Season 12 begins!
This time around, "Dancing With The Stars" has brought together yet another group of actors, athletes and reality stars, with a supermodel and a popular Los Angeles DJ thrown in for good measure. You may not be familiar with all these names right now, but we've been able to meet many of the competitors during the "Dancing With The Stars" rehearsal time, and they are a very fun and friendly group. Warning, spoilers ahead!
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff- 24 out of 30
The surprise of the night! Everyone of a certain age remembers Ralph from "The Karate Kid." But, as he reminded us, that was 27 years ago. What we saw in the rehearsal piece showed a very stiff and unsure dancer. Karina pushed him, telling Ralph that Mr. Miyagi's training techniques have nothing on her (only "Karate Kid" fans will get that).
Ralph brought his foxtrot to the stage and immediately had the crowd on his side. Their dance was truly entertaining and watchable, with head judge Len Goodman calling it the best dance of the night. Carrie Ann Inaba called it an amazing surprise, and Bruno Tonioli added that Ralph was simply a hit.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy- 23 out of 30
Kirstie brought the fun to the dance floor and if that continues we are in for a great time. She's also brought out the lighter side to Maks, which makes these two watchable whether they are competing or horsing around in rehearsal. Kirstie tells us she's been a fan of "Dancing With The Stars" forever but admits it would probably be easier if she was a size 0 and 22-years-old. Any age issues were left behind because she came to the stage and simply "brought it."
While Kirstie told us her ultimate goal was just to remain upright throughout the whole dance, she went above and beyond. Bruno said she's just scratching the surface of what she can do; Carrie Ann called the performance refined, with sizzle; and Len said the performance made him feel good, which is exactly what the cha cha is supposed to do.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas- 21 out of 30
If you have kids, you know Chelsea. She's a star on the Disney Channel. If you don't have kids, she's new to you, but what an introduction!
Chelsea says she has no dance background, but she seemed to learn very quickly and Mark, as we've seen in past seasons, is a teacher who's able to tailor his choreography to his partner's strengths. They have a natural chemistry and the judges were impressed with their foxtrot. Len called her lovely and fresh, and both Bruno and Carrie Ann said they thought she showed great potential. The two judges each gave her very specific technical advice for the future which is always a good sign.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson- 21 out of 30
The same way Chelsea fans are of a certain age demographic, Ward's fans are of a very specific group: sports fans. That's not me, but I've come to learn he's been to the Super Bowl a few times, and was even named MVP. I didn't feel so bad about not knowing who he is when we learned his partner also said the same thing.
Hines explained that he's a wide receiver which means fancy footwork is part of his job. He knows how to work his smile (which I'm told is also part of his M.O.) and that's bound to help during this competition. They do a cha cha that Carrie Ann calls the "sparkle-iest" one she's ever seen. And Len probably had the most interesting comment of the night, telling Hines his "bottom" was tops.
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower - 19 out of 30
Romeo (don't call him Lil' Romeo) is in this to redeem the family name. The young hip hop artist and actor's dad is Master P, who longtime "Dancing With The Stars" viewers will remember as one of the worst dancers ever.
From the start you see Romeo is miles ahead of his dad on the dance floor. And while Chelsie is thrilled with his footwork, she's having a hard time getting him to move his hips. The judges were mostly complimentary about their cha cha, and again said they see potential, but he needs to pay attention to technique and get over being embarrassed about this new kind of performing.
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke- 19 out of 30
The live aspect of "Dancing With The Stars" doesn't bother Chris in the least. He's been a star of the wrestling world for decades, and at first he said he doesn't see that much difference between dancing and wrestling: both involve performing.
Once Chris began rehearsing with Cheryl, though, he quickly changed his tune. The duo showed a lot of energy and smiles during their cha cha, and while the judges appreciated that, they also asked for more content.
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin- 18 out of 30
There's no question that Petra was a supermodel. She's statuesque and stunning. You know she'll look fantastic in any costume. But can she dance? Dmitry teaches her an elegant foxtrot, which proves to be a great first dance for the couple. The judges said parts of the performance were charming, beautiful, and even breathtaking; but she needs to work on the finesse and the details in order to keep moving forward.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis van Amstel - 18 out of 30
Reality TV star Kendra calls herself a sexy tomboy and that's what she wants to bring to the "Dancing With The Stars" stage. She's a bundle of energy, but seemed to quickly learn that ballroom dancing is a lot harder than the club dancing she's done for most of her life. The judges thought she showed she was able to "strut her stuff" with the cha cha, and that while it was entertaining, she needs to be a bit more precise with her movements.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Anna Trebunskaya - 17 out of 30
The boxing legend is one of the most anticipated competitors this season. He's probably one of the best known people in this season's cast, but he'll need to prove his mettle on the dance floor instead of in the ring.
We learn during the rehearsal process that he is very tough on himself. Dude, it's only week one! He brings a bright smile and sense of fun to the dance floor, but is a little stiff. Len said his dance was like beer and pizza, when it should be more like fine wine and caviar.
Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani- 14 out of 30
Talk show host Wendy Williams is brass and bright, in the best ways possible, and early on she thinks "Dancing With The Stars" is a great fit for her because she's usually the one who is too fast and too loud. But the show intimidated her even during rehearsals.
She was in tears early on, even weeping into her weave at one point (seriously), and you can tell this woman wears her heart on her sleeve. Her cha cha showed how nervous she is, and the judges all told her to get over that and fast. Carrie Ann said she saw fear in her eyes, Len said she was timid, and Bruno simply asked, "Where's Wendy?"
Mike Catherwood and Lacey Schwimmer- 13 out of 30
People outside of Los Angeles are probably asking "Who's Mike Catherwood?" Who am I kidding? A lot of people in LA are asking, too. I happen to listen to his radio station, KROQ, and his syndicated radio show with Dr. Drew Pinsky, "Loveline," so there is a small part of the world that does know about Mike. He makes no bones about the fact that he is the least famous personality in the group; or about the fact that he has no dance experience whatsoever. His honesty is part of his charm, though, and you can't help but root for the guy.
The duo attempts a cha cha but all the judges have a hard time finding positive things to say to Mike and Chelsea. Len did show some bit of encouragement with the reminder that they ALL get to come back next week for another round of dancing before the first elimination night.