Now in its 29th season with a new host and a new attitude, Dancing with the Stars has featured well over 300 pairs of dancers, with each season offering up a completely unpredictable mix of celebrities from the worlds of TV, movies, sports and more. Sometimes the pairings make a lot of sense, such as this season's Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev, and other times they cause a ton of head-scratching, such as Geraldo Rivera and Edyta ?liwi?ska. Fans have often wondered exactly how those pairings are decided upon, as well as how the celebrities are chosen, and now we have some answers.
During Dancing with the Stars' recent virtual press conference, host Tyra Banks and judge Derek Hough joined executive producer Andrew Llinares and co-executive producer Deena Katz to talk about the long-running show, its ever-evolving cast and more. When asked about the process of pairing up the wide-ranging celebrity dancers with the well-seasoned pros, Katz confirmed those decisions are anything but random.
That makes a ton of sense, of course. It wouldn't do anyone any good if Dancing with the Stars just paired people together willy nilly. While viewers may not completely comprehend it just from watching weekly episodes, it takes a ton of patience, understanding, kinship and agreeability to be dance partners with someone, particularly if one of those partners isn't a natural. So if there are particular stars who need more guidance and are accepting of such things, it makes sense to pair them with pros who are good at teaching and working slowly, while stars who have more natural abilities are better fits for pros who are good at pushing their partners to go beyond their expectations.
Of course, that line of thinking is also tied intrinsically to the concept of height, since it's not like the aforementioned Charles Oakley or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (in Season 26) can be paired with just anyone, regardless of personalities or talents. But when height isn't as much of an issue, it's all about finding the chemistry. Deena Katz continued:
That absolutely makes sense, considering a lot of celebrities who join Dancing with the Stars aren't necessarily used to going so widely public with less-than-perfect performances. So it definitely helps them to have pros that are both encouraging and also able to offer up key advice when celebs aren't feeling confident or physically capable.
As far as picking the celebrities themselves, Deena Katz talked about that being a different kind of challenge for which they attempt to cast the widest net of interest possible. In her words:
Indeed, Dancing with the Stars' producers roped in three different Netflix stars for Season 29 in Tiger King's Carole Baskin, Cheer's Monica Aldama and Selling Sunset's Chrishell Stause, and each of those shows are quite popular without necessarily sharing the exact same fanbase. (For what it's worth, Justina Machado used to be considered a Netflix star before One Day at a Time flipped to Pop after the streaming service cancelled it.) Though the musicians chosen don't always skew to the youngest generations – such as Nelly and Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean – it's clear that the producers attempt to show their range when culling its celebs.
That said, Dancing with the Stars' BTS team also wants the kind of celebs who will win over viewers that weren't necessarily fans of them before. In Deena Katz's words:
And in the end, I'm sure it also helps to find celebs who are big Disney fans and aren't opposed to potentially dressing up like Disney characters.
Dancing with the Stars airs Monday night on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to keep tuning in to see who takes home the Mirrorball trophy for Season 29, and keep an eye on our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are coming to the small screen soon.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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