‘Dancing With the Stars’ returns with new look

(CNN) — Something looked a little different on Monday night’s 17th season premiere of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

For one thing, the dancers and celebrities entered the stage on a red carpet set up just outside the studio, and then took their seats next to the judges’ table on stage.

What used to be an upstairs “luxury box” for teams is now a “practice room” for last-minute preparation, and some couples had prerecorded music to use along with live band performances.

That, and the judges have moved from one side of the stage to the other — or, as host Tom Bergeron called it, “English style.”

But the more things change, the more they stayed the same on “DWTS,” and the 12 teams brought their “A” games to the dance floor, to the delight of the audience.

For “Glee” actress Amber Riley, Monday’s premiere brought tremendous praise from the judges and a 27 out of 30 for her cha-cha. Riley’s 27 is three points better than “silver medalists” Corbin Bleu and Elizabeth Berkley, each of whom earned a 24 with a contemporary dance.

Fan favorite Valerie Harper also got off to a strong start thanks to a simple, classy foxtrot that earned her a 21 and a lengthy standing ovation from the audience. The actress proved to be quite nimble on the dance floor, so she could surprise in the coming weeks.

The news wasn’t as good for “Science Guy” Bill Nye, whose extremely awkward cha-cha, set to the theme song from “Weird Science,” garnered a 14 from the judges, including a 4 from resident malcontent Len Goodman. Nye stands in last place, three points behind football great Keyshawn Johnson, but the TV personality has no regrets.

“People don’t regret what they do,” Nye told CNN’s Nischelle Turner backstage. “They regret what they don’t do.”

His statement would get a hearty “hear, hear!” from Harper, who told CNN that she was focused on living life to the fullest with her new opportunity.

“Everyone should find their joy where they can,” the actress said. “There’s so much nonjoy that is out there, that it is suffocating us in a way. If we could get out of our mind and our ego and into our spirit, that’s a great entree into life. (Don’t) waste your time worrying about dying. Live!”

Harper revealed in March that she had been diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a condition in which cancer cells spread into the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

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