‘Dancing with the Stars’: Justina Machado could be the Mirror Ball front-runner after this performance [WATCH]

“One Day at a Time” actress Justina Machado introduced herself in her “Dancing with the Stars” clip package by showing off the Screen Actors Guild Award she won as a member of the ensemble cast of “Six Feet Under.” But that statue might soon get some company. She gave such a standout performance during the season 29 premiere that she could be a front-runner for the Mirror Ball Trophy.

The exuberant Machado is paired with equally effervescent pro partner Sasha Farber, and for their first routine of the season they performed a cha cha so energetic that it got the judges out of their seats for the first time of the night. Bruno Tonioli was impressed by Machado’s confidence. Carrie Ann Inaba thought she was “on fire.” Derek Hough said, “You are oozing charisma. You filled this room with so much energy,” though he warned her to work on her turns.

That performance got 7s from all three judges, giving her a total of 21 out of 30. That tied her with teenage Disney Channel star Skai Jackson for the highest score of the night, which took most of us by surprise. When we asked our readers to predict “DWTS” going into the premiere episode they ranked Machado ninth with 30/1 odds of winning the Mirror Ball Trophy. And they gave her eighth place odds of 48/1 of getting the highest judges’ score.

Clearly we were underestimating her. She’s got the rhythm, and she’s starting with a pretty solid foundation of technique. Perhaps most importantly, though, she looked like she was having so much fun on the dance floor that it could rub off on the viewing audience voting from home in the coming weeks. Getting the audience on your side is crucial to becoming a “DWTS” champion. So does this season premiere performance make her the favorite to win, or is it still too early to tell?

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Monday on ABC. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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