PureDWTS Season 27, Week 1, Night 1 – Power Rankings

I can’t remember the last time we had a premiere night where nobody really and truly sucked – so last night was rather refreshing.  Even Joe, who bungled up the middle of his dance pretty badly, was still pretty impressive during the sections he did do right.  I find it interesting that as the seasons roll on, we end up with even better dancing, and more ringers; part of me wonders if this is the “new normal” on DWTS: more ringers, better overall quality of dancing, and more effort from the pros.  As skeptical as I may have been about the cast at first, last night was actually kind of awesome 🙂

As for the dance styles – I keep finding myself thinking that they should stick to (2) dances styles on night #1: cha-cha or foxtrot.  Both are fairly easy for newbs to do, and aren’t unnecessarily taxing on the celebs. Quickstep and jive are too vigorous for complete non-dancers.  I’m also really believing now that the song can make or break your performance – even a skilled dancer (in this case, Tinashe) can get thrown off their game by an less-than-ideal song choice.

So as for this wack-a-doo “hey, let’s make them dance the same dance style TWICE in one week!” nonsense – I’m having a love-hate relationship with it.  For those that maybe only slightly missed the mark with their dances last night (i.e. Tinashe, Alexis, Juan Pablo, Evanna), it’s an opportunity to give it another shot, often with a better (or at least different) song; for those that didn’t do so hot, though (I’m thinking Nikki & Joe), it’s probably a bit dreadful, as you have to give another shot to a dance you didn’t particularly excel in the first time around. And for everyone else, I think it’s a bit of a crapshoot – they might do better, they might do worse, or they might do just about the same, just to different music. I could just slap Len for throwing in the “well foxtrot ain’t a great dance to get in week 1” line he threw at Evanna, because guess what, bud: she’s gotta do it again tonight. At times, it seemed like the judges had even forgotten that these celebs have got to dance again tonight, doing the same dance – just a testament to how silly it all is. But let’s get on with it, shall we? T minus 9 hours till we do it all again… 😛

1.) DeMarcus & Lindsay – From the moment I guessed that he was Lindsay’s celeb several weeks back, I had a feeling DeMarcus would be one to watch – and then once I heard murmurings about how “charismatic” he was when he danced, and how he was “a natural” on the floor, I was pretty convinced he’d be one to beat.  He didn’t disappoint – he really sold the hell out of his cha-cha last night, and I love that he’s a big guy that isn’t afraid to move BIG. He really committed to the steps, and wasn’t afraid to really go for it (although I found a few of his lines to be a bit comically over-extended 😛 There’s room for improvement!).  Comparing him to other NFL players that have done DWTS, I’d say he maybe doesn’t quite have Shad’s finesse, but he’s got Donald’s energy and stage presence, and is maybe a bit cleaner and more committed in his movement than Hines. He and Lindsay seem to have a great working relationship, and I’m told DeMarcus has an INSANE work ethic. All of that, combined with being an NFL player from a team with broad-spectrum popularity, makes me think he’s a lock for the finale, just from night 1. I sure hope so – he just has such a bright, positive vibe to him.  And I love his smile 🙂

2.) Tinashe & Brandon – This is one instance where I think the song may have had a measurable impact on the final product – because the song was really my only gripe here, as it didn’t seem energetic enough for a jive. Brandon gave it a valiant effort with his choreo – I got shades of Mark in some of his steps, which is encouraging, because Mark always seemed to really have great musicality with his choreography, and very clever movements. And Tinashe clearly has skills – she was keeping up every step of the way with Brandon, who also is a bit Mark-like in some of his movements 😛 Towards the end, I think she may have gotten a bit bogged down in all the turns Brandon threw in, and seemed to get a tad off-balance; and overall, I think she had great stage presence and was selling the dance well.  Thought she had more impact in her steps than Alexis, and generally a bit more musicality; looking forward to seeing what she does tomorrow night, to one of my favorite songs from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (and a more traditional jive song, compared to what she had last night). Very proud of Brandon’s first outing as a pro – there’s room for improvement, but the talent is there.  Now it just needs polish 🙂

3.) Juan Pablo & Cheryl – I said it last night, but I’ll say it again here: Juan Pablo reminds me so much of Tony (Dovolani, for anyone newer that might not remember him).  Something about the voice and the hair and the mannerisms.  Kind of reminds me of watching Tony & Cheryl do the Dirty Dancing pro dance way back when. He also vaguely reminds me of William Levy, with the accent and the dancing – but I already like him better than William, as Juan Pablo seems to have a more refined quality to his movements.  There’s a finesse there that William sometimes lacked – I saw it most on the turning/arm wrapping sections of his salsa; and though I wasn’t in love with the choreo for this salsa (a few too many starts and stops, would have preferred more continuous movement – think maybe the song wasn’t quite right), I think this was a solid night #1 effort, and he’s got plenty of skill for Cheryl to work with.  Also, can Andrea Barber (Kimmie Gibbler from Full House/Fuller House) just post up in the audience every week? I always love seeing her root for her buddies – she goes HAM 😛

4.) Alexis & Alan – I had been told Alexis had some dance training, so I was expecting her to be pretty good – and she delivered 🙂 She seemed to have a really good sense about what she should be doing with her whole body during each step – every step looked very natural to her, and flowed well.  It was a very pleasant dance to watch, but I will say that I was looking for a bit more impact to her steps – while Tinashe was accenting movements and serving face in her jive, Alexis’ felt more like a leisurely, pleasant stroll with a lovely, smiling girl.  It just felt a bit pageant-y at times, and I’m hoping having a sassier song tonight might help her find her “edge”.  But I was glad to see her letting her guard down a bit, and I loved the ice cream-themed costumes. I think her score will likely keep her safe this week (and probably next week, if she continues to do well), but I just hope she keeps coming out of her shell, because she still seems a bit reserved.

5.) Bobby & Sharna – Easily the weakest of the three jives we saw last night, but I will say this: what Bobby lacked in technique, he more than made up for in enthusiasm and performance quality.  Bobby reminds me of Willard in Footloose: totally out of his element, but really trying hard and having a great time while he’s at it (even if he’s not doing it perfectly). And that is what ultimately may work in his favor this season: he’s the underdog with heart.  He’s the guy having some grandiose reaction to doing the jive that surprises just about everyone.  Sure, he may not be as charismatic as DeMarcus, or as smooth as Juan Pablo, or have the carefree, youthful vibe Milo has – but he’s sure as hell trying, and he’s having a blast doing it. From a technical standpoint, there’s plenty of room for improvement: feet need to be cleaned up, and he need to work on not getting so excited that he loses timing.  But the potential is there – I would not be shocked to see him make it to the back half of the season, and potentially the finals.

6.) Mary Lou & Sasha – Going first on premiere night practically guarantees you’re going to get lowballed in score, but this was a decent dance nonetheless and a good way to open the show. Starting with a demographic favorite was a smart move – Mama Spence was like “Oh yay, Mary Lou!” and ended up watching more of the show than she originally intended to once she got sucked in by Mary Lou’s performance. It was cute, and she stayed on-time and sold it well – she certainly moves better than most women her age; but she does seem to have bit of a jerky, boppy quality to her movement, which Sasha will probably have to work to smooth out in the coming weeks.  But she does have good energy, and seems to move well – she reminds me of a peppier Dorothy Hamill, with her movement quality.

7.) Milo & Witney – I know I just keep saying this, but Milo just seems like such a good kid – he’s optimistic, down to try whatever Witney throws at him, and he looks like he has a ball out on the floor.  Very likeable guy, and with moves to boot – he’s got a certain finesse to his movement, and while it means he can sometimes get a little bit “wild” (as Len put it), it almost means he looks at ease and confident on the floor, which is something you can’t really teach; you either have it or you don’t, and thankfully Milo does.  And he’s another tall guy that isn’t afraid to move big, which is a boon.  My only concern is that he went early in the show last night, when scores get a bit low-balled and performances can get lost in the shuffle by the end of the night – I’d be shocked if he was in danger tonight, but I’m hoping he gets moved to the back half of the show starting tonight or next week.  With so many strong dancers this season, I think getting “lost in the shuffle” is going to become a bigger and bigger concern.

8.) Evanna & Keo – I was left wondering if the judges and I were watching the same dance or not, because I actually thought this was pretty good – sure, there were some stutter-y moments, but I blame that more on Keo being a bit enthusiastic with his lead and sometimes throwing the much shorter, much less-grounded Evanna off her balance, than I do on Evanna not being a good dancer.  She kept up, she sold it, she looked like she was having fun – so why so stingy with the points? My only guess is that she got low-balled simply by virtue of going early on in the show.  Overall, though, I really like Evanna – she’s charming, and the way she talks is almost whimsical.  Just hope Keo can deliver on the choreo – last night was an improvement, but it definitely still needs work.

9.) Danelle & Artem – This could be Artem’s defining season as a pro – no other pro has really had to deal with the same limitation that he does: Danelle is physically able to do the moves, but she cannot see ANYTHING. Heather, Amy, Noah, Nyle, Victoria – they may have had other limitations, but at the very least, they could see where they were going, and could look to their pro for for visual cues.  Danelle really just has to trust Artem to move her where she needs to be – and this means he may need to drastically alter his choreo to accommodate her needs. Any extensive sections of open choreo are basically out; to be safe, Danelle is probably going to have to remain in hold as much as possible.  I thought this was a great first dance for these two – Artem kept the choreo primarily in-hold, and simple enough that Danelle could easily follow as he guided her through it. I’m interested to see how she handles a Latin dance, where there’s typically more open work, and call me crazy, but I’d love to see them try to work her seeing eye dog into one of her dances 😛

10.) Nancy & Val – Was anyone else just kind of gagging over how great Nancy’s skin and hair are? I feel like the first minute or so of her rehearsal package I was just like “Damn, I hope I age that well!” I think the one that stood out to me is that Nancy actually looked really good in her rehearsal footage – frame looked nice, she was staying in-step with Val, and she seemed confident.  All that seemed to deteriorate a bit once she hit the floor – her frame seemed a bit front-weighted, and she seemed to be a lot more tentative in her movements.  I think she may be fighting a bit of a battle with nerves, but really, this was another solid week 1 dance.  There’s plenty of potential there – I think it’s just a matter of Val working with it and bringing it out. My only worry is that she might fade into the woodwork a bit, among all the other, much louder personalities – she’s pretty chill.

11.) John & Emma – I was honestly kind of puzzled as to why everyone thought John was going to be terrible – the dude sings, and used to be in fantastic shape when he played Bo Duke, so at the very least, he has musicality and he has been athletic at some point in his life. And really, I thought this was a nice, pleasant foxtrot to watch – he stayed on-time, he sold it well, he had a reasonably good frame.  It was fun and light, and I liked watching it. It wasn’t a showstopper, but I enjoyed it, and he seems to have a good rapport with Emma. I sincerely doubt he goes tonight – he’s got enough of a cushion in points, and judging by Mama Spence’s squealing, Baby Boomer women still love them some Bo Duke 😛 But he could fall victim to next week’s elim, I think – but who knows.  Nobody is really a bad dancer this season, so it may not be as easy to pick out the low-hanging fruit.

12.) Joe & Jenna – Yes, it was easily the weakest performance of the night, due to that unfortunate snafu midway through the dance that Joe never really seemed to recover from; but really, the parts that he did correctly were actually pretty good.  I loved that Joe carried his goofy, “I’m just a grocer from Chicago with no clue what I’m doing, lol” vibe with him onto the floor, and he had a fun, quirky quality to his movement. And I think it’s that fun, quirky quality that is likely going to save him tomorrow night – I think he easily gets the votes to stay over Nikki, just based on the overwhelmingly supportive vibe I get from Bachelor fans. I think the fact that he also seemed pretty upset with himself at the end will probably end up getting him a few sympathy votes from non-Bachelor fans as well.  Hopefully, Jenna can help him shake off the sense of defeat he seemed to have at the end of last night’s show, so he can give it another shot tonight.

13.) Nikki & Gleb – Yes, Nikki may have ended up 3 points higher on the leaderboard than Joe, but while I’m pretty sure Joe can swing the votes from the Bachelor nation to stay safe…I’m not sure Nikki can. Which sucks, because I really liked Nikki’s self-deprecating vibe and sense of humor, and really – her dance wasn’t terrible: she stayed on-time, and she looked like she was having fun.  Sure, she was somewhat wishy-washy on the steps (I’ll chalk that one up to her injury, and maybe slightly towards the fact that she seemed like she had an inch or so on Gleb in those heels), and once again, I wasn’t dazzled by the choreo (Gleb, step it up) – but it was a nice effort, and I thought she looked fantastic tonight in that bright red costume. Someone’s gotta go, though – and I think it’s likely going to be Nikki.

So what are your thoughts about the first night? How do you feel about the couples doing the same dance style twice in one week?