Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DWTS Season 20: Could This Be Val C's Season?

Val Chmerkovskiy and Rumer Willis during the Season 20 premiere of Dancing with the Stars. Courtesy of ABC.
Last season (Season 19) of Dancing with the Stars, during Week 1, there was a performance, the last performance, which wowed the crowd so much, I remember thinking: "Wow! How can anyone beat them?" That couple was Alfonso and Witney, who ended up triumphing with the Mirror Ball at the end of the season.

There was such a performance again last night.

Mind you, for someone to have it so together to in Week 1 have a polished and lyrical foxtrot to present, it means they want to win. Valentin Chmerkovskiy (so close for so many seasons, yet never having won a Mirror Ball yet) and Rumer Willis just blew me away. For season after season now, his dances and his choreography have just been stunning, but it's always been something.

Last season, don't know if there was a sexual thing between the two partners, but whatever it was started out like a hot comet and fizzled into an emotional mess, which to me, detracted from the dancing. Rumer Willis, while she may have emotional issues of her own, seemed like the type of competitor who'd keep Winning the Mirror Ball foremost in her mind.

Alfonso beat Val & Co. last season in large part because he always kept focused on winning. And especially on stepping up in the clinch when it was important. Delivering impactful dances when the judges were looking for them.

Personally, I thought Val was closest to winning when he danced with Zendaya. But maybe (as no less than two judges said last night) THIS is his season. We shall wait and see, but boy, did he and Rumer Willis wow us last night, vaulting to the top of the Leaderboard easily.

Another surprise (to me) from last night (the previous strong team until Val and Rumer stepped up) was the dancing of Allison Holker and Riker. Holker has had a bit of a bumpy time of it so far, not really fitting in easily to the show as it stands. This first dance this season was her saying, "Hey, I got this!" And wow, does she!

Rocking out of the Season 20 gate, with her partner Riker (who is second cousins with Derek and Julianne Hough), Allison showed she's a real contender this time around.

She had come from a different show (So You Think You Can Dance) with an attitude (to me, anyway) like her stunning choreography and name in the dance world was gonna cause her to ace this DWTS thing. Well, no. I think she was genuinely shocked at how hard it really was. How much the judges' criticism can sting, and how hard it is to get out of the hole once you get there.

But the upside of that (and why she was hired, frankly) is that DWTS wants (and NEEDS) what's she's got. It's been stuck very firmly with the old folks who like ballroom dance (where they started 10 years ago). It wants a piece of the younger action that Allison can bring.

So, I hope they all work it out. Judging by this first dance, signs are promising. Maybe this time she has a partner she can work with?

Those two couples (at the top of the Leaderboard) were the ones who wowed me during Week 1. Let's look at some of the other strong contenders.

Derek Hough and Nastia dance in black and white! How'd they do that?
You can't have a discussion about top contenders without immediately adding five-time Mirror Ball winner and judges' favorite Derek Hough. This season, his partner is an Olympic gymnast. We know how well that's gone before. And their dance started out in what seemed like black and white. It was stunning. So yeah, add him to the frontrunners' pack.

It is going to be interesting since both competitors are based (this season) in New York City, and are going to be flying back and forth all season long.  We shall see how that wears on them.

Another competitor who hasn't won in awhile, Peta Murgatroyd, last won with an NFL football player. Guess who her partner is this season?

I have always loved her dancing. So yes, please, let's put her in the mix of those to watch, too.

For me, it was a "so close but no cigar" moment for Mark Ballas last season. He also hasn't won in awhile, and I'd like to see him win again. Interestingly, this season he is paired with DWTS' youngest competitor ever (14 years old), best known as Katniss Everdean's little sister, Willow Shields will be one to watch.

And, oh yes, we can't forget The Bachelor. Chris Soules, aka Chris Farming, just finished a successful season where he became engaged with Whitney. YAY. So, it's a natural for a good Bachelor (not Juan Pablo, yuck phewy) to roll over into the next ABC property, DWTS. Funnily enough, he got paired with last season's winner, coincidentally also named Witney. And I'd give them a good run to midseason.

And with that, with that discussion of Chris The Bachelor, we get into some of the more joke contestants, who may or may not stand the grueling test of a long DWTS season.

So here are a couple more maybes who turned in surprisingly good performances in Week 1.

Robert and Kym. What the heck was that?

Robert, already another ABC property (of their successful Shark Tank show), and Kym Johnson (who's been away too long) had a very fun dance. Lots of flirty sexy stuff going on. Surprisingly good dancing. I don't wanna see their dancing particularly, I just wanna see more of their flirting going on. That was fun.

I mean, really! Come on!

The other one, who brought the audience to tears... and I myself am fighting so hard to not be snarky about this right now... was the team of Sharna and Noah. Sharna is, for my money, the sexiest of all the female competitors. She is paired this season with... well, here...

Not to demean the man, but I really hate when they do this gimmicky thing. And they've done it already. That's all I'm gonna say about that. That being said, it was a really beautiful dance.

So this will be very interesting to watch. (Oh, and he's also an Iraq war vet, so get your tearducts ready.)

Moving on...

We are left with the joke candidates who will be gone soon, in some manner or other.

Let's see. There's the large-breasted woman best known for eating a hamburger in a commercial while being ogled by men...

Keo's right. I don't think she's going to be booted FIRST, but she's on her way to being booted. I don't care what he does.

We have the luminous and wonderful Miss Patti LaBelle, an amazing singer who really shouldn't be dancing. Although it was fun to see her command the stage dancing to Lady Marmalade.

We have former judge (who didn't really understand dancing) now taking to the dance floor himself, Red Foo, paired with someone whom I hope wins sometime, the wondrous Emma Slater.

They may last awhile, but this is not her season.

Lastly, the WORST competitor out of the gate, the one I expect to go home on the first elimination: Suzanne Somers. I feel bad for Tony Dovolani. I love seeing him dance, but the partners he's been paired with lately? Yikes.

"Physical"? Really? *cringe* Dreadful. Horrible. Please make them go away.

In other news, the opening montage which paid honor to their ten years of dancing was quite wonderful. We had some mic problems, some women tripping over costumes and overall horrific women's hair, but the seasons always have some stumbles at the beginning.

Judge Len, thankfully, is back, although there had been rumors that he wouldn't be. Tom and Erin are still there. The music sounded wonderful, some songs being better than others.

It should be noted, too, that while Cheryl Burke made mention that her contract was up last season and she'd be moving on to do other things, no one made such mention of another favorite, Karina Smirnoff, who is noticeably absent from this season. I do wonder what exactly happened there. I did notice her (last season) being placed in back in a lot of the group dances, and I wonder whom she's pissed off exactly?

I, for one, do miss her dancing and her personality. But maybe she's in that now large group of former DWTS dancers who are pulled upon (Anna Trebunskaya, for example; I still live in hope that she'll be back on the dance floor sometime. It was nice to see her doing the backstage show, she's very good at that).

So, Week 1 of DWTS Season 20 kicked off with some very memorable moments. Look for these two to be booted first.

MICHE'S PICKS, DWTS Season 20, Week 1
1. Val and Rumer (foxtrot)
2. Allison and Riker (jive)
3. Peta and Michael (cha cha)
4. Derek and Nastia (foxtrot)
5. Witney and Chris (jive)
6. Mark and Willow (cha cha)


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