‘Dancing with the Stars’ season premiere recap: Who stood out on the first night of a highly unusual season? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Dancing with the Stars” premiered its 29th season on Monday night, September 14, with a cast of 15 new celebrities. But that’s not all that’s new this season. In a year rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, this was far from business as usual. So how did it go on night one? Scroll down for our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments and commentary as they happen.

Perhaps the biggest difference this season, above and beyond all the health precautions, is the new host. Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews were let go from the series after Bergeron had been with the show for the entirety of its run and Andrews had been alongside him for the last 11 seasons. Tyra Banks, the former host of “America’s Next Top Model” and “America’s Got Talent,” was tapped as their replacement, and she’s also onboard as an executive producer of the new season.

Then there’s the judging table. Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli are back, but the pandemic prevented Len Goodman from returning to his usual position on the panel. Sitting in for him this season is “DWTS” fan-favorite and six-time Mirror Ball champion Derek Hough, though Goodman will still participate in the show in some shape or form.

And finally there are the competitors, including several married pro dancers who have to live apart during production for safety’s sake. Those pros joined forces with the biggest cast of stars the show has had since season nine, when there were 16 celebs vying for the Mirror Ball Trophy. They include “Cheer” head coach Monica Aldama, controversial “Tiger King” animal activist Carole Baskin, “Bachelorette” star Kaitlyn Bristowe, Super Bowl champion Vernon Davis, actress Anne Heche, Disney Channel star Skai Jackson, actress Justina Machado, singer AJ McLean, “The Real” co-host Jeannie Mai, actor Jesse Metcalfe, rapper Nelly, “Catfish” host Nev Schulman, NBA legend Charles Oakley, actress and reality real star Chrishell Stause and figure skater Johnny Weir.

Our readers have been betting on who will win ever since the cast was announced. Who do you think looked like a potential winner on night one? Follow along below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

Daniel Montgomery, 7:55pm — Tonight’s premiere starts soon, and Cheryl Burke has tweeted that she and her partner will be up first. So get ready for that!

Cordell Martin, 7:57pm — I believe it’s AJ. I predict Nev and Jeannie to be the surprises tonight.

Daniel, 7:58pm — Nev seems like he could be good. Jeannie too, but that wouldn’t surprise me too much. She’s in the top 5 in our odds.

Daniel, 8:00pm — Show begins with an eerie intro, Tyra driving up to the studio while the pros walk out to the ballroom and then dance individually in the center of the dance floor to Whitney Houston‘s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” And then Tyra walks out in a red ballgown that looks like it was designed for social distancing because you couldn’t get without six feet of her given the volume of that skirt.

Jeffrey Kare, 8:03pm — For a season that’s featuring no studio audience, I appreciate how they’ve incorporated sound effects of applause.

Daniel, 8:03pm — Yeah, they do make it seem pretty natural. The applause track isn’t too obvious.

AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke

Daniel, 8:05pm — McLean is up first, and he’s “over the moon” to be partnered with Cheryl Burke. Cheryl admits that N Sync was a better dancing boy band, but reassures AJ that Backstreet Boys had better songs. Let’s see how they do with the jive.

Daniel 8:08pm — Solid start for AJ. Some noticeable mistakes, but he can hang. Lots of potential there.

Cordell, 8:09pm — Not a fan of stars dancing the jive on the first week.

Jeffery, 8:09pm — I thought that was a very energetic routine to start off the season.

JUDGES — Derek wanted to see more pump action from his jive. Bruno thought it was a “powerful” and “strong” performance, but he needs to polish and differentiate between his kicks and flicks. Carrie Ann thinks he could dance “a little more out … It needs to be bigger than ever especially this season.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (6), Bruno (6) = 18 out 0f 30

Jeffrey, 8:10pm — The score of the Beast.

Cordell, 8:11pm — Well at least there’s room for improvement.

Chrishell Stause and Gleb Savchenko

Daniel, 8:11pm — Chrishell admits that she doesn’t have the technique or experience as a dancer, but she’ll “put in the work.” Gleb seems perfect for Chrishell. I could see him putting her in some provocative routines.

Cordell, 8:13pm — Yes! And she’s single lol

Jeffrey, 8:13pm — While there may be room for improvement for them, I thought that was terrific.

Cordell, 8:14pm — Ehh she was alright. She has to make sure that she stands out or she’ll be an early boot.

Daniel, 8:14pm — I agree she has some potential, but that was kinda stiff.

JUDGES — Bruno thinks Chrishell has the selling points,. but she went wrong and her posture was “wobbly … So many things went wrong. Carrie Ann thought she has so much potential, but she got knocked off her feet and never got her footing back. Derek suggests that Chrishell work on her pigeon-toed posture.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (4), Derek (5), Bruno (4) = 13 out 0f 30

Cordell, 8:16pm — Yikes!

Jeffrey, 8:16pm — We already have our first contestant in danger of elimination.

Cordell, 8:17pm — Unfortunately she had to get low scores considering what AJ got

Daniel, 8:18pm — Didn’t Kelly Monaco get 13 on her first dance or something like that? You never know.

Jeffrey, 8:19pm — So far, the show seems to be moving along pretty well. Which it would have to considering the 15 pairs competing this season.

Daniel, 8:20pm — One of the benefits of only one host is not having to cram so many interviews and post interviews into a show with 15 dances.

Vernon Davis and Peta Murgatroyd

Daniel, 8:20pm — “I can’t even lie, I’m nervous about ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” says Vernon, but he’s excited to see that his partner is Peta. Nevertheless, “There’s a lot of pressure on me,” Vernon says, given that four football players have won the show before, including Peta’s past partner Donald Driver.

Cordell, 8:22pm — Vernon is definitely a contender.

Jeffrey, 8:23pm — They both appear to be the most competent pair of the season so far.

Daniel, 8:24pm — Pretty good. He’s got rhythm

JUDGES — Carrie Ann is going to dock a point for an unintentional lift on that foxtrot. Derek thought he was “so smooth” and “gliding across the floor.” But he needs to watch out for how he uses his free arm. Bruno thought the chemistry was “sizzling,” and it “wasn’t all perfect,” but he genuinely attempted to do a proper rise and fall.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (5), Derek (6), Bruno (6) = 17 out 0f 30

Anne Heche and Keo Motsepe

Daniel, 8:25pm — “I always dreamed I’d be on ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” says Anne. And when she meets her partner Keo she says, “I am humbled to be working with the king.” I hope she does him proud because he has struggled to advance very far in many past seasons.

Daniel, 8:27pm — Solid moves, but a little tentative, and she could be more expressive.

Jeffrey, 8:28pm — Slick performance, although it looked like Keo was doing all the work.

Cordell, 8:29pm — I’m pleasantly surprised. Love that she’s having fun.

JUDGES — Derek thought it was clean and neat, but she needs to finish each move before proceeding to the next. Bruno thought she was a “sparkling crackler,” but she needs more “hip action.” Carrie Ann thought Anne was “incredible” and a “star” on the dance floor.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (6), Bruno (6) = 18 out 0f 30

Jeffrey, 8:30pm — How does everyone think Tyra Banks is doing as host so far?

Daniel, 8:31pm — She’s keeping it moving well enough. She’s not as natural as Tom Bergeron, but it’s her first night, so I’m reserving judgment.

Cordell, 8:31pm — She’s kinda of a non factor to me. Maybe because of how fast the show is moving.

Jeffrey, 8:32pm — Yeah, she isn’t really getting in the way of the show, though it does look like she needs some getting used to.

Jeannie Mai and Brandon Armstrong

Daniel, 8:34pm — The Emmy winner from “The Real” and “Holey Moley” doesn’t have any dance experience, but she’s ready to try the most advanced moves that she’s never done before. I admire the ambition. I have a good feeling about her.

Daniel, 8:37pm — A little hectic and rough around the edges, but she definitely has what it takes. That was a solid start with cool, ambitious lifts.

Cordell, 8:38pm — She’s definitely a contender.

Jeffrey, 8:38pm — Agreed!

JUDGES — Bruno thought the spirit of the dance was spot-on, but she needs to work on her balance and foot-placement. Carrie Ann says, “You lit this room up,” but she needs to even out the energy in her arms. Derek was impressed that she was doing the lift right out of that gate, but her turns were a little rough.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (6), Bruno (6) = 18 out 0f 30

Daniel, 8:39pm — Solid, fair scores. I wonder if anyone will break that 18 ceiling tonight.

Cordell, 8:40pm — Nev, Skai or Johnny could.

Jeffrey, 8:40pm — We’ll see. I don’t know how many triple 6’s there possibly could be given out.

Jesse Metcalfe and Sharna Burgess

Daniel,. 8:42pm — Sharna admits to watching Jesse on “Passions” way back when. She wants him to bring the sexy to his dances, though he admits he has no formal training. But he seems fully committed to the learning process.

Jeffrey, 8:44pm — Not only did it look like a fun routine, but it also looked like they were having fun doing it.

Daniel, 8:45pm — Kinda clunky. He spent a lot of time looking down, not the best start, but he’s got charisma.

Cordell, 8:46pm — I agree it was a bit clunky, but room for improvement.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann thought it was one of the most passionate quicksteps she’s seen, but he needs to tame the intensity since his movements were wild. Derek thought it was “a great first dance,” but he needs to bring his shoulders down. Bruno thought he did well on a tricky dance for his first night out.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (6), Bruno (6) = 18 out 0f 30

Jeffrey, 8:47pm — There’s already a four-way tie for first place tonight.

Skai Jackson and Alan Bersten

Daniel, 8:51pm — She’s partnered with the defending champion, who won last season with Hannah Brown. She has a small stature, but her bubbly personality could make her a contender if she has the moves.

Daniel, 8:54pm — As soon as I saw that first split I was like, yep, early front-runner.

Jeffrey, 8:55pm — Yeah, definitely the best routine of the night so far.

JUDGES — Derek called the performance clean and strong, but she wanted to see more bend in the legs for a tango. Bruno thinks “the sky is the limit” with her “mature” performance and great shapes, though he agrees with Derek’s criticism about her legs. Carrie Ann appreciated how Skai dealt with the drastic height difference between her and Alan; if she adapt to that more, she could be a real force to be reckoned with.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Derek (7), Bruno (7) = 21 out 0f 30

Daniel, 8:57pm — She was the right choice to break that 6s rut.

Cordell, 8:58pm — Yes. Hated the song choice of “Super Bass” though.

Daniel, 8:58pm — I think most of the songs tonight have been a pretty awkward fit for the dance styles they’re doing so far.

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev

Daniel, 9:00pm — The earliest contestant to be announced for this season of “DWTS,” she’s partnered with Artem, who was the very last pro dancer to be announced for this season. “I am in it to win it as a dancer,” says Kaitlyn, and she’s got big shoes to fill after a “Bachelorette” won the show last season.

Daniel, 9:02pm — Better than I expected from Kaitlyn. A little slow in places maybe, but really, really clean.

Cordell, 9:02pm — Artem might have a contender finally. She’s on par with Melissa and a Hannah.

JUDGES — Bruno was wowed by how good her foot-placement was in week one, though she could have finished her moves more sharply. Carrie Ann thinks Kaitlyn needs to point her feet more. Derek thinks she has a “lot of potential,” but she needs to hit her moves and “attack” because it was a little safe.

Daniel, 9:04pm — I think Derek totally nailed that critique.

Cordell, 9:05pm — I love Derek as a judge.

Jeffrey, 9:05pm — Me too.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (7), Bruno (7) = 20 out 0f 30

Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson

Daniel, 9:06pm — Jenna loves Nev’s “funny nerd” energy. But he’s really nailing his foxtrot. Dashing AF, smooth movements, great musicality. Best of the night so far?

Jeffrey, 9:08pm — Very classy performance.

Cordell, 9:09pm — Ballroom is going to be his strong suit.

JUDGES: Carrie Ann thinks the world needs more Nev, though he needs to smooth out his rise and fall a little. Derek calls him “a great dancer” who was “pleasant to watch,” but he kept sticking his butt out, and he needs to keep his elbow down. Bruno thought he was leaning too much into Jenna while in hold, though side-by-side they were excellent.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Derek (7), Bruno (6) = 20 out 0f 30

Daniel, 9:10pm — I woulda given him one more 7, stingy Bruno!

Cordell, 9:10pm — He deserved three 7s.

Johnny Weir and Britt Stewart

Daniel, 9:14pm — “The only think I’m missing besides an Oscar is a Mirror Ball Trophy,” says Johnny, and Britt looks even more excited about the partnership than Johnny is. Her first season as a pro, and she gets a total ringer!

Cordell, 9:15pm — Wow Britt got lucky for her first season.

Jeffrey, 9:15pm — And that in my opinion was incredible!

Cordell, 9:16pm — Johnny did great.

Daniel, 9:17pm — I think so too, just as good as expected.

JUDGES — Derek could see him get in his head in his technical cha cha moves, but he was great when he was in his element. Bruno thinks he has a “wonder, lyrical quality,” but he needed to be sharper and get the hips right. Carrie Ann thinks this is the perfect show for Johnny Weir, but there was one moment where they seemed a little lost and they need to stay connected.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (6), Bruno (6) = 18 out 0f 30

Daniel, 9:20pm — Damn, they made like Olympic judges and underscored him.

Justina Machado and Sasha Farber

Daniel, 9:23pm — I stan Justina Machado hard and want her to win. I’m admittedly biased, and she’s so well matched with the bubbly Sasha. Also, power move showing off her SAG Award.

Daniel, 9:26pm — Really solid technique, and by far the most expressive performance the night. Could be a dark horse to win the season. She could totally be a fan favorite.

Jeffrey, 9:27pm — Justina’s entrance…PRICELESS! Now she and Sasha look like another pair to watch out for throughout the season.

Cordell, 9:27pm — Love her! Her personality is infectious.

JUDGES — Bruno loved the confidence Justina showed. Carrie Ann thought she was on fire and got all the judges out of their seats. Derek says, “You are oozing charisma. You filled this room with so much energy,” but she need to watch the turning of her feet.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Derek (7), Bruno (7) = 21 out 0f 30

Cordell, 9:27pm — Well deserved.

Daniel, 9:29pm — She’s such a strong contender because she’s got the moves, but if she’s a little imperfect from time to time she’s got the Bobby Bones personality to compensate and still deliver a PERFORMANCE … not that I’m biased … any more than I already admitted to being.

Charles Oakley and Emma Slater

Daniel, 9:31pm — I’ve really got my fingers crossed for Charles. Basketball stars have trouble on “DWTS,” and I want to see someone have a breakthrough. Emma got football player Rashad Jennings a Mirror Ball Trophy, so I’m excited to see what she can bring out of Oakley.

Daniel, 8:33pm — I wish I could say he’d break the basketball curse, but she was mostly dancing around him, and he was kinda stiff

Jeffrey, 9:34pm — Yeah, it looked like Emma was upstaging Charles the whole time.

Cordell, 9:35pm — Poor guy.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann needs Charles to listen to the music a little more because he was ahead of the beat. Derek thought it was flat-footed and ahead of the music, but he could also feel the joy. Bruno appreciates that Charles got into the spirit of it, but he needs to get the timing right and put more “chili in it.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (4), Derek (4), Bruno (4) = 12 out 0f 30

Daniel, 9:36pm — I love how enthusiastic Emma was about those scores. She knew they were coming, but she was so good-natured about it.

Monica Aldama and Val Chmerkovskiy

Daniel, 9:39pm — I think “Cheer” coach has a lot of potential since she has athletic experience and is used to coaching, so she might take to it well. And hit the pro partner jackpot by getting Val, who spends a lot of time in the finals.

Daniel, 9:41pm — Really great first dance from Monica, and she hit the jackpot with Val. Which means they gave Carole Baskin to poor Pasha.

JUDGES — Derek thought it was “a breath of fresh air,” though her turns were “congested.” Bruno called it “elegant and stylish,” but she needs to watch out for her underarm turns. And Carrie Ann was impressed that Monica “went for it.” She had a slow start, and her foot came off the ground during the spin — UNAUTHORIZED LIFT!

SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Derek (7), Bruno (6) = 19 out 0f 30

Cordell, 9:44pm — I agree with Derek.

Cordell, 9:46pm — I’m scared for Nelly and Carole lol

Daniel, 9:46pm — I think Nelly will do alright, and as for Carole … Nelly will do alright.

Nelly and Daniella Karagach

Daniel, 9:48pm — “I was the biggest fan of Nelly growing up!” says Daniella, who’s another first-time pro this season. And they’re doing a salsa to one of Nelly’s songs, and even Nelly looks unsure of that musical selection. Not sure that’s a good sign.

Daniel, 9:50pm — After Nelly said how little he knew how to dance, I’m pleasantly surprised. That was a solid first routine with room for improvement.

Jeffrey, 9:51pm — Nelly and Daniella’s routine was quite steamy.

JUDGES — Bruno thought it was a “wonderful ride,” “rhythmical” and “grounded,” but he need to watch his shoulders. Carrie Ann liked the “amazing” back flip; he has the right groove, but he needs to open up. Derek liked the dance, but recommends more formal dance shoes to help with his footwork.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (5), Derek (5), Bruno (6) = 16 out 0f 30

Cordell, 9:52pm — Not bad.

Carole Baskin and Pasha Pashkov

Cordell, 9:56pm — Here we go

Daniel, 9:57pm — “I have absolutely zero dance experience … I’ve been using virtual reality to try to firm up everything,” says Baskin. When Pasha saw his dance partner was Carole he says, “I was … so shocked.”

Daniel, 10:00pm — God bless Pasha for being a good sport.

Jeffrey, 10:01pm — They didn’t save the best for last this time, they saved the weirdest for last.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann loved the connection between Carole and Pasha, though there were “technical issues.” Derek commends her for dancing, though the shoulders were hunched over. Bruno says, “You didn’t quite kill the paso doble. It was kind of sedated.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (4), Derek (4), Bruno (3) = 11 out 0f 30

Daniel, 10:03pm — The 3 seems mean, but compared to the other routines and scores, it really needed to get a 3.


1. Skai Jackson — 21
1. Justina Machado — 21
3. Kaitlyn Bristowe — 20
3. Nev Schulman — 20
5. Monica Aldama — 19
6. Anne Heche — 18
6. Jeannie Mai — 18
6. AJ McLean — 18
6. Jesse Metcalfe — 18
6. Johnny Weir — 18
11. Vernon Davis — 17
12. Nelly — 16
13. Chrishell Stause — 13
14. Charles Oakley — 12
15. Carole Baskin — 11

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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