WRITEEN BY ALICIA RANCILIO
NEW YORK (AP) — “Dancing With the Stars” returns Monday night for its 20th season. That’s a lot of spray tanning and glitter — not to mention drama.
The ABC show (8 p.m. Eastern) will shake things up this season in a number of ways, like by live-streaming rehearsals to the Web and presenting the winners with a gold-colored mirror ball trophy (instead of one that looks like a disco ball.)
In a recent interview, judges Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Julianne Hough talked about pro dancer backlashes, partner patterns and why we root for “showmances” (romances between pro dancers and their celeb partners):
Associated Press: Has it gotten harder to judge the dances on ballroom technicality when they’ve become so artistic?
Julianne Hough: When I was on the show competing if I used a chair longer than three seconds …
Bruno Tonioli: Oh, you used to get hammered.
Hough: You got hammered. It was all about the technique. … I think it was harder (in the past) to be honest.
Carrie Ann Inaba: We were harder. The first five seasons we were pretty tough.
Tonioli: But at the same time the show has evolved. The dances have gotten better. The kids have learned how to teach. It’s harder to judge because creatively they are extraordinary.
Hough: You have to learn how to be a choreographer and a teacher and a therapist (laughter). It’s a craft. It really is.
AP: Is it ever difficult when you judge a performance and you’re honest about not liking something, but you make one of the pros angry and you see they’re venting about it in rehearsals?
Tonioli: (The pros) have been very unfair in kind of their reaction to Julianne because the first thing, it’s never personal. It really isn’t. And they know the gig. It’s never a personal attack on a performer.
Hough: I think the hardest part is we can have an opinion but to articulate it in a way that’s honest yet encouraging at the same time in 20 seconds can be difficult.
Inaba: It’s understandable for them to take it personally sometimes. They’ve worked really hard. There’s a lot of pressure on them. They’re sort of the lifeline for the celebrity. At the end of the season everyone ends up feeling good and we are a family on the show and sometimes families don’t get along.
AP: Last season fellow judge Len Goodman took some time off and there were a number of guest judges. Will that happen again?
Inaba: No guest judges this season.
Tonioli: It’s much better. There’s four of us … we all know each other and respect each other. As nice as some of these guest judges are, it interrupts some sort of flow.
AP: It seems like some pros on the show always get good partners, like Derek Hough (Julianne’s brother). And some pros seem to always get partners who are more of a challenge. Why is that?
Hough: I don’t know how the casting process works. We’re not a part of it. … I know there are certain personalities that work well with a certain kind of celebrity or a certain kind of personality. I know that Tony (Dovolani) is nurturing and gets the person to take care of. And there’s always a spicy (dynamic) going on between like Val (Chmerkovskiy and his partner). There definitely is a pattern but I think it’s more personality-driven rather than ability-driven.
AP: What is it about when fans and the media pick up on the chemistry between partners? People were rooting for Maks (Chmerkovskiy) and (former partner) Meryl Davis to become a couple. This happens a lot.
Hough: It’s the most vulnerable position you can be in without being in a relationship. You’re sweating. You’re extremely close. You’re vulnerable. You can either break down or celebrate at any given moment. That’s what a relationship is and it is physical because you’re dancing. … A lot of couples do get together (romantically).
Tonioli: To make it actually work and make it effective there has to be this total trust and abandon. To make a performance absolutely stand out there has to be that connection. Two people become one. Sometimes a little romance may blossom.
Inaba: I was rooting for Maks and Meryl to get together.
Hough: And that was the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him.
Tonioli: He let go. She broke him. It’s like breaking a stallion.