The "Dancing with the Stars" fall 2013 season premiered Sept. 16 on ABC with an all-new cast of celebrity mirror ball trophy hopefuls. Although nearly all of the newly-formed pairs performed admirably, it was "Glee" alum Amber Riley who cha cha cha'd her way into the "DWTS" history books with a hip shaking, leader board topping effort.
During her pre-recorded rehearsal segment, the affable Amber explained her rationale behind participating on the show, calling dance a "dream deferred" because she hadn't been able to afford both dance and singing while growing up. She also hoped to be a positive role model for the younger generation, declaring "I'm a big girl... I think it'll be good for young girls seeing someone my size trying to dance."
When Amber hit the ballroom with partner and reigning pro champion Derek Hough, she looked mirror ball trophy-worthy in a glittering metallic dress and danced hard to the sounds of Little Mix's "Wings." Although the dance was a fast one, Amber looked cool and confident throughout, hitting all of her steps with impressive precision and bringing a delightful sense of sass and spice to her role.
Bruno Tonioli jumped to his feet and dubbed Amber "the tigress of season 17." Carrie Ann Inaba bowed to her before exclaiming "you turned that cha cha out!" Even the often cranky head judge Len Goodman was impressed and offered up a colorful sound byte of his own with "I need a medic here.... I'm palpitating, perspirating and flatulating.... Week one and you come out and dance like that... fabulous."
Amber and Derek's score of 27 points not only topped the premiere week leader board, but also made the actress only the second celebrity contestant in "DWTS" history to score three nines in a debut performance. The only other participant to achieve the difficult feat was Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, whose week one foxtrot with Mark Ballas during season six also snared a 27. Yamaguchi and Ballas went on to win the title.
Although the season 17 cast is rife with talent, Amber's chances look good, according to a handful of celebrities who tweeted praise in her direction following the show. Amber's "Glee" co-star Kevin McHale wrote "That was amazing!!! @MsAmberPRiley & @derekhough were INCREDIBLE!!!! #DWTS" while "American Idol" alum Angie Miller tweeted "Yup, @MsAmberPRiley just KILLED IT on @DancingABC! Work girl!! #DWTS" and Us Weekly issued a "DIVA ALERT!!!!"
The "Dancing with the Stars" fall 2013 season resumes Sept. 23 on ABC with a second set of routines by the 12 pairs, and the first elimination.