During the premiere, Ballas and his partner, TikTok superstar Charli D’Amelio, ended up at the top of the leaderboard after performing their Cha Cha Cha to “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion. They earned 8s from each judge, earning the highest score of the night.
When asked how it felt to be in the ballroom, D’Amelio had nothing but kind words.
“It feels incredible, I’ve watched this show since before I could even form memories, let’s be honest, this has been a huge part of my life, so to just be able to dance again… is incredible,” D’Amelio said after her dance.
Ballas Was Not Expecting to be at the Top of the Leaderboard
After the season premiere, Ballas spoke with The Wrap about the return to the show.
“It felt great,” he said. “It felt the same, but new, fresh, nostalgic, you know? And then just being out there with [Charli] – it was a good time. I felt really good tonight. And it’s great to be in the top spot. We weren’t anticipating that. The only thing we wanted to do was work super hard, maximize our rehearsal time and just do the best that we possibly could. And we had a good night tonight.”
He also shared that he loved being reunited with Derek Hough.
“Derek and I have been friends since we were 10,” he shared with the outlet. “We’ve lived together, we went to school together every day, you know? Dude used to steal my clothes. We’re friends… Brothers, even. So it was really cool to be out here and it was funny seeing him on the judge’s table because I haven’t been here since he’s done [that].”
Why Did Mark Ballas Return to ‘Dancing With the Stars’?
Ballas has spoken about why he chose now to make his return to “Dancing With the Stars,” and it has to do with the new old showrunner. Conrad Green was an original executive producer on “Dancing With the Stars,” and he returned ahead of season 31.
Ballas said he was in once Green called him to return.
“I got a call from Conrad Green,” he said in an interview with Us Weekly. “I worked with Conrad back when I joined, back in the day, and he was like, ‘would you be down to do it?’ and I was like, ‘it sounds like fun,’ and that’s why I’m here.”
From Green’s perspective, he wanted someone to really come back to challenge D’Amelio, he told Entertainment Weekly.
“Charli has got a ton of potential,” Green shared. “She’s got a lot of dance background. So, we wanted to make sure that whoever worked with her was really pushing her and being imaginative and I can’t think of a dancer who is more imaginative than Mark. I reached out to him and said, ‘Are you interested?’ and he thought about it and said, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it.’ He loves the show.”
He added, “He’s obviously got his music and acting and all the other things he’s been doing. But he just thought, ‘Why not? Let’s give it a go.’ I can already see the competition in his eyes. You can take the boy out the ballroom, but you can’t take the ballroom out of the boy.”
Next week, the pair will perform a Quickstep to “Bossa Nova Baby” by Elvis Presley in honor of Elvis week.