The 14th season of Dancing with the Stars kicked off with a two-hour premiere Monday night, and what this year’s dazzling dozen might lack in star power, they make up for with talent, as no couple got less than 20 points for their opening night numbers.
Family Matters star Jaleel White and Opera singer Katherine Jenkins tied for the night’s high with an impressive 26 points apiece. White’s foxtrot with Kym Johnson earned him lofty comparisons to the late, great Gregory Hines, as Len Goodman called it “seamless,” with an undercurrent of “elegance” and “sophistication.”
Judge Bruno Tonoli hailed Jenkins’s foxtrot with Mark Ballas as “exquisite — the style was impeccable.”
One possible breakout star this season is Telenovella hunk William Levy, whose steamy cha cha cha with Cheryl Burke got a huge reaction from the studio audience, as well as Tonoli.
“Dancing with the Stars‘ presents the hottest package of the season!” Tonoli told Levy, clad in a buttonless shirt. “By the way, William: You’re overdressed!”
Also making noise Monday with respectable 23s were Melrose Place star Jack Wagner (with Anna Trebunskaya), The View’s Sherri Shepherd (with Val Chmerkovskiy), Disney star Roshon Fegan (with Chelsie Hightower); and the iconic Gladys Knight (with Tristan MacManus), who received a standing ovation from the crowd and high praise from the judges.
“The legend has got the moves!” Tonioli told Knight, while Goodman stoically said, “There’s a naturalness about your dancing — it’s not false — it oozed rhythm, and I thought you did a wonderful job.”
Rounding out the pack were Green Bay Packer Donald Driver (with Peta Murgatroyd), Extra stunner Maria Menounos (with Derek Hough) all with 21 points apiece; and singer Gavin DeGraw (with Karina Smirnoff), actress Melissa Gilbert (with Max Chmerkovskiy) and Martina Navratilova (with Tony Dovolani), all getting 20s.
Monday’s debut notably featured more Twitter references, posting real-time thoughts on a ticker at the bottom of the screen.
The quick step and the jive will be on the menu when Dancing with the Stars’ 14th season continues on ABC next Monday at 8/7c.