“Dancing with the Stars” Season 15 is the long-awaited “All-Stars” edition and Monday night, the hit ABC reality show didn’t disappoint. Almost all of the All-Star celebrities turned in polished performances in the battle for the ultimate mirror ball trophy.
But even with the embarrassment of riches in the ballroom, some stood out, as gridiron great Emmitt Smith and actor Gilles Marini ranked first and second after their premiere dances. Not far behind were “Cheetah Girl” Sabrina Bryan, who scored third, and Olympians Shawn Johnson and Apolo Anton Ohno, who tied for fourth.
After the show, xfinityTV caught up with the top five stars and their partners on the red carpet.
Unbelievably, Season 3 winner Emmitt looked like he’d never left the dance floor and earned the highest score of the night, a 24.5 for his cha cha. The football legend, who was re-teamed with Cheryl Burke, told xfinityTV, “I felt awesome. She pushes me to a whole ‘nother level. I looked at tapes between then — when I was on the show Season 3 — and over the last three or four years saw the standard of dance going up, so what we’re trying to do is meet that standard as well.”
Emmitt said he didn’t expect to be on top the first night. “I expected to go out and give a good performance [but] I thought I would have been scored a lot lower.”
The football star admitted he hasn’t done a whole lot of dancing since his season. “I danced with a lady for her 50th birthday at a special event for her,” he said. “I’ve been watching [other "DWTS" seasons] a little bit.”
But on Monday, Emmitt and Cheryl performed last, which he felt helped them. He thought, “All we have to do is just go do our best and have fun and let the chips fall where they may and, fortunately for us, it worked out to where the judges were very pleased with what we did and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Gilles Marini and his partner Peta Murgatroyd placed second for the night with a 24 for their graceful foxtrot. They are also considered one of the front-running couples, but he didn’t have any arrogance backstage.
“We’re happy with it. We’re very proud of what we accomplished,” Gilles told reporters. “[But] confident? This is All-Stars! When you’re against some of those people who have zillions of fans, it’s going to be very difficult. Emmitt Smith probably had America behind him. Sabrina Bryan is an extraordinary dancer. We’re going to just hope for the best.”
The French actor believed the judging team of Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli were more than fair and “could even be harder” for “All-Stars”: “The bar has been raised.”
Meanwhile, Sabrina Bryan scored a 22.5 for her energetic foxtrot with partner Louis Van Amstel, good for third. The Cheetah Girl was ready to roar on the ballroom floor after she had been so abruptly eliminated during Season 5 in one of “DWTS’s” most shocking moments. “I’ve been waiting to be on that dance floor for so long since my elimination in Season 5. It’s something you think about, you wish for, and then, all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘damn. This is really happening,’” she marveled. “It took my breath away a little bit.”
Judges praised her routine but marked her down slightly for being over the top. When asked how she could have dialed down her energy, Sabrina laughed, “Tonight, that just wasn’t going to happen because I was just so excited. Being on that floor was like living in a heaven for an entertainer like me. I love performing so much and I loved my routine. It’s the best I’ve ever felt doing choreography. There was just no holding back.”
Sabrina admitted watching the clip of her Season 5 ouster, which ABC aired again Monday night, is still painful. “It does put a pit in my stomach every time I see that stupid video. It is talked about every season, surprisingly. But I think that is something that really changed people’s perspective on the show. They realized that you do have to put the votes in.” And the viewer’s choice competitor added, “Because it happened, that’s the reason why they brought me back.”
Sabrina commented on the judges, who added a new half point system this season, “I think they… let the whole cast know everything is a totally different standard than all the other seasons that that you’ve been on. We’re doing an All-Star season so it’s time to step it up.”
The team of Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough made it look easy with a fluid foxtrot that earned a score of 22. And backstage, the fourth place star reflected on how she’s grown since her last time on “DWTS” when she won with Mark Ballas. “It’s been 3 years and I was 17. [Now] I’m 20. I’ve gone through quite a bit in the past three years–a [gymnastics] comeback, knee surgery, I retired. I do feel like I’ve grown up.”
Shawn confided she was “a mess” backstage. “I forgot about all those nerves, especially since I retired from competition.”
Overall, the former gymnast liked the judges’ Monday night critique. “Carrie Ann really liked the character, the attitude, the fun part of it. Len didn’t like that it wasn’t a technical standard foxtrot. We knew it was a risk but wanted to have fun,” she said.
A little uneasy about tonight’s elimination show, Shawn commented, “Everybody is great across the board. I hope I don’t have to pack up and go already!”
Judges also gave a 22 to Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and his partner Karina Smirnoff, who performed a colorful cha cha routine, complete with fluorescent costumes. “Our goal was to make sure everybody in the audience wanted to dance with us. I was happy with it. I felt pretty good,” Apolo said. But the perfectionist athlete added, “I think I can be better.”
Apolo felt the judges “were very tough” for premiere night. Karina agreed they were tough but added, “I think they were fair because it is All-Stars. [With] the level of the competition, the expectations are higher.”