— The ballroom opened up for business once again Monday night as the 13th season of “Dancing With the Stars” premiered, and if Night One was anything to go by, the top contenders and the space wasters are already easy to spot — unless one happened to be looking at the scoreboard.
Yes, as it’s often been the case in the past, the numbers on the judges paddles didn’t exactly line up with the fancy footwork on the floor. Need an example? Just look no farther than the numbers earned by the man responsible for most of “Dancing’s” pre-season headlines, Chaz Bono.
The author and transgender activist took the floor alongside pro Lacey Schwimmer, and despite voicing concerns about his age and weight, put on an impressive (at least for a first effort) cha-cha.
What was striking about Bono’s main moves, compared to those of many others Monday night, was that he actually mastered the footwork. The routine was far from flawless, and he could us some work on arm lines and endurance, but his feet were steps ahead of the competition.
The judges thought so, too, with head judge Len Goodman praising Bono’s “good footwork and great attitude,” and Carrie Ann Inaba cheering, “You can dance!” At least that’s what they said.
Moments later, their paddles said something else entirely with a 5 and 6 respectively (and another 6 from Bruno Tonioli). What happened between the praise and the points? Who knows? But it wasn’t the only time it happened during the evening.
Another strong freshman dance came from fashion guru and TV host Carson Kressley, a man Bono and the night’s other top hoofers hopefuls — Chynna Phillips and Ricki Lake — should watch out for. What Kressley lacks in refined technique, he more than makes up for in absolute entertainment.
The ballroom could hardly contain Kressley’s energy, bold moves and gift for glitter. The in-house audience agreed, as evidenced by the fact that they got out of their newly expanded and made-over balcony seats to give him a standing O.
His score? The very same set of numbers Bono received — which happened to be quite a bit lower than the ones those aforementioned leading ladies raked in. And they were lower still than some of the middle-of-talent-pool players.
Among the needs-improvement crowd that outscored Bono and Kressley were the adorably dorky David Arquette, who could use a dose of confidence to go along with his set of 6s. There was also the night’s sentimental favorite and leaderboard topper J.R. Martinez, who committed one of Inaba’s biggest no-nos, a lift, without so much as a mention. (Note to Carrie Ann: The man is a war hero; he can totally handle a little dancing criticism.)
Also pulling up the middle was soccer star Hope Solo. Despite the help of ballroom’s pro partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Solo stumbled after a strong start. At least she moved a little better than reality star Kristin Cavallari.
But there were worse things than slight slipups, as another Chmerkovskiy, Maks’ little brother Val, found out when he hit the floor with George Clooney’s former gal pal Elisabetta Canalis. The model not only stumbled, she failed to show so much as a spark of personality or chemistry, which led to the biggest ballroom crime of the night — boredom.
For his part, the younger Chmerkovskiy did his best to counteract that with gratuitous shirtlessness. (Nice try. Really!)
The night saw two other yawn-inducers. There was reality star Rob Kardashian, who after promising to out-dance sister Kim, only proved that a lack of musicality really can run in the family. And no-nonsense prosecutor-turned-host Nancy Grace, who’s rarely been accused being boring, somehow managed it while wearing a sparkling dress and attempting a cha-cha. Go figure.
But no one could accuse the worst dancer of the night of being boring. Not-so-subtle, 6-foot-7 NBA star Ron Artest (also known by his new name, Metta World Peace), made a memorable, if lumbering trip across the floor that inspired Goodman to proclaim the routine “all sizzle, no sausage” — whatever that means.
So, who will be the first “Dancing” star to pack up their heels and go home Tuesday night? Well, while the back of the pack contenders are clear, the call is a tough one. Mr. Artest-turned-World-Peace has the fan base and the ... zaniness? Yeah, he has the zaniness to hang on for a couple of weeks no matter what he does on the dance floor. A dedicated fan base should also save a certain former legal eagle who didn’t exactly dazzle.
That means it looks like the battle for the first cut will come down to Kardashian and Canalis.
Poor Val. He never stood a chance.