‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2020 Premiere: Some Shine, Others Fall (RECAP)

dancing with the stars cheryl burke aj mclean
Spoiler Alert
ABC/Eric McCandless

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Dancing with the Stars, Season 29, Episode 1.]

Dancing with the Stars returned to TV on Monday, September 14, after nearly a year since the previous Season 28. And with its new format, host, and judge, ABC’s long-running competition also brought with it a slew of famous faces from hit films, scripted and reality shows, the Billboard charts, the sports world, and more.

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The two-time Mirror Ball champ and returning pro talks Tom Bergeron's departure, Derek Hough joining as a judge, and dancing in a COVID-19 world.

Making way for new emcee Tyra Banks, the show’s changes were quite clear as the health and safety protocols kept a live studio audience from entering the premises and Derek Hough took his new spot at the judges table. Plus, fans finally got to see which pro dancers celebs were paired with this season.

Read on for highlights from the premiere episode, which include dances from this season’s cast: Monica Aldama, Carole Baskin, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Vernon Davis, Anne Heche, Skai Jackson, Justina Machado, AJ McLean, Jeannie Mai, Jesse Metcalfe, Nelly, Nev Schulman, Charles Oakley, Chrishell Stause, and Johnny Weir.

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AJ McLean’s dance to “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd (Jive)

When it was time to meet the first pairing, McLean was matched with pro-dancer and DWTS vet Cheryl Burke. Practicing for their jive, the Backstreet Boy and ballroom dancer twirled around under the cast of neon lights. Despite not being a confident dancer, McLean held his own, keeping time with partner and impressing the judges with his first go. He left the ballroom with a solid first outing with sixes across the board, earning McLean 18 points overall.

Chrishell Stause’s dance to “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk (Tango)

Selling Sunset and All My Children star Chrishelle Stause was next, meeting her pro partner, Gleb Savchenko. Together they teamed up for a Tango tuned to P!nk’s upbeat and celebratory song, but was it enough to sell the judges? Not according to Bruno Tonioli who said Stause was from from closing the deal, but she has potential in Carrie Ann Inaba’s eyes. After some advice from Derek Hough, Stause received her scores next, earning fours from Tonioli and Inaba and a five from Hough for an overall total of 13.

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Vernon Davis’ dance to “All of Me” by John Legend (Foxtrot)

The former Super Bowl champion was partnered with Peta Murgatroyd and was determined to prove that he’s capable of becoming a dancing pro. Despite some constructive criticism about his stiff stance on the dance floor, the judges were overall satisfied with his performance. Before he and Peta left the dance floor, Davis earned a five from Inaba, six from Hough and six from Tonioli for a total of 17 points.

Anne Heche’s dance to “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa (Cha Cha)

Anne Heche was thrilled to take on Dancing with the Stars and even more thrilled to meet her pro partner Keo Motsepe. Together they presented their first dance with some small blunders that didn’t go unnoticed by the judges. Hough suggested that she follow-through with all of her steps, but she was hailed as a star by Inaba who couldn’t praise the actress enough. The duo earned sixes across the board like McLean, ending their night with 18 points.

Jeannie Mai’s dance to “Tell It to My Heart” by Taylor Dayne (Salsa)

The Real and Holey Moley host came into the competition with all gears firing, pleasing her partner Brandon Armstrong who hoped to mold her enthusiasm for a fun ballroom spin. Their salsa dance was filled with tricks and energy that would have garnered some loud cheers from a live audience had there been one. She earned positive marks from the judges, including Inaba who pointed out that if Mai’s start was this strong, she’s at a good place. The judges gave Mai and Armstrong sixes for an overall score of 18.

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Jesse Metcalfe’s dance to “Part Time Love” by Stevie Wonder (Quickstep)

Actor Jesse Metcalfe joined the competition with hopes of learning how to dance and he’s getting a little help from pro dancer Sharna Burgess. Together they tackled the quickstep with mixed reactions from the judges. Carrie Ann Inaba noted that he was a solid performer, but his passion overtook some of the technicalities and while Bruno Tonioli appreciated the enthusiasm. Overall they held solid with sixes from the judges, earning a total score of 18 points.

Skai Jackson’s dance to “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj (Tango)

This Disney Channel star was excited to learn from her partner Alan Bersten when they first met and she took that enthusiasm to the dance floor for their tango. Donning sunglasses, the two hit every step with fierce determination, and it showed when it came for the judges’ criticisms. Small critiques were offered, but ultimately they earned sevens from all of the judges and closing their night with 21 points.

Kaitlyn Bristowe’s dance to “Stupid Love” by Lady Gaga (Cha Cha)

The Bachelorette‘s Bristowe may not have found a match on her season of the popular series, but she did find a match on DWTS with Artem Chigvintsev. Together they mesmerized viewers with their cha cha and the judges were equally impressed. Despite some small suggestions for the duo, the overall reception was good as Bristowe and Chigvintsev earned a six from Inaba and sevens from Hough and Tonioli for a total of 20.

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Nev Schulman’s dance to “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra (Foxtrot)

Catfish‘s Nev Schulman joined Jenna Johnson for a spin across the floor with their dreamy first dance. Their foxtrot was well-synchronized and earned strong regards from the judges and earned sevens from Inaba and Hough as well as a six from Tonioli for a solid score of 20.

Johnny Weir’s dance to “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls (Cha Cha)

Figure skater Weir is bringing his flare to the dance floor and with the Mirror Ball in his sights, he is more determined than ever to win. Partnered with Britt Stewart, he was intimidated about working with someone else after being a solo performer, but that melted away on the dance floor. While the judges had some critiques, it was clear that Weir will be a strong competitor moving forward. In the end the judges dished out sixes for this pair, giving them 18 points to close out the night.

Justina Machado’s dance to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin (Cha Cha)

The One Day at a Time star joined the competition knowing she’s not a pro dancer, but with the help of her partner Sasha Farber, she wowed the judges with her cha cha. Carrie Ann and Bruno were dancing along with Machado, but Hough brought things back to earth by sharing some small suggestions. Overall it was a positive performance as they tied with Skai and Alan for the top spot at this point in the night as they earned 21 points from the judges.

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Charles Oakley’s dance to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent (Salsa)

NBA All Star Charles Oakley teamed with pro-dancer Emma Slater to take on the salsa, and while the effort was there on his part, it was an obvious first dance. But the judges were positive, advising that Oakley practice his technique. Even though it was a good first outing, they earned fours across the board for a total of 12 points.

Monica Aldama’s dance to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts (Foxtrot)

Cheer‘s coach Monica Aldama found herself in the student’s position as she joined pro-dancer Val Chmerkovskiy in the ballroom. Together they took on the foxtrot and Aldama brought that winning spirit to the performance. Described as elegant and stylish by the judges, the pair earned positive feedback and constructive criticism about their foxtrot. Inaba and Tonioli gave the duo sixes while Hough gave them a seven for a total of 20 points.

Nelly’s dance to “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly (Salsa)

Grammy-winning rapper Nelly was next up on the roster, joining his partner Daniella Karagach for a salsa performance to his own song “Ride Wit Me.” Nelly admitted he wasn’t a strong dancer, but he held his own on the dance floor. Despite some criticisms, the judges were mostly positive with their reviews and in the end earned fives from Inaba and Hough along with a six from Tonioli for a total of 16 points overall.

Carole Baskin’s dance to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (Paso)

Tiger King‘s Carole Baskin brought an incomparable amount of enthusiasm to the ballroom depsite her lack of experience. Partnered with Pasha Pashkov, Baskin took on the paso with ferociousness that equals the tigers she loves so much. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean Baskin is a paso expert and the scores reflected as much with fours from Inaba and Hough and a measly three from Tonioli for a meager score of 11 points.

Find out what happens after these first performances by tuning into next week’s episode on Tuesday, September 22. And sound off with your thoughts on the premiere in the comments!

Dancing with the Stars, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC (*Note: Next week’s episode will air on Tuesday)