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DWTS recap: Season 18 opening

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DWTS Season 18 opened with Jason Derulo showing off a few moves of his own with the DWTS pros while singing his single “Talk Dirty.” As expected the choreography was sexy with Derulo really putting his dance prowess on display. In the audience we caught a glimpse of Jordin Sparks-Derulo's girlfriend-and past mirror ball winner Kristi Yamaguchi.

Then we were reminded that Erin Andrews has taken up the microphone as co-host to Tom Bergeron. Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba returned as the fixture judges. This season is also to feature a twist where later in the season the audience votes could mix up the pairs a bit but it seems we’ll need to wait to find out more.

First up TV personality Nene Leakes danced the Cha-cha-cha with pro Tony Dovolani. Nene definitely brought the personality and appeared to be a quick study who worked incredibly hard to make the choreography fairly sharp and flawless. It will be interesting to watch her improve as the season goes forward. Len called the performance an “all you can eat buffet of fun” but advised her to work on her arms and hips. Bruno loved her energy and enthusiasm suggesting foot placement could be improved. Carrie Ann wants “bigger” movement from Nene. Overall, she earned 21 points with a 7 from each judge.

Big Time Rush band front man James Maslow was partnered with pro Peta Murgatroyed. These two apparently have a past (per Peta they actually went on a date!) and so the meeting was a surprise and deliberately awkward. They danced a Fox Trot which showed that James has a masculine grace about him that is really appealing. His feet were fairly decent along with his arm placement although it was his carriage and ability to be a stable partner that was really striking. Bruno applauded his “determination” as well as his “attack” and “vigor” while advising him to breath more to help the dance look more effortless. Carrie Ann admitted to a school girl crush effusiving over James’ “natural elegance.” Len drew a laugh saying that both he and James were on the show as “eye candy” and said that James “sold it.” He, too, earned 7s from the judges.

Fan of DWTS and former child star Danica McKellar was up next with Val Chmerkovskiy in the Fox Trot. Danica is very cute and animated although perhaps more was expected because of the perfectly sharp turns she performed in the rehearsal reel. Her feet were, however, very sharp and Danica has a lot of natural grace… even as she floated away from the floor to give Bruno a kiss at the end. Carrie Ann said the performance was great but cautioned Danica to watch her shoulders. Len said she was “terrific” for a first impression and said to watch her left hand which tended to be a little stiff. Bruno was still coming down from cloud nine because of the kiss-which might not have been planned-calling her a great kisser and said she played off Val very well. Her performance earned 24 points with an 8 from each judge.

Hockey pro Sean Avery was paired with Karina Smirnoff in a Contemporary dance. Karina took advantage of his athletic strength in a series of great lifts and catches. Sean is a little stiff-as to be expected for a pure athlete-but put in a great effort and was very deliberate. Len admired the intensity and of the performance as well as the “terrific lifts” but wanted to see more finesse. Bruno said Sean was “powerful” with a lot of focus but advised working on connecting the transitions a little more smoothly. Carrie Ann found Sean “fascinating”-a comment which finally made the man smile-but told him to point his toes. Sean earned a 20 overall and admitted to watching Footloose to prepare for the show.

Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater were next in a Star Wars themed Cha-cha-cha. For a man in his 70s with two hip replacements he did quite well with timing and placement and ended with a winning smile. Bruno-still fuming over the freezing of Han Solo-encouraged Billy Dee to dance a little bigger. Carrie Ann wanted more effort. Len was impressed at how he stayed on time and knew the routine. They awarded Billy Dee and Emma 15 points to the vocal dismay of the audience.

Ice dancing gold medalist Meryl Davis is dancing against her Olympian partner with returning pro Maks Chmerkovskiy. In rehearsal Maks was pleasantly surprised by his partner’s prowess off the ice. There was a cute opening to their performance where Meryl and skating partner Charlie White were in an Olympics scene waving triumphant bouquets of flowers in the air. Maks comes to steal Meryl away to the dance floor for the Cha-cha-cha. Meryl was so lovely and precise that it almost seems unfair to have ice skaters in the competition. But to be deprived of the pleasure would also be unfair. Carrie Ann praised her “spectacular” arms. Len said Meryl was “nice on ice and good on wood.” Bruno called Meryl the “queen of spins” and was in awe of her lyricism. Meryl and Maks walked away with 24 points which left them (spoiler!) temporarily in the lead.

Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas hit the floor (literally) in a Contemporary piece that blew everyone away. Who knew that DJ Tanner could dance like that? Candace was strong, precise and so brave going into the upside down lifts. Len said “well done” and “Candace, you can dance!” Bruno loved the drama of the performance and how Candace used the floor even adding “you’re a contemporary dancer!” Carrie Ann called her an “incredible dancer” and said “where did you come from?” Candace and Mark’s score was 25 points.

Pop star Cody Simpson was paired with Witney Carson, a SYTYCD alum and first season DWTS pro in a Cha-cha-cha. There was some interesting Pop and Lock mixed into the choreography playing upon Cody’s strengths and he definitely proved himself in showmanship and rhythm. However, it would have been nice to see Cody use his long legs a little more. Bruno said he was “fresh and cool” with “charisma by the truckload” although it was the basic steps that required more work. Carrie Ann said Cody had a “fantastic” upper body but his lower half needed to work harder. Len was pleased with the energy level and echoed the critiques of the other judges. Cody and Witney’s first score was 22 points.

A slimmed-down Drew Carey dance with pro Cheryl Burke in a Fox Trot on a Monopoly game board. Drew was much better than expected utilizing his showmanship and comedic timing for a pleasant performance. Carrie Ann called the performance a “crowd pleaser” with impressive form and style. Len said it was “very watchable” and “fun.” Bruno enjoyed Carey’s personal touches to the dance and found it “entertaining.” Drew and Cheryl came away with 21 points.

Paralympian and Bronze Medalist Amy Purdy-an athlete with two prosthetic legs-danced a Cha-cha-cha with DWTS pro and Season 17 winner Derek Hough. Amy is very fluid for an athlete and obviously has a good use of rhythm. Len said Amy had earned a “gold in the Cha-cha-cha.” Bruno called her “Wonder Woman” and said he was “gobsmacked” at her timing and performance level. Carrie Ann said Amy was a “beacon of light in this room” and felt honored to watch her dance. Amy and Derek earned 24 points.

Swimmer Diana Nyad-most recently known for swimming from Cuba to Florida-was joined by first season pro Henry Byalikov in a Fox Trot. Diana displayed a lot of self confidence, good timing and excellent posture despite having admitted she does not normally wear heels let alone dance in them. Bruno said she had not danced badly but encouraged her to work to become “smoother.” Carrie Ann remarked on how Diana became more comfortable as the dance progressed and looks forward to the time when Diana is accustomed to dancing in heels. Len said the performance was “better than expected” and told Diana to lift her ribcage. Diana and Henry’s score was 18 points. Diana’s profound response to the score was “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” and promised better dancing to come.

Olympian Charlie White and pro Sharna Burgess closed the show in a Contemporary number. Charlie proved himself an amazing partner on and off the ice. This is a gorgeous partnership and it was difficult to distinguish the pro from the contestant in this pairing. Carrie Ann said they were a “perfect match” and “poetry in motion.” Len said this was the perfect dance for Charlie and that he was eager to see the rest of the competition. Bruno said it was a “high standard to maintain” and “astonishing.” Charlie and Sharna earned 27 which was the highest score of the evening.

The show ended with a surprise for the pros as next week’s dance techniques were announced as requested by their contestant partners:

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

DWTS airs in Albuquerque on Mondays at 7pm (MST) on ABC KOAT 7.

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