"Dancing with the Stars" officially kicked off the competition on Monday, March 17 with several changes. Twelve pairs of season 18 danced for the first time on the redesigned ballroom that night, with Erin Andrews made her debut as the new co-host and Ray Chew as the new band leader.
NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani danced first, delivering a sassy cha-cha to Robin Thicke's "Give It 2 U". "That's the way to get the party started," judge Len Goodman said. Bruno Tonioli added, "I feel you have so much to give!" The reality TV star earned 21 out of 30 points.
Up next was James Maslow who is paired with pro dancer Peta Murgatroyd. They apparently dated once, but he later went on tour and never called her. Their chemistry was shown during their foxtrot to One Direction's "Story of My Life". Carrie Ann Inaba declared, "I have a big time crush on you," as the judges praised his effort to get the technique right. The Big Time Rush member also earned 21 points.
Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy also danced a foxtrot, and Len said she made a great "first impression." Carrie Ann called her "so adorable." The judges advised the actress to work on her shoulders and overly expressive face, and gave her 24 points.
Sean Avery and Karina Smirnoff's first dance together was a contemporary number. His strength was useful to lift his partner, but the self-proclaimed bad boy of the NHL didn't move gracefully on the dance floor. Len said he needed a little more "finesse." The former football player earned 20 points.
Billy Dee Williams, who has arthritis in his back and has had two hip operations, danced a cha-cha set to the "Star Wars" theme with Emma Slater. Len called it "entertaining," but Carrie Ann said, "We're going to need a little more from you next week." The 77-year-old actor only earned 15 points.
Meryl Davis impressed her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy during rehearsals and she indeed wowed the crowd with her cha-cha in the ballroom. Len raved, "You're nice on ice, but you're good on wood," while Bruno called her the "queen of spin." The Olympic ice dancing gold medalists earned 24 points.
Candace Cameron Bure planned to keep it "modest" with her costumes. She danced a contemporary with Mark Ballas that night. "You can dance," Len gushed. Bruno claimed he was "torn between ecstasy and torment," while Carrie Ann called her "an incredible dancer." The "Full House" star earned 25 points.
Cody Simpson and Witney Carson danced a spicy cha-cha to "Timber". Bruno praised his energy, but complained of his footwork. Carrie Ann agreed with Bruno about the footwork, with Len adding that the Aussie singer needed to work on technique. Cody earned 22 points.
Drew Carey admitted the show was "so far out of my comfort zone." His foxtrot with Cheryl Burke included some humor and Carrie Ann called him a "crowd-pleaser." Len said he enjoyed it as it was "very watchable." The judges gave the game show host 21 points.
Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy did an impressive cha-cha with pro partner Derek Hough. Len said she deserved a "gold medal" for the performance, while Carrie Ann was tearful as she described Amy as "a beacon of light." Amy earned 24 points.
Diana Nyad only earned 18 points for her foxtrot with Henry Byalikov, but she claimed she didn't "show" all of her moves that night. Bruno advised her to work on footwork, while Len said she needed a "little bit more fluidity."
Charlie White and Sharna Burgess was the last pair to dance in the season opener. Being an Olympic ice dancer is apparently advantageous in the dancing competition as he showed fluid moves and strength during his contemporary number. Carrie Ann called it "poetry in motion," and Len said it was "the perfect dance for you." Charlie earned 27 points, the highest score of the night.
Next week, the twelve pairs will dance in the style they most wanted to do. One of them will be eliminated in the same episode.
Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy - Foxtrot:
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy - Cha-cha:
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas - Contemporary:
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough - Cha-cha:
Charlie White and Sharna Burgess - Contemporary: