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Series: Dancing with the Stars

Dancing With the Stars is a US reality show where dancers and celebrities duke it out on the ballroom dance floor. The show has hosted two competitions per season since winter of 2006 (summer of 2005 was a one-off). The humor of the early weeks is in seeing the dancers trying to train the celebrities in the vagaries of each of the many styles of ballroom dance.

The show stars Tom Bergeron as host, with Erin Andrews currently serving as his co-host (Lisa Canning was co-host in season one, Samantha Harris co-hosted seasons two through nine and Brooke Burke-Charvet in seasons ten through seventeen). The judges are, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli, with former professional dancer Julianne Hough joining the panel as permanent judge in season 19. Derek Hough is the only professional dancer to have achieved five wins, a franchise record (he also achieved two back-to-back championships twice). Cheryl Burke and Julianne Hough also have won two championships back-to-back. Mark Ballas and Kym Johnson are the only professional dancers in the show to have two wins that were not back-to-back. Cheryl Burke and Tony Dovolani are the longest tenured professional dancers in the show, appearing in seasons 2 through 18, a total of 17 seasons and counting.

In general, it follows the Strictly Come Dancing celebrity formula: the show pairs a number of well known celebrities with professional ballroom dancers, who each week compete by performing one or more choreographed routines that are pertinent and follow the chosen theme for that particular weeks' prearranged theme. The dancers are then scored by a panel of judges. Viewers are given a certain amount of time to place votes for their favorite dancers, either by telephone or online. The couple with the lowest combined score provided by the judges and viewers is eliminated. This process continues until there are only two or three couples left; when they have competed for the last time one couple is declared the champion. Of the contestants, usually at least one has a bit of controversy around them, at least one is a 50-plus-year-old man with two left feet, at least one is a B- or C- list actor or actress, and at least one is famous in the world of sports (and these are most likely to win it all; eight of the eighteen winners have some sporting experience, with the rest (with the exception of J.R. Martinez) having dancing training beforehand).

Oh, the winners! Here are the winners of previous competitions (The (!!)s denote performers that surprised everyone by making it into the top 3, whether by actual skill or by being an Elimination Houdini):

This show provides examples of:

  • Acrofatic: Warren Sapp in Season 7 pretty much stunned everyone with the light feet on his hefty frame.
    • Kyle Massey was pretty impressive in this department as well.
    • Kirstie Alley did better than pretty much anyone would've guessed, especially when you consider her age, too.
    • Former pro Lacey Schwimmer and current pro Cheryl Burke for a time underwent backlash because of their weight (but that obviously didn't hinder their dancing skills).
  • Amazonian Beauty: Several of the female athlete contestants, such as Laila Ali, Misty May-Treanor, Natalie Coughlin, Hope Solo and Nene Leakes.
  • Ambiguously Brown: pro dancer Cheryl Burke.
  • Artificial Limbs: Season 18 contestant Amy Purdy has two artificial prosthetic lower limbs. And Heather Mills and her prosthetic leg in season 4.
  • Awesome Aussie: Sharna Burgess, Peta Murgatroyd and ex-pro Kym Johnson.
  • Bash Brothers: Childhood friends Mark Ballas and Derek Hough would often dance together, whether in dance trios, opening numbers, and special numbers.
  • Camp Gay: Bruno Tonioli, especially whenever the men are half naked or take their shirts off.
    • Always Camp
    • Season 13 Contestant Carson Kressley plays this for all it's worth.
  • The Cutie: Chelsie Hightower and Julianne Hough. With Chelsie and Julianne gone, the Cuties are now portrayed by Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold, & Jenna Johnson.
  • Covered with Scars: Season 13 contestant and Iraq war vet JR Martinez has burn scars over 40% of his body. And a missing ear.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kenny Mayne during the now defunct Dancecenter segments. Tom Bergeron pretty much all the time.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Carrie Ann literally fell out of her chair after Gilles' Rumba in Season 15. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Dramatic Pause: It wouldn't be a talent show without one.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Former pros Julianne Hough and Chelsie Hightower, currently there's Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold, Emma Slater and Peta Murgatroyd. Derek Hough too, come to think of it.
  • Fanservice: It's ballroom dancing, thus it's a contractual requirement that the women's dresses reveal as much as possible.note 
    • Not to mention the abundance of he-cleavage.
    • Kendra survived week 6 by doing a clothed exotic dance.
    • Maksim lives and breathes this trope. He's sex on a stick. So does his BFF's Tony Dovolani: season 18 had him take his shirt off by twitter vote.
  • Fiery Redhead: Current pro Sharna Burgess (though she's really blond); former pro Anna Trebunskaya.
  • Filler: A whole lot of it in the last few weeks of each season. (The show fills up the same amount of time, only instead of 14 dancers, there's only 3.)
    • Dear God, the elimination shows. They often find ways to stretch them out for two hours!
    • Partially eliminated in season 17, when they eliminated the elimination show. Gone in season 18.
  • Flanderization: The show originally started out as a fun competition that the celebrities learn how to dance different styles, and the first season ended with a winner (Kelly Monaco) that started out weak, but eventually became the most improved was considered an inspiration. Now, it become a fierce competition that the celebrities learn how to dance different styles professionally, and dancers like her (like Bristol Palin and Bill Engvall) are now thought as controversial and undeserved to win the show.
    • Season 18 became rather controversial with the three finalists: season 18 champion Olympic skater Meryl Davis (basically a professional dancer on ice), runner-up Olympic snowboarder Amy Purdy (who is a double-legged amputee with a limited moveset) and actress Candace Cameron Bure (who's not used to live TV competition). The level of Hate Dumb that season was so incredible that it's not about picking a favorite anymore but insisting who is the superior dancer, stooping down to name-calling and insults across every internet message boards.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers
  • Four Point Scale: anything short of falling into the audience will get you at least a four. Averted with Michael Bolton's second dance of Season Eleven which earned him a 3 from Bruno.
  • Gainaxing: In season 15 Kelly Monaco actually made her partner Val rehearse their quickstep in a water-balloon filled bra to show how much of this happens during a dance and how uncomfortable it can be.
  • Genre Savvy: Donald Driver in the Season 14 finals. After correctly identifying the types of freestyles his opponents would be doing, Donald decided not to go with the expected hip-hop theme and do something unexpected: country. And it was awesome!
  • Hold Up Your Score
  • Large Ham: Bruno Tonioli.
    • On the side of the dancers, Mark Ballas. He's got some pretty... unique facial expressions when he dances. Not for nothing is he called the Dancing Dynamo.
  • Made of Iron: They may look willowy and fragile, but it would be hard to argue that these dancers aren't tough, especially the women. Julianne was back and dancing less than a month after having an emergency appendectomy. The winner, however, might be Kym, who endured a knee injury with Jerry Springer and kept dancing, and a nearly broken neck with Hines Ward, and went on to win. Not surprisingly, she's an Aussie.
    • Mark Ballas suffered a back injury in season 16 but went on to dance with Alexandra Raisman; in season 18 during the dress rehearsal his right shoulder pop out the night before their scheduled freestyle performance in which he hoisted his partner Candace Cameron Bure with her legs wrapped around his shoulders and swung her around (amazingly, he did not change the choreography and went on to do that very same lift!)
  • The Mean Brit: Len Goodman fills this role here.
  • Momma's Boy: Hines Ward, proudly so. Jacoby Jones too. On the pro's side, Mark Ballas with his mother, legendary Ballroom Latin dancer, Shirley Ballas.
  • Mr. Fanservice: "Bad Boy of Ballroom" Maksim. His younger brother Valentin as well. Dancers will occasionally take off a season for various reasons, often with little fanfare. When Maks decides to take a season off, it makes the headlines.
    • How about some Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Henry Byalikov and Artem Chigvintsev? Also former pros Tristan Mac Manus and Gleb Savchenko had some following as well.
    • Tony Dovolani in season 18, if twitter #takehishirtoff is any indication.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Every professional and many female celebrities.
  • One Head Taller: Val Chmerkovskiy and Derek Hough are quite taller than their respective season 15 partners, Kelly Monaco and Shawn Johnson. The height difference is so striking that it borders on Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
    • One that probably does qualify as Huge Guy, Tiny Girl is the Season 6 pairing of 6-foot-1 Tony Dovolani with 4-foot-11 Marissa Jaret Winokur.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in season 17 with Bill Engvall and Bill Nye. There's also season 9 celebrity Mark Dacascos and pro Mark Ballas; season 9 also has pro dancers Anna Demidova and Anna Trebunskaya.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mark Ballas (who grew up in London) speaks in his American accent but sometimes his British accent would occasionally come out.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Also a contractual requirement of ballroom dancing.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Contestant Evan Lysacek and his professional partner Anna Trebunskaya of Season 10, reportedly.
    • Mark Ballas and Cheryl Burke. When one of them was about to be eliminated back on season 18, they were holding each others hands.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: What Andy Dick, D.L. Hughley, Bill Engvall and Drew Carey seems to be on the show.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: For a show that requires male participants to wear shiny sparkly outfits and dance, it has attracted a substantial amount of athletes from sports such as MMA, boxing, and football. Almost every season has featured a major name National Football League player. Season 12 alone featured Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, and Chris Jericho.
  • The Runner Up Takes It All: While Season 8 Champion Shawn Johnson didn't suffer any setbacks, it was really second place finisher Gilles Marini whose career got a tremendous boost from being on the show.
    • Season 5 runner up Mel B parlayed her appearance into several TV gigs. Season 5 champion Helio Castroneves was acquitted of tax evasion charges just before his win.
      • This isn't exactly unbelievable, since a large number of the winners have been pro athletes. The athletes simply do the show for fun either during retirement or during the off-season. Many don't have plans to leverage their success into other ventures, whereas the others might.
    • Season 18 with Amy Purdy.
  • Running Gag: Maksim Chmerkovskiy manhandling Tom Bergeron after the judges commentary.
    • Also Derek Hough "getting yanked" off camera, and pulling funny faces/poses on the last note of the DWTS theme nearly every time it plays when he's on camera.
    • Mark Ballas seems to be the go to guy to be paired with religious conservative contestants: Bristol Palin (twice), Candace Cameron Bure and Sadie Robertson.
  • Ship Tease: Meryl and Maks in season 18 do this constantly.
  • Shirtless Scene
    • Walking Shirtless Scene: Again, Maksim is an egregious example, but pretty much any male professional dancer gets a swing at this one.
    • Season 18 Tony Dovolani that became a running gag.
  • Shocking Elimination: For a popularity contest, sometimes it is bound to happen.
    • One of the most notable ones was the elimination of Sabrina Bryan in Week 6 of Season 5, which shocked and brought tears to everyone. And it happens AGAIN, in the SAME WEEK, to her in the All-Stars season! In a cruel coincidence, Sabrina was eliminated on Oct. 30, 2012...exactly five years to the day she was eliminated the first time!
  • Showgirl Skirt: For reasons that should be pretty apparent, these are especially common when contestants dance the samba.
  • Sibling Team: Derek Hough and Julianne Hough.
  • Simple Yet Awesome: Kellie Pickler's freestyle counts as this. Instead of doing a super-sized freestyle, her partner, Derek Hough, decided to just focus on the dancing and the emotion. Their contemporary dance was by far the best freestyle of season 16.
  • Sixth Ranger: Or rather fourth ranger; in season 19, Julianne Hough returns and became the fourth permanent judge.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Commentators were more disgusted of Maksim Chmerkovskly and Peta Murgatroyd smoking than kissing, as they are professional dancers (and judging from the comments, they're not the only ones).
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Oftentimes the music does not match what is traditional for the dance. The Paso Doble (the Spanish bullfighter dance) has been performed to songs such as "I Kissed a Girl" and the Monday Night Football theme. The Foxtrot (which is basically the ballroom dance most likely to be done to Rat Pack music) has been done to songs like The Guess Who's "American Woman" and Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow." Although sometimes doing so can produce memorable results.
  • Stripperific: Most of the women's costumes.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Brooke Burke replacing Samantha Harris as co-host.
    • And now Brooke Burke is replaced by Erin Andrews.
  • Take That: Guitar Hero once showed a parody of the show called "Washed Up Celebrity Dance-Off"
  • Technician Versus Performer: Season 1. Kelly Monaco (the Performer) won it over John O'Hurley (the Technician). Hotly contested, enough so that the two couples squared off in a TV special which O'Hurley won.
    • Another pair of examples, different seasons, are Season 11: Audrina Patridge (the Technician) and Carson Kressley (the Performer). Patridge was even told multiple times by Bruno "you have excellent foot work, but you look like a Barbie."
    • Many of the seasons start out eliminating the "terrible" performers and then working to the "uninteresting" technicians. Then the balanced dancers and finally to those that have a balanced mix of both.
    • Many times, the line can be drawn between current and former pro athletes (Technicians) vs. actors or musicians (Performers.) The athletes usually have exceptional coordination and strength; however, since so many sports encourage a "game face" that shows zero emotion to avoid showing an opponent you're tired or in pain (which might give them a psychological advantage,) they come across as wooden. The actors, on the other hand, are much better at emoting and generally being entertaining (it is their job, after all,) but are much more likely to be uncoordinated or simply more vulnerable to fatigue. This was actually discussed at least once by the pro dancers.
    • Among the judges Len favors technique while Bruno favors performance. Carrie Ann tends to strike a balance between the two.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: former host Brooke Burke frequently invokes this by asking contestants to reflect upon the judges' scores.
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Of Strictly Come Dancing.
    • Counts as a Market-Based Title as well.
      • Actually, Dancing With The Stars is the title for all the non-British versions, since Strictly Come Dancing is a pun on Strictly Ballroom and the old BBC show Come Dancing (the latter of which didn't export, so no one would get the reference outside Britain).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The show has been known to make fast and lasting friends out of the couples. However, because it's a high stress competition, they have been known to snap and snark at each other. Mel B and Maksim probably take the cake.
    • The three judges(!)
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Kelly Monaco had one of these during a dance, but managed to keep everything covered and finished the dance.
    • And as of Season 13, Nancy Grace had a nip slip after finishing her second dance. The camera awkwardly panned to show premade footage of audience members just sitting there staring.
    • In season 14, professional dancer (not celeb) Maria Menounos had an unfortunate malfunction where one of her breasts popped out entirely of her top. Courtesy of the eight second delay, all home viewers saw was the Dancing With The Stars logo for a few seconds while she adjusted her top.
  • What Were You Thinking?:
    • Some people had this reaction to Nicole Scherzinger being let on as a contestant in Season 10. A group of amateur celebrity dancers vs. a woman who dances for a living... nope, no unfair advantage there, no sir.
    • The same was said for Stacy Keibler (a member of WCW's Nitro Girls dancing troupe and an NFL cheerleader before that) in season 2.
    • Same with Sabrina Bryan, who had studied Jazz and Tap most of her childhood, and actually released a Dancing fitness video called BYOU, and Kristi Yamaguchi, Evan Lysacek, Charlie White and Meryl Davis, who were professional figure skaters (essentially professional dancers on skates.)
    • And with Zendaya Coleman, whose current show centers around a dance-style variety show.
      • It could be said that professional dancing celebs are brought on to counter the athlete celebs. Until J.R. Martinez won in season 13, you had either a celeb with dancing experience or an athlete win it all (six dancers and seven athletes so far).
      • The official stance of the show (at least initially) was that ballroom is very much its own domain, and having experience in another area of dance (hip-hop, tap, music video choreography, etc.) doesn't really lend itself to ballroom (with the obvious advantages of stamina, flexibility, etc.) They have said that they would veto anybody with a blatant disadvantage, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, but that may have changed in recent seasons.
    • Letting Bristol Palin compete on All Stars, who was a mid-tier dancer in her season.
    • Perhaps a better example: Bringing on contestants who were clearly too elderly and frail to handle a grueling dance competition, like Cloris Leachman or Buzz Aldrin.
      • Leachman wrote in her memoirs all contestants do have to pass a basic physical, though the standards might not be very high.
    • Season 17, making Julianne Hough and Maksim Chmerkvosky as the replacement judges for a week. Does the producers think that she will not generate envy or getting personal to the pros?
    • Also in Season 17, Corbin Bleu. A trained dancer and regular Broadway actor. Totally not destined for the finals, right?
    • Season 18 probably had the biggest one of all with Abby Lee Miller of Dance Moms being invited as guest judge. You could see the pro dancers were clearly displeased with this decision (Still, you can argue that Abby had some dancing knowledge along with fellow guest judge Julianne Hough. Her delivery of critique though, made people scratch their heads).
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Brandy. Season 11. Grade AS! Hot damn.

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alternative title(s): Dancing With The Stars
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