Steamy, stunning, smooth and full of surprises, “Dancing with the Stars” kicked off Season 14 with what the judges called the best premiere night in the show’s history, on Monday.
From the judges – and one professional dancer – who shouted their thanks to ABC for casting a Latin heartthrob, to another celeb whose graceful, opening moves were compared to the late, great Gregory Hines, the Season 14 premiere was filled with headline-making moments.
British opera darling Katherine Jenkins and professional dancer Mark Ballas had been rehearsing for the show in London, but what they brought to the Los Angeles stage was nothing short of show-stopping. And their seemingly effortless foxtrot, full of beauty, left the judges heaping them with praise.
“I think we all thought we were watching like two pros together. You were fabulous. Best first dance on the first episode, ever,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba raved, as the two earned two 9s (from Carrie Ann and Bruno Tonioli) and an 8 (from Len Goodman).
Earning 9s from the judges on a first dance is a rarity in the competition, but another celebrity – Jaleel White – hit the ballroom with such a sparkling foxtrot with partner Kym Johnson, that he too scooped two coveted 9s, and one 8 from Len.
“I thought I was watching the great Gregory Hines and as a compliment, it couldn’t get better,” Bruno said, as Jaleel bowed his head in gratitude.
But while Katherine and Jaleel were delightful and poised, it was two others celebs – and their pros — who managed to raise the temperature in the studio.
Model-turned-actor William Levy, who famously starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in her “I’m Into You” video last year, churned out a cha cha with two-time “DWTS” champ Cheryl Burke that brought the heat.
Show host Tom Bergeron had to wave his arms to quiet down the studio audience, who gave them a lengthy standing ovation, but Carrie Ann went one step further in her own critique.
“First of all, I would like to thank ABC for my job. Very much appreciate you, ABC,” she said, sharing her emotions over William’s cha cha, which earned the pair third place and 24 points. “You can dance… I really like the way you move!”
And Cheryl too couldn’t help but express her gratitude for the hunk who hit the dance floor with his toned arm muscles on full display.
“Thank you, ABC,” she shouted after the pair received their scores. “Thank you to the BBC! Thank you to all the producers for my job.”
At 67, she’s the oldest competitor on the show, but Gladys Knight showed she had pep, grooving to an animated cha cha with Nancy Grace’s former pro – Tristan MacManus – back for his second season.
“The legend has got the moves!” Bruno raved. “You’ve got class; you’ve got sass, and you’re a star – a real one. I salute you.”
The legendary singer wasn’t the only one with sass. Tying her 23-point score was “The View’s” Sherri Shepherd, who whipped out a cheeky little foxtrot with another pro returning for his second go at mirrorball glory – Val Chmerkovskiy — Maks’ younger brother.
“What you brought is the joy of dance into this ballroom. I can sum it up in three words: Fun! Fun! Fun,” Len said.
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Val even managed to earn a few more points than Maksim Chmerkovksiy, who, alongside partner Melissa Gilbert, tied for the bottom of the leaderboard with Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff, and Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani.
Part of the problem might have been down to the complexity of the ballroom bad boy’s routine, which the judges noticed was not the typical Week 1 faire.
“I’ve gotta say, I thought it was a very ambitious routine,” Len told Melissa. “I thought you coped well with a difficult dance.”
“Camp Rock” star Roshon Fegan – dancing with Chelsie Hightower – made an impression, landing in a four-way tie for fourth, and prompting Britney Spears to Tweet after watching him live.
“Just went to Dancing with the Stars to support Jason’s friend Roshon Fegan,” Britney said, referencing her fiance, Jason Trawick.
“He is so cute!” she continued of Roshon. “And wow can that boy dance!”
The first contestant to receive the boot will face elimination on next Tuesday’s show.
The full leaderboard was:
- Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas took their foxtrot to a whopping 26/30
- Jaleel White and Kym Johnson performed a foxtrot, which earned 26/30
- William Levy and Cheryl Burke took their cha cha to a score of 24/30
- Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus tackled the cha cha and earned 23/30
- Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya performed the foxtrot and earned 23/30
- Roshon Fagan and Chelsie Hightower took their cha cha to a score of 23/30
- Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkoskiy tackled the foxtrot and earned 23/30
- Maria Menounos and Derek Hough cha cha’d their way to 21/30
- Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd took on the cha cha and earned 21/30
- Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani tackled the foxtrot and earned 20/30
- Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy cha cha’d their way to 20/30
- Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff tackled the foxtrot and were scored 20/30