Even before “Dancing with the Stars” began its 29th season, figure skater Johnny Weir seemed like a natural front-runner, but it took him a while to find his footing in the ballroom. He finally had a breakthrough on “Disney Night,” though, going from the middle of the pack to the top of the judges’ leaderboard. Watch his game-changing rumba above.
Weir has a lot to live up to. He’s an Olympic figure skater like three previous Mirror Ball champions: Kristi Yamaguchi, Meryl Davis and Adam Rippon. And he has a vibrant, outgoing personality like Rippon that, on paper, made him seem like an almost inevitable champion. However, he didn’t seem quite as comfortable as his predecessors in his first couple of weeks. His season premiere cha cha scored straight 6s from the judges for a total of 18 out of 30. His second-week tango got the exact same scores. Both times he tied for sixth place among the crowded roster of celebrities.
But he took a more personal approach to his “Disney Night” rumba to “Reflection” from “Mulan.” The film reminded him of the sacrifices his family made to support his figure skating career, and the judges could feel that. Carrie Ann Inaba teared up at his transformation from ice skater to ballroom dancer. Bruno Tonioli thought he finally “started to project emotion” in addition to his strong technique. And Derek Hough praised his lines and arm extensions.
Not only did he not get 6s this time, he actually got 8s across the board, tying him with Nev Schulman for the top score of the night and the top score of the season so far. But does that mean Weir is back to being the front-runner we initially thought he was? Maybe, but this season has proved difficult to narrow down. In the first three weeks of competition, there have already been five different contestants on top of the leaderboard, with no repeats: Justina Machado and Skai Jackson in week one, Kaitlyn Bristowe in week two, and now Weir and Schulman in week three. So Weir can certainly win, but his fellow celebs aren’t about to make it easy for him.
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