Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) is the perfect mix of fact and fiction. Fact: I’m very confident that the majority of viewers that judge DWTS on Twitter could not tell the difference between a Paso Doble and a Jive. Fiction: The promise that all the contestants put the “star” in Dancing with the Stars. DWTS has successfully ruled the reality dance-show genre for over 30 seasons for its messy yet authentic entertainment value, and Season 31 doesn’t disappoint.
Season 31 is unique for a couple of reasons. The show moved from ABC to Disney+, meaning that there are no more ad breaks to spend tweeting about the show. The show now dedicates its 120-minute run time to dancing, making the live production way more hectic. To compensate, host Tyra Banks now shares her role with 19th-season champion Alfonso Ribeiro and the cast has grown to 16 pairs—the largest cast since Season 9. Make sure to watch out for Jordin Sparks (singer), Charli D’Amelio (TikTok), and Daniel Durant (CODA actor).
So, in case you haven’t watched the first episode yet, but still want to vote (for my favourites), here are some of its best and worst moments:
Best: Selma Blair’s gorgeous Viennese Waltz
Remember Vivian Kensington from Legally Blonde? Selma Blair has always been an icon, but her waltz with pro Sasha Farber might be my favourite performance of hers to date. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2018, Blair struggles with balance and coordination, and occasionally uses a cane to walk. But Farber—the brilliant choreographer that he is—created an accessible routine where Blair could highlight her performance strengths. The dance brought the audience to tears, and judge Carrie Ann Inaba praised the star for representing those with invisible illnesses, calling her “a Disney princess come alive.”
Best: Wayne Brady, a triple threat
While best known for his ‘90s and ‘00s roles, the Whose Line is it Anyways star is timeless. He can sing, he can act, and now we have proof that he can dance. Brady and his partner Witney Carson earned the second-highest score of the night with their Cha-Cha—for good reason. Their energy was unmatched, with Brady ripping off his shirt in tune to “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” and Carson letting her star twirl just as much as she. There’s a reason why Brady has stayed in the spotlight for so long—he is a true entertainer. I hope to see him in the finals.
Best: The dance troupe stealing the spotlight
The lack of ad breaks frees up time to bring back my favourite DWTS tradition: The dance troupe. The troupe, which hasn’t been featured since Season 27, is made up of fabulous professional dancers who perform short routines during show transitions. The problem (for the stars, that is) is that these highly trained individuals “re-perform” snippets of the previous dance. They basically expose all the previous performance’s flaws, almost turning DWTS into a dance roast—which I, for one, would pay to see.
Worst: Neon prints are hard to rock
I don’t know about you, but when I think of a neon sparkly fringe leopard-print outfit, I think of a kid’s gymnastics uniform. All I’ll say is that drag icon Shangela should not have been subjected to that nightmare-inducing ensemble. Good thing her energy made up for that flop costume. Halleloo!
Worst: The crowd booing Len Goodman
Head judge Len Goodman knows more about dance than my collective knowledge during finals. So when he criticized Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion for his footwork, I’m sure he was trying to be a constructive critic. But with the way the audience booed Goodman, I would’ve assumed he had insulted a puppy. The whole point of DWTS is that the “stars” are not dancers, so of course the first week would feature mistakes. I think Goodman should be meaner to the stars. And you can quote me on that.
Dancing with the Stars is streaming live on Disney+ on Mondays at 8 p.m.