Dancing With the Stars: Juniors series premiere recap: Big personalities, tiny dancing feet

Welcome to Dancing With the Stars: Juniors, which is happening whether you want it to or not! Thankfully, the show learned a lot from the junior edition of So You Think You Can Dance, and instead of pairing little dancers with adult pros, which, as you can imagine, was insanely awkward at times, the little celebrity kids (and kids of celebrities — what a world!) get partnered up with a professional junior dancer (um, these kid pros are insane), and matched with a DWTS Pro as a mentor. Our Juniors judges, DWTS King Val Chmerkovskiy, choreographer extraordinaire and Academy Award winner Mandy Moore, and Olympic figure skater (and break out star) Adam Rippon, do a nice job of offering some critiques while keeping everything upbeat.

The formula mostly works! Are there awkward moments? Of course! Did I ever think I’d see Malcolm in the Middle interviewing Honey Boo Boo? Not in one thousand years. But did I still cha cha away smiling? Yes! And that last thing is all that matters. Enough with the chit-chat, let’s watch some adorable tiny humans dance their hearts out.

Jason Maybaum and Elliana Walmsley

Mentor: Emma Slater

Cha Cha, “Bills” by Lunchmoney Lewis
I knew these people would be tiny, but this tiny? How adorable are little Jason (an actor on Disney’s Raven’s House) and Elliana? Will this competition simply be a cute-off? Not if Jason has anything to do with it. He’s bringing all of his experience dancing at bat and bar mitzvahs to the dance floor. He wants to win! It’s tough to tell what the technical level of these kids will be, but Jason definitely has high-performance value. Mandy loves his confidence, and all three agree that he’s a showman. He even makes a joke about paying bills. Get it? He’s a kid. HE DOES NOT PAY BILLS.

Judges’ Score: 18/30

Tripp Palin and Hailey Bills

Mentor: Jenna JohnsonFoxtrot, “Mama Said” by The Shirelles
Tripp is a kid who’d rather spend his time fishing than dancing, and who blames him? His mom, Bristol Palin didn’t seem to totally love her time on the show (she came in third place in season 11), and it doesn’t seem like Tripp is totally into this either. He’s super shy in the beginning, but in great hands with Hailey (this girl is so good!) and Jenna. He definitely looks a little lost out there and falls behind the music, but gets through the whole thing with a smile on his face. He was probably so scared! All three judges applaud his courage (and choice of footwear), but actively avoid talking about the dancing. Typically, not a great sign.

Judges’ Score: 17/30

Addison Osta Smith and Lev Khmelev

Mentor: Keo MotsepeCha Cha, “Burnin’ Up” by Jessie J featuring 2 Chainz

Did you guys see Addison win season 4 of MasterChef Junior? She was amazing. I’m sad to see her baseball caps are gone, but glad to see she is still killing it in the kitchen. The learning curve from the kitchen to the ballroom is a little steep, but Addison brings the heat. And by heat I mean sass. The technique, maybe not so much. Adam points out that she was mouthing her eight counts (a bit distracting) and Mandy wants her to work on matching Lev’s energy (which is a lot!). I’m just sitting over here very pleased because, true confession, I live for cooking-themed dance routines.

Judges’ Score: 15/30

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