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Season 18 ‘Dancing with the Stars’ premiere: Gold medalist Charlie White leads

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The season premiere of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” Monday night, on St. Patrick’s Day, started off with a dirty ditty from R&B/pop singer Jason Derulo. After this opening spectacle, it was two-hours of remarkable dances from a cast of 12 new celebrities and their pro dancing partners. Each couple would dance either a cha-cha-cha, foxtrot, or contemporary.

It was quite obvious from this first episode who the likely contenders will be, and those who’ll be going home in the early phase. However, anything can change in the meantime. Someone who starts out with low scores can rise to the occasion and surprise everyone. That will be interesting to watch.

A number of changes were presented immediately in the live telecast. What a pleasant surprise to see a new face as co-host, Erin Andrews. She was relaxed, jovial, and confident throughout her post-performance interviews.

Extremely high expectations were put on the Olympic gold medalists in ice dancing, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. It was Charlie who had the advantage of the contemporary dance with his partner, Sharna Burgess. They closed out the show with a breath-taking number filled with lifts that came natural to White. The judges could find no fault by awarding them the highest score of the night, 27 out of 30. Next week they’ll have to tackle the strict ballroom dance of the tango.

On the flipside, Meryl and returning pro Maks Chmerkovskiy, always a fan favorite, wowed the crowd with an incredible cha-cha, complete with amazing spins by Meryl. Naturally the performance had some minor criticisms, since much is expected from her ice dance background. Meryl and Maks placed third with a score of 24/30, tying with Danica McKellar and Paralympian Amy Purdy.

There were some pleasant surprises coming from celebrities where the stakes aren’t quite as high to deliver. Candace Cameron Bure’s contemporary dance with Mark Ballas featured opening floor moves captured by aerial cameras that were simply stunning. Be on the lookout for Candace. They received the second highest score of the night, 25 out of 30, all by themselves.

Drew Carey of “The Price is Right” was entertaining, comical, and possibly a contender, a la last season’s Bill Engvall. Paralympian Amy Purdy, who received a bronze medal at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi days ago, is another one to keep an eye on. You simply have to see her to believe it.

The biggest surprise was watching Diana Nyad’s foxtrot with the new pro dancer, Henry Byalikov. While watching her rehearsal video, it looked as if she may struggle on the dance floor. Instead, Diana came out with an exuberant personality all the way through. It will be interesting to see Nyad’s journey on “Dancing with the Stars.”

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