Wow, I was really surprised at how much I liked Bristol Palin last night. She seemed so sweet and shy and lacking in self-confidence -- not at all what I was expecting (a smaller version of her mother). I can't believe I'm saying this, but after the first show, I'm finding myself rooting for her. I'm usually partial to the person who, at the start of the show, seems unconfident but hard-working, probably because it reminds me of myself. But she seems to have a smidgen of talent as well -- a natural sense of movement ability and musicality. Anyway, here are my thoughts on last night's season premiere:
Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani, Cha Cha: I thought this was generally decent to good, if not anything spectacular. She had no turnout, which always bothers me in Latin. And she lifted her feet off the floor too often; you're supposed to trace the floor with your toe in Latin with every step you take. She looked nervous and it looked like she was trying hard to concentrate and remember her steps. But that's totally normal for a first-timer. I think she'll do okay once she gets over the nerves. This was just the first week. I think she can definitely improve. She received a 19, which I thought was a pretty low score for the judges' high praises.
Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya, Viennese Waltz: Aw, sweet how he glided over and kissed his wife at the end of that. Well, compared to those really pretty bad rumba and Argentine tango walks in his practice sessions, his VW was really quite nice. He had decent shaping in his upper body, he had a certain debonair (as Carrie Ann said) quality about his whole body movement, and he was a good partner for her and made her look good. He jumped a little in some of those pivot turns, but overall, he did far better than I was expecting. He's not a natural though and if he doesn't work hard, he's going to be out early on, but I do think if he got the waltz looking as polished as it did after those not so graceful looking practice sessions, then he can work hard and do well. He got a 19 as well.
Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer, Cha Cha: I didn't know anything about this guy before the show and I found myself really falling for his personality! He's so sweet! And I loved that Cha Cha -- as did the audience apparently. He doesn't have dance training because his feet weren't turned out and his hip motion wasn't proper, but he totally has a natural sense of rhythm and he's willing to do anything and really go over the top, and wow, he can just really move! And they work well together because she's a goof too. Carrie Ann calls him her first season crush, and I completely feel her. His score was 23.
Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke, Viennese Waltz. Cheryl's got another tall, tall athlete. Why don't they give her people more her size? They seem to like to pair her with tall guys and guys who seem to have a real shot at the trophy. I mean, wow, that dance was polished and beautiful and romantic and charming and sensual and dreamy and gorgeous and elegant and just -- perfect, imo. I'm kind of shocked -- I hadn't expected that of him. That really stole my heart. And there were no height problems whatsoever; somehow his posture was absolutely stunning and he maintained ideal contact with her in the martini glass frame. That kind of dancing is what made me fall in love with ballroom in the first place -- it brought me back to the first time I walked into the Marriott Marquis at the Brooklyn Bridge during the Manhattan Dancesport Championship and just knew I had to be a part of that world ... He got a 22.
Margaret Cho and Louis Van Amstel, Viennese Waltz: Hehe, I loved when she said that when she signed up for this she thought she'd be putting on pretty dresses and dancing; she didn 't realize she was signing up for therapy. Learning to dance ballroom as an adult can end up like a series of therapy sessions, for better or worse ... Well, I wasn't sure exactly what they were having her do with that cape. I thought she did pretty well with the steps, but it was obvious they were trying to have her be comically vicious and nutty and all -- it was obvious to me she intentionally got all twisted up in the cape. I didn't think they needed the theatrics here. She seemed to be able to hold her own with the actual dancing. And I agree with Len that the Viennese Waltz wasn't a really good dance to try all the comedics with. I can see those tricks working much better with the Paso Doble though. Judges gave them a too-low (imo) 15.
Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovksiy, Viennese Waltz: Overall, she looked lovely. I thought they looked very good in closed position. She had good shaping and kept up with the footwork. I didn't like it as much when they opened out into open position. I wasn't in love with her arms. It seemed like she kept throwing them up and out with too much vigor. It didn't look like she finished the line. It also looked like she didn't have the spotting on the turns completely down and was getting a bit dizzy. Those turns are hard, though, especially when done in such quick succession like that. I think Maks believed in her capabilities and really pushed her. She does have a natural talent for dance and I think she'll go far in this competition. Her score was a 28.
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas, Cha Cha: As I said above, I loved it! And I loved her! She seems really sweet and shy, like a regular girl who didn't ask for all the attention she gotten over the past few years. She was nervous, like anyone who's not a natural performer would be, but she was really good with the rhythm. Her hips were working really well, even though you can tell she felt uncomfortable. She had a hard time getting the steps down -- she forgot a few, and was looking down at her feet a bit, which can really put you off balance. But wow, I thought she had a natural talent. She had really good leg lines. She kept her legs straight, which a lot of newbies don't do in Cha Cha, and then it results in a sloppy look. With good training, I honestly think she could go far. I found myself for the first time ever getting slightly annoyed at Mark for being his usual show-off. I wanted to focus on her. Her scores were a too-low 18.
Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas, Cha Cha: That was cute. I mean, I don't have much else to say. I really like Corky so I hope she doesn't leave too early. I don't think she will just because of who she is. But to me she was reminiscent of Buzz Aldrin, Cloris Leachman. She is better than they were though, just nothing spectacular. And she got the steps right, no flubs. Judges gave her an 18.
Michael Bolton and Chelsie Hightower, Viennese Waltz. I thought he was fine. He was actually pretty good, especially his posture, since his frame was so hunched over during practice. He looked a little unsure of himself, and flubbed a step or two, and looked a little unbalanced. He also didn't really have the rise and fall down; he was too jumpy, which I think results from wrongly making every step into a rise. But it's only the first night; I think he can do better with more practice. He got a 16.
The Situation and Karina Smirnoff, Cha Cha. Ha, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at someone's practice session! What a joker. Really making fun of himself, and, yeah, his mistakes were pretty funny. He didn't have the form down at all, but he was so much fun, and he has rhythm and a natural movement ability. Those knee wobbles and shoulder shimmies were really pretty good. And he had a section of really fast cha chas that were very well done. He definitely has potential. He is one of my early favorites if mainly because he makes me laugh. He got a 15 from the judges.
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, Viennese Waltz. That was really good. It's interesting though -- because it seemed she did some of the harder things better than some of the easier. She did all of her many turns beautifully, and the arabesque was lovely, and she had a really beautiful frame that she maintained throughout during all of that dancing in closed position. But then some in-between steps just looked a bit awkward, like it seemed like she was on the wrong foot when she went to arch back at one point, and she couldn't arch as far. Anyway, it was really lovely and I'll be excited to see her go further and see what more she can do. She got a 24, the highest score of the night.
David Hasselhoff and Kym Johnson, Cha Cha. Well, he seemed to have fun, but he doesn't have a natural sense of rhythm or musicality and he seems to have a hard time learning steps. So I'm not sure how far he's going to go here. Len cracked me up with his, "It's never too early to panic." Judges gave him a 15.
So, that leaves David, Margaret, and The Situation in the judges' bottom three, two of whom, problematic routines aside, I really enjoyed watching. But, as we all know, the judges' scores don't always mean that much. What do you all think? Any early favorites?