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Dancing With the Stars: Season 6

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Miliosr Report - Week Five

General Thoughts

I can't decide if the glass is half-full or half-empty this season. On the half-full side, I am enjoying the fact that the weakest dancers are leaving the competition at the right times. On the half-empty side, the competition isn't particularly enjoyable given that Kristi and Mark lead the pack week-after-week and appear to be heading toward an inevitable victory.

The Red Lights of Doom

Priscilla/Louis and Cristian/Cheryl found themselves under the dreaded red lights of doom this week with Priscilla and Louis leaving the competition.

This was a fair elimination as Priscilla and Louis' routine was fairly close to dreadful. Priscilla proved to be a gallant competitor but it was clearly her time to go.

I am more intrigued by Cristian and Cheryl's (second) appearance under the red lights. Assuming that he did indeed have a fan base coming into the competition, it is hard not to come to the conclusion -- based on the results this week -- that he and Cheryl are not "growing" his fan base. I'm not sure why. He is likeable enough and his dancing is no worse than several others still remaining in the competition. Could it be that Jason and Mario have stolen some of his thunder in the "heartthrob" area?

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On the half-empty side, the competition isn't particularly enjoyable given that Kristi and Mark lead the pack week-after-week and appear to be heading toward an inevitable victory.

They are the only thing that I'm finding enjoyable about the show. I haven't watched any season until now because of Kristi, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with each week, despite the awful music.

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I think some of the article is very insightful, some of it is flatly inaccurate, and a lot of it is very condescending.

Would you comment on the first two :clapping:? It's hard for the former-PBS-once-a-year-competition-with-Juliet-Prowse-watching non-dancer to know, and Acocella writes persuasively.

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I'm enjoying Jason Taylor's footwork -- though he did stumble badly in the Viennese waltz, his lightness and accuracy in the "up-ups" astonished me -- and the clarity of his shoulder axis is wonderful to see. Kristi can do amazing things, and her frankness about the difference between putting your foot flat on the ice and the reach from the heel in ballroom was disarming, there's something about her shoulders and neck I DON'T like.

By the way, for anyone who's missed the show but would like to see the dances, they're all (well mostly all) up on YouTube. That's where I've seen them. Enter "Kristi dwts" in YouTube's search box and you'll get an array of shoices, and can browse from there.

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It's hard for the former-PBS-once-a-year-competition-with-Juliet-Prowse-watching non-dancer to know
That's a great phrase, Helene. You put your finger on the puzzlement I also experience.

Thanks to everyone on this thread. You are educating the rest of us by posting your thoughts about what you see. More, please.

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Would you comment on the first two ? It's hard for the former-PBS-once-a-year-competition-with-Juliet-Prowse-watching non-dancer to know, and Acocella writes persuasively.

This question wasn't addressed to me, but I'll pipe up until sidwich returns to the fray.

The discussion of sex roles on the show was interesting and accurate, I thought. But ballroom dancing itself doesn't seem to be of much interest to Acocella, and it showed.

And the writing does drip with condescension.

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Would you comment on the first two ? It's hard for the former-PBS-once-a-year-competition-with-Juliet-Prowse-watching non-dancer to know, and Acocella writes persuasively.

As dirac and others have noted, Acocella has some very thoughtful and interesting comments on DWTS and gender roles, but personally, I think she undercuts her very insightful thoughts with the condescending manner in which she writes and some blatant inaccuracies:

1.

But “Dancing with the Stars,” like “Strictly Come Dancing,” is different from the standard ballroom contest. Only half the competitors are real dancers.

DWTS the stars is not a real ballroom/latin competition in any number of ways (for example, I still haven't figured out half the rules), but this is not one of them. DWTS is modeled after what is called a pro-am competition, and they are very common in the United States. It's a way that amateur students can compete without having to go through the trouble of finding an amateur partner. In a pro-am, a professional instructor will act as the partner of his or her amateur student through the competition. Only the amateur student is scored.

2.

The people who partner the stars on the show are not just professional ballroom dancers; in their field they are bigger stars than their partners are in their fields. I don’t know why they’re up there, dragging those klutzes around—the pay must be good

Not really. Some of them are. Louis van Amstel is a superstar and Charlotte Jorgenson is world-class as well. Next in status would be Karina Smirnoff followed by Maks Chmerkovsky and Anna Trebunskaya. Jonathan Roberts is one of the best around at pro-am. Cheryl Burke was up-and-coming but seems to have switched paths to the show and other business opportunities.

But a number of the pros are really rather dime-a-dozen. Ashley Del Grosso was really nothing special, and I don't think Alec Mazo or Edyta Sliwinska were particularly well known. Kym Johnson is great for the show, but I don't think she had much of a competitive track record before DWTS: Australia. This is not to say I don't think they contribute anything to the show. I think they were all cast on the show for very good reasons, but I don't think it's correct to say all the professionals were stars in their field. The producers are clearly stretching some of the competitive titles to give some of them more cache.

As to why they're doing the show, in the age old manner of what dancers do when they retire from performing, many of them are transitioning to full-time teaching and DWTS is unbeatable advertising on that front. For someone like Louis van Amstel so already who already has full-time professionals clamoring to pay top-dollar for his coaching services, I'm pretty sure he is doing it as a way to bring ballroom and latin dancing to a wider audience in the U.S.

Contrary to widespread belief, the main difference is not in the feet but in the upper body—the neck, the shoulders, the arms, which are stiff in the amateur and relaxed and eloquent in the professional.

The topline is the first thing that most people see, but I don't think it's the main difference between an accomplished dancer and a beginner. With an unforgiving dance like Rhumba it was very obvious where people were in their development, and unfortunately, most of the celebs still can't walk across the floor without almost toppling over. Julianne was very smart when she stuck Apolo Anton Ono in a chair for most of their rhumba, because that was a major flaw in his technique that would have become very obvious if he'd actually been forced to perform.

To me, the biggest giveaway is whether a student can move their center of gravity with certainty from one place to another as they move around the floor. That's why dances like Rhumba and Foxtrot with their super-slow tempos are often referred to as dancers' dances. They expose all flaws in technique. Once technique is solid, they are often showstopping, though.

That's not to say that topline is not important because it very much is, but to say that it's the main difference... no, I would disagree. After movement of center of gravity, I would probably say connection with partner: can the student use his/her center of gravity in partnership? If that is not happening, the couple is not going to get very far no matter how good they are as individual dancers, and that is very obvious when watching dancers live. Two dancers without connection are never going to have the speed, dynamic, floor-coverage, etc. of dancers who have the technique to work together.

Then I'd start looking at use of the upper-body.

4.

Let me say, since “Dancing with the Stars” will not, that a person who has a prosthetic leg, or who can’t hear, is no more likely to become a beautiful dancer than a person with a prosthetic hand is likely to become an accomplished typist.

I already said upthread why a deaf dancer is totally possible. A dancer with a prothetic leg is tough because I can't imagine how someone with a prosthetic leg can create foot pressure which is necessary, especially in the Ballroom (Waltz, V. Waltz, Foxtrot, etc.) dances, although Heather Mills did much better than a number of the celebs with two good legs.

In the end, the show is not really about dancing; it is about toil and suffering. Each routine is typically only a minute and a half long. In other words, on an episode with six couples, only nine minutes are devoted to dancing. The rest of the time is devoted to the Greek tragedy that, at least for the women, supposedly surrounds the dance performances: the rehearsals, the judging, the “eliminations.”

I don't think this is an inaccuracy per se, but as someone who has worked in reality TV, I'd probably characterize the heart of the show as "show about people learning to dance" and in a broader sense, people tackling something they never thought they could do. I think that is the arc that the producers are trying to create with each couple over the course of the season. I don't think it's about the toil and suffering per se. Not to get all heartwarming, but Adam Carolla had it right when he said that each person has a DWTS in their life, and I think that is why the show, for all its faults (and it has many), reaches such wide audiences in every country that it's broadcast in.

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To me, the biggest giveaway is whether a student can move their center of gravity with certainty from one place to another as they move around the floor. That's why dances like Rhumba and Foxtrot with their super-slow tempos are often referred to as dancers' dances. They expose all flaws in technique. Once technique is solid, they are often showstopping, though.

That's not to say that topline is not important because it very much is, but to say that it's the main difference... no, I would disagree. After movement of center of gravity, I would probably say connection with partner: can the student use his/her center of gravity in partnership? If that is not happening, the couple is not going to get very far no matter how good they are as individual dancers, and that is very obvious when watching dancers live. Two dancers without connection are never going to have the speed, dynamic, floor-coverage, etc. of dancers who have the technique to work together.

Then I'd start looking at use of the upper-body.

Thanks for these insights, sidwich, which will help us all watch more effectively. Acocella definitely seems to have leaped to judgment, and lost her center of gravity, on this one.

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I ran the percentages:

01 Kristi/Mark (jive) 30pts = 16.7%

02 Mario/Karina (rumba) 28pts = 15.6%

03 Cristian/Cheryl (foxtrot) 27pts = 15.0%

04 Marissa/Tony (waltz) 26pts = 14.4%

05 Shannon/Derek (rumba) 24pts = 13.3%

05 Jason/Edyta (cha cha cha) 24pts = 13.3%

07 Marlee/Fabian (mambo) 21pts = 11.7%

I suspect Marlee or Shannon will go but this week will be an interesting test of just how strong Jason's support is. Cristian should be safe unless his audience vote is absolutely disastrous.

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Ratings - Week Five

Performances - 3rd - 17.2 million viewers

Results - 5th - 15.4 million viewers

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Many thanks, sidwich, for your thoughtful and detailed answer.

The people who partner the stars on the show are not just professional ballroom dancers; in their field they are bigger stars than their partners are in their fields. I don’t know why they’re up there, dragging those klutzes around—the pay must be good

Not really. Some of them are. Louis van Amstel is a superstar and Charlotte Jorgenson is world-class as well. Next in status would be Karina Smirnoff followed by Maks Chmerkovsky and Anna Trebunskaya. Jonathan Roberts is one of the best around at pro-am. Cheryl Burke was up-and-coming but seems to have switched paths to the show and other business opportunities.

But a number of the pros are really rather dime-a-dozen. Ashley Del Grosso was really nothing special, and I don't think Alec Mazo or Edyta Sliwinska were particularly well known. Kym Johnson is great for the show, but I don't think she had much of a competitive track record before DWTS: Australia. This is not to say I don't think they contribute anything to the show. I think they were all cast on the show for very good reasons, but I don't think it's correct to say all the professionals were stars in their field. The producers are clearly stretching some of the competitive titles to give some of them more cache.

I'm still miffed about Ashley del Grosso. It was clear even from the credentials the show gave that she was a relative beginner. She showed herself insecure and thin-skinned, and she did the unpardonable: she whined about her charge. I know that in Master P she had the most difficult partner -- a match-up the producers should never have allowed -- but, in my opinion, she did not have a spine and turned on the amateur.

I'll never forget when Tatum O'Neill was getting dizzy turning, and her partner, Nick Kosovich, told her something to the effect that that dance was [some high percentage] turning, and she could either do the turns or go home. He didn't whine at all.

Two dancers without connection are never going to have the speed, dynamic, floor-coverage, etc. of dancers who have the technique to work together.

I think I saw some of that last night at the Royal Ballet...

I don't think this is an inaccuracy per se, but as someone who has worked in reality TV, I'd probably characterize the heart of the show as "show about people learning to dance" and in a broader sense, people tackling something they never thought they could do. I think that is the arc that the producers are trying to create with each couple over the course of the season.

The show mostly reminds me of a show that used to air on BBC America, where a professional would try to train an amateur to a new profession or activity in a month, and that person would have to try to bluff three insiders into thinking they were up-and-coming people who had been training for a long time. In one episode, they took a young erotic dancer and trained her to be an equestrienne. She competed against amateurs of the level they wanted her to portray -- it wasn't as if they asked her to do Olympic level show-jumping -- but she was sussed out because she got the name of some competition wrong during the little interviews. In another, they took a rather dowdy young cellist and turned her into a D-Jay, and she was really good at it. It was always fascinating to see the point where the professional got through, and when the contestant got it.

On the one hand, the DWTS amateurs aren't overtly trying to fool someone into thinking they are rising young chefs, but the audience is judging them by how well they "impersonate" someone who can dance.

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I suspect Marlee or Shannon will go but this week will be an interesting test of just how strong Jason's support is. Cristian should be safe unless his audience vote is absolutely disastrous.

I suspect that Jason's support is pretty substantial. In my totally unscientific survey of women watching the show at my gym, Jason seems extremely popular with DWTS' core television and voting audience.

Also, usually about halfway through the season, it's pretty obvious who is polling well based on who is receiving marks and comments far out of proportion with how they are performing. It was about this point that Kelly Monaco, Sara Evans, Helio Castroneves, etc. all started receiving greatly improved comments even though their improvement was relatively small. I don't think the producers like the idea of telling America that their favorite celebrity dancer really can't dance very well at all.

I'm still miffed about Ashley del Grosso. It was clear even from the credentials the show gave that she was a relative beginner.

TV audiences loved Ashley, though. I never totally got it, and I think she was mainly cast because she was one of Louis' students at the time. She'd been competing for a while, but I don't think she's been teaching in earnest much. But as I said, she was a likable personality, and she was very popular.

Personally, I never got Alec Mazo, either. He always seemed like a very mediocre teacher, and to me, he came across very wooden on camera. TV audiences loved him, though.

Someone good doesn't always come across well on TV, though. Brian Fortuna is a much better dancer, teacher and choreographer than either of them and (from what I understand) quite personable in person, but did not come across well at all on television.

On the one hand, the DWTS amateurs aren't overtly trying to fool someone into thinking they are rising young chefs, but the audience is judging them by how well they "impersonate" someone who can dance.

That's a very good way to put it. There are times when I get frustrated with the show because it seems like the judges prefer to reward someone who impersonates someone dancing well than someone who is actually dancing well. I don't think I've ever gotten over the gushing over Laila Ali, considering how little dancing she actually did.

This is actually why I think the men have the advantage in the competition because it's easier for them to impersonate a good leader, since most of the audience don't have a fine enough eye to see who is actually leading vs. who is letting their pro backlead them through the routine and the judges don't point it out to the audience.

I think in truth, though, it's not really possible to turn someone into a good dancer in the matter of a few months even with training eight hours a day. For example, for someone to realistically learn how to lead, how to guide someone else's body weight while managing one's own, it takes a lot of time to develop that sensivity. It takes a lot of dancing with many different partners to really understand how to work with a partner and have that be second nature. Realistically, impersonation is probably the best that they can do.

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Miliosr Report - Week Six

General Thoughts

Sigh. This season is putting me to sleep. Kristi and Mark continue their inexorable march to the coveted disco ball with nary a significant challenge in sight.

You can always tell when a pair is worried about their audience vote because the male dancer will whip off his shirt in the pre-dance practice segment -- Derek and Cristian this week!

Cheryl's gown made me smile. Didn't she learn from Ginger Rogers that feathers can be a fierce foe?

The wardrobe department took pity on Marissa this week but she continues to grate.

The Bottom Two

Marlee/Fabian and Mario/Karina were in the Bottom Two with Marlee and Fabian leaving the competition.

Like most of the eliminations this season, I can't find much fault with the elimination -- it was their time to go. However, Marlee certainly added whatever heart this season has had. So, it was sad to see her go.

As for Mario and Karina, they must really be tanking with the audience if they finished second with the judges but still wound up in the Bottom Two. It's a shame because I like Mario/Karina 2.0 far better than I ever liked Mario/Karina 1.0.

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The thing that struck me tonight when watching a lot of youtube clips was how weak the hip action is from the newbies. Jason can DO footwork, his feet are neat, remarkably placed, and his shoulders are handsome -- though his head does not rise from his back, and his hips are -- well, there's no only no intrigue down there, they don't even seem to be involved in keeping him moving -- he's powerfully centered, but it's not from the front of the pelvis.

That pretty girl with the long legs can make some nice shapes but she's really got no hip action when she's transferring weight. She can shake her bootie when she's planted, but that's another thing altogether.

Kristi is hella better than anyone else, but still, there''s some way in which what she's doing, though it's impressive, it's not dancing. She doesn't seem musical, not in my book.

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Each couple performed two dances last night. Here are the percentages after both scores are combined:

01 Jason/Edyta 55pts = 17.8%

02 Kristi/Mark 54pts = 17.5%

03 Marissa/Tony 52pts = 16.8%

04 Shannon/Derek 51pts = 16.5%

04 Mario/Karina 51pts = 16.5%

06 Cristian/Cheryl 46pts = 14.9%

Cristian has the lowest combined score but, given his injury, he might have drawn a sympathy vote that will let him live to fight another day. I'm inclined to think that either Mario (weak fan base) or Shannon (backlash against whining last week) will go.

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Ratings - Week Six

Performances - 3rd - 18.0 million viewers

Results - 3rd - 18.0 million viewers

Compared to prior seasons, performance night ratings are down:

Season 3/Week 6 -- 21.3 million

Season 4/Week 6 -- 18.9 million

Season 5/Week 6 -- 21.4 million

Season 6/Week 6 -- 18.0 million

I think there are several causes:

1) Normal audience erosion after six seasons,

2) slow audience return to network television after the writer's strike, and

3) a dull competition. (Sorry Kristi fans!)

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Ratings - Week Six

Performances - 3rd - 18.0 million viewers

Results - 3rd - 18.0 million viewers

Compared to prior seasons, performance night ratings are down:

Season 3/Week 6 -- 21.3 million

Season 4/Week 6 -- 18.9 million

Season 5/Week 6 -- 21.4 million

Season 6/Week 6 -- 18.0 million

I think there are several causes:

1) Normal audience erosion after six seasons,

2) slow audience return to network television after the writer's strike, and

3) a dull competition. (Sorry Kristi fans!)

Yes, she's just making the show unbearable to watch...

And of course, tv ratings are the best indication of the quality of a tv program...

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Cheryl's gown made me smile. Didn't she learn from Ginger Rogers that feathers can be a fierce foe?

Off topic! Ginger loved that frock and fought for it, and the feathers flying during takes didn’t much bother her. They were, however, a fierce foe to Fred, who hated the dress. I think it’s beautiful, myself, and Rogers was right. (I think the matter of her dresses was one of the few areas where she had some clout on the picture, especially when Mark Sandrich was directing.)

Yes, she's just making the show unbearable to watch...

I don’t think miliosr meant that it was Yamaguchi’s fault personally – just that there’s not a lot of tension or suspense currently and that may be affecting audience response. I agree with you that ratings don’t always matter, but with a reality show where audience participation is solicited, it’s certainly a factor to consider.

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I don’t think miliosr meant that it was Yamaguchi’s fault personally – just that there’s not a lot of tension or suspense currently and that may be affecting audience response. I agree with you that ratings don’t always matter, but with a reality show where audience participation is solicited, it’s certainly a factor to consider.

At this point I don't think she is such a shoo-in to take home the prize. She has received some backlash for her supposedly "unfair advantage" and being at the top of the scoreboard for so long can work against her.

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At this point I don't think she is such a shoo-in to take home the prize. She has received some backlash for her supposedly "unfair advantage" and being at the top of the scoreboard for so long can work against her.

I don't think she was ever a shoo-in to take the prize. This show is all about popularity. Dance quality only matters in that it can attract additional fans.

I don’t think miliosr meant that it was Yamaguchi’s fault personally – just that there’s not a lot of tension or suspense currently and that may be affecting audience response. I agree with you that ratings don’t always matter, but with a reality show where audience participation is solicited, it’s certainly a factor to consider.

I don't think it's Yamaguchi's fault at all. Like with all reality programming it's a casting issue. Once you've put together your cast, all you can do is turn the cameras on and go (with some editing room magic). This season the producers put together a very likeable cast of celebs, but what really draws the viewers in is great chemistry between partners. So much of what drew people into past seasons was the relationships between the couples like Drew and Cheryl, Apolo and Julianne, Louis and Lisa, Jerry Springer and Kym. I don't think it's been hard to predict who would win in most of the past seasons, but people tuned in to see what the couples would do each week.

The producers haven't really been able to capture that lightning in a bottle this year. The most entertaining parts of the season this year were Adam Carolla's unicycle paso doble and Derek Hough's meltdown.

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Just to clarify:

I realize there are many Kristi fans on this board who are greatly enjoying her performances and I believe they have every reason to do so -- she is the class of the field.

However, I also believe her achievements are occurring in a vacuum. With the possible exception of Jason, none of the other teams are mounting a serious challenge to her. (Jason may beat her but, if he does, I don't think it will because he outdanced her.) At the end of the day, Dancing with the Stars is still a competition. Without a consistent rivalry between two top teams, the competition becomes dull and lifeless -- which is what we are seeing with Season Six.

Furthermore, with the exception of Shannon and Derek's outbursts last week, a genteel quality has overtaken the show which only adds to the soporific effect. The show always benefits when you have two or more teams who are in deadly competition with one another (and, who seem like they don't much like each other.) (I'm thinking Season One with Kelly vs. John, Season Three with Emmitt vs. Mario and Season Five with Helio vs. Mel vs. Marie.)

As far as the ratings are concerned, I merely pointed out that the show has cooled some. I also gave three possible reasons for this -- two of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the show. I would argue that the ratings are important. This is a commercial program on a commercial network. If ratings decline, then so do ad dollars; making the show less attractive to ABC. If you're a fan of ballroom dancing on network television (even in the strange form it takes on this show), any decline in ratings should be worrisome.

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However, I also believe her achievements are occurring in a vacuum. With the possible exception of Jason, none of the other teams are mounting a serious challenge to her. (Jason may beat her but, if he does, I don't think it will because he outdanced her.)

Technically, the only celeb I think is close to Kristi Yamaguchi is Mario. (Actually, in some ways, Mario is better). I think Jason has much more fan voting going for him, though, and between Kristi and Jason, I'm not sure who is ahead since neither has been in serious jeopardy.

As far as the ratings are concerned, I merely pointed out that the show has cooled some. I also gave three possible reasons for this -- two of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the show. I would argue that the ratings are important. This is a commercial program on a commercial network. If ratings decline, then so do ad dollars; making the show less attractive to ABC. If you're a fan of ballroom dancing on network television (even in the strange form it takes on this show), any decline in ratings should be worrisome.

I don't think that DWTS is in any jeopardy anytime soon, because (a) all ratings are down, (b) DWTS is very cheap to produce, and per dollar spent, it's one of the most valuable shows on television. It's ABC's #1 show in terms of value to the network, and really only trailing FOX's "American Idol" in overall terms.

But you're right, it is ultimately a concern. I suspect the producers are already working double-time to figure out a plan for next season.

I'd also say I think some of it is burnout on the part of the pros as well. Pro-am competitions are very wearing on an instructor both physically and mentally. It's why very few top professional competitors will do pro-am until after their competitive careers are over. I think the producers need to evaluate whether they need to rotate out some of the pros because some of them look like they need to take a break. Some of the choreography is looking very tired.

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I'd also say I think some of it is burnout on the part of the pros as well. Pro-am competitions are very wearing on an instructor both physically and mentally. It's why very few top professional competitors will do pro-am until after their competitive careers are over. I think the producers need to evaluate whether they need to rotate out some of the pros because some of them look like they need to take a break. Some of the choreography is looking very tired.

There may be reluctance to bringing in new pros because some of them have a strong following, and on message boards many fans have stated they would stop watching if their favorite pro leaves. Lower ratings this season could also be due to an early exit for Julianne and no Maks.

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There may be reluctance to bringing in new pros because some of them have a strong following, and on message boards many fans have stated they would stop watching if their favorite pro leaves. Lower ratings this season could also be due to an early exit for Julianne and no Maks.

I think that's something the producers have to weigh out, but on the other hand if the producers hadn't brought on Julianne as a new pro a few seasons ago there would have been no magical pairing with Apolo Anton Ono which ended up being the marquee draw that year.

I do think though that after three seasons of Julianne, some of the magic was wearing off. Many of the message board fans that adored Julianne with other partners were characterizing her as "annoying" this season. I don't think that the show really missed Maks this year. The closest the show got to a beloved pairing this year was his replacement, Fabian with Marlee Matlin.

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I think Sidwich is correct about some of the pro's choreography starting to look tired. Much as I love Edita, the paso she and Jason did this week seemed like a watered down version of the paso she and Cameron did last season to the Superman theme. The only pro for me that seems to consistantly choreograph exciting fresh dances is Karina. She and Mario are the main draw for me this season. I loved, loved, loved that tango they did this season, flawed though it was. However, I don't think they have a chance to win. It seems like female viewers have a problem with Karina. I myself happen to like her rather spiky personality. She's also in my opinion the best female pro dancer on the show.

And why is Mark Ballas getting on my nerves so much this season? Maybe it's those wacky faces he makes when he dances. :D

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