Contestants Tackle Contemporary in DWTS Premiere

Zendaya and Val, photo by Adam Taylor/ABC, courtesy

"Dancing with the Stars” Season 16 premiered last night in all its sequined, glittery glory, with new stars, new pros, and new dance styles. For the first time ever, we saw contestants perform contemporary routines in addition to traditional ballroom. Jazz has also been added to the the season's roster. This sounded like a bad idea, at first. Ballroom professionals teaching studio styles to first-time dancers? Eek. And it’s true, skate legend Dorothy Hamill’s lyrical duet with Tristan MacManus was a tad (forgive me, Dorothy!) on the clunky side. But one pair really shone in the new genre: Disney’s Zendaya and Val Chmerkovskiy. Ok, maybe it was mostly Val, but still. Did anyone expect this strictly ballroom gent to break out of the mold so convincingly? I’d like to see what he’d do on “So You Think You Can Dance”!

Other highlights included “Real Housewives” star Lisa Vanderpump being surprisingly shy about dancing pelvis-to-pelvis with her handsome partner, Gleb Savchenko, and Andy Dick’s “skittish charm,” as judge Bruno Tonioli described it, during his foxtrot with Sharna Burgess. Football player Jacoby Jones brought all the attitude to his performance with Karina Smirnoff, a quality that could make him a frontrunner for the trophy. And finally, I was thrilled to learn from D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke’s performance that “Low” (Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the fur…) by Flo Rida makes an effective accompaniment to the cha cha cha! It’s fun for students and audience members when the song choice is something unexpected and recognizable. What were your favorite moments from the premiere?

Watch Zendaya and Val’s standout contemporary performance from DWTS Week 1 here:



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