PureDWTS Season 17, Week 1 – Power Rankings

For the first time in several seasons, I find myself very pleasantly surprised by how good everyone looks on night 1 – and how much I like all of the couples (with the exception of one – and I blame that more on the celeb than the pro).  The judges are apparently still on crack (surprise, surprise) and have completely lost touch with the concept of a “middle ground” and seem to be scoring everyone absurdly high or absurdly low; and is anyone else kind of thrown by the judges’ table being on the OTHER side of the dance floor??? Just feels…wrong to me. Like trying to use a pair of left-handed scisscors.  :-P On with the rankings!

1.) Amber & Derek – I think Amber may be second only to Valerie in terms of likeability this season – she’s funny, enthusiastic, not afraid to poke fun at herself, and is proud of her “big booty” :-) She also has quite a bit of stage presence – she struck me as being the most comfortable out on the dancefloor last night, and seemed to really go for all the steps without any sort of timidness or hesitation.  Best cha-cha of the night? Sure.  But 27-worthy, in week 1? Eeeeek.  Seems like the judges were on a honeymoon last night (at least until Bill Nye danced) and I think they may have screwed themselves (and possibly Amber & Derek) when they whipped out those 9 paddles – now they’ve left themselves without much wiggle room to increase scores as the season progresses…and I’m afraid it may have set some unrealistic expectations for Amber & Derek in the weeks to come.  But for now, I think Amber is really safe, given her score and the legions of “Gleeks” that claim to be voting in the thousands. 

2.) Valerie & Tristan – I’m not sure there’s been another contestant in the history of the show that seems so deeply thankful and happy to be dancing :-) If you would have told me that the woman I saw foxtrotting with Tristan last night was suffering from terminal brain cancer, I wouldn’t have believed you – Valerie seemed to move with such ease and joy, she was actually better than some of her younger, more able-bodied competitors! I saw a few small issues with balance on turns, but it’s fortunately something that can be corrected with the right tutelage from Tristan.  I think we’re going to see Valerie stick around for awhile this season – not only because her story is so inspiring and brings hope to others suffering through cancer, but because she’s actually quite good…and I think she’ll only get better.  As Mama Spence said “I bet doing DWTS has added months to her life – people with something to live for tend to live longer!” :-)

3.) Corbin & Karina – Mama Spence has already decided that Corbin is her favorite guy this season, because she thinks he’s “too cute for words” :-P And he’s just so darn enthusiastic – the kid seems genuinely excited to be dancing, and really wants to push himself to do well.  I think he & Karina really seems to mesh well, too, and they each push each other to be better.  Was a bit worried when the routine started, because it seemed a bit flaily and “contemporary by numbers”; but as it progressed and both Corbin & Karina seemed to get more comfortable, it started feeling more organic and pretty impressive.  Corbin seems really comfortable with extending his arms & legs fully, which makes for some nice lines.  My only concern: they both seem to really want to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their routines – which isn’t always a good thing.  Hopefully they can strike a nice balance in their future routines.  He’s definitely the strongest guy this season (at least for me) and I think we’ll be seeing him for awhile.

4.) Elizabeth & Val – Of the three contemporary routines we saw tonight, I think Elizabeth & Val’s came across as the most natural and believable, which I credit to Elizabeth’s ballet background.  She seemed to be the most comfortable of the celebs doing contemporary, and knows how to really stretch her arm & legs lines properly – which is a quality you don’t often see in women her height, since many of them seem afraid to really extend their long limbs. And I actually found Elizabeth more relatable and likeable in her rehearsal package than I found her in any of the pre-season interviews she did – she seems to be relaxing a bit more about her dance background, and realizes that there’s more to doing well in this competition than simply being a good dancer.  She ought to stick around for awhile.

5.) Nicole & Sasha – Admittedly, I didn’t think Snooki was really going to impress me much – I think in my head, I had chalked her up as more of a Kendra Wilkinson than a Kellie Pickler.  But she actually kind of blew me away with some of her technique – she seems to actually grasp the concept of Cuban hip action, and like Amber, she’s a showman to boot. I also found it rather endearing that she was able to make fun of herself back in her Jersey Shore days, admitting that she was a “hot mess” and has changed for the better since having her little boy.  Also pleasantly surprising to me: Sasha was not the “Buddy the Elf” I’ve grown accustomed to seeing, the one that bounces around like a kangaroo in the troupe dances.  He was actually rather subdued, and seemed to really scale back his dancing in order to not overshadow Nicole.  I think this couple may be my “pleasant surprise” this season :-)

6.) Leah & Tony – I still find that Leah acts a bit odd when being interviewed, but fortunately for her, that weirdness seems to disappear once she hits the dance floor, and I was impressed by how at ease she seems to be out on the floor.  She actually has some sass that shows through nicely on the floor, and didn’t seem to struggle with timing or steps.  However, she did seem to struggle a bit with really committing to some of her movements – she’d extend her arm with purpose, but halfway through, it was like she suddenly got timid and ended up moving “smaller” than she originally intended.  I think once she gets more comfortable out on the floor, she’ll probably come across quite a bit more confident in her movements. 

7.) Keyshawn & Sharna – *sigh* This was the one couple last night that I really had a hard time connecting to (and that’s saying something, considering that I’m really weirded out by Brant & Peta’s forced showmance) and I’m just getting the feeling that Keyshawn doesn’t really want to be here…which sucks, because I had such high hopes that Sharna might actually have a contender this season.  I’d say Keyshawn kind of reminds me of a Clyde Drexler – not necessarily terrible, but just doesn’t seem to be trying very hard.  I think in terms of technique, he was only SLIGHTLY better than Bill Nye – but not nearly as entertaining.  Overall, I’m just having a hard time remembering these two, and if Keyshawn weren’t tied to the NFL, I’d say there would be a good chance he’s on the chopping block next week.  But I’m guessing the NFL fans pull him through for at least the next few weeks. 

8.) Bill Nye & Tyne –  I must say, I was pleasantly shocked when I got on Facebook and saw friends of mine who don’t even really watch DWTS talking about Bill Nye – and how they were gonna vote for him “because he’s Bill Nye, duh!” Not sure which of our readers pointed it out, but I think TPTB may have gotten more than they bargained for when casting Bill – I don’t think they anticipated how bad of a dancer he might be (I’ll elaborate further shortly), and how popular he is with 20-somethings like me who grew up with him.  I’m wondering if this season might be a tug-of-war between the judges and viewers over whether Bill stays or goes – if Bill doesn’t improve.  Now here’s the thing about Bill: I think everyone kind of assumed he’d be good, just because of his swing background; but the reality is that Bill is really more of a social dancer, as opposed to a competition dancer, and the fundamentals of each “school” are pretty different.  Where competitive dancers are taught to move big and do flashy stuff and keep their frame high, social dancers are taught to move smaller (in order to dance on crowded floors), and it’s all done more for fun than for show, so there’s no need to really do flashy stuff with perfect technique.  So doing DWTS? Pretty new and different for Bill.  I also wonder if cha-cha was not really the best dance for him to start with – part of me thinks he’ll be better at ballroom.  I’m also still a bit dubious about Tyne – she herself doesn’t seem to be a master of Latin, and her ballroom remains to be seen.  Despite being at the bottom of the leaderboard, I don’t see these two headed home next week – too many Bill Nye fans out there that are upset about the scoring.

9.) Christina & Mark – For as comfortable and “organic” as Elizabeth seemed out on the floor, Christina was kind of the opposite for me: she seemed to struggle a bit more, and a lot of the moves felt a bit forced and awkward to me.  She wasn’t terrible – she just wasn’t particularly convincing for me. I get the feeling she was just very, very nervous, and maybe that affected her – but then again, maybe she was really serious when she said that she’s “never done partner dancing” and this is all Greek to her.  I’m also having a bit of a hard time getting a read on how she is with Mark – just judging from what she said about his choreography, I’m not sure that these two are a perfect match, personality-wise.  They’re definitely not the worst couple, and I do think they have potential – I’m just not quite sure what to make of them, after last night’s performance.  I worry that they may have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle between some more memorable couples with better chemistry.

10.) Brant & Peta – I could tell mere moments into Brant & Peta’s first meeting that I was probably going to have a hard time liking them as a couple this season – when Peta decides to break the ice with “So are you single? That’s funny, cause I’m single too!”, I knew we’d possibly be in for several weeks of ooey-gooey, awkward showmancing.  I actually like Brant as a person – he just seems like a cool, laid back guy that wants to learn how to dance and enjoy the experience while he’s at it.  My big concern is how Peta is going to shape him with her choreography – their cha-cha last night felt very quintissentially “Peta”, with a lot of extraneous stuff in it and a lot of “sexing up”; I also noticed that she seemed to block our view of his body quite a bit with her own.  Don’t know if that was a camera blocking problem or what, but if a lot of the choreography is such that Peta’s body is obscuring our view of Brant, then we’ve got a problem, because it makes me wonder if she’s trying to hide bad technique rather than address it.  I’m hoping things get better with their next dance, but I wonder if they, too, might have gotten lost in the shuffle last night – and I’m not sure what kind of fanbase Brant has.

11.) Jack & Cheryl – I actually really enjoyed this couple, and was pleasantly surprised to see Cheryl with a seemingly renewed sense of interest in the show – her foxtrot choreo was actually quite good, and I found myself entertained by it.  And really, Jack handled it pretty well – both the technique aspect of it as well as the performance aspect, which I wasn’t expecting.  I’d be lying if I said Mama Spence & I weren’t rooting for Jack a bit – we have a family member who suffers from MS, and it’s an autoimmune disease like Crohn’s (which Mama Spence suffers from), so we know what a day-to-day struggle it can be.  I just worry that Jack may have faded into the woodwork last night, amongst more memorable couples, and I’m not sure how big his fanbase is going to end up being – I can’t decide if the same people who voted for Kelly are going to vote for him as well, or if Sharon’s fans from The Talk are going to tune in for Jack and vote.  I could see them in a possible bottom 2 next week.

12.) Bill E. & Emma – Was anyone else as shocked as I was last night that Bill was…actually kind of decent? And fun to watch? :-P I think I was expecting the worst, but Bill actually handled himself quite well – only a few minor bobbles, and he seemed to really commit to the character of his dance and enjoyed really “hamming it up”.  And I was pleasantly surprised by Emma, too – I guess I had written Emma off as “deer in the headlights” when she was in the troupe, but now that she’s got a celeb partner, she seems really focused and helpful.  And she reminds me of a blonde Finola Hughes :-) Now here’s the problem: they’re still one of the lower-scorers, and unlike Bill N., who seems to have the Twitterverse buzzing, I’m not hearing a whole lot of buzz about Bill E. – and I’m still curious to see how many DWTS voters can be bothered to vote for him.  For that reason, I’m guessing they’re headed home – but I’m in no way super confident in that choice.  I kinda hope they stick around, though – I like them as a couple.