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Ralph Macchio and partner Karina Smirnoff, and Kirstie Alley and pro Maks Chmerkovskiy stole the dance floor on "Dancing's" season 12 premiere.
Ralph Macchio and partner Karina Smirnoff, and Kirstie Alley and pro Maks Chmerkovskiy stole the dance floor on "Dancing's" season 12 premiere.ABC

Halfway into Monday night’s “Dancing With the Stars” premiere, it seemed like a lackluster season was all but a sure thing. Performer after performer took the stage delivering humdrum routines that revealed various levels of promise and almost no pizzazz.

And then it happened.

After the parade of mostly younger and far blander stars went by, two long shots surprised the crowd. As it turns out, Ralph Macchio and Kirstie Alley can dance.

The first of the night’s dueling dance-floor successes to hit the stage was the “Karate Kid” star. Although Macchio still looks young enough to go through drills alongside Mr. Miyagi, he voiced doubts about what his nearly 50-year-old body could handle. Macchio’s old-Hollywood-style fox-trot moves proved he has nothing to worry about.

According to judge Carrie Ann Inaba, Macchio displayed elegance, and Len Goodman agreed. It was up to Bruno Tonioli to point out the “Kid’s” one flaw — “creepy” hands. The oddly accurate criticism shouldn’t be a problem for the actor, who seemed to have every other body part under control.

The dance earned Macchio the night’s high score of 24 points out of 30, which put him one point ahead of his only real rival, the self-proclaimed “ ‘Dancing With the Stars’ ho” Alley.

And, for the record, that was one very subjective point separating the two ’80s stars. Alley put on a jaw-dropping cha-cha-cha that was worth every bit of the praise Macchio walked away with. In fact, considering that Allie has more than 10 years on the actor and admittedly isn’t at her fitness peak, her high-energy, precision steps were even more impressive.

The closest competition
Allie and Macchio’s closest competition comes in Disney Channel star Chelsea Kane and Steelers’ wide receiver Hines Ward, who both snagged 21 points for the first-time efforts. While neither hoofer hopeful looked to be an immediate threat to the current front-runners, with a little more practice anything is possible.

The usual assortment of wild-card soft shoes file in from there. It’s impossible to guess what the future holds for Petra Nemcova, Kendra Wilkinson, Chris Jericho and Master P’s progeny, Romeo. They just were bad enough or good enough to get noticed.

And the rest
But three stars were bad enough to get attention for all the wrong reasons. Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard let his nerves get the best of him in the ballroom, and it showed on his face, in his posture and all over his feet. Still, Leonard could have won the night if his only competition had been Wendy Williams and “Psycho Mike” Catherwood. Yowza. Williams’ cha-cha-cha was disaster, and Catherwood’s fox-trot contained surprisingly few dance steps. The less said about the few it did have, the better.

So, after a night of two standout performances, several so-sos and a couple of embarrassments best forgotten, who’s in danger? No one — for now.

Monday night’s scores and votes will carry over to next week to help determine the dancers’ fates in time for the first results show. That means the ballroom’s first boot is still a mystery.

Well, not really.

Catherwood may have a one-week reprieve thanks to that delay, but after delivering a dud like that, he’s bound to go home next week.

Ree Hines looks forward to seeing more moves from Kirstie Alley and Mr. Creepy Hands. Follow on Twitter and tell her what you want to see more of this season.