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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 summer of 2005. 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 Lisa Canning, Samantha Harris, Drew Lachey, Brooke Burke-Charvet and Erin Andrews serving as cohosts. The judges are, in order of judging, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli.

In general, it follows the Strictly Come Dancing celebrity formula: 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; seven of the fourteen 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.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Several of the female athlete contestants, such as Laila Ali, Misty May-Treanor, Natalie Coughlin, and Hope Solo.
  • 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
  • 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 Dancecenter segments. Tom Bergeron pretty much all the time.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Carrie Ann literally falls out of her chair after Gilles' Rumba in Season 15. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Dramatic Pause: It wouldn't be a talent show without one...
  • 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.
  • Fiery Redhead: 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.
  • 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.
    • Which was promptly lampshaded by Tom... We have a 3?!
  • Gainaxing: 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!
  • Happily Married: Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts. It's apparent whenever they dance together.
    • Also Alec Mazo and Edyta Śliwińska.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Mean Brit: Len Goodman fills this role here.
  • Momma's Boy: Hines Ward, proudly so.
  • Mr. Fanservice: "Bad Boy of Ballroom" Maksim. 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.
    • And now as of Season 13 we have Mr. Fanservice little brother, Valentin. New pro Tristan (with the Oirish Accent) is also gaining a fast following.
    • How about some Derek Hough?
  • 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.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Also a contractual requirement of ballroom dancing.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya of Season 10, reportedly. Particularly seeing as how she's, you know, married. Anna and Evan had fantastic chemistry and clearly had a blast together, but compare her waltz with Evan to this dance with her hubby, and the difference is instantly apparent.
  • 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 American Football 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.
  • 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.
  • Shirtless Scene
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Brooke Burke replacing Samantha Harris as co-host.
  • 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.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Brooke 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.
  • 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, who was a professional figure skater (essentially a professional dancer 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 as the replacement judge for Len. Does the producers think that she will not generate envy or getting personal to the pros (particularly Derek Hough, Mark Ballas and maybe Cheryl Burke or Val Chmerkovskiy)?
    • Also in Season 17, Corbin Bleu. A trained dancer and regular Broadway actor. Totally not destined for the finals, right?
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Brandy. Season 11. Grade AS! Hot damn.

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alternative title(s): Dancing With The Stars
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