‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2015: Bindi Irwin, Nick Carter Rise to the Top on Season 21 Premiere

‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2015: Bindi Irwin, Nick Carter Rise to the Top on Season 21 Premiere (ABC News)

Thirteen celebrities and their pro partners hit the dance floor on the season 21 premiere of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” tonight, some turning in crowd-pleasing surprise performances and others delivering disappointing routines.

At the end of the two-hour premiere, conservationist Bindi Irwin and singer Nick Carter were tied at the top of the leaderboard with 24 out of a possible 30 points each – Irwin for her jive and Carter for his cha cha, while reality TV star Kim Zolciak-Biermann brought up with rear with just 12 points for her lackluster salsa.

The competitors dance to earn scores from the judges and votes from the viewing audience. The couple with the lowest combined score will be eliminated on Monday.

The judges’ panel comprised Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Julianne Hough. Head judge Len Goodman, a fan favorite, will not appear this season, co-host Tom Bergeron said.

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Top Scorer

Bindi Irwin: The 17-year-old daughter of the late Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin earned a sustained standing ovation for her spirited jive with pro partner Derek Hough. “That was the best performance of the night!” Hough told Irwin. Inaba said Irwin’s energy was contagious, while Tonioli called the conservationist “the wonder from down under” and praised her “adorable charm.”

Nick Carter: The Backstreet Boys band member performed a cha cha that had judges beaming, earning him a tie at top position next to Irwin. Inaba said she didn't think Carter started out strong but she believed the performance improved. Hough told Carter she’s always been a fan, and Tonioli said the singer should advance in the competition if he continues to perform this well.

Standout moment: Alek Skarlatos’ smooth foxtrot. Judges said the U.S. Army National Guardsman’s performance was special. “I did not expect that at all. I’m sure that this whole experience must be so surreal for you but you just came out and showed us one of the best dances of the night … it took my breath away,” she said. “Thank you for that.” Skarlatos was dubbed a hero after he and two friends stopped a gunman who had started firing on Paris-bound train.

All Scores (maximum possible score was 30 points)

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 24

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 24

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy:23

Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 23

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 22

Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas: 22

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: 21

Andy Grammer and Allison Holker: 21

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff: 15

Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel: 15

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: 15

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe: 13

Kim Zolciak-Biermann and Tony Dovolani: 12

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