that would make Barbie jealous and a torso that appears to be made of rubber! She had no problem gyrating and popping that torso, and certainly has sass to spare.  Her legs seemed a bit stiff and straight, but I did see shades of great legwork here and there – definitely something to improve on.  Overall, she seemed very comfortable on the floor, and will likely be one to watch this season.

4.) Dorothy & Tristan – Dammit Dorothy, way to make me get all misty while watching the show :-P The thing I love most about this couple is just how organic and down-to-earth they are – Dorothy may not be the flashiest or sassiest female contestant this season, but she, like Tristan, is just good people and seems thankful for the opportunity and is going to really relish it for all its worth.  Some definite nerves tonight, but Miss Hamill has definitely still got some moves from her skating days – lovely legs and arms, and some nice spins and lifts.  I’m guessing that contemporary is not really Tristan’s forte, as this seemed like the weakest of the 3 contemporary routines tonight, choreography-wise – but at least they got it out of the way in week one, and hopefully it’s all stuff in Tristan’s wheelhouse from here on out.  Overall, I’m hoping that Dorothy can just learn to breathe, let go, and enjoy the experience…because if she can do that, I think she’s going to see her dancing improve drastically.

5.) Aly & Mark – Unfortunately, this was one couple tonight who left me feeling a bit let-down – blame it on all the hype of Mark and ANOTHER OLYMPIC GYMNAST, or the bar being set sky-high by Shawn, but Aly just did ok for me tonight.  She was stiffer and shyer than I expected, and her legs seemed like they were stuck to the floor at times – as if she was having a hard time really moving them with impact.  I’m gonna chalk a lot of it up to first night jitters, but part of me thinks that Aly may not be as relaxed or laid back as Shawn…and she may unfortunately be doomed to constant comparisons to Shawn this season.  I definitely think she has potential, don’t get me wrong – but I’m not seeing the same spark or star quality from her that I did from Shawn.  Mark? Maybe it’s the hair, but he seems to have reverted back to season 5 Mark a bit, as he seems to have returned to his more competitive-Latin roots, as opposed to shaved-head, I’m-edgy-and-avant-gard-with-my-choreography Mark.  Let’s hope it lasts, because Len seems extra surly this season…and may very well lunge at Mark from across the judges’ table if he tries anything quirky! Yikes.

6.) Andy & Sharna – Revelation of the evening for me – this was the second time I got misty tonight, as this dance was everything I had hoped it would be for Andy: cathartic, fun, redeeming, and hopeful.  And really, not too shabby! Granted, the foxtrots were the weakest dances of the evening for me, but I’d say Andy’s was the strongest, in terms of both technique and performance quality – he really went for it, and I was actually really impressed with all the work with the cane, which was a prop that actually worked WITH the routine instead of against it.  Gotta give Sharna some props, too – not only is she a new pro, but she probably got the toughest partner this season: a recovering addict that is still early in his sobriety and is pretty emotionally fragile.  And as someone who has experienced firsthand the agony of watching a family member go through the same thing – it definitely takes someone who is both strong and sympathetic to help an addict through tough times…and I think Sharna handled it beautifully, and really helped Andy find his strength.  I’ve already watched this routine 3 or 4 times, just because it makes me smile to see him look so…light :-) Mama Spence gave all her votes to Andy, and I spared a few from Lisa & Gleb for him as well. I really think he has a shot at sticking around now, especially if he continues to improve and embrace the personal growth.  Really looking forward to more from this couple.

7.) Wynonna & Tony – Probably the second pleasant surprise for me for the night – I was somewhat expecting “Wy” to come out timid and awkward, a la Wendy Williams, but was happy to see that she was more like a Kirstie: very sassy, fun, and uninhibited.  The choreography was pretty basic, and she may not have been a very “big” mover – I’m sure that’s something Tony is going to have to work on with her – but I was very entertained while I was watching her, and still enjoyed her performance overall.  Was also pleasantly surprised by her interaction with Tony – these two actually seem really well-matched and on the same page, and Wynonna’s sense of humor seems to be “Kirstie lite”: still cheeky, but in a much more subtle way.  I’m intrigued to see what else we’re going to see from these two – and I hope that Wy continues to embrace the experience and have fun, because I think that may be her big strength this season.

8.) Ingo & Kym – Another couple who ended up better than I expected, but unfortunately just felt rather forgettable for me tonight.  Their contemporary was neither stunningly gorgeous like Zendaya & Val’s, nor was it natural & heartfelt like Dorothy & Tristan’s – it was pretty and pleasant, but not really special, and seemed a bit lift-heavy and a bit flaily.  I guess the good news is that they got it out of the way during a week where there isn’t an elimination, and have a more upbeat, traditional ballroom dance to please Len the asshat with next week.  Speaking of which, I have to wonder if Len’s extra grumpy mood was a sort of protest over contemporary being included in the week 1 dance lineup, as his voice just seemed to drip with disdain whenever he was critiquing one of those routines…even if he was trying to praise it! But I digress.  I worry a bit that Ingo may be a little too serious, as he seems to answer questions quite literally, as opposed to injecting some humor into his responses like Lisa, Jacoby, or Wynonna.  Seems a bit nitpicky and silly of me, I’m sure, but sometimes it can indicate someone who may have trouble letting loose and having fun.  I still really like Ingo & Kym as a couple, and I’m hoping that they can really show us what they’re made of, now that they’ve gotten a ho-hum dance out of the way.

9.) Sean & Peta – Well…can’t say anything they did surprised me.  Just as predicted, they opted to go the low-brow, slightly tacky/sleazy route, complete with Sean awkwardly gyrating through his foxtrot and Peta throwing in some of her signature punchy/cheerleaderish side-by-side work in the middle of the dance.  The end result felt a bit…cheap. As if they really did only have 1 week to rehearse, and this was all they had time to throw together in such a hurry.  Peta was flaily and tended to overdance, and Sean seemed a bit off-balance and squatty. Hate to say it, but I’m already seeing my prophecy of these two going the sexy, shirtless dude route this season beginning to come to fruition – I don’t see either one of them having any huge drive to really work hard and really dance, and I think they’ll likely resort to gimmicks like shirtlessness and fauxmance to stick around.  Guess I’m just hoping that they either do a complete 180 next week and really wow me, or they get sent packing early…because I’m not really that impressed.

10.) Lisa & Gleb – Poor Lisa – I think she really wanted to do well, but was really, really, REALLY nervous – and maybe Gleb was as well, because their foxtrot felt a bit frantic and wobbly, although parts of it were actually quite nice and showed promise.  I partially blame nerves on Lisa’s part, and partially blame Gleb’s choreography – I think he may have tried to throw a bit too much into that routine, and the result was a bit chaotic and hard for her to keep up with.  Rookie mistake, and hopefully something Gleb learns from in the coming weeks.  I thought Giggy was a nice touch – I believe that’s the first time someone has (successfully) used a live animal in their routine, since Emmitt’s burro got stage fright last season :-P If I were Lisa, I’d keep playing the Giggy card, because that seems to be the moments in which we see her at her most human: doting on her fur baby :-) Hopefully she & Gleb can shake off the nerves and give us something good next week.

11.) Victor & Lindsay – God love Victor, he seems so sweet and happy to be there – like a smiley Rob Kardashian that’s more invested.  :-) He seems to really be trying, and also seems to be another celeb that was the victim of nerves tonight.  Frame got a little loose, and I think I saw him miss a step or two towards the beginning.  Lindsay seemed very enthusiastic and upbeat, but I’m afraid that, like Peta & Cheryl, she may be prone to “overdancing” to compensate for her partner’s weaknesses, as I saw Lindsay dancing some pretty energetic circles around a stationary Victor.  I’m hoping that was just a rookie mistake, because that can become a bad habit pretty quickly if she’s not careful.  It also worries me a bit that they got saddled with the “death spot” – going 2nd is statistically the worst running order position, and the one most likely to get you sent home…which makes me wonder if Victor may be cannon fodder for an early elim, along with Lisa and D.L., and possibly Ingo, who all danced in the first half of the show.  I think it’s going to be interesting to see who gets what position next week – it could be a bit of an indicator of who is getting the votes & who isn’t.  Really, I do like Victor & Lindsay – they’re well-matched and pleasant to watch – but I think they’re REALLY going to have to make a big impression next week, because they’re running the risk of being forgettable right now.

12.) D.L. & Cheryl – Oh my…ummm, well, what can I really say about this cha-cha? Guess I’m not too surprised at how it turned out – I never really got the impression from their interviews that D.L. or Cheryl was super-duper excited or invested in this season.  Guess I am a bit surprised at how lackadaisical it seemed – D.L. barely seemed to move, there was a lot of random “grooving”, and Cheryl danced circles around him (literally) – and I’m a little surprised at how the judges weren’t afraid to really pull out the low paddles.  I think Carrie Ann was the one that mentioned that D.L. “needed to practice more”, and since I’ve gotten the impression that the judges do have an idea about how much each couple practices, I’m guessing that D.L. hasn’t exactly been putting in the practice hours at the studio…as if that wasn’t evident by the quality of his cha-cha.  The fact that neither D.L. nor Cheryl seemed to be too bummed about their scores tells me that D.L. was probably only in it for the paycheck this season – and maybe Cheryl is looking forward to a short season so she can relax and recharge her batteries.  Guess I’m fully expecting these two to pack their bags next Tuesday…because this was pretty bad :-(

So what did you guys think of tonight’s performances? Who were the highlights…and lowlights? And WTF is up with Len? 8-O Let’s hear it!!!