'Dancing With The Stars' Season 25 Cast

TooFab's 5th Judge returns to critique the new crop of contenders each week. In each category, he'll be ranking them from worst to first, revealing his top two acts at the end.

A new season begins in the desert with Len Goodman picking up dancers on their way to Dancetown, U.S.A. aka the "Dancing With the Stars" set. The hit ABC dance competition series kicked off its anniversary 25th season with a massive dance number where it introduced this fall's celebrity cast. The Mirror Ball hopefuls include Lindsey Stirling, Jordan Fisher, Sasha Pieterse, Nikki Bella, Derek Fisher, Nick & Vanessa Lachey, Terrell Owens, Drew Scott, Barbara Corcoran, Debbie Gibson, and Frankie Muniz.

As we did last season, and we do for various competition shows, I will be acting as your fifth judge, analyzing, critiquing and breaking down what worked and what didn't work about each performance. A quick reminder about me: I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer, all for this moment: armchair judging a dance competition. 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.

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 Tolioni. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. Yes, that means there are only three judges on the panel this season, but let’s face it, you're the fourth judge. Your votes mean just as much if not more than the judges, so I'll gladly sit fifth behind all of you watching at home.

In each category, I'll be ranking them from worst to first, revealing my top two acts at the end.

Terrell Owens & Cheryl Burke

NFL all-star T.O. became famous for his end-zone dances and his passion for the game. But could he bring that to the dance floor with two-time Mirror Ball champ Burke, back for her 20th season. They tackled the Cha Cha for the first dance of the season, but I'm not sure I saw any real cha cha in that at all. Owens was basically walking around and way too much on his heels. He even stumbled on the final pose which was just standing there and holding her in his arms. Owens held a smile on his face, but had no connection with Burke or the music or even his own dancing. It was just so blah on every level.

Judges Scores: 5, 5, 5

My Score: 4

Debbie Gibson & Alan Bersten

After filling in excessively in Season 24, Bersten got promoted this season to professional status, and well-deserved. He choreographed a lovely foxtrot, and Gibson is definitely more ready for this than Terrell was before her. She tilted her head appropriately, but not her entire carriage. And she clearly has no idea what to do with her arms when Bersten isn’t holding them. They kind of just hung there like tree branches. Her biggest problem in this opening routine was in her arms. Her legs are lovely, and as she gets the footwork more confidently, she could grow into a real contender.

Judges Scores: 6, 5, 6

My Score: 6

Sasha Pieterse & Gleb Savchenko

Sasha was too small and too heavy in her movements throughout this Cha-Cha. Her arms were head and shoulders above what Gibson gave in the previous performance, she knew the footwork, and perhaps most importantly she carried herself with a confidence that I really admired for a non-professional. That confidence will go a long way into strengthening her technique as the series progresses, so I’m looking forward to where she goes with it.

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6

My Score: 6

Drew Scott & Emma Slater

Coming off a Season 24 win, Slater has he work cut out for her, as Scott is an admittedly terrible dancer, but his karate background could help with technique. With a foot difference in height, there’s even more to worry about. Right away in this Foxtrot, his long arms and legs were the most notable problem, as he wasn't giving a full extension in them. Like T.O., Scott needs to dance his full height, and not be afraid to extend his full arms as well. His enthusiasm was there, but the footwork was tepid, and the larger movements almost Frankenstein-cartoonish.

Judges Scores: 6, 5, 5

My Score: 3

Barbara Corcoran & Keo

The "Shark Tank" star was exuberant about partnering with Keo, and immediately playful with him. But she has a drive to compete and win. The Salsa dance was playful about her status as a mogul, but I didn't like her facial expressions. She also looked very stiff and awkward throughout the routine, offering no hip sway and little more in her limbs. I'm not even sure she remembered the steps through the entire dance, instead letting Keo lead her around. They covered no real estate on the stage, and I was disappointed at how very little she actually did.

Judges Scores: 5, 4, 5

My Score: 2

Jordan Fisher & Lindsay Arnold

The "Hamilton" star is no stranger to the stage and at 23, he’s one of the younger performers in the competition. He and Arnold had youthful enthusiasm on their first meeting, and instant chemistry. All of this translated into one of the most confident performances on the night. Fisher was a leader and he showed solid footwork, carriage -- though a little too straight in the back -- and even kept up with a fairly straightforward Tango on Week One. I loved the grace and poise he showed, and am not afraid to say they made themselves instant front-runners here.

Judges Scores: 8, 7, 7

My Score: 8

Nick Lachey & Peta Murgatroyd

Lachey is competing on the show with his wife Vanessa, so it made sense to pair them with married professionals Murgatroyd and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. This should be a fun … foursome to watch? Adding to the pressure, Nick’s brother Drew won this competition in Season 2. Despite his boy band background, Nick does not have much dance experience. Nevertheless he tackled this Cha-Cha with gusto, and even had a few solid moments. But too much of it was lumbering and awkward or alternately excessively hoppy. He definitely has a lot to learn, but kudos to them for trying and almost pulling off a nice leg-over trick.

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6

My Score: 5

Vanessa Lachey & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

This is a good coupling as they both have a goofy sense of humor, and showed an instant chemistry in their first practice session. After an over-cute opening, I really liked the rapidness of Vanessa’s legwork in this Cha-Cha. She had poise, carriage and positioning in her legs and arms, and a great attitude in the performance. This was easily one of the best dances of the night, and in the Lachey battle, wife edged husband on night one.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 7

Frankie Muniz & Witney Carson

Muniz got embarrassed easily and was very timid in rehearsal, but it was nice to see him open up a bit on the stage. In a very slow Foxtrot, Muniz managed to steps and the partnering very admirably, though I would have liked a smoother extension in his arms. He was a little too up-and-down on his toes as he stepped, hurting what was supposed to be a glide, but for a first week performance it was very competent and showed solid confidence. I loved the beauty of the choreography from Carson, and it really fell into Muniz’ wheelhouse at this early stage of the competition.

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 6

My Score: 6

Nikki Bella & Artem Chigvintsev

The WWE champ took Chigvintsev into the ring and bodyslammed him in front of her fans. While she can handle the art of power in wrestling, there’s a grace and delicacy in dance she may struggle with. Chigvintsev was smart in having her rough edges a part of the dance, but she still needed to soften up, look up and let him lead. She came across as very sharp in her movements in this Tango, and her leg flicks were almost completely absent. I loved the personality of the dance and of Bella in it, but she’s going to need to adapt more into this style to succeed. Still, I suspect she’ll be one of the leaders of this season.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 6

My Score: 6

Derek Fisher & Sharna Burgess

The former NBA star surprised his mother with his appearance on her favorite show, but was nervous about stepping so far out of his comfort zone. Burgess challenged him with the most difficult tricks of the night, including a flip and a floor drop. And while there was perhaps more hip-hop than Salsa through a lot of that dance, I loved that Fisher stuck with it and navigated the steps. While most of his footwork and even his arms were timid in their expressions, the core of the steps was there … save for a moment at the beginning he looked like he lost it for good. There is a lot of room for improvement, but I loved the partnering and the confidence she had in him this early, so those are good signs for a great partnership.

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6

My Score: 6

Victoria Arlen & Val Chmerkovskiy

After ten years of paralysis, Arlen is back on her feet for the past year. She admitted she can’t feel her legs, but Chmerkovskiy was confident it wouldn’t matter. She was easily the most joyous competitor and there was a joy in their routine. You could see that they went a little easy on the footwork for her, and I hope that’s just caution because she’s really quite lovely when she moves. Her carriage was great, and there were lovely moments throughout, but also moments of trepidation where you could see there was uncertainty that her legs and feet would do what they needed to do.

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 6

My Score: 7

Lindsey Sterling & Mark Ballas

Violinist Sterling has musicality in her bones and so I was not surprised to see her command the stage so well, despite her lack of dance training. You would have never guessed it, actually, as she took ownership of this Cha-Cha in the most confident and well-performed routines of the night. This felt like a dance you’d see far later in the season than on Night One, so kudos to both Sterling and Ballas for working so hard and well together to get to this point. Her footwork was stunning -- I can forgive two missteps -- and while her arms were a little angular at points, for the most part she managed them well, too. This was an excellent start for the pair.

Judges Scores: 7, 8, 7

My Score: 8

The competition has begun, and it’s going to be a brutal start.

Next week, “Dancing With the Stars” airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET and Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET and one couple will go home each night!

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