'Dancing With the Stars' Kicks Off Season 21: See Which Couples Have an Early Lead!
By Meredith B. Kile
Dancing With the Stars kicked off its 21st season in style on Monday night and as always, there were standouts, slip-ups and hilarious commentary from the dancers and judges alike (despite the absence of Len Goodman, who had a commitment to a UK show this season).
Here’s a look at the DWTS couples, ranked by their week 1 score:
The 17-year-old brought her "contagious" energy to the dance floor, wowing the judges with her jive and walking away with the night's highest score from a performance that judge Julianne Hough dubbed the best of the night.
"The flicks, the kicks, the face, the fun," she gushed, "that’s what this competition is about."
Irwin will likely keep riding that charm week-in and week-out as a favorite of the judges. She explained that her time on the show, however long it may last, is dedicated to her late dad, Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin.
"My mom always said that anytime dad would watch me dance around the zoo that he would cry," Irwin revealed. "I think the real reason i’m doing this is to make him proud."
He’s a boy band icon, but Backstreet Boy Carter admitted that he’s never felt totally comfortable dancing onstage.
"I’ve never consider myself the greatest dancer, but I’ve been able to hide behind the guys in the Backstreet Boys," Carter admitted. "That’s the reason I chose to do the show, to help me overcome the insecurity."
Carter had little to be insecure about, as his cha cha with Burgess also left the judges flustered, and not just because the Backstreet Boy accidentally popped the top button of his pants mid-groove!
"Once a fan, always a fan," Hough gushed, admitting she was blushing. "You have your own flavor, you have your own style...It was really creative and you were on it."
Big Time Rush star Carlos PenaVega and wife Alexa are the first married couple to compete against each other on the DWTS stage and the pair is already preparing to dominate.
"If we make it to the final two and we’re competing against each other," Carlos explained before being interrupted by Alexa (who proclaimed that she would win), "whoever wins, the other person will never live it down."
It’s a very real possibility, as Carlos and his partner Witney Carson -- who took hold the Season 19 mirrorball trophy with Alfonso Ribeiro -- were very impressive in their debut dance, capped off by Carlos leapfrogging over Witney’s shoulders.
Skarlatos, who just recently became a "star" when he and two friends thwarted a terrorist attack while on vacation, taking down an armed gunman on a French train, admitted that he was nervous about taking on a new challenge.
"I’ve never danced like ever, ever" the 22-year-old Legion of Honour recipient admitted. "Since the train, just about everything in my life has changed. But at the same time, I’m just a guy. I never realized this would happen to me and now that it actually is, I’m just trying to soak it all in."
Skarlatos impressed not just partner Lindsay Arnold, who marveled at the National Guardsman’s work ethic and ability to take notes, but also the judges, who were left almost speechless by the pair’s foxtrot. Hough called it the "surprise of the night."
"I’ve done so much performing with a guitar, but I have very very limited dance experience," singer Andy Grammer explained to pro partner Allison Holker as the two prepared for their week 1 foxtrot. It’s a meaningful competition for the "Honey I’m Good" singer, who said that dancing on the show makes him feel connected to his late mother.
"I did Dancing With the Stars last season, just as a musician, and when I was in there, I really felt the presence of my mother," he explained. "She loved dance and she would have loved to be a part of this show, so the fact that I’m doing it this year, I’m kind of doing it in her honor."
Grammer and Holker had a few missteps, but an overall successful debut, according to the judges.
Paula Deen’s quick step dance with Louis van Amstel took place on a kitchen set, but that was the extent of the former Food Network star’s comfort with her DWTS debut.
"I was scared," Deen told host Tom Bergeron after their performance. "I had white underwear on, but it probably ain't white no more. That’s all I got to say."
The judges agreed that that was a bit TMI (seriously Paula?!), but told Deen to relax and get back in her comfort zone. Tonoli assured, "My darling the worst is over, relax."
"I actually see a lot of potential with you," Inaba told the pair as they waited for their scores. "I can tell the way you move your body it comes naturally to you. You just didn’t quite get your feet under you, so it felt like you were being dragged around a little."
"Can I do it one more time, now that y’all have told me how?" Deen joked.
The judges told Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinosa that while his week 1 salsa lacked some spice, they were impressed by his overall abilities.
"You know what they say," Hough laughed. "Big things come in small packages."
"Your energy is so focused and so bright," Inaba gushed as she praised Espinosa and Smirnoff for working some horse-themed moves into the dance. "There was like, no salsa, but I give you credit for the galloping."
Real Housewives of Atlanta star, NFL wife and mother of six Kim Zolciak-Biermann has no trouble juggling her busy life. But she struggled with getting comfortable on the dance floor and in front of the cameras.
The reality star was overcome with emotion after her performance, an Egyptian-themed salsa dance, though the judges could still feel her discomfort.
"There’s no reason to hold back," Inaba told the reality star, who agreed that she felt her nerves hindering her performance. "With all that, you better come back and go 'pow!' next week."
WEEK 1 SCORE: 12 of 30
The show's first eliminations will be held next week. Dancing With the Stars airs Monday and Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.