Shannon Elizabeth & Derek Hough — Cha Cha Cha
Shannon has a fantastic body, and Derek did his best to make her look good. The choreography was fun and flirty, and it allowed Shannon to show some natural grace. The performance needed refining, but this couple has some real potential.
Len Goodman said, "Great start to this evening. You didn’t straighten your legs, so you lost a little bit of hip action." Bruno Tonioli called Shannon a "sexy minx," adding, "You’ve got great legs, so learn how to use them." Carrie Ann Inaba told Shannon, "You have such great energy, and such confidence."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30
Monica Seles & Jonathan Roberts — Fox Trot
Tough tennis player Monica’s bubblegum pink dress was girly, if not flattering. She spent several bars of the intro sitting on the steps, perhaps indicating of a lack of confidence on Jonathan’s part. Monica looked uncomfortable throughout the performance, and she moved awkwardly, as well.
Bruno suggested to Monica, "Engage the center of the body." Len said, "I liked all that story that you told," but he agreed with Bruno: "Lift it to shift it, and move round that floor." Carrie Ann told Monica, "The energy that you used in tennis — you have to move the space. It’s not so different than you think."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…5, Len…5, Bruno…5 = 15/30
Marissa Jaret Winokur & Tony Dovolani — Cha Cha Cha
Simple, bland choreography sunk this routine. Marissa had very little to do, and it was hardly recognizable as a Cha Cha Cha. Tony, wearing shiny pants that made him look, in the words of Tom Bergeron, like a "macho oil slick," seemed to underestimate his partner’s ability.
Carrie Ann said, "I don’t think there was enough content for a Cha Cha." Bruno liked Marissa’s "eye-popping pep and personality." Len addressed Tony: "This girl’s got more talent than that showed."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…6, Bruno…6 = 18/30
Priscilla Presley & Louis van Amstel — Fox Trot
There is nothing about Priscilla that says "62." She looked confident and moved effortlessly. On top of that, she completed a death spiral without breaking a hip. A surprisingly strong opening performance.
Len enthused, "It was a proper Fox Trot. No gimmicks, no props." Bruno agreed: "This was an uncompromising, smoking hot Fox Trot." Carrie Ann told Priscilla, "You just proved to so many people that age is just a number, because you were the queen of that dance floor."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30
Kristi Yamaguchi & Mark Ballas — Fox Trot
As the music began, Mark immediately spun Kristi into a dip, just to make sure that everyone knew they came to win. Kristi’s beautiful extension was accentuated by a glamorous gold dress, and Mark looked dashing in his tux. Already, they look like a pair of champions.
Bruno cheered, "Absolutely wicked! Timing! Precision! For the first round, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen." Carrie Ann said, "You made it look effortless." Len, struggling to find something to criticize, told Kristi to work on her pivots.
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…9 = 27/30
Fabian Sanchez & Marlee Matlin — Cha Cha Cha
Marlee & Fabian put any doubt about her ability to dance to rest with this routine. Marlee was always in time with her partner and the music, and she danced with great enthusiasm.
Carrie Ann echoed the enthusiastic studio audience: "That was almost unbelievable. You are so fluid, you move with such ease." Len said, "You had great choreography. Just try to control your arms when you dance." Bruno noted, "I counted all the way through, and you hardly missed a beat."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…8 = 22/30
27 — Kristi & Mark
24 — Priscilla & Louis
22 — Marlee & Fabian
21 — Shannon & Derek
18 — Marissa & Tony
15 — Monica & Jonathan
As with the men, there appears to be a clear front runner among the women. Kristi has a significant lead over the other celebrity dancers. But Priscilla, Marlee, and Shannon showed real potential, and they should make the competition very interesting. I’m splitting my votes between the four of them.
Monica is way out of her comfort zone and probably doesn’t have as much time as she would need to embrace dancing. Unless she shows some major improvement in her next performance on Monday night, she should be the first woman to go.
Marissa is in a tough spot. She may not have ballroom experience, but she has danced before, in front of live audiences even. Her problem seems to be Tony. His choreography was unfathomably simple, given Marissa’s experience level. He focused too much attention on himself, perhaps misguidedly assuming that it would ease the pressure on Marissa.
Tony needs to start trusting Marissa and challenging her with more challenging choreography. If he doesn’t, they’ll be out before they even get started.