ABC’s Dancing with the Stars made its season 18 debut last night with 12 new stars arriving in the ballroom. From the moment former NHL player Sean Avery was introduced, he continued to look like he wasn’t thrilled to be there. While the other competitors looked excited and were grooving to the music, Avery looked more stoic than anything else.
Is it nervousness because he’s distinctly out of his element? Maybe. His debut dance was Contemporary, which I thought was a mean choice to throw at competitors in the first week. Three dance styles were on display last night: Cha Cha Cha, Foxtrot and Contemporary. None of the styles are easy, but Contemporary requires fluid movement and a major connection to your partner and the music. Usually the stars get to start with some ballroom basics and move on to the more complicated dances. I don’t recall a season where Contemporary was unleashed so early.
Let’s go to the video for Avery’s performance, as well as the judges critiques and his post-dance interview with Erin Andrews.
Yes, Avery said he was trying to channel Ren McCormack from 1984’s Footloose, specifically the famous scene where he danced in the abandoned warehouse. Anyone else as shocked as I am by this revelation?
The dancing hockey player ended up with a judges score of 20, out of a 30. Carrie Ann and Bruno gave him sevens while Len went with six. The six was more in line with what I thought the dance deserved. Avery’s movements were clunky and lacked passion. A couple of the judges called him intense, but Karina didn’t seem in the same intense space that he was and it made for a lopsided performance because they weren’t emotionally connected.
Avery was outscored in Contemporary by both Full House actress Candace Cameron Bure (scoring a 25) and Olympic Gold Medal ice dancer Charlie White (scoring a 27, the night’s highest score). Let’s look at Charlie’s dance, which I’ll admit gave me goosebumps. This is what Contemporary should be.
How did the other athletes do last night? Charlie’s skating partner Meryl Davis scored a 24 with a great Cha Cha Cha. Paralympian, and newly minted Bronze medalist snowboarder, Amy Purdy also got a 24 for her Cha Cha Cha. Swimmer Diana Nyad got 18 points for her Foxtrot.
At the end of the show, White was at the top of the celebrities and actor Billy Dee Williams was at the bottom with 15. Avery’s 20 put him third from the bottom with only Diana and Billy Dee trailing.
Of course, this is really a popularity contest, so how well someone dances often matters less than how big their fan base is. Can Avery pull more votes than a beloved actor from Star Wars, who milked that for all it was worth? That’s a tough call, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Avery was eliminated next week. If not next week though, I don’t think Avery will make it to the halfway point unless he starts to act like he wants to be on the show and put in the work to improve his technique.
Who do I think ultimately wins the Mirror Ball Trophy? My money is on the ice dancers. Meryl and Charlie are going to duke it out to the end. Charlie will get all my votes because he’s so damn cute. Tough competition will come from actresses Bure and Danica McKellar, snowborder Purdy, as well as Australian pop star Cody Simpson.
To wrap up this week, let look at the truly disturbing number from last night, showing Disney marketing synergy run amok. It’s like a missing scene from the Star Wars Christmas Special. Here’s Billy Dee Williams doing a Cha Cha Cha to the Disco version of the Star Wars theme.
Jeff is excited to bring his love of dance competition shows to PuckBuddys after blogging about both “DWTS” and “So You Think You Can Dance” at jeffandwill.com. Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s written a young adult novel, Hat Trick, which details the coming out of two high school hockey players. He’s currently working on two sequels to that book. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.