To be fair, going into the Season 11 premiere of Dancing With The Stars, not many were giving Bristol Palin much of a shot at winning. In fact, much of her pre-show press focused on her famous mother, half-term governor of Alaska and Facebook pontificator Sarah Palin, so it would have been a pleasant surprise to see Bristol Palin, who has gotten some rough treatment over the past couple years at the hands of the media, shine as a dancer and excel on Dancing With The Stars. That, however, was not to be. It only took a few seconds for that hope to be dashed.
Introducing herself as a “public advocate,” Bristol Palin’s innate shyness was evident during rehearsals and it overshadowed the first moments of the dance. Dressed in a parody of her mother in a grey business-like skirt-set with her haired pulled up, Bristol stepped out, ripped off her business attire, and began to shimmy and shake a cha-cha with two-time Dancing With The Stars champion Mark Ballas. Choreographed to the classic Three Dog Night tune “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” the imagery and the song lent itself well to the story of a young girl trying to be a little rebellious and establish herself as different from her mother.
And at that, at least, she succeeded. Even if Sarah Palin could not dance at all, it is doubtful she would not look confident doing it. Her daughter danced relatively well — and far better than the rehearsal clip led one to believe — but the performance was stiff and ungainly, parts of it — the parts where Bristol was shimmying or shaking — looking as if Ballas was dancing around and dragging around a mannequin. To her credit, Bristol seemed to become more confident as she went along. Although meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek sexy, the performance came off as clumsy and self-conscious.
And her promises during the run-up to the show at being modestly dressed for Dancing With The Stars? That depends on one’s interpretation of a red thigh-high flapper mini-dress.
Still, Sarah Palin was not in attendance to see her daughter’s “coming out of her shell” moment — which may have accounted for the younger Palin doing as well as she did. TMZ reported Monday that ABC and Dancing With The Stars producers added extra security in case the former governor showed up to watch her daughter perform.
What did the judges think? Overall, they graded her as promising. Len Goodman was generous, noting that the performance was “very acceptable” but she needed to “loosen up.” Bruno Tonioli said, “This is virgin territory for you,” and said that Sarah Palin not being in attendance meant she was “wronged” by not seeing her daughter perform. Carrie Ann Inaba admitted she thought Bristol Palin would be “boring” but allowed she was wrong. Complimenting Bristol’s legs (a noticeable similarity to her mother), she said, “The way you undulate your body, girlfriend, I see a future for you.”
The judges scored Bristol and Mark at 18/30, positioning them in the middle of the contestant pack. Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough took the top spot (score: 24/30) with an homage to Grey’s “Dirty Dancing” days, performing a Viennese waltz to “These Arms of Mine.”
Bristol Palin’s shyness extended into the post-dance interview, where she let Mark Ballas do all the talking. She never said a word.
If young Palin survives the first-round elimination, she will need to gather some of the confidence she seemed to gain near the end of the performance or she will be voted off Dancing With The Stars. Where the judges were kind and advisory, brushing aside her awkwardness, the Dancing With The Stars voters may not be as charitable.
But in that regard, letting the voters choose whether she stays or not, she will be different from her mother as well.
Watch Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas dance the cha cha to “Mama Told Me Not To Come” on the premiere of Season 11’s Dancing With The Stars.
“Dancing With The Stars,” ABC Television