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Season 19 of Dancing With the Stars is underway. Judge Bruno Tonioli seems to get more annoying every season and judge Carrie Ann Inaba seems to become more like Bruno every season, but we still have the superb Len Goodman judging and this season has added former pro Julianne Hough as a judge. My guess is she was added to minimize the damage of the two clown judges.

Wendy and I love watching Dancing With the Stars because it’s such a great example of ordinary people trying to learn to dance. This is so close to our hearts as teachers. You see the struggles, the victories, the power of confidence (or lack thereof) and the drama of men and women trying to work together. It’s all there. In contrast, So You Think You Can Dance features dancers who are almost super-human. It’s hard for us to relate to them. But we can all relate to these DWTS contestants. Sure they have achieved some level of notoriety, but they are, for the most part, people just like us.

This season started with a superb example of how real this show is. Contestant Lolo Jones, an Olympic athlete, fumbled her routine and let it affect her mentally. Extremely competitive, she let her mistakes destroy her confidence and never did recover. Audiences found little charm in the pressure she put on herself and she was quickly eliminated. I found it interesting that her background video indicated a bad experience in her past where a former boyfriend accused her of being a terrible dancer. No doubt she has allowed that to influence her own belief in her abilities. I’m not sure how long she’s carried that burden, but since she mentioned it, I’m convinced it has bothered her much more than most people realize. She doesn’t want to be thought of as a bad dancer and was hoping the show would give her a chance to prove it. But in the back of her mind, that mantra may have kept resonating, making it harder than normal to build confidence in her abilities. I would have liked to see her grow over the weeks ahead, but the competition is fierce and that’s life.

Betsey Johnson also experienced a major stumble in her live routine. A stage hand had clipped a prop boa to the hanger and when it failed to come loose as planned, Betsey continued to try instead of just letting it go. This kind of thing is real life! We can relate to experiences like this, because they happen to all of us. I think it’s the first time in 19 seasons that we’ve seen such significant errors in a single week.

Contestants I’m especially fond of include television star Alfonso Ribeiro. He has danced in the past, but not this style of dancing and it has been years. I love how he just allows himself to move without seeming to think about his steps. He also focuses beautifully on his partner, always aware of where she is and making sure he is matched to her at all times. Partner dancing involves two people. Both have to match each other. This can be hard if you’re too busy thinking of your steps.

I also like Sadie Robertson from the Duck Dynasty family. Coming from a conservative family that may not have thought much of ballroom dancing, she surprises me with her naturalness and enthusiasm.

Several other stars are enjoyable to watch, because of their personality and the fun they’re having learning to dance. I love to see people grow over the course of the show, and I think some of these will grow considerably. The stars, for the most part, are not the most well-known names in North America, but that’s probably a good thing. They seem even more real, more human. And that means we can connect with them even more closely.

Dancing With the Stars can be found on ABC Monday nights at 8PM, with a results show on Tuesday nights.

George Pytlik

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

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