'Dancing with the Stars: Juniors' -- Meet the Cast

Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson had to rely on her fanbase to save her in Week 1, but would they come through again after another rough performance?

While we're not planning to cover "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors" on a full-time basis this season, unless you demand otherwise, we did want to check in on the show early in its run to see how the kids compare to their older counterparts.

Honestly, there is a lot of talent on that stage Sunday nights in a very thrifty and entertaining package. With a one-hour running time and ten dances to get through, hosts Jordan Fisher and Frankie Muniz do a great job of keeping things moving. And it certainly helped that it wasn't live.

There are definitely some kids on this show that have the attention of pop culture aficionados like Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, Mackenzie Ziegler and Miles Brown, with the latter two really bringing it on the dance floor.

Alana has her signature attitude and swagger in tow, but she's yet to really channel any of that energy into actually learning proper dance technique and committing to the process of learning to dance. Her fans carried her through Week 1, but would they do it again if she's not going to bother to improve?

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 Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Mandy Moore, and Adam Rippon, because they are really being sweet to these kids. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

Mackenzie Ziegler & Sage Rosen (w/ Gleb Savchenko)

The dances are short and sweet in this hour-long show, but that didn't stop Mackenzie from setting a very high bar with her quickstep. The choreography was aggressive, and she attacked it with gusto and grace. Of course, choreography and performance are no problem for someone with her extensive dance training, so we expect great from her.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 8

Sky Brown & JT Church (w/ Alan Bersten)

Sky should be really proud of how well she did in this cha cha, despite her misgiving. She needs to work on a more natural and graceful positioning of her hand when that arm is extended, and tone down the hamming it up with those facial expressions. I also caught her looking down at her feet a few times, but she had those steps down. She has a natural rhythm and musicality that's nice to see blossoming.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 8

My Score: 7

Sophia Pippen & Jake Monreal (w/ Sasha Farber)

This was a cute little number, but Sophia really needs to watch her arms when she's not doing anything specifically with them. She let her loose arm just kind of hang there at one point, which killed the momentum of the dance. She really lights up the dance floor, though, with charm and personality. She just needs to gain a little more confidence in herself and the steps and she'll really shine.

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 7

My Score: 6

Jason Maybaum & Elliana Walmsley (w/ Emma Slater)

Elliana did really well, but Jason was kind of a mess on this one. Props to him for knowing all of the steps, but he infused them with basically no proper jive form or style. It was like watching someone walk through the choreography for staging purposes rather than actually perform. He needs a lot of work on technique. His stage presence, however, is fantastic and his commitment to the performance.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 5

Mandla Morris & Brightyn Brems (w/ Cheryl Burke)

This piece was definitely about spotlighting Brightlyn, who is a little acrobatic powerhouse, but Mandla showed just a bit of salsa content, some good hip action and a real commitment to the performance. He is imminently enjoyable to watch and brings a real energy and a lot of character to the stage. It would have been nice to see him spotlighted and challenged more, but everything that was presented came out really well.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 8

My Score: 7

Hudson West & Kameron Couch (w/ Hayley Erbert)

Hudson really has the potential to grow into a solid little dancer, as there were moments of really solid performance and technique in there. Unfortunately, it was also a lot of lumbering around and taking way too long to get back up after a slide. He seemed so unsure of himself throughout the performance, it really hurt the overall presentation. Plus, when you only have one minute to dance, maybe don't twirl the cape so much?

Judges Scores: 7, 8, 7

My Score: 6

Miles Brown & Rylee Arnold (w/ Lindsay Arnold)

The passion, the strength, the gravitas, this was everything a proper tango should be. Miles was perfection from the waist up, and only suffered a few mishaps in his footwork, and those were primarily because he didn't always follow through with a full kick or extension. Overall, though, from the attitude to the presentation to most of the technique, this was beautifully executed.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 8

Alana Thompson & Tristan Ianiero (w/ Artem Chigvintsev)

If the award was for hair flips and sass, Alana might have a chance, but as a cha cha this lacked a whole lot in content. She started off like maybe she was going to go for it, but by the end, she was just walking behind Tristan across the dance floor, and when they did the swap lean poses, she barely bent over. She's either having an issue committing to this process, which is what the packages seem to show, or she is more about showing off and hamming it up than by impressing with actual technique.

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 7

My Score: 4

Akash Vukoti & Kamri Peterson (w/ Witney Carson)

First off, Akash needs to work on his facial expressions, as he looked like a deer in headlights throughout this competition. Then, right at the start, he was looking around the room at the audience, which makes it seem like he was in his head and worried about how he looked to the room or who was watching him. All of this is the wrong headspace for a dancer, and he needs to work on that. As for the dancing, he knew the steps, but didn't really know how to commit to any of them. There were maybe four bars of solid dance, and the rest was timid and scared and underperformed.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 4

Ariana Greenblatt & Artyon Celestine (w/ Brandon Armstrong)

That was an impressive drop twist at the end there, but throughout this high energy jive there was a lot to enjoy. Ariana brought so much energy and gusto to the performance. There was some hard footwork toward the beginning that she handled with class and confidence, and really her personality was on point throughout this very fun piece. There's an impressive little dancer hiding in that tiny body.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 8


With no viewer vote, it was down to the audiences in the studio to represent us, so it was their votes combined with the judges scores -- which were pretty even across the board, if I'm being totally honest -- that sent Hudson & Cameron.

It was heartbreaking seeing Hudson tear up, and especially rough knowing that three couples had lower judges scores than he did. So much relies on what the audience thought of the performances, and clearly Alana had a lot of fans in that studio, as she was the lowest score by two points.

The kids are at it again next week, and we'll see if Alana can continue to skate by with subpar performances, or if she'll step it up and actually bring it on the dance floor and earn her spot.

"Dancing With the Stars: Juniors" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET, and don't forget "Dancing with the Stars" every Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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