Dancing with the Stars: Weeks 1-5 Bring Changes to the Ballroom


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Dancing with the Stars: Weeks 1-5 Bring Changes to the Ballroom

Season 18 of Dancing with the Stars is well underway, and it has brought with it many changes: Erin Andrews replaced Brooke Burke Charvet as co-host, Ray Chew's band replaced Harold Wheeler's orchestra, and the Switch Up was introduced.

All of the female co-hosts over the years have been criticized at some point during their tenure. Erin Andrews is already no exception. Live television interviewing is a difficult thing to pull off successfully, and women are typically given a harder time and must look stunning in addition to doing their job. I think Erin is doing a decent job so far, and since Tom Bergeron remains as co-host, whomever they have as a co-host won't really change the show dramatically.

The change to the show's musical staff is not a good one. The smaller band, with its focus on different instruments, may be better at recreating a few pop songs, but for these the show's already using the actual recorded tracks more often instead. Any remotely classical and orchestral songs suffer, including the show's theme and interstitial music. The dance performances cannot have the same impact, and the show's entire atmosphere just feels off. The show is a competition in ballroom dance, not rock. They had at least two missed music cues, which were bad enough to throw off the dancers and warrant a mention by the hosts, in a single week. Who knows how many other small flubs they've had? All in all, this is just a cost-cutting move that has a very negative impact on the show.

The Switch Up had viewers angered initially, because it was not clear from the early promos (or maybe the producers changed their minds?) that the switch was only for one week. As long as it's for one week only, I think it's a great idea (and it's early enough in the competition to keep things interesting without dramatically changing the end results). I was not enthusiastic at all when I thought that the teams would be changed for the entire rest of the season, which was what I initially thought was happening. Either the producers did change their mind thanks to viewer reaction, or they were purposefully unclear just to cause controversy. If it was a publicity stunt, I'm not impressed. DWTS doesn't need it. The switches were all entertaining (even if some were not the matches I would have made) and I think provided just enough of a challenge to both the pros and contestants. It is something they should do every season.

In addition to the Switch Up week, they've also had their usual theme of “Most Memorable Year” (which is always more interesting when the stars don't all just choose the past year) and a new Disney week. Disney week was a good concept, and did provide some entertainment value, but occasionally the gimmicks stole the spotlight from the dance content. However, that is a risk many of the heavily themed dances take.

At this point in the show's history, viewers have high expectations, and the real star of the show is dance. So, let's get to my thoughts on the dancers and their performances:

Contestants eliminated already:

Diana Nyad and Henry Byalikov

I was disappointed Diana didn't get to dance a few more weeks. Although her dances were not the best, she brought a very witty, pleasant, and entertaining presence to the ballroom. Her first week's dance (to Beyond the Sea) was elegant and told a perfect story.

Sean Avery and Karina Smirnoff

I was not disappointed in the least to see Sean go. I had not even heard of him before this, and from what I've seen, I don't care for him. He had a negative attitude. While he might be a perfectly nice person in other ways, I can only judge from what I see onscreen. He did show improvement from his first to second dance, but still, he wasn't the best dancer.

Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater

Billy Dee is charismatic and a Hollywood legend. However, his dancing left much to be desired. Emma deserves props for her choreography that creatively works to the strengths (and weaknesses) of her partners. Unfortunately, Billy Dee was unable to even complete his last dance due to heath issues. This made me wish that someone who would have at least been able to compete (like Diana) would have gotten through another week instead.

Cody Simpson and Witney Carson

Cody's a great dancer, but he is not a BALLROOM dancer. The dances they gave him simply seem like excuses to not do the traditional ballroom routines and instead, choreograph his own moves. Anyone else would get called out for it. But of course, DTWS producers are trying to court the teeny-bopper audience, so they ignore this. (The producers and judges are not consistent with applying the competition's rules, and this is not fair to anyone.) In some of his dances, it felt like two completely different performances: the portions in side-by-side, with non-ballroom moves, were fantastic, and the portions in hold were awkward. I think that it's unfortunate he didn't get more of a chance and put in a bit more effort to live up to his potential.

Check back soon for my next DWTS blog, which will review the competitors who still have shot at the mirrorball trophy!
Thanks for this round-up! I agree with you totally about the new band. I think Erin should be doing better given her live TV experience, and I find her personality grating so I don't think it's just 'new female co-host syndrome' for me. The switch-up was fine, but unnecessary, and part of a worrying trend of gimmicks that a premise this good doesn't need at all. I think the panel and hosts need a disability equal opps seminar, however!