DWTS Season 21 Premiere

Dancing With the Stars Premiere Recap: Who Made a Good First Impression?

There are a lot of certainties during every Dancing With the Stars season: The likelihood that Derek Hough will be paired with a young firecracker who’s a shoe-in for Top 5. The odds that host Tom Bergeron will often act like he doesn’t want to do this job anymore. The chances that Julianne Hough will, at some point, wear a dress that puts her cleavage front and center (in case you didn’t already know it existed!).

Monday’s Season 21 premiere also served as a reminder that no matter how dismal the Week 1 routines — apologies, Chaka Khan — the judges won’t deliver anything less than glowing praise.

Are you Paula Deen, who just performed a quickstep that was full of hokey lip-syncing and sloppy footwork? Don’t worry! The judges just want to see “the Paula Deen we know and love” next week! Are you Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who was practically getting dragged across the dance floor by Tony Dovolani? Hey, no worries! At least “you did it”!

While the two-hour telecast did include small nuggets of constructive criticism from the judges’ panel, most of the reactions from Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Julianne Hough ranged from, “I was blown away!” to “You get an A for effort!”

Rather than revisit the evening’s average and/or forgettable performances — among them Alexa PenaVega’s jive, Tamar Braxton’s quickstep and Hayes Grier’s cha-cha — let’s detail the five routines worth talking about (for better or for worse) from Monday’s premiere:

DWTS Season 21 PremiereBEST OF THE NIGHT
Bindi Irwin and pro Derek Hough (Jive) — Truth be told, Bindi probably could have earned a decent score with her personality alone, which brimmed with infectious giggles and enough energy to light the ballroom. But Bindi also impressed with her jive routine, in which she was enthusiastic, light on her feet and unintimidated by her professional partner. If Bindi is eliminated in the first few weeks of the competition, well… crikey. Judges’ Score: 24/30

BEST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP)
Nick Carter and pro Sharna Burgess (Cha-Cha) — It’s no surprise to see professional boy bander Nick Carter in the night’s top two performances. What was surprising was how evident Nick’s nerves were in his first moments on stage, which caused him to cut off some of his movements before Sharna did. (When you ask your partner to include Backstreet Boys choreography in her routine, you follow through when it counts!) Still, once Nick got more comfortable on the ballroom floor, he was easily one of the evening’s most enjoyable performers. Judges’ Score: 24/30

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE
Alek Skarlatos and pro Lindsay Arnold (Foxtrot) — I expected Alek to dance a lot like last season’s Michael Sam did: with good intentions, but heavy feet. (I mean, Alek hadn’t even heard the word “foxtrot” before stepping foot in rehearsal!) Instead, the National Guardsman was incredibly graceful and elegant in his performance, and he was there for Lindsay at every turn. There’s no saying how he’ll fare in more fast-paced routines, but Alek is certainly off to a strong start. Judges’ Score: 22/30

LEAST ENTHUSIASTIC PERFORMANCE
Kim Zolciak-Biermann and pro Tony Dovolani — I imagine Tony’s inner monologue to be, “Oh, DWTS gods, what did I do to deserve this fate?” Coming off a season where he and Suzanne Somers literally danced with fruit on their heads, things couldn’t have gotten much more grim for the pro… until he attempted a salsa with Kim. Given the Real Housewife’s waterworks before and after her performance, I expected Kim to perform with more passion. Instead, she managed to make even a simple handclap look like a chore. Judges’ Score: 12/30

WORST OF THE NIGHT
Chaka Khan and pro Keo Motsepe (Cha-Cha) — Yes, the Queen of Funk earned one point more than Kim Zolciak-Biermann did, so she wasn’t numerically the evening’s weakest performer. But after nicknaming herself and Keo “The Royal Couple” of Season 21, I expected Chaka to at least memorize the steps in her brief season-opening cha-cha. The final result, though, was a half-hearted routine that earned one of the night’s lowest scores. Judges’ Score: 13/30

With that, I hand it over to you. Which premiere routines will get your vote? Which couples should prepare to say goodbye? Hit the comments with all your thoughts.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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35 Comments
  1. Moria says:

    Thank you for your brave work recapping this – because no way am I watching this seaon, at least until several people get eliminated. Such a shame because last season was so good. Also why does poor Tony always get partners who will never have the slightest chance if winning?

  2. JBC says:

    Really nice to see Alek Skarlatos dance. It really was a surprise. His National Guardsman training must be an asset in being able to follow instructions. He and his pro partner Lindsay were great to watch. Go Alek and thanks for doing the brave thing in France!
    Bindi Irwin and Derrick were fun to watch too. She is so full of joy. Really wish they would have given Keo a better partner because I would love to see him dance longer than 2 or 3 weeks. Looks like Chaka won’t bring him into a longer season. I really didn’t know many of the contestants but look forward to seeing who improves week to week.

  3. Angela says:

    Please, America, for the love of all that is good, do NOT vote to keep Gary Busey around for way longer than necessary just because, “Hey, let’s see what the crazy guy says this week!”. Please. I’ll be switching the channel during his segment of the show for however long he stays around, ’cause no way will I be able to sit through that nonsensical rambling week in and week out. Poor, poor Anna…
    Yeah. I know the first week of each new season is never perfect, and that’s totally fine, I don’t expect it to be. But even with that in mind, this group wasn’t all that wow-inspiring, no. I just don’t feel the chemistry between most of the partners, a good portion of them didn’t even seem to really do much other than walk around the floor or wiggle their hips a couple times, and most of the celebrities are either people I’m not big on to begin with or, if I’m not familiar with them, didn’t really pique my interest-I can barely remember half the names right now.
    Bindi was quite good. And she comes across very sweet and likeable. I’m definitely rooting for her. And I also agree on Alek. I think I might also put Tamar as a possible “could surprise us in the long run” candidate-her dance wasn’t perfect, no, but I think she has potential. And while that horse racing guy wasn’t that great dance-wise, he seems rather sweet in interviews.
    Outside of that? Eh, for the most part.

  4. Tina says:

    Already looks like Nick and Bindi are the ones to beat but several contestants like Alek, Carlos, Alexa, Hayes, Andy, and even Tamar showed great potential. I’m excited to see how the season plays out.

  5. Jerry Thomas says:

    All that married wishy washy jealousy crap should stay at home. The whole interaction between the two ruined that part of the show.If Alexa and Carlos can’t or are not able to credit their dance partners they either need to dance with each other or leave the show.

  6. I’m sorry, but the worst dance of the night belongs to Gary Busey. all he did was walk around while Anna danced. you have to feel sorry for some of these pros for getting paired up with the crappiest of stars. Tony deserves someone young and talented, Anna deserves more respect than Gary is giving her. Derek and Mark don’t always need the young ones, pair them up with so older, sometimes heavier set women and then lets see if they can preform!

  7. Littlejo says:

    Bruno and what’s her name and don’t care, really 4’s for Chaka? Showing your true colors so soon! What’s her name we already know her true colors

    • ds says:

      I bet your talking about JH, she gave 7s to some when she should have given 8s, because she wants her brother to win again (of those 5 he won, 3 he shouldn’t have, Corbin B was way better than Amber R and Evan L was way better than Nicole S. Brooke B was awful on her turn and I think that year it was Max and Mel B that should have won — if I remember it correctly). All the judges fawn over DH, it’s disgusting.

  8. Frank says:

    Dreadful. Gary? Kim? Chaka? Paula? Why would the producers pick these people? DWTS needs to cast some better “stars”.

  9. AngelWasHere says:

    I’m only watching for Gary and once he’s gone, I’m probably done. B/w don’t worry I don’t vote. I wouldn’t vote him in just for laugh anyway. That would be just cruel..for everyone (viewers and his poor partner alike).

    • Nancy Allen says:

      I’ll watch all season, I think that Gary’s entertainingly goofy, but he’s also like an overdose of some bad street drug. I don’t vote, but Bindi and Alek are my favorites, so far. I believe Bindi will win, but it’s a shame that she isn’t dancing with Tony, who does deserve a better partner than Kim. I love his smile and personality. I’m thrilled to see Anna and Louis again, yet sad that their return includes two of most difficult people to teach. There’s a possibility that Val will tame Tamar, but poor Keo will leave before we get to see his work, again.

  10. Chris says:

    Andy grammer!

    They were much too hard on chaka

  11. Abbi says:

    More impressed with Alex, Andy, Alexa and Tarma. Paula got on my nerves in about 5 seconds. The jockey isn’t too good either but at least he seems nice. Paula is my first choice to go. Derek and Julianne and her voice also get on my nerves. I’d like the show much better without the Hough bias factor.

  12. Sara says:

    Bindi was cute with her enthusiasm and I figured Nick would be decent. I was very surprised by Alek but Im not sure how he’ll fair in the quicker routines. Andy was also a nice surprise.

  13. James says:

    I feel kind of sorry for Keo, he’s gotten a dud every year and he’s gone almost immediately.

  14. mika02 says:

    I was surprised by Alek and Carlos great natural ability from both. I don’t have a clear favorite yet I usually do bu week one. Bu I am sorry the worst Dancers were Kim Z at least Chaka had personality. All Kim did was make excuses. My pick for the Double Elimination is Kim and Paula.

  15. bg says:

    I like Andy Grammer.

  16. I always tune in to the first episode of every season. If I can connect to one of the stars or a few of the stars I’m usually watching through the whole season. Not this one. I’ve already cancelled my TIVO Season Pass. There’s just no one I connected to. I actually spent most of the time with the TV muted. I was very excited to see Louis Van Amstel back but totally embarrassed for him when Paula shoved his face down on her boobs when they first met. :\ If I hear any buzz about any of the dances I’ll watch them on YouTube. Not worth two hours of my time every week this season.

  17. lauri5567 says:

    Poor, poor Tony. If Derek knows where the bodies are buried, Tony sure doesn’t.
    Paula will last longer than vocal commentators will like.
    Alek Skarlotos – if ABC comes calling for a reality show, it’s much better to say yes to DWTS than Bachelor/Bachelor Pad. I don’t think he’ll win, but he seems very likable.
    Pick to go home – Gary

  18. Donna says:

    When I heard my 82 year old mom yell from her bedroom that someone wasn’t doing anything at all (think it was Kim Zolchiak-Berman), I knew DWTS had hit an all-time low in her eyes. I’m glad Bindi honored her dad’s memory so well but I won’t be watching. Hate to see people embarrass themselves (Paula and Chaka).

  19. Michele Johnston says:

    Is it me or did one seem a bit on the tipsy side. I agree with a lot of the comments on Chaka, Gary, and Paula in that I feel for their pro partners. Did enjoy the bright spots of Bindi, Alek, Nick. Hope that those who vote do so based on dance and not crazy…

  20. Every single thing about the Hayes Grier dance was inappropriate and ickky. Who on earth thought it was a good idea to bring a punk 15 year old boy on the show then have him dance as a jock hanging out with a trampy “cheerleader” and equally trampy “catholic school girl” extra? The whole smarmy mess of that made me immediately want to never see him on the show

  21. shar says:

    I liked Nick the best. Why does Tony always get bad dancers. Also glad to see Louie and Anna back, but their dancers are awful.

  22. Nana3 says:

    First off welcome back to Karina, Louis and Anna. I wish they would replace Erin. I don’t like the way she interviews, she is better doing sports interviews. All except for Gary, Chaka, Kim and Paula everyone else will fare better than them going forward. I especially thought Bindi and Alek did great and I was very surprised at their new found talents.

  23. Annette Ravn says:

    I thought that although Gary Busey was not the most able partner of the night, he was by far the most enthusiastic. Although failing most of his moves…his pizazz made me want to stand up and clap. That is, until the creepy, “I love you’s”, aimed at his partner backstage. I bet she’shhoping for a short groping season… Sorry, I can’t imagine having to, “feel the love”, from Gary for more than a few weeks…let alone a few minutes.

  24. I am sad Artem is not on the show this season. I know Peta was injured in rehearsals which is why she is out. I am assuming whatever ‘star’ was supposed to dance with Artem backed out at the last minute.

  25. Jane Walker says:

    So far I am pretty torn between Alexa, Carlos and Bindi they are the ones that I think have potential to go far in this season. Alek can really woo the female demographic he has already captured the heart of that jenner girl she said she got crush on him now if Lyndsay Arnold is smart she would have Alek shirtless in some dances especially the latin dances have him shine and shake his hips delivering a sultry dance that will have his twitter page blowing up with young woman trying to get with him.

  26. Erica James says:

    Yeah, I love DWTS and its concept because I have a dance background. I was completely in love with this show when it first started and I thought I would never miss a season. But a few years ago I missed like two seasons in a row because it was getting ridiculous. Cheryl should have had a fair chance to win another trophy before she departed because she’s awesome. It would be nice to see Tony have another good partner. I love a few of these pro dancers and when they don’t have good partners the viewers don’t get to see their best and that’s unfair to us. Hopefully DWTS can clean up its act

  27. Henry Lincoln says:

    Judges are full of you know what.How can you judge someone if you never been a dancer.

    Tamar is a good dancer she has rhythm and lots of people on there don’t.