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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Season 16 kicks off

March 19, 2013|By Allyssa Lee

Live from Hollywood: It’s the 16th season of “Dancing With the Stars!” In the grand ballroom tradition we’ve got our old favorites, some new pros and stars of varying wattages (as Tom said, “We get most of our cast when their judgment’s impaired”) lighting up the glitterverse in all their fringed glory. 

The first performance program had each of the twelve couples dancing either the fox trot, the cha cha, or a newly introduced contemporary routine. It was also a non-elimination round, so each couple will have another chance to impress the judges and the viewers before the first elimination occurs next week. Which stars shone the brightest, and which were in danger of fizzling in this Sweet Season 16 bracket? Here’s a rundown:

Oh, Zendaya – you’re missing a last name and your Disney Channel show “Shake it Up!” demos to an age I haven’t seen since the last millennium. But darn it if you didn’t just win me over with your contemporary routine. Val Chmerkovskiy, color me impressed as well. Here I thought all that support and personal attention was reserved specifically for Kelly Monaco. But… “I don’t want you to be good. I want you to be incredible”? You’ve vaulted up the pro ranks, my friend. While her ballroom skills have yet to be tested, Zendaya came out with great promise the first week. She was lithe and elegant with great sync and a nice noodley quality that swayed and bent in time as Val whipped her up and down the floor. “That was amazing, beautiful,” enthused Carrie Ann, raising the roof. She added that Zendaya had “a maturity that’s unexpected out of a 16-year-old.” The young actress and hip-hop dancer had head judge (and newlywed!) Len uttering three words “I’d never thought I’d say in week one: That. Was Great.” “Sweet 16 and superb debut,” said Bruno. Bruno also took care to praise the “wonderful choreography,” which had Val doing his happy dance. Maks who? Total: 24 out of 30.

PHOTOS: Season 16 contestants

Also getting things off to a shimmery start were country singer Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough. Kellie may have been through the “American Idol” circuit, but get her in front of a camera and she’s just a down-home girl with an extra strong twang living in Nashville. She’s seemed to find her match in Derek, and not just because they sport the same haircut. Kellie is goofy yet ambitious: She really wants to push herself “and win that shiny ball.” And her cha cha cha was pretty great. She’s got the swivel, the fringe, and the shimmy down. “Yum yum pig’s bum that was fun,” said Len, even though the legs were a little stiff. Bruno thought “the shapes of things to come look very very interesting.” Carrie Ann thought it was fantastic. “You have incredible torso movement, my darling,” she said. “You’ve got sass and you’ve got class.” Total: 21 – apparently, a lucky Derek Week 1 tradition.

Following in the steps of “DWTS” champ Shawn Johnson is Alexandra “Aly” Raisman, most decorated U.S. gymnast of the London games. Her life up till this point has been all about gymnastics. And now it’s time to let loose and have fun. “Aly, ooh la la!” crowed Bruno. “You can shake it like the best of them … but sometimes stretch the back of the legs, the back of the knees.” Carrie Ann saw a lot of potential in the Olympic gymnast. Only, “I want you to not be so safe,” she said. “I think you can push it a bit more.” Len was pretty effusive, saying “the rhythm and feel were fantastic” and “I loved the vitality you brought to that dance.” She’s got to get that drone out of her voice, though. Total: 21.

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