'Dancing with the Stars' Season 29 premiere: Celebrities and pro partners revealed, Skai Jackson and Justina Machado top judges' leaderboard
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/15/2020
Dancing with the Stars revealed its celebrity and professional pairings for Season 29 and featured the 15 celebrities testing out their dance shoes in the ballroom and performing for the first time during Monday night's premiere episode on ABC.
Each celebrity's professional partner for Season 29 was slowly unveiled before he or she took the stage as the Dancing with the Stars broadcast unfolded.
Backstreet Boys member AJ McLean is partnered with pro Cheryl Burke, figure skater and Olympic medalist Johnny Weir is paired with newbie pro Britt Stewart, TV and film actress Anne Heche is dancing with Keo Motsepe, The Real co-host and fashion correspondent Jeannie Mai is partnered with pro Brandon Armstrong, and actor Jesse Metcalfe is paired with pro Sharna Burgess.
Former NFL football player Vernon Davis is performing with pro Peta Murgatroyd, rapper Nelly is paired with newbie pro Daniella Karagach, Selling Sunset star Chrishell Stause is partnered with Gleb Savchenko, former NBA basketball star Charles Oakley is paired with pro Emma Slater, and Tiger King star Carole Maskin is partnered with Pasha Pashkov for Season 29.
Bruno told Skai "the sky is the limit" for her on the show this season, and the other judges complimented her beautiful posture and clean and strong performance.
Justina and Sasha took the stage with a cha cha routine, which was dubbed energetic and full of life by the judges. Justina was told she was "on fire" by the panel.
Kaitlyn and partner Artem tied for third place on the judges' leaderboard with Nev and partner Jenna after both couples scored 20 points from the judges for their routines.
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Kaitlyn and Artem danced a "brilliant" cha cha, but Derek said it was "safe" for Kaitlyn and her moves could be sharper in the future. Carrie Ann also told Kaitlyn to point her feet.
Nev and Jenna performed a foxtrot routine that the judges agreed was uplifting, refined, and pleasant to watch. Derek, however, advised Nev to "tuck that toosh" in upcoming performances.
Monica and partner Val finished in fifth place on the judges' leaderboard with a score of 19 points for their foxtrot. Monica was called graceful and "a breath of fresh air" by the judges, but Derek admitted her turns were congested and stiff.
Sixth place represented a huge five-way tie amongst the following celebrities, who received 18 judges' points apiece: AJ, Johnny, Anne, Jeannie, and Jesse.
AJ and partner Cheryl took the stage with a high-energy jive routine that impressed the judges. AJ was told he had a great first dance and pumped up home viewers but he'll need to learn the difference between kicks and flicks in the jive.
Johnny and partner Britt performed the cha cha and were advised to stay more connected as partners going forward. Derek explained to Johnny that sometimes he was in his element and other times he appeared to be in his head overthinking his technique.
Anne and partner Keo also danced a cha cha routine, which was dubbed clean. Anne's movements were a little "jerky" and she was told she has mechanical hips, but Carrie Ann called Anne "a star."
Jeannie and partner Brandon performed the salsa and Bruno gushed about Jeannie being "a little ray of sunshine." The judges told Jeannie she looked radiant on the stage and lit up the room.
And Jesse and partner Sharna performed an 18-point worthy quickstep number. Jesse was asked to improve his posture, but Carrie Ann commented on the pair's noticeable "steamy chemistry" right off the bat.
Eleventh place on the judges' leaderboard went to Vernon and partner Peta, who received 17 points from Derek, Carrie Ann and Bruno for their "smooth" and "beautiful" foxtrot performance.
Nelly and partner Daniella claimed twelfth place on the judges' leaderboard with 16 points for their "groovy" salsa routine.
Nelly surprised with his grounded and rhythmical moves, but he was asked to work on his flexibility. Derek also suggested the sneaker-wearing rapper should wear ballroom dancing shoes next week.
Chrishell and partner Gleb finished in thirteenth place on the leaderboard with a total of 13 points. While Chrishell's smile was contagious, her footwork was apparently off and the judges figured that's because she's "pigeon toed."
Right on their heels were Charles and partner Emma, who came in fourteenth place on the leaderboard with 12 points.
Charles and Emma took the stage with a salsa routine and Charles was informed he had danced ahead of the music and should fill the space better. Although the "flat-footed" athlete showed joy on stage, the judges advised Charles to work on his technique.
And finally, Carole and partner Pasha landed in fifteenth -- and last -- place on the judges' leaderboard with only 11 judges' points.
Carole and Pasha had a great connection during the paso doble and Carole apparently didn't hold back, but there were technical issues in the routine and Carole's shoulders were often raised.
While Derek praised Carole for having "smashed" the performance, Bruno said it felt like a "sedated" paso doble.
According to Dancing with the Stars' new host and executive producer Tyra Banks, one celebrity and professional pairing will be eliminated during next week's Season 29 episode based on the home-viewer voting results.