“Dancing with the Stars” made an emotional return to television on Monday night for its eleventh season, featuring a performance from one celebrity and her professional partner that left one of the judges – and much of the audience – in tears.
Jennifer Grey, who delighted audiences more than two decades ago as “Baby” in “Dirty Dancing” opposite Patrick Swayze, was as charming, effervescent and elegant as she was back then as she hit the ballroom for the first time with partner Derek Hough.
The two performed an enchanting Viennese waltz choreographed by Derek (and set to “These Arms of Mine,” a song from the 1987 film), which in rehearsals created an intensely emotional moment for Jennifer.
“In one second, it really took me back almost like in a time capsule and I was with Patrick. I just miss him and I just realized how fast time goes,” she said in a clip, later telling Derek, “He was like you, young and gorgeous, and now he’s like gone.”
During competition, Jennifer kept it together, throwing her emotions into the magical number, which featured some of the late actor’s movie moves. The dance more than delighted the judging panel who gave Jennifer and Derek the highest score of the night – 24 out of 30.
”‘Baby’ is back where she belongs. I know someone up there is going to be very, very proud of you,” judge Bruno Tonioli said, referring to Patrick, who was a longtime celebrity supporter of “DWTS” before his death due to pancreatic cancer, one year and one week ago.
“Something very profound just happened right now,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said as she tried to choke back tears. “What you did — there’s such a connection to what’s beyond and what’s here and it’s just really beautiful to see.”
Certainly no surprise to anyone, singer Brandy and partner Maksim Chmerkovsiky nipped at Jennifer and Derek’s heels, netting 23 out of 30 for their Viennese waltz, but less predictable was Disney star Kyle Massey’s run for second place with a thrilling cha cha with Lacey Schwimmer that also delighted the judges to the tune of 23 points.
Plenty of celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis and competitor Rick Fox’s girlfriend Eliza Dushku, helped fill the ballroom seats, but noticeably absent was former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who despite reports suggesting she was planning to turn up to support her daughter, Bristol Palin, watched from elsewhere.
“SWEET diversion from politics! Dancing W’The Stars party in r livingroom tonight w/friends who r lovin’ this change of pace 4 Sweet Bristol!” Sarah Tweeted from her official Twitter account several hours before the show.
As for the politico’s “Sweet Bristol,” the young mom cha cha’d to Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” something she told Mark Ballas reminded her of her former fiancée, Levi Johnston.
“It’s like Levi’s and my like relationship, mama told me not to do it, but I did it anyway,” she said in a clip ABC showed before the pair’s dance.
As for the dance, the “regular girl,” which she called herself in a “DWTS” clip, and Mark, a two-time “DWTS” champ, rolled out a slow-stepping number that netted 18 points, but got encouraging remarks from the judges.
Len Goodman said it was “a very acceptable performance for Week 1,” while Carrie said she had “fantastic legs.”
Also turning heads in the first round of ballroom competition for Season 11 were the two professional athletes, who came out swinging, or rather, Viennese waltzing.
Former Laker Rick Fox, who danced with Cheryl Burke, got praise for his poise, despite a major height difference with his two-time “DWTS” champ partner, while ex-NFL star Kurt Warner was lauded for his smile and showmanship.
Sadly, things were tougher on David Hasselhoff, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Margaret Cho, who all scored just 15 points – a three way time for the bottom.
Margaret lost points for adding a comedic flare the judges didn’t understand, Hoff for his technique and “The Situation” for his inability to overcome his lack of practice time – just one week – to make a big impression.
“Did I tell you? You’ve got the guns, but not the ammunition,” judge Len Goodman told the “Jersey Shore” gent.
Here’s the full list of dances and scores:
Audrina Patridge & Tony Dovolani’s cha cha was given a score of 19/30
Kurt Warner & Anna Trebunskaya’s Viennese waltz was scored 19/30
Kyle Massey & Lacey Schwimmer cha cha’d to a score of 23/30
Rick Fox & Cheryl Burke’s Viennese waltz netted a score of 22/30
Margaret Cho & Louis van Amstel’s comedic Viennese waltz took home 15/30
Brandy & Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s Viennese waltz netted 23/30
Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas’ cha cha was scored 18/30
Florence Henderson & Corky Ballas cha cha’d to a score of 18/30
Michael Bolton & Chelsie Hightower’s Viennese waltz was scored 16/30
Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino & Karina Smirnoff cha cha’d to a score of 15/30
Jennifer Grey & Derek Hough’s Viennese waltz scored 24/30
David Hasselhoff & Kym Johnson took their cha cha to a score of 15/30