This was posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Opening night of season 24 on “Dancing With the Stars” brought a mix of high expectations, disappointments and surprises.
There are two dancers with local ties: Atlanta native Erika Jayne (“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”) received 6s across the board for her sexy salsa while former Atlanta Brave David Ross was far better than many expected with his quick step and pulled out 7s.
Both could very well finish middle of the pack. Odds of either winning the mirror ball trophy are slim indeed. There are too many better dancers out there.
The two dancers with the best scores early on are not surprisingly athletes: NFL player Rashad Jennings and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. Both are immediate front runners.
The super dud was “SNL” player Chris Kattan, with Mr. T not far behind.
David Ross/Lindsay Arnold. The entire Cubs get up and song are painfully corny but at least readily identifies who he is to the audience. He starts a bit shaky but once he gets into the quickstep, he proves he has rhythm and timing. Judges were quite enthusiastic. He should last at least a month though I’m not sure if he will be able to crack the top seven. (All 7s)
Erika Jayne/Gleb Savchenko. Dancing to her own song “XXPEN$IVE,” she is clearly comfortable on stage and brought decent salsa moves. But her on-stage personality oozes sex and raunch but not in a way that would necessarily garner her a lot of votes. Given her rivals, she could very well be out relatively early. (all 6s)
And the other 10 in order of great to bad
Simone Biles/Sasha Farber: If anybody has a lock for the finals already, it’s Biles. As most previous gymnasts have proven including season 23 winner Laurie Hernandez, she has all the sparkle that help her take home the mirror ball trophy. Given how brief these first dances are, this tango clearly was one I would have liked to have seen gone longer. Her 8s are well deserve.
Rashad Jennings/Emma Slater: This New York Giants running back has the natural moves of a dancer. He pulled off a clean, easy-on-the-eyes cha cha. Finals, here he comes. (8,7,8,8)
Normani Kordei/Val Chmerkovskiy: The Fifth Harmony singer has dance skills in spades. She opened with a few cool non-quickstep moves but her quickstep was crisp as well. She came across confident without a trace of arrogane. Not surprisingly, she could last awhile although Simone Biles might siphon off some of her votes and keep her from going further than, say, top five. (7,7, 6,7)
Nancy Kerrigan/Artem Chigvintsev: Nancy possesses a sweetness and warmth that helped her when she competed two decades ago in figure skating and should help her here as well. She had a few minor technical issues but overall, she left a good impression. I suspect voters will keep her around at least through the top six. (7s across the board)
Heather Morris/ Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Maks knows she is a pro but she has never done ballroom. Now a mom, she said she wants to do more dance again. She is well aware of the pressure of high expectations. The opening waltz was not a show stopper. Elegant but not memorable. Clean but not popping. That may be the fact she had to do a waltz. Having Maks as her partner will keep her around longer by definition because some voters vote for the professional as well. But I still see an earlier-than-expected departure. (all 7s)
Nick Viall/Peta Murgatroyd. Nick is a competitor. He is clearly a beginner and has some serious footwork and arm issues. Judges used the word “disjointed.” But I see major improvement coming down the road. He has an advantage with Peta as his partner. She has won twice before. He will probably be gone midway through the competition. (all 6s)
Bonner Bolton/Sharna Burgess: There is definitely heat with this couple. And the bull rider will garner votes simply by his great looks and uber confidence. His very country fried cha cha was a bit short of content but he shows clear potential to be much better over the weeks. The sexual innuendo was flying during the judges’ comments and Erin Andrews played into it. No doubt this man will be around awhile. I anticipate top six as well. (6,5,5,6)
Charo/Keoikantse Motsepe: You have to love her crazy spirit and at 66, she is in incredibly shape. The salsa is a perfect first dance with her. As Len said, performance was great, technique not quite there. The competition is tough this season. She will probably go early. (6,5,5,5)
Mr. T./Kym Herjavec: This was the most minimalistic cha cha ever. Kym kept the moves comically simple. Clearly, Mr. T at age 64 is not going to be making any real killer moves on the dance floor. Don’t pity this man although I don’t expect him to be around very long. (all 5s)
Chris Kattan/Witney Carson. He has had serious neck issues and that may limit him but he has more problems than that. He has clunky footwork and a spastic style that is not conducive to ballroom at all. Bruno said it was a cha cha with a serious hangover. It will be a miracle if he makes it past next week.
My guess on the order of elimination based purely on the first dances and the history of votes in the past: 12. Chris Kattan 11. Charo 10. Erika Jayne 9. Mr. T 8. David Ross 7. Nick Viall 6. Heather Morris 5. Nancy Kerrigan 4. Normani Kordei 3. Bonner Bolton 2. Rashad Jennings 1. Simone Biles.