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Image: Lacey Schwimmer, Chaz Bono
"Dancing" contestant Chaz Bono showed off some nice footwork, but the scores didn't exactly reflect that.
TODAY contributor
updated 9/19/2011 11:50:50 PM ET 2011-09-20T03:50:50

The ballroom opened up for business once again Monday night as the 13th season of “Dancing With the Stars” premiered, and if Night One was anything to go by, the top contenders and the space wasters are already easy to spot — unless one happened to be looking at the scoreboard.

Yes, as it’s often been the case in the past, the numbers on the judges paddles didn’t exactly line up with the fancy footwork on the floor. Need an example? Just look no farther than the numbers earned by the man responsible for most of “Dancing’s” pre-season headlines, Chaz Bono.

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The author and transgender activist took the floor alongside pro Lacey Schwimmer, and despite voicing concerns about his age and weight, put on an impressive (at least for a first effort) cha-cha.

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What was striking about Bono’s main moves, compared to those of many others Monday night, was that he actually mastered the footwork. The routine was far from flawless, and he could us some work on arm lines and endurance, but his feet were steps ahead of the competition.

The judges thought so, too, with head judge Len Goodman praising Bono’s “good footwork and great attitude,” and Carrie Ann Inaba cheering, “You can dance!” At least that’s what they said.

Story: You be the judge! Rate the 'Dancing' contestants

Moments later, their paddles said something else entirely with a 5 and 6 respectively (and another 6 from Bruno Tonioli). What happened between the praise and the points? Who knows? But it wasn’t the only time it happened during the evening.

Another strong freshman dance came from fashion guru and TV host Carson Kressley, a man Bono and the night’s other top hoofers hopefuls — Chynna Phillips and Ricki Lake — should watch out for. What Kressley lacks in refined technique, he more than makes up for in absolute entertainment.

The ballroom could hardly contain Kressley’s energy, bold moves and gift for glitter. The in-house audience agreed, as evidenced by the fact that they got out of their newly expanded and made-over balcony seats to give him a standing O.

Slideshow: 'Dancing With the Stars' season 13 cast (on this page)

His score? The very same set of numbers Bono received — which happened to be quite a bit lower than the ones those aforementioned leading ladies raked in. And they were lower still than some of the middle-of-talent-pool players.

Among the needs-improvement crowd that outscored Bono and Kressley were the adorably dorky David Arquette, who could use a dose of confidence to go along with his set of 6s. There was also the night’s sentimental favorite and leaderboard topper J.R. Martinez, who committed one of Inaba’s biggest no-nos, a lift, without so much as a mention. (Note to Carrie Ann: The man is a war hero; he can totally handle a little dancing criticism.)

Also pulling up the middle was soccer star Hope Solo. Despite the help of ballroom’s pro partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Solo stumbled after a strong start. At least she moved a little better than reality star Kristin Cavallari.

Ricki Lake eyeing 'Dancing's' mirror ball

But there were worse things than slight slipups, as another Chmerkovskiy, Maks’ little brother Val, found out when he hit the floor with George Clooney’s former gal pal Elisabetta Canalis. The model not only stumbled, she failed to show so much as a spark of personality or chemistry, which led to the biggest ballroom crime of the night — boredom.

For his part, the younger Chmerkovskiy did his best to counteract that with gratuitous shirtlessness. (Nice try. Really!)

The night saw two other yawn-inducers. There was reality star Rob Kardashian, who after promising to out-dance sister Kim, only proved that a lack of musicality really can run in the family. And no-nonsense prosecutor-turned-host Nancy Grace, who’s rarely been accused being boring, somehow managed it while wearing a sparkling dress and attempting a cha-cha. Go figure.

Story: Cher slams critics 'terrified' of Chaz on 'Dancing'

But no one could accuse the worst dancer of the night of being boring. Not-so-subtle, 6-foot-7 NBA star Ron Artest (also known by his new name, Metta World Peace), made a memorable, if lumbering trip across the floor that inspired Goodman to proclaim the routine “all sizzle, no sausage” — whatever that means.

So, who will be the first “Dancing” star to pack up their heels and go home Tuesday night? Well, while the back of the pack contenders are clear, the call is a tough one. Mr. Artest-turned-World-Peace has the fan base and the ...  zaniness? Yeah, he has the zaniness to hang on for a couple of weeks no matter what he does on the dance floor. A dedicated fan base should also save a certain former legal eagle who didn’t exactly dazzle.

That means it looks like the battle for the first cut will come down to Kardashian and Canalis.

Poor Val. He never stood a chance.

Which performance was your favorite of the night? Share your thoughts on the Facebook page for our TV blog, The Clicker.

Despite some duds, Ree Hines thoroughly enjoyed the premiere episode of “The Brothers Chmerkovskiy.” Join her and fellow "Dancing" writer Anna Chan for a live chat on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET to dish on the best and worst moments of the night.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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Photos: 'Dancing With the Stars' season 13 cast

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  1. The stars of season 13

    The new cast of "Dancing With the Stars" was revealed on Monday, Aug. 29. In the back row, from left: Ron Artest, David Arquette, J.R. Martinez, Rob Kardashian and Chaz Bono. In the front row, from left: Ricki Lake, Kristin Cavallari, Chynna Phillips, Nancy Grace, Hope Solo and Elisabetta Canalis. Carson Kressley is not pictured.

    All 12 couples will dance for the first time on ABC on Monday, Sept. 19. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Get the party started

    "Dancing" hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke greet the new hopefuls on Monday, Aug. 29. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. David Arquette

    Actor David Arquette -- brother to actors Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Alexis Arquette and Richmond Arquette -- is best known for his work in the film series "Scream." He is also married to actress Courteney Cox, but the two are currently separated.

    He's paired with pro Kym Johnson, who has won the mirror ball trophy twice in the U.S. version of the show. She was also the pro champ in season 2 of Australia's version. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Ron Artest

    Ron Artest is a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and is known for being eccentric off the court. (He has filed papers to legally change his name to Metta World Peace.) On the basketball court, he is perhaps best known for the November 2004 Pacers-Pistons fight. Artest, a Pacer at the time, rushed into the stands to confront a fan who threw a drink at him, which led to the biggest player-fan fight to date.

    He is paired with new pro Peta Murgatroyd. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Chaz Bono

    GLBT activist Chaz Bono is the only child of Sonny Bono and Cher. His documentary, "Becoming Chaz," followed his gender transition, and was nominated for three Emmys.

    He's paired with pro Lacey Schwimmer. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Elisabetta Canalis

    Elisabetta Canalis is an Italian actress who has appeared in the film "Deuce Bigalow" and the TV show "Leverage," but she is best known for dating George Clooney for two years.

    She's paired with new pro Val Chmerkovskiy, who is brother to fellow pro Maksim. Val has also previously performed on "DWTS." (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Kristin Cavallari

    Kristin Cavallari found fame with MTV reality programs "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." She has also appeared on "The Middle" and "CSI: New York." Cavallari was engaged to Chicago Bears player Jay Cutler, but he ended their engagement in July.

    She's paired with pro Mark Ballas, who has won the mirror ball trophy twice. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Nancy Grace

    Former prosecutor Nancy Grace currently hosts "Nancy Grace" on HLN. She is also the author of mystery thrillers "The Eleventh Victim" and its sequel, "Death on the D-List." Grace is married and has twins.

    She is paired with new pro Tristan MacManus. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rob Kardashian

    Rob Kardashian is best known as the brother of Kim, Kourteny and Khloe Kardashian. He appears on several of the family's series of E! shows, including "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and "Khloe and Lamar." He is the second Kardashian to participate in the show. Kim competed in season seven.

    He's paired with pro Cheryl Burke, who has won the mirror ball trophy twice. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Carson Kressley

    Carson Kressley is best known as the fashion guru on the Bravo series "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." He is also a New York Times best-selling author, and currently hosts "Carson-Nation" on OWN.

    He's paired with pro Anna Trebunskaya. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Ricki Lake

    Ricki Lake played Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 film "Hairspray." She has since had a long-running daytime talk show ("Ricki Lake," 1992-2004) and hosted a season of VH1's "Charm School." Lake has also made numerous TV appearances.

    She's paired with pro Derek Hough, who is a three-time mirror ball champ. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. J.R. Martinez

    J.R. Martinez plays combat vet Brot Monroe on "All My Children." Prior to acting on the soap opera, Martinez was in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in March 2003, but less than a month after that, his vehicle hit a landmine. Martinez was trapped, and suffered severe burns. In addition to acting, Martinez is a motivational speaker.

    He's paired with pro Karina Smirnoff. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Chynna Phillips

    Chynna Phillips, the daughter of The Mamas and The Papas' Michelle and John Phillips, is perhaps best known as a member of the '90s pop trio Wilson Phillips, whose debut album sold eight million copies. She has also appeared in several films, including "Caddyshack II" and "Say Anything." She is married to actor Billy Baldwin.

    She's paired with pro Tony Dovolani. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Hope Solo

    Hope Solo is the goalkeeper for the United States women's national soccer team. She was part of the team that went to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup finals, but the U.S. ultimately lost to Japan on a penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 tie.

    She's paired with pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
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