Hey Dance fans! The "landmark 20th season" and 10th year of "Dancing with the Stars" has begun, and it already looks like some fierce competition. Many strong and surprising dancers hide among the twelve new contestants, and the weak links are only moderately weak. No Master Ps, Lolo Joneses, or Michael Waltrips here this season, thank goodness. But why do they bother making Derek Hough go through the motions of competing when they're going to pair him up with former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin? Seems like a shoo-in. But who knows, she could be terrible. It's unlikely, but anything is possible.

Lots of the pairings seem the same as in past seasons though. Tony Dovolani is again placed with an older competitor, while Mark Ballas is with the young one; Derek is with the ringer again, and Val with the surprising unknown talent. Fortunately, Peta is again paired with someone other than the hot young bachelor. I like her so much better when she's not trying to convince the audience of her hotness. Let's hope the audience thinks about these couplings when Switch-Up Week comes back.

Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews return as hosts, along with the full roster of judges: Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Julianne Hough, and Bruno Tonioli, and the pros kick the evening off with a dance-focused group routine choreographed by the wonderful Mandy Moore.

Let's take a look at the dances. Here are five that stand out most in my mind, and then we'll talk a little about the remaining routines.

The Top 5:

Willow Shields and Mark Ballas's Cha-Cha: the young Primrose Everdeen instead channels Effie Trinket, while Mark volunteers as tribu-er, partner in a cheesy but funny spoof of The Hunger Games, before the pair gets into their rehearsals. The fourteen-year-old (!) competitor is strong and fairly smooth, with a surprisingly mature presence for her young age, but she's clearly green too. She needs to work on her footwork and straighten her legs, as the judges point out, but she's also aware of her weaknesses. I'm excited to see how far she'll go in the competition, and thought she deserved a higher score. Score: 25

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker's Jive: I have no idea who Riker is, except apparently the bassist for R5, but he's terrific. Yes, the judges are right that he's a little sloppy and needs some refinement, but he has great energy and is pretty sharp. Allison is still such a star, yet he keeps up with her pretty well. He's cute too, though he needs a haircut. I guess being related to Derek and Julianne has its advantages. Score: 31

Chris Soules and Witney Carson's Jive: I expected the former Bachelor to be the Chris Penn character in the movie "Footloose": the awkward guy who really doesn't dance well no matter how hard he tries. But I was pleasantly surprised, and really quite impressed! He looks great. He definitely needs to polish his moves, straighten his posture, and work on his kicks, but he has great energy and really goes for it. Score: 26

Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess's Cha-Cha: It's difficult to find words to express this routine, other than "wow." It's sometimes difficult to watch, but that makes it so much more important to show, and it's so wonderful that Dancing with the Stars is doing this. The army veteran has a graceful quality of movement, despite his limitations; you can see it in that first arm reach to the side, as he stretches fully through his torso. I disagree with Julianne: more leading is done with the right arm, so that's perhaps fortuitous, but the left arm is still important, and not having the same range of motion in the knees is very limiting. All hip motion comes from the knee movement, for example. But Carrie Ann has the quote of the night when she tells him, "You're broadening my scope of what dance looks like." Score: 26

Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy's Fox-Trot: Rumer looks good in the opening package, and is scheduled to perform last, which is a great sign. She does not disappoint, beautifully dancing to a terrific routine (except for a couple of odd steps, like that shoulder-bouncing walk). She's graceful, strong, elegant, and emotional, very clearly an actress, giving her all to the performance. It's gorgeous. I'm excited to see her give Nastia and Derek a run for their money. Score: 32 (highest)

The Rest:

Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson's Cha-Cha: The "Shark Tank" star surprised everyone with his cha-cha, myself included. He's a bit stiff, but he's trying really hard and giving everything he has-and certainly more than we expected. It's a wonderful surprise. Score: 28

Charlotte McKinney and Keo Motsepe's Cha-Cha: I'm trying to be open-minded about Charlotte, but it's difficult-especially when "DWTS" builds the whole intro to their partnership out of Austin-Powers-style boobage jokes. Barf. Her dancing doesn't do much to help either: she's jagged, awkward, and full of mistakes, though she does have good energy and a cute smile, and recovers from her mistakes quickly (the true mark of a professional). Perhaps there's some hope for her. Score: 22 (tied for lowest)

Patti LaBelle & Artem Chigvintsev's Fox-Trot: I confess I'm a little too distracted by the awesomeness (not to mention history) of the song "Lady Marmalade" to watch Patti's dancing, but she looks very elegant and lovely. But why do they give her a fox-trot when a) everyone up to this point does either cha-cha or jive, and b) that song works better as a cha-cha anyway? She is so sweetly emotional during the critique though, and she's music royalty. I'm curious to see her more. Score: 25

Michael Sam & Peta Murgatroyd's Cha-Cha: I'm excited to see this, given the show's history with surprisingly talented football players, and I'm always glad when Peta's paired with someone she can't possibly have a showmance with. Michael does a great job too, with a smooth groove and great energy, but there's something missing that I can't quite put my finger on. I also disagree with Carrie Ann about his smile being plastered on, but since I'm not that familiar with him, perhaps I'm just surprised he has such a lovely smile. Score: 26

'Dancing With the Stars': Michael's Crowd-Pleasing Cha Cha

Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough's Fox-Trot: Seriously, it seems ridiculously unfair to bring Nastia on the show at all, much less to pair her with 5-time winner Derek. I mean, give the other contestants a chance. Nastia's such a ringer, she's so beautiful and graceful, and capable of anything. I wonder if they used her to lure the pro back to the show, since he was supposedly going to take this season off. All that said, I don't love this routine. It feels a little fast and overstuffed with moves, and the music is distracting. Plus she doesn't perform last, which makes me think someone else may actually do better. Score: 30

Redfoo & Emma Slater's Cha-Cha: Unlike Emma's comment in the package, I didn't have a high expectation of the LMFAO star's dancing, though I always hope people will do well. I especially want Emma to have a partner she can show off with. She's a wonderful dancer, but her partners so far have limited what she can do. It's not clear yet whether Redfoo will be beneficial for her, and early signs point to no, but we can hope. Score: 22 (tied for lowest)

Suzanne Somers and Tony Dovolani's Cha-Cha: Wow, those legs are something. And People magazine calling her the Dumbest Woman in America? That is unbelievably offensive. Yes, the TV legend makes some big mistakes in her cha-cha, but she has great energy, and there's some potential there. Score: 25

So we're off to a great start! It's exciting to see how things will play out, starting with the first elimination next week. Any guesses who it will be? Who were your favorites tonight?
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