After the first episode of “Dancing with the Stars,” at least one thing is for certain: When ABC stocks the cast with athletes, there are going to be some high scores. The show’s 27th season convened a diverse group of active and retired athletes, Olympians and ballplayers and plenty of heroes and villains.
Week 1 of the four-week miniseries was as hokey as it was graceful. Hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews welcomed contestants to the dance floor with an amateurish routine to Queen’s stadium classic, “We Will Rock You,” remixed with salsa and cha-cha beats to make a ballroom pep rally.
Dancers waved pompoms and flags that spelled out “DWTS.” Contestants awkwardly clapped, and then away we went into fox trots, salsas, cha-chas and one Viennese waltz. The results were, on the whole, encouraging. Adam Rippon, still after America’s heart, captured it yet again. Mirai Nagasu, another Olympic figure skater, was breathtaking.
Even Redskins cornerback Josh Norman proved he’s got moves, flirting his way to the top of the field.
My “preseason” power rankings got a bit of a shake-up, but not by a whole lot. After Week 1, here’s how the field looks:
10. Johnny Damon, retired MLB player
Dancing the fox trot, score: 18
In the words of judge Bruno Tonioli: “Did it all go smoothly? No.”
“You’re adorable,” added fellow judge Carrie Ann Inaba.
Sure. He’s adorable in the way a child is adorable when he or she tries something new. Clearly, the effort is there, but the technique isn’t. Simply, the routine was awkward, and Damon, six years removed from his major league career, doesn’t have the celebrity to command a place on the show if his dancing is going to be that suspect.
9. Jamie Anderson, Olympic snowboarder
Dancing the Viennese waltz, score: 19
The Viennese waltz is tough, and it’s tougher if you lose count of your steps. That’s what happened to Jamie Anderson. She got off to a great start, dancing to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” And then somewhere among the twirls, her footwork got sloppy, and the back half of her performance wasn’t so much a dance as it was a jog around the dance floor. Maybe chalk that up to a background where footwork isn’t terribly important. She’s a snowboarder, remember. Her feet are normally strapped to a piece of wood.
8. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, retired NBA legend
Dancing the cha-cha, score: 17
Is Kareem shy or is there something else that held him back? He danced the cha-cha with partner Lindsay Arnold, and let’s just say the legend didn’t have the moves on the dance floor like he did back in the day in the post. It was hard to tell if Kareem, 71, was just nervous or perhaps not stable on his feet. A troupe of professional dancers joined him and Arnold on the floor to add some flourishes, and he didn’t exactly bust a move, rather, a lot of shimmying in place.
When Inaba scolded, “You, sir, could get a little groovier,” that might be a big ask of the cancer and heart disease survivor.
“Very simple, very dignified,” Tonioli said.
7. Tonya Harding, retired Olympic figure skater
Dancing the fox trot, score: 23
It’s so annoying admitting Tonya Harding is a good dancer. But yeah, she’s great. Her lines are wonderful. Her feet are exact. She’s tremendously lyrical.
And yet, she’s still a complainer.
“I was the best figure skater in the world, and then I had it taken away from me,” she said in an interview during rehearsals. Well, not exactly. She admitted this winter she had prior knowledge of the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. So ,was figure skating “taken” from her, or was she punished? It’s still not clear Harding understands the gravity of the attack on Kerrigan, even 24 years later. For me, that overshadowed her dance moves.
It seemed to do the same for the voters at home. Harding scored in the bottom three groups of the night, an announcement that yielded shrieks of “What?” and “How?” from the live audience that included Oscar-winner Allison Janney. (Note: Janney won best supporting actress for her role in the Harding biopic “I, Tonya.”)
6. Jennie Finch Daigle, retired Olympic softball player
Dancing the fox trot, score: 21
First, the song choice: “All-American Girl,” by Carrie Underwood is a classic tune, and maybe not something you’d ordinarily consider for the fox trot. Also, about the fox trot: It’s not a slow, waltzy walk in the park. It takes precision at reasonable pace. That’s where Daigle struggled. She tried to muscle every move and jab at every step, instead of flowing and following partner Keo Motsepe. Another discipline, cha-cha or salsa, will help her out.
5. Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame women’s basketball player
Dancing the salsa, score: 20
Ogunbowale is the first college athlete allowed to profit off her name, image and likeness on a television program. The NCAA granted her a waiver saying she’s on the show “unrelated to her basketball abilities.” That’s a little tough to believe, because the only reason you’ve heard the name Arike Ogunbowale is because she hit two buzzer beaters to help Notre Dame win the women’s basketball national championship.
Her appearance on the show wasn’t different from any of the other athlete contestants. Her partner, Gleb Savchenko, joined her in South Bend to practice. ABC had no qualms promoting her as a star basketball player. Her dance was fine. She’s clearly got groove, but maybe more suited to a party than a ballroom.
4. Chris Mazdzer, Olympic luger
Dancing the salsa, score: 21
If nothing else, what a start. Mazdzer was full of energy and clearly was eager to learn. Dancing the salsa, he was enthusiastic and clearly having a lot of fun. You could also see him counting steps in his head: 1-2-3, pause, 1-2-3. His hip movement got boxy, which Tonioli pointed out. But Ianaba was taken with his easiness and his barrel chest.
Yes, it helps to be good looking.
3. Josh Norman, Washington Redskins cornerback
Dancing the cha-cha, score: 24
I’m trying not to put any stock in Josh Norman. D.C. sports, specifically the Redskins’ secondary, have disappointed me too many times that it’s not worth getting emotionally invested. Plus, I could have sworn I saw Norman lose tracking of his footwork for a few seconds, and he needs to work on his lines.
But he did jump over (like all the way over) partner Sharna Burgess. And the song choice, Bruno Mars’ “Finesse,” had the whole studio moving.
“You’re just another one of a long list of footballers that can dance,” judge Len Goodman said.
Inaba added, “You have an X-factor,” and called him a season favorite.
2. Mirai Nagasu, Olympic figure skater
Dancing the salsa, score: 23
Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow. You guys, wow.
Mirai Nagasu can dance. Like, with relative ease. She’s on top of the music. She’s mobile around the dance floor. She’s in sync with partner Alan Bersten. She can jump and do flips and spin around and land on rhythm. She’s very good, and she looks like an early favorite.
1. Adam Rippon, Olympic figure skater
Dancing the cha-cha, score: 24
So, it’s impossible for Rippon to win after the first week, but we might as well hand him the Mirror Ball Trophy. He was tremendous. “You were born to do this show,” Inaba said.
Well, maybe he was born to win an Olympic medal and inspire millions of people around the country, but sure, born to do this show as well. His footwork on the dance floor is spot on. His lines are gorgeous. He has attitude for days. Everything you loved about Adam Rippon on the ice, he brings to the dance floor. With another week of practice, he’ll be Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire.
Move along, Sister Jean. Rippon is still America’s sweetheart.
Read more from The Post: