Monday night saw the cast of “Dancing With the Stars” 11th season shake their respective ballroom business for the first time with varying degrees of success. For some would-be soft-shoes, it was an opportunity to prove they have what it takes to stay in the competition. For others, it was brief preview of bad things to come.
But for one star in particular, it was chance to give fans everything they hoped for on the dance floor.
Jennifer Grey, better known as Frances “Baby” Houseman to “Dirty Dancing” devotees, did not disappoint when she showcased her Viennese waltz skills to the familiar tune of “These Arms of Mine.” The 50-year-old actress, who openly wept for late co-star Patrick Swayze during rehearsals, debuted calm and concentrated moves on the main stage alongside pro partner and past dance champ Derek Hough.
Frankly, anything less would have been a letdown. Grey’s been a sentimental favorite for the top spot since she was first announced as a contestant, and with her personal history in ballet and on-screen history with ballroom, she needed to deliver a big dance. With the top score of the night — a 24 out of 30 — she did just that.
Grey also stands as the first performer to prompt out-of-nowhere tears from judge Carrie Ann Inaba this season, which really should be worth an extra point or two.
Surprise challengerDespite Grey’s expected lead, the ballroom did hold one surprise when it came to Baby’s biggest competition. No one would have guessed it would come from 19-year-old Disney channel alum Kyle Massey. What he lacks in name recognition with the over-30 voting crowd, Massey more than makes up for in talent, energy and loads of charisma, a point he proved in the best cha-cha-cha of the night.
The rest of the ballroom beginners could be easily divided into two categories: those who are worth a closer look, and those who are wasting everyone’s time.
The closer-look crowd included early standouts, like R&B singer and actress Brandy; ex-Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox; former quarterback Kurt Warner; and “The Hills” hottie Audrina Patridge. As for those time-wasters, their ranks include self-proclaimed “advocate for the prevention of teen pregnancy” Bristol Palin; “Brady Bunch” mom and unexpected ab-flasher Florence Henderson; and unfortunately, the likeable-but-not-at-all-bendable Michael Bolton.
Shaky startWell, maybe there are three categories. The third one being “and the rest,” occupied exclusively by the unlucky celebs who tied for last place on premiere night: comedian Margaret Cho, “Jersey Shore’s” Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and the one and only David Hasselhoff.
Between intentional goofs and limited rehearsal time, Cho and Sorrentino ended the night just as much as dance-floor mysteries as they started it. And the Hoff? He’s just so hilariously, hip-grindingly bad, he earned a chance to stick around as this season’s mandatory comic relief — at least for now.
It’s fun to yuk it up during the first few weeks, but as fans of past seasons’ laugh-masters Adam Carolla and Cloris Leachman may recall, eventually the shtick gets old.
Ree Hines was impressed by Grey’s smooth moves, but as always she remains Team Hot Guys. That means Rick Fox(xy) and Brandy (partnered with the ultimate hot pro, Maksim Chmerkovskiy) would totally get her vote, if she bothered to vote. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter to cast your imaginary vote.