Review: Olympic medalists and a mom shine on Dancing With The Stars

Mark Ballas and Candace Cameron Bure excelled in a creative Contemporary routine on Dancing With The Stars.
Mark Ballas and Candace Cameron Bure excelled in a creative Contemporary routine on Dancing With The Stars. Photo: ABC/TheVocalVault

SAN DIEGO, March 17, 2014 –  A few surprises, pleasant and unpleasant, several laughs and promising performances mean a new season of “Dancing With the Stars” is officially underway.

Judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli were a bit too generous with early scores and ended up inflating others down the line. Their comments were mainly kind and constructive this early in the season.

READ ALSO: LIVE CHAT TONIGHT Dancing With The Stars, 8 p.m. ET: who goes home first?

All couples danced one of three routines, a Foxtrot, Cha Cha Cha, or Contemporary dance. These were the same styles danced in the first week of last season. They are among the most straightforward and forgiving to learn.

The couple at the top of the leaderboard is no surprise. Charlie White and Sharna Burgess closed the show with a  Contemporary routine that showed off White’s lifting and attention to detail. It was the perfect style for him to start Season 18, and the pair recived a sky-high score of 27 points.

Chasing Charlie and Sharna after week one is the big surprise of the night. TV actress, author and mom Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas danced a strong, sparkling, energy filled Contemporary routine to the current hit “Burn” by Ellie Goudling. Ballas choreographed it around clever floor moves. Candace and Mark may have benefitted a little from lowered expectations, getting a nine from Carrie Ann and two eights from the men for a score of 25 points.

READ ALSO: Dancing With The Stars Week 2: who says goodbye Monday?

Three couples are tied for second with 24 points, all eights from the judges. Leading the way is Paralympic bronze medal snowboarder Amy Purdy, who had only returned from Sochi on Saturday. Her Cha Cha Cha had excellent hip action and considering she is a double amputee it was stunning to watch her with Derek Hough.

Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy performed a Foxtrot with McKellar playing a saucy character. She seems to be trying to emote a little too much when she could have focused a touch more on her dancing.

Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy danced their Cha Cha Cha to the Icona Pop song “All Night.” Meryl and Maks dance with speed and attack, the sign of a skilled dancer. They were likely underscored, but it won’t matter. They are finals bounds.

Australian pop star Cody Simpson and new pro Witney Carson turned on the young sassy charm for their Cha Cha Cha laced with a lot of hip hop, but they got away with it. The judges liked what they saw and scored it 22 points.

NeNe Leakes brought plenty of big personality and more than a few decent dance skills for her Cha Cha Cha with Tony Dovoloni. Dancing first is always tough, and their 21 points might have been higher later in the show. Also scoring 21 points were James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd for a Foxtrot that looked a lot like a Contemporary routine.

Stonefaced NHL enforcer Sean Avery didn’t change charater much for his Contemporary routine with Karina Smirnoff.  Smirnoff was smart to put in a lot of lifts, but the dance lacked finesse, for 20 points.

Diana Nyad and Henry Byalikov’s Foxtrot to “Beyond the Sea: by Bobby Darin got better as it went along. Nyad has a strong frame and good arms. It must be the swimming. She scored 18 points.

The season’s first train wreck of a routine was out of this world, literally. Billy Dee Wiliams set a new standard of awkward, Buzz Aldrin on a bad day. The producers loaded up the “Star Wars” themed routine with Imperial Stormtrooper backup dancers, R2D2 on stage and Ewoks in the audience. Even Emma Slater’s Princess Leia hairstyle didn’t help. They received 15 points and it was a mercy score.

Drew Carey scores a photobomb on Cody Simpson and Witney Carson:
Drew Carey scores a photobomb on Cody Simpson and Witney Carson backstage. Photo: ABC/Twitter

All of the stars will be back for Week 2 before there is an elimination. The stars will all dance the ballroom or Latin style they told the producers they most wanted to learn. The lineup was announced at the end of the show:

Nene and Tony: Jive
Amy and Derek: Swing
Meryl and Maks: Swing
Candace and Mark: Rumba
Danica and Val: Samba
Drew and Cheryl: Jive
Sean and Karina: Salsa
James and Peta: Salsa
Diana and Henry: Cha Cha Cha
Billy Dee and Emma: Tango
Cody and Witney: Tango
Charlie and Sharna: Tango

“Dancing With the Stars” returns for Week 2 on Monday night, March 24, at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time on the ABC Television Network.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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  • Normally Maksim annoys me with his constant whining, but he really had a case here! The cha-cha-cha that he did with Meryl Davis was spot on, everybody said they loved it including the judges, yet the scorecards were mediocre. What’s up with that? Are they purposely trying to manufacture controversy for ratings? Anyway their performance was great, I love Meryl’s enthusiasm, and I absolutely loved that they chose to dance to Icona Pop’s “All Night,” what a great fit