Follow TV Tropes


Series / Dancing with the Stars

Go To

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 initially starred Tom Bergeron as host, with Lisa Canning serving as his co-host in season one. Samantha Harris co-hosted seasons two through nine, with Brooke Burke-Charvet replacing her for seasons ten through 17. Erin Andrews was brought in beginning with season 18, and continued with the show all the way through season 28, at which point both Tom and Erin were replaced by Tyra Banks. 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 six 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, Kym Johnson, Peta Murgatoyd and Val Chmerkovskiy are the only professional dancers in the show to have two wins that were not back-to-back. Tony Dovolani is the longest tenured professional dancer in the show, appearing in seasons 2 through 22, a total of 21 seasons.


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 week's 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).


Beginning with the 31st season in 2022, the show will move from its longtime home of ABC to Disney+, becoming the latter's first live series.

The show has spawned quite a number of Foreign Remakes worldwide.

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:

  • The Ace: Derek Hough, hands down. The worst he had ever made it on the show was sixth place. He went to the finale ten times, and went on to win six Mirror Ball trophies, and this doesn't even account the finer statistics of the perfect scores he received in his tenure as a pro partner.
    • Celebrities who earn more than five perfect scores in individual dances, not counting the four-person team freestyles, have always won the show.
      • Olympic figure-skater Meryl Davis of Season 18 is the ace of all aces in the entire history of celebrities. She was the second to earn six perfect scores, has the highest average of scores on a 30-point scale at 28.4, and never received a judge's score lower than 8. Julianne Hough when guest judging for her Argentine Tango during the switch up week where she danced with Val even told her something that amazed everyone.
        Julianne: Meryl, you are one of the most stunning, beautiful dancers I've ever seen. I would love to dance like you.
      • Actress Jennifer Grey of Season 11 was the first to earn six perfect scores. Made more impressive by the fact that she is also the oldest female winner at age 50 at the time.note  Her only slip up was her Paso Doble in Week 6, where she earned three scores below 8, a 6 from Carrie Ann and two 7s from Len and Bruno.
      • Actress Rumer Willis of Season 20 was the third to earn six perfect scores. Her possibility to win was foreshadowed when Len outright told her professional partner Val that "this could be [[his]] season". She only received a single score below an 8, a single 7 from Julianne Hough in her jazz routine for feeling underwhelmed because she had such high expectations of Rumer.
      • Wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin of Season 21 was the first to break the six perfect score record with eight. She was the second youngest winner at the time, and like Willis before her, only received a single score below an 8, a 7 from Carrie Ann when she and Derek accidentally did a lift during a waltz (not a split second lift, but a full multiple-second lift) in Week 2.
      • Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez of Season 23 was the second person to earn eight perfect scores. She is also the youngest at 16, and the shortest at 5'1" to ever win the show. Her only scores below an 8 were from Julianne Hough in Week 1 for her Cha-Cha, and Week 3 for her Tango from Carrie Ann (again because of a full lift in a dance that doesn't allow for them).
      • Actor Jordan Fisher of Season 25 broke the record with nine perfect scores. He is the sole male celebrity to have accomplished this feat, and the youngest male to win at age 23. He received three scores below an 8, two for his Tango in Week 1 from Len and Bruno, and one for his Charleston in Week 3 also from Len.
  • 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.
    • Amber Riley didn't do too badly, either.
    • Wanya Morris definitely counts as well. In fact, his introductory VT alludes to Joey Fatone's stint on the show, with Wanya stating that "if this fat white boy can do it", then he can do it as well.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The most notable of these will typically be when a singer appears on the show, and they dance to at least one of their own songs.
    • In season 19, Alfonso Ribero's "Most Memorable Year" dance to Tom Jones's "It's Not Unusual" featured (in addition to the triumphant return of The Carlton Dance) a lovingly faithful recreation of the Banks' living room, as well as a Call-Back to Jones's role as Carlton's idol and guardian angel.
    • In season 20, Willow Shields' Week 1 package features a direct allusion to The Hunger Games, as Willow, dolled up to resemble Effie Trinket, selects Val as her partner, only for Mark to volunteer instead, Katniss-style. Willow also danced a Hunger Games-inspired contemporary for Most Memorable Year.
    • Nick Carter's stint in season 21 had many Backstreet Boys allusions scattered throughout it, most of them involving the claw move from the official choreography of "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)".
    • A viewer-invoked variant happened in season 22. Because Jodie Sweetin and Val Chmerkovskiy danced together on Fuller House, many viewers were expecting them to be paired up when Jodie confirmed she would finally do the show... Only to reveal she was paired up with Keo Motsepe instead. So when the time came for the seasonal Switch-Up Night, the majority of the viewers, unsurprisingly, voted to pair up Jodie with Val.
    • Any time an actor dances to a song from their famous TV show or film. Examples include Kim Fields (The Facts of Life), Lea Thompson (Huey Lewis' "Power of Love" from Back to the Future), and both Florence Henderson and Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch; and no, they weren't on the same season). Kim's dance deserves mention because in it, she looked almost the same as she did when she played Tootie back in The '80s.
      • The TV theme week from season 23 kind of went crazy with this. Besides McCormick, three other contestants that night - Jana Kramer, Jake T. Austin and Marilu Henner - also danced to the themes of shows they appeared on. Kramer, who played Alex on One Tree Hill, danced to "I Don't Want To Be" by Gavin DeGraw, which was the show's Real Song Theme Tune. Austin, who voiced the title character on Go, Diego, Go!, danced to that show's theme, and while dressed as Diego to boot. Henner performed a foxtrot to "Angela", the theme from Taxi, on which she played Elaine.
      • Suzanne Somers' Three's Company foxtrot in season 20. It even opened with a short skit that had her basically reprising her role as Chrissy Snow.
      • For her Most Memorable Year dance, Evanna Lynch danced to "Hedwig's Theme" from the Harry Potter film series, in which she played Luna Lovegood.
    • Elizabeth Berkley, who played Jessie Spano on Saved by the Bell, was a contestant in Season 17. One of the most infamous moments from that show was Jessie's sudden and devastating addiction to caffeine pills for a Very Special Episode about drug use; Jessie's pill-fueled breakdown—"I'M SO EXCITED! I'M SO EXCITED! I'M SO...SO SCARED!"—is a particularly Memetic Mutation. The Internet rejoiced, then, when Berkley had some fun during her Jive routine in Week Five by actually dancing to "I'm So Excited," and even recreating the hilariously over-the-top breakdown over her addiction to "jive pills" in a set that resembled her room from Saved by the Bell to introduce the dance.
    • If a sports celebrity is associated with a team with a memorable theme song, you can bet they'll do a dance to it. Former Cubs catcher David Ross in Season 24 opened with a quickstep to Steve Goodman's "Go Cubs Go".
    • A subtle one: in Season 18, Charlie White's contemporary includes this lift at the very end, which is the same lift used at the end of his and Meryl Davis' Olympic gold-medal winning free dance, just off the ice.
  • Always Second Best: This used to be the case with Sharna Burgess, who made the finals 4 times and the semi-finals or quarter-finals an additional 3 times but never got to go all the way until Season 27, in which her partner Bobby Bones was somehow propelled to the win by the public vote despite consistently being below-average.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Several of the female athlete contestants, such as Laila Ali, Misty May-Treanor, Natalie Coughlin, Hope Solo and Nene Leakes.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Bruno flirts with the female contestants nearly as often as he does the male and more than once has jokingly proposed a threesome.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: In season 18, Maks kissed Meryl constantly — on the head, on the cheeks, on the forehead — but not on the lips even once, much to the frustration of pretty much everybody. Up to and including Carrie Ann, who told them point-blank that she thought they should have kissed at the end of their freestyle and then admitted that she wanted them to get married.
  • Artificial Limbs: See Handicapped Badass.
  • Ascended Extra: The troupe members who get to become pros, such as Tristan, Peta, Sharna, Henry, Sasha, Artem, Witney, Lindsay and Emma. On the opposite end of the spectrum, pros whose celebrity partners are eliminated are demoted to opening group numbers, commercial bumpers, and the occasional trio dances until the finale.
    • Season 21 tried to invoke this by having troupe member Jenna Johnson as the go-to replacement for incapacitated female celebs, with her taking Kim Zolciak-Biermann's place during her I Dream of Jeannie-themed samba on TV Night, almost replacing Tamar on the duet rumba with Nick and Sharna (it didn't actually happen due to Tamar's last-minute return to the studio, but the outtake reel shown during the finale confirms it), and performing a foxtrot to Alessia Cara's "Here" with Val as his season closer as Tamar was still in the hospital with pulmonary embolisms. Jenna finally became a pro in Season 23... only to be the first eliminated...and then won the show in her second.note 
  • Awesome Aussie: Professional dancers Sharna Burgess, Peta Murgatroyd and Kym Johnson, and Season 21 celebrity winner Bindi Irwin.
  • Badass Boast: Frankie gets one before his team goes up for the team dance in Season 25's Halloween night.
    Frankie Muniz: Ladies and gentlemen! A warning for you on behalf of our cast: enjoy the show, for it might be your last. That goes for you too, Team Monster Mash. *evil laugh*
  • Bash Brothers: Childhood friends Mark Ballas and Derek Hough would often dance together, whether in dance trios, opening numbers, and special numbers. In Season 19 they even swapped partners for the Switch-Up Week.
  • Bookends: Contestants who make it to the finale have to dance a prior dance, sometimes called a "redemption dance". Not universal, but some contestants who make it to the finale is to dance their very first dance on the show. A lot of times, it's for sentimental reasons, and other times to show growth, or both.
    • Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy danced their Cha-Cha to Cee Lo Green's "Forget You". And in their case, this dance was their very first and very last.
    • Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy danced their Foxtrot to Hozier's "Take Me to Church".
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: Derek's spotless team dance winning streak was finally broken in Season 21 by the team led by Nick and Sharna. And now the losing streak continues when he lost his next team dance on season 23.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Maks and Meryl in season 18, if the rehearsal packages are any indication. Maks — who has made no secret of the fact that Meryl is the best partner he's ever had — did a lot of worrying about being good enough to take Meryl all the way, and Meryl could often be seen cajoling him out of his dark moods with soft words and a lot of cuddling.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Also known as DWTS All Stars.
    • For the pros, Kym Johnson returned in season 20 as a professional dancer after taking three seasons off to judge the Australian version of the show. One season later, Karina Smirnoff, Louis van Amstel and Anna Trebunskaya all returned, although they didn't exactly last long in the competition. Season 22 brought back Edyta Sliwinska, after an eleven-season absence, who ended up being the first eliminated pro.
    • It's not uncommon nowadays for pros from earlier seasons to come back; season 23 has Cheryl Burke, Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Derek Hough returned after some absences on the show. Of those three, only Maks returned for season 24 as a competing pro (Cheryl and Derek did make appearances, but just as guest performers promoting their respective tours, Love on the Floor and Move Beyond). Season 24 also saw the surprising return of Kym, who reportedly only agreed to come back due to being offered Mr. T as her partner.
  • But Not Too Gay: Multiple LGBT+ contestants have competed on the show, but it took until season 30 for an LGBT+ contestant to be paired with a same-sex pro: JoJo Siwa with Jenna Johnson.
  • Camp Gay: Bruno Tonioli, especially whenever the men are half naked or take their shirts off.
  • Catchphrase: Len Goodman has two, both of which can occur when it's time for the judges to give their scores, and both of which are carried over from Strictly Come Dancing: "Seh-vennn!" and "From Len, the 10!"
  • Cool Big Bro: Season 21 winner Bindi Irwin has positively referred to her dance partner, Derek Hough, as her "protective big brother".
  • Cute Mute: Deaf contestant and model Nyle DiMarco who can speak physically but obviously can't otherwise.
  • The Cutie: Chelsie Hightower and Julianne Hough in early seasons. Nowadays, the position is filled by pros Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold, Emma Slater and Jenna Johnson, as well as troupe member Brittany Cherry.
  • Covered with Scars: Season 13 champion and Iraq war vet JR Martinez has burn scars over 40% of his body. And a missing ear.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Maks Chmerkovskiy, while a fantastic ballroom and Latin dancer and choreographer, produced a surprisingly lackluster Jazz routine for his partner Heather Morris during Season 24's Disney Night, which led to their elimination on the following week.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kenny Mayne during the now long-gone Dancecenter segments. Tom Bergeron pretty much all the time.
  • Dirty Old Man: George Hamilton confessed that he became more interested in trying to win over Stacy Keibler (who was a good forty years his junior) than in trying to win the competition.
  • 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.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: During Eras Night in season 20, Nastia and Sasha Farber (who was standing in for an injured Derek) danced a Charleston to a live performance of Andy Grammer's Signature Song "Honey, I'm Good." Several months later, Andy himself turned out to be a contestant in the following season.
    • It's not uncommon for celebrities who pop up during some seasons to show support for certain contestants to become contestants in their own right. Examples include Danica McKellar, Randy Couture, Alfonso Ribeiro, Rumer Willis, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, and Charo.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Former pro and current judge Julianne Hough, former pro Chelsie Hightower, and current pros 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, with the female celebs that are underaged during their respective seasons (such as Zendaya, Sadie Robertson, Willow Shields, Bindi Irwin and Laurie Hernandez) sporting costumes that were noticeably more modest (as they're legally required to cover it up) but still just as clingy.
    • 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 Tony Dovolani: season 18 had him take his shirt off by Twitter vote.
    • Before the start of season 21, Nick Carter nonchalantly pointed out that he'd be okay with wearing tighter pants than usual and that he is aware of his big butt. A lot of viewers (and Julianne) noticed it too, especially after the Switch-Up and Famous Dances nights.
  • Fiery Redhead: Pros Sharna Burgess (though she's really blond) and 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 entirely 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: champion Olympic skater Meryl Davis (basically a professional dancer on ice), runner-up Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy (a double-legged amputee with a limited moveset) and actress Candace Cameron Bure (who's not used to live TV competition).
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Dresses with feathers trims are often used to spice up outfits.
  • 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.
  • Funny Background Event: While Erin interviews the couple waiting for their score in the red room, the couples who have already danced or are waiting to dance tend to gather in the background of the shot and often take that as an opportunity to goof off for the camera.
  • Funny Foreigner: Bruno Tonioli plays this role on Dancing With the Stars just as he does on Strictly Come Dancing.
  • 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.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: In celebration of the show's 10th-year anniversary, the season 20 winners Rumer Willis and Val received a unique, golden "Mirror-ball Trophy".
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: Throughout the show's run, there have been a few disco-themed dances, if not outright classified as disco. Examples include Roshon and Chelsie's "I Want You Back" samba, Rumer and Val's "Turn the Beat Around" salsa, Nick and Sharna's near-Shot-for-Shot Remake of the "You Should Be Dancing" scene from Saturday Night Fever as (again) a samba, and Jana and Gleb's decades week samba to "Get Down Tonight".
  • Guest Host: For the Most Memorable Year Night of Season 21, Season 19 champ Alfonso Ribeiro (who had been a guest judge the week before) had to step in to replace Tom, who was away to be with his deathly ill father, as host.
    • Erin Andrews' main job as sportcaster means she's absent for one episode in the fall seasons due to field reporting for the World Series, so both Leah Remini and Kym Johnson have had turns filling in for her.
  • Handicapped Badass
    • A number of contestants over the years have been amputees. Season 18 contestant Amy Purdy has two artificial prosthetic lower limbs, season 4's Heather Millsnote  has a prosthetic leg, and season 20's Retired Army Sgt. Noah Galloway has a prosthetic leg, though he's also missing his left arm (he planned to wear a prosthetic left arm for his week 3 Argentine Tango, but he had trouble handling the prosthetic and discarded it).
    • There's also been two deaf contestants, Marlee Matlin and Nyle Dimarco (the latter even won the whole shebang).
    • Season 25's Victoria Arlen developed severe neurological and autoimmune conditions that essentially locked her inside her own body for four years, and she had to re-learn how to speak, eat and move from scratch. By the time she was a contestant she had regained nearly everything except the feeling in her legs, which means that every dance she does requires that much more effort.
  • Happily Married:
    • Season 21 contestants Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, who had two separate partners.
    • Season 25 contestants Nick and Vanessa Lachey, who were respectively paired with Peta and Maks, who are also a married couple.
    • This also would have been the case if Jewel had competed alongside her husband Ty Murray in season 8. She was going to compete, but dropped out due to an injury.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mark Ballas and Derek Hough, Sharna Burgess and Peta Murgatroyd, and the quartet formed by Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold, Jenna Johnson and Brittany Cherry.
  • Hold Up Your Score: The judges reveal them this way, usually one by one but sometimes in unison when they all have the same number (and a few funny times when they thought they all had the same number).
  • Hotter and Sexier: The Argentine Tango, Salsa, Rumba, and the rarer Burlesque are far sexier and more sensual than the other dances, often invoking shirtlessness from the men and revealing outfits for the age-appropriate ladies. There are also dance pairs like Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko who have a steamy dance style between them by default. Bruno loves dances that go this route.
  • Huge Girl, Tiny Guy: Generally avoided, but a close instance of this was Zendaya with Val, as she's a Statuesque Stunner. It was enough that the latter requested that she bend her knees a bit so that she wouldn't tower over him in the dancing heels.
    • Heavily avoided by the producers of the show when it comes to the 5'7" Sasha Farber. Most of his partners (outside of switch up weeks which are chosen by the public) have been less than or exactly five feet tall. As of this writing, his tallest partners have been, Tonya Harding and Justina Machado of respectively Seasons 26 and 29, both 5'1".
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Utterly unavoidable in Season 26, with the 7'3" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the celebrity contestants. The tallest female dancers in that season's cast were 5'6" (Kareem's partner Lindsay Arnold and Sharna Burgess). Two of the female celebrity contestants were taller than any of the female dancers.note 
    • Again in season 30 with the 6'5" Iman Shumpert, who's an entire foot taller than his partner, Daniella Karagach. Daniella made great use of his height during their run.
  • Ironically Disabled Artist: The show has occasionally featured amputee contestants, all of whom participate in the dance challenge of each episode:
    • Season 18 runner-up and Paralympian Amy Purdy lost both of her legs to a bout of meningitis as a teenager.
    • Season 20 third-placer Noah Galloway lost his left arm and leg in the Iraq War, and refused the use of a prosthetic arm throughout the show.
  • Large Ham: Bruno Tonioli.
    • On the side of the dancers, Mark Ballas. He's got some pretty... unique facial expressions when he dances. Lampshaded by host Tom Bergeron when season 16 contestant Aly Raisman made similar expressions, "You've graduated into 'Mark Ballas' School of Facial Expressions!'"
  • Like Brother and Sister: Has happened multiple times with the celeb/pro couples, with Bindi Irwin calling Derek Hough "the best big brother".
  • Like Father, Like Daughter: To the delight of every human on the planet, Bindi Irwin was exactly as cheerful, sweet, energetic and upbeat as you would expect from the daughter of Steve Irwin.
  • Little Miss Badass: Laurie Hernandez, with emphasis on "little". At age 16 and 5'1, she is both the youngest and shortest person ever to win.
  • 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 Hough was back and dancing less than a month after having an emergency appendectomy. The winner, however, might be Kym Johnson, 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!)
    • Downplayed with Derek Hough in midway Season 20, where he injured his toe on a foot lamp during rehearsal for the 10th anniversary episode and then-troupe member Sasha Farber stood in as Nastia Liukin's partner. However, Derek surmised that he would be good to go within 2 weeks at most to continue his New York show which he had been simultaneously doing with Season 20. And he was able to return to do a Viennese Waltz dance in the semifinals.
    • In Season 23 Sharna Burgess injured her knee in week 7 so troupe member Jenna Johnson took her place as James Hinchcliffe's partner. Sharna returned two weeks later for the Week 10 semifinals...and her first dance routine back involved both her dancing on top of a chair and doing the whole routine blindfolded.
  • The Mean Brit: Len Goodman filled this role when he was a judge. Though he seems to have mellowed out somewhat since his marriage between seasons 15 and 16.
  • Moe Couplet: Meryl and Maks in season 18. Their partnership brought out a tender, cuddly, and quite frankly loving side to Maks that was so rarely seen, even the judges couldn't stop talking about it.
  • Momma's Boy:
    • Hines Ward, proudly so.
    • Jacoby Jones too.
    • A given when Mr. T is present.
    • On the pros' side, Mark Ballas with his mother, legendary Ballroom Latin dancer, Shirley Ballas.
  • Monochrome Casting: Most of the season 25 cast is either white or white Hispanic.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Every single male pro, current and former. Most notably, the Chmerkovskiy brothers, Maksim (commonly referred to as the "Bad Boy of the Ballroom") and Valentin. Dancers will occasionally take off a season for various reasons, often with little fanfare, but when Maks decides to take a season off (or, as seen in seasons 21 and 22, returns as a guest judge), it makes the headlines.
    • Tony Dovolani in season 18, if twitter #takehishirtoff is any indication.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Every professional and many female celebrities.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: A little miscommunication happened once with Nyle DiMarco and his partner Peta Murgatroyd. Nyle is deaf and relied on visual cues to do the dancing. At one point they were dancing separately and she motioned him to walk over to her. It was supposed to be a flirty "Come hither" gesture, but the exact motion she used (with four fingers together) is the ASL sign for "Get over here right now!", causing Nyle to run to her, which briefly threw off their timing. They were able to play it off, however, and neither the judges nor the viewers knew the difference.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: A number of stars have had to withdraw from the competition for personal or medical reasons; Season 21 was the first season to see multiple withdrawals, with Kim Zolciak-Biermann being forced to leave when a mini-stroke prevented her from flying to California, and Tamar Braxton leaving after developing pulmonary embolisms.
  • 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. See above for a pairing that absolutely does qualify in that category.
      • Not to mention Season 23, where 5'7" Sasha Farber was paired with the 4'2" Terra Jole.
    • Riker Lynch and Allison Holker. Riker is six feet tall and Allison maybe reaches his chin when she's in heels.
    • A similar case is Nick Carter (6'0) and Sharna Burgess (5'6). This is particularly striking during Icons Night, in which they performed a Contemporary and Nick's wife Lauren, who is only a couple of inches taller than him, joined them onstage after the dance.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in season 17 with Bill Engvall and Bill Nye, though the latter was eliminated early. 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.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: No less than seven Olympic gymnasts have competed on the show note , with two of them (Johnson and Hernandez) winning, and of their number, the tallest of them was Nastia Liukin at a towering 5'3. Bonus points for Mary Lou Retton competing at age 51.
  • 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 in season 18, they were holding each other's hands.
    • On the contestants' side, lifelong skating partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White. When Meryl won it all, Charlie was one of the first there to hoist her on his shoulders for her victory celebration.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: What Andy Dick, D.L. Hughley, Bill Engvall, Drew Carey, Tommy Chong and Gary Busey seem to be on the show.
  • The Pollyanna: Bubbly, energetic, joyful Bindi Irwin of Season 21, who loves everybody and (almostnote ) always has a smile on her face. Take a drink every time you hear her described as a "ray of sunshine" or similar, and have poison control on standby for the inevitable liver failure.
  • 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.
    • In a more literal interpretation of the trope name, Tommy Chong wore a pink shirt once, only to tear it off and expose his man-boobs. Carlos PenaVega in Season 21 also wore pink, specifically in the promotional photoshoot for the season, in contrast with his wife Alexa in blue.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: During a Disney Night, Stock Footage of Disney animated characters are known to appear on the dance floor, depending on the song about to be shown.
  • 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 22 with Paige VanZant; after her season she returned to the Octagon and won a fight via KO which earned VanZant her first Performance of the Night bonus award. She also landed a film role alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • 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, Sadie Robertson and Alexa PenaVega.
    • In Season 21, the claw move from the official choreography of "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" became a minor running gag in regards to Nick.
  • Ship Tease: Meryl and Maks in season 18 do this constantly, to the point of falling under Will They or Won't They?.
  • Shirtless Scene
  • Shout-Out: In Season 22, MMA fighter Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas have decided to christen their partnership Team POW! Right in the Kisser.
  • Showgirl Skirt: For reasons that should be pretty apparent, these are especially common when contestants do Latin dances like the salsa or samba.
  • Sibling Team: Derek Hough and Julianne Hough, Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy.
  • 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.
    • It happened again in season 21, this time with Bindi.
    • Season 18 had Meryl Davis and partner Maks Chmerkovskiy do a contemporary freestyle to a ballad version of Disclosure (feat. Sam Smith)’s “Latch” with no ensemble nor props in order to highlight their partnership just as much as their dance skills (both of which had been highly praised throughout the season). Len summed it up at the end:
    Len: There’s good, there’s great, and there’s Meryl.
    • Season 20 during America’s Choice week, in which viewers were able to suggest elements (dance style, costume, theme, etc.) to be used in routines, Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy were chosen to do a “classic, ultra elegant, like the good old days” rumba, which consisted of just the two of them dancing to Doris Day’s “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”. They not only got the season’s first perfect score (40), but Len praised them for not needing an ensemble of people and extra “bells and whistles” to produce a great routine.
  • Sixth Ranger: Or rather fourth ranger; in season 19, Julianne Hough returned and became the fourth judge from there to season 21, after which she left to pursue other projects. She returned in season 23.
  • Sleep Cute: This did not technically happen on the show itself, of course, but after they won the 21st season, Bindi and Derek became so tired from back-to-back TV appearances following the win that they just collapsed on the floor and snuggled close together with each other and with runners-up Nick and Sharna, who just happened to join them. Bindi then had this cute picture taken of the four of them sleeping together, and looking peaceful doing so, put up on Instagram. Bindi called these "gorgeous people" her "human pillows".
  • 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: Often, 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 The 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 Brooke Burke was 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 Goodman favors techniquenote  while Bruno Tonioli favors performance. Carrie Ann Inaba and Julianne Hough tend to strike a balance between the two.
    • Season 26 mostly averted this trope: it was actually titled Dancing with the Stars: Athletes, with all 10 celebrity contestants being current or former athletes. That said, the trope still existed on another level, with the three figure skaters as the "performers" and the remainder as "technicians". And two of the three figure skaters made the finals, with one of these winning it all.
    • The celebrities listed under The Ace were also some of the most endearing of celebrities with full exposure of vulnerabilities, and they had some of the best skill and technique in their respective seasons. They accomplished the difficult task of being Technicians and Performers rolled into one powerhouse.
  • Token Minority: Regardng pro partners, Cheryl was this until season 19 when Keo also became a pro, but then Keo became this when Cheryl left after that same season. Subverted once Cheryl returned and she and Keo were both pros in certain seasons, and again once Brandon and Britt were promoted to pros.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Former host Brooke Burke frequently invokes this by asking contestants to reflect upon the judges' scores.
  • Transatlantic 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).
  • Visual Pun: A promo for season 21's semifinals has the announcer stating that the season was "filled with extreme highs [and] lows", which are illustrated, respectively, by Derek lifting Bindi during their Dirty Dancing rumba and Carlos dropping Witney while rehearsing the We Will Rock You-inspired paso doble with Alek and Lindsay.
  • 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 four 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.
    • Nick Carter popped the button of his pants during his first dance, but that went mostly unnoticed.
  • 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, 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 Chmerkvoskiy as the replacement judges for a week. Does the producers think that she will not generate envy or getting personal to the pros?
      • Maks guest judges again in Season 22 with two opportunities for bias - judging brother Val Chmerkovskiy and then-fiancée Peta Murgatroyd.
    • 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.)
    • Season 19 has Alfonso Ribeiro, former Broadway child star and backup dancer for Michael Jackson.
    • Season 20: the show strikes again with 14-year-old The Hunger Games star, Willow Shields; most people are wondering if this will work because, while Dancing with the Stars is a family show, some of the dances are a bit sexy for a young teen to be doing on national television, especially when her partner, Mark Ballas, is 28.
    • Also in Season 20, Riker Lynch, who happened to be a cousin of Derek and Julianne Hough.
    • For the same reason as Nicole Scherzinger listed earlier, when Glee’s Heather Morris joined Season 24, who served as a backup dancer for Beyoncé and was initially hired on Glee as a choreographer. Didn’t make her early elimination any less shocking though.
    • Again in season 30 with JoJo Siwa, who made her television debut in Dance Moms.
    • Also, any time a celebrity becomes a contestant after doing something controversial.
      • This includes a couple of controversial politicians, such as Rick Perry in season 23 and Sean Spicer in season 28.
      • Paula Deen was on season 21 after her n-word scandal blew up.
      • In season 23, Ryan Lochte was a contestant right after his lies about being robbed at gunpoint were exposed as a cover-up for he and his friends' vandalism of a gas station at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In fact, in the first episode a group of protesters were in the audience with two of them running onto the dance floor after Lochte's routine; the show cut to a commercial as they were tackled by security and arrested while the rest of the group got kicked out of the studio.
      • Season 30 had Olivia Jade, who was one of the students at the center of the college admissions bribery scandal.


Video Example(s):


Jessie is So Excited!

Jessie's excitement is a pop culture icon!

How well does it match the trope?

4.79 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / MemeticMutation

Media sources: