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Why Dancing With The Stars Judge Carrie Ann Inaba's 'Lift Rule' Comment Was Totally Legit

Dancing with the Stars Carrie Ann Inaba ABC
(Image credit: Eric McCandless / ABC)

Dancing with the Stars has long been plagued by fans’ frustration over various parts of the show, including unworthy eliminations and Carrie Ann Inaba’s “lift rule.” Controversy arose again over Inaba’s strict enforcement of the rule during Season 29 following NFL veteran Vernon Davis and pro partner Peta Murgatroyd’s Foxtrot. But despite the fan outcry, Inaba’s comment was totally legit.

In the Season 29 premiere, Vernon Davis and Peta Murgatroyd were docked one point by Carrie Ann Inaba due to a lift. This ultimately brough their total score to 17 with a five from Inaba and a six from both new judge Derek Hough and veteran judge Bruno Tonioli. The lift in question occurred at the 55-second mark of the duo's dazzling dance.

Since the lift move is a big no-no for Carrie Ann Inaba, she has never been shy in sharing the reasoning behind her hard-core enforcement of the unpopular rule in the past. During Season 24, Inaba took to Facebook to explain why she is such a stickler over any lifts, writing:

...[F]rom day one it was decided that there would be no lifts in the proper Ballroom and Latin dances, just like in a true ballroom and latin dance competition, since that was the original basis of the show, to learn ballroom dances. On the desk is a reminder of what the NDCA rules are: A lift is any movement during which one of the dancers has both feet off the floor at the same time with the assistance or support of their partner. . . .However, lifts are still not allowed in Rhumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Paso Doble, Samba, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Fox Trot, or Quickstep because those are the rules for these styles. And, on top of that, it keeps it fair for competitors of all ages and abilities to compete on our show.

And there you have it. To her point, pro dancers decide to knowingly risk the lost point to do it. A Dancing with the Stars duo could dance the dance of a lifetime but, if there is a lift, it will not get a perfect score if Inaba has anything to say about it. There's also more to the story.

It turns out that in enforcing the rule, Carrie Ann Inaba is taking one for the team, so to speak. It's on Inaba alone to take off that dreaded lift point. Back to her post, Inaba continued:

I am the only one who takes off a point for lifts, which I think is fair, because if we all did, the contestants' scores would suffer greatly for something that is not that serious of a crime. Remember, it’s only one point off, out of a total of 40 points total they can get from all the judges.

In fairness to Vernon Davis and Peta Murgatroyd, it did appear from the camera angle that Dancing with the Stars provided that Davis had succeeded in keeping Murgatroyd’s foot on the floor the whole time. I personally thought this would exempt them from the “lift rule.” Though Carrie Ann Inaba obviously saw the position of Murgatroyd’s foot differently. Admittedly, as a longtime viewer, the decision to dock a point has been frustrating.

Ultimately though, Carrie Ann Inaba is simply doing her job as a judge and, thankfully, Dancing with the Stars only thinks it deserves a one-point penalty. It is still unfortunate that Inaba has had to carry out the unpopular decision instead of the show passing it around the judges’ table. Her obligation to the rule has, at times, made her somewhat unpopular among viewers.

Still, I do wish pros would stop working on lifts when they know that it could cost them higher scores. In the end, it's just not worth it.

You can keep watching to see if Carrie Ann Inaba has to keep taking off points for more lifts when new episodes of Dancing with the Stars air. Season 29 will continue next Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. In the meantime, check out what other shows are waltzing onto this fall’s schedule.

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.