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'Dancing with the Stars' 5th Judge: Meet the Cast of 'DWTS: Juniors' Before Season's First Elimination

Five contestants have to perform for their lives before the first elimination of the season, and you won’t believe who America declared safe!

The two-night premiere of "Dancing with the Stars" continued, but only six of the 13 couples in the competition would have to dance for the judges’ votes.

The lucky half-dozen were the six that scored lowest with viewers at home. But with only six couples performing, how on earth are Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews going to fill two hours? Well, that’s easy.

You see, there’s a new spinoff show, "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors" kicking off in two weeks, so it was time to introduce both the little professionals and the 12 junior stars that will make up that cast.

The cast is made up of a "black-ish" star, an "Avengers: Infinity War," the children of Scottie Pippen, Stevie Wonder and Bristol Palin, as well as a spelling bee whiz kid, more stars from the world of television and music and "Honey Boo Boo" herself, Alana Thompson.

And by the end of the night, there were only 12 adults left competing in this season of "Dancing with the Stars." As always, America keeps things interesting by supporting terrible dancers and punishing good ones. It’s the old popularity angle at work again.

Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I’ve spent the last sixteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I’ve got this.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie-Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.


If you were wondering how this "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors" was going to go, wonder no more. The pro cast of kids came out with a performance on the parent show to prove that there is such a thing as great dancers at any age. It’s all about putting in the work.

And the following dozen stars are definitely going to have to do that if they want to keep up with those professional kids:

Miles Brown (Jack Johnson, "black-ish"), 13 years old

Ariana Greenblatt (young Gamora, "Avengers: Infinity War"), 10 years old

Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson ("Toddlers & Tiaras"), 12 years old

Akash Vukoti (youngest male spelling bee competitor), 9 years old

Sky Brown (professional skateboarder), 10 years old

Mandla Morris (Stevie Wonders son), 13 years old

Sophia Pippen (Scottie Pippen’s daughter), 9 years old

Hudson West (Jake Spencer, "General Hospital"), 10 years old

Mackenzie Ziegler (singer), 14 years old

Tripp Palin (Bristol Palin’s son), 9 years old

Addison Osta Smith ("MasterChef Junior" winner), 13 years old

Jason Maybaum (Levi Grayson, "Raven’s Home"), 10 years old

Anybody who knows the world of dance knows that most dancers start at a very young age and train for years and years before they even become teenagers. And young dancers who are great aren’t an anomaly in the dance world.

What’ll be interesting is seeing how the mentoring works? They’re being partnered with one of the adult pros of the parent series, so it should be fun seeing what the three of them can come up with each week, and whether any of these adult pros start getting baby fever because the kids are so danged cute.

The show premieres Sunday, Oct. 7 and features hosts Jordan Fisher and Frankie Muniz. Judges include Adam Rippon, Mandy Moore and Val Chmerkovskiy.


The "Juniors" contestant and former "Dance Moms" star debuted her new single "Wonderful" and it was… a little rough. She has a huge online following, and it was great seeing the young dancers surround her, but when she watches that back she is going to be very critical of herself; she was out of tune almost as much as she was in? Was it nerves from performing it live on such a big platform?


Poor Joe & Jenna got caught on camera with Joe saying, "I don’t wanna to do this anymore. I’m gonna quit." It was a moment of frustration that was understandable as he did not perform well Monday night and got the lowest marks of the night.

He wasn’t alone, either as Nancy & Val were captured while she dealt with her frustration as well. But the night went much better for Tinashe & Brandon and DeMarcus & Lindsay, who enjoyed some of the night’s top scores, and rounded out the first four couples given results.

So it wasn’t really much of a surprise when Nancy & Val were put in jeopardy, but you couldn’t have scripted Jenna’s reaction to finding out that all those "Bachelor" fans put her and Joe into safety. Honestly, he was terrible here, but he has a huge following right now. It’ll be interesting to see how far it carries him, and if he ever improves.

"Being called awkward doesn’t feel nice," Nikki told Gleb after their stiff performance. They were joined by Bobby & Sharna, Juan Pablo & Cheryl, Alexis & Alan and John & Emma for the second group of results.

John joked that he hoped he did his family proud and, ‘Maybe my kids will talk to me again." At least, we hope he was joking. A bit later, John & Emma were put into jeopardy, but they weren’t alone in this group.

"I’ve had a lot of really rough sets in my life," Nikki said, talking standup comedy. When Tom teased what that sounded like, she joked, "I really didn’t mean for that, but I’ve had both." But it was another rough set for Nikki & Gleb as they had to perform again.

"I’m not gonna be the best dancer," Bobby said flatly. "DeMarcus and Tinashe are the best, but I’m going to have more fun than anyone the whole time I’m here." Apparently that fun was infectious, as America kept them around another week.

Honestly, it was a little surprising to see Alexis & Alan drop into jeopardy as well, considering they were tied for second-highest scores on the night. Alexis’ social media followers did not come through for her, so she’s going to have to get on them for that.

Finally, it came down to Milo & Witney, Danelle & Artem, Mary Lou & Sasha and Evanna & Keo. Half of these four acts would be put in jeopardy. Erin and Tom weren’t even subtle in their praise of blind contestant Danelle & Artem, who found themselves in jeopardy after a rock-solid debut.

They were joined by Mary Lou & Sasha in easily the stupidest "dramatic moment" yet on the show. They were the last couple to get their results and there was still one slot in the Bottom Six. Sasha did the math, so why did we need the dramatic music and even more dramatic pause?


Oh yeah, this is a dancing competition, but we’re only getting six dances from our competitors because there was just so much to do, like having Demarcus & Lindsay dance again just because the judges liked it, and spending two segments with "DWTS: Juniors."

In fact, all of that apparently took so long that Tom just went head and told John & Emma they were safe, and then there were only five dances. Actually, that could have been the plan all along, but we prefer to think they just spent too long on everything else in a two-hour show they couldn’t even fit in these six performances.

Mary Lou Retton & Sasha Farber

For their second dance of the week, we got a disco cha cha and while I loved the attack of the choreography, it felt a little slow and tepid from Mary Lou. She seemed to be thinking her movements moments before executing them and even lost the beat a little bit. And by focusing on the next move, she wasn’t fully completing the current one. This was especially evident in her arms which almost never reached full extension, and never with the pop and flair of good disco. Her footwork, on the other hand, benefited from the focus as she was more precise. She just needs to remember dance is a whole-body experience.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 6

Danelle Umstead & Artem Chigvintsev

These guys will have a chance to really impress us when she is able to fully let go of her trepidation and trust Artem. Being blind, it’s going to be more trust than usual, but she has a natural elegance that keeps getting tripped up when you can see her fear and nerves getting the best of her. She stumbled a bit with her footwork here and

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6

My Score: 6

Nikki Glaser & Gleb Savchenko

Once again, Nikki was just way too caution and upright throughout this salsa. If ever there was a dance to almost be sinking into the floor, it’s this one. A lighter and more fun style could have helped her if she’d only cut loose and really gone for it. She danced not only like someone who hasn’t danced before, but by someone who was very self-conscious that she’d never danced before and kind of didn’t want anyone to see that. It was all too small, too stiff and too hesitant to commit to anything. Criticism aside, it was an improvement over the first night

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6

My Score: 5

Alexis Ren & Alan Bersten

Alexis was even more confident in this routine than the last one, and I was glad to see them use more of the full stage. While she didn’t quite have the bounce and energy the dance wants — and especially compared to Alan — her lines and extensions were absolutely beautiful. The slide trick was handled very well, and is something that requires a lot of trust. It was nice to see Alan challenge both of them with it so early in the competition. "If you don’t come back, I’m gonna show me bum in the supermarket tomorrow," Len said in critique. He’s right, though, in that they should have never been here.

Judges Scores: 7, 8, 8

My Score: 7

Nancy McKeon & Val Chmerkovskiy

After a very rough start, Nance settled into this quickstep a little bit, but she never looked truly comfortable in it. At moments, it felt like Val was dragging her across the dance floor. It’s awful she had to learn and perform two quicksteps as her first two routines because it is an unforgiving format for novice dancers. The partnering was much stronger, though, and her confidence grew as the number continued.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 7


One by one the Bottom 5 were declared safe until it was just Nancy & Val and Nikki & Gleb left. Based solely on dance, it’s hard to argue with these and it was the right call to send Nikki & Gleb home.

They had a really rough start to the season and only "Grocery Store Joe" was worse, but he clearly has a more passionate fan-base. But kudos to Nikki for putting herself out of her comfort zone, even if she never fully stepped outside of it.

"Dancing With the Stars" runs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET for its first two weeks, before sliding back to its usual Monday dominance Then, it’ll be joined by Sunday episodes of "Dancing With the Stars: Juniors" for back-to-back fun all fall starting Oct. 7 at 8 p.m .ET on ABC.

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