Since Dancing With the Stars is all about teaching celebrities a new skill, it’s appropriate that the show’s panel at the Paley Festival is a learning experience for the audience as well as the current competitors on the show.
Among the panelists on Friday night (March 21) are the stars Christian de la Fuente, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Kristi Yamaguchi, Drew Lachey and Jane Seymour; pro dancers Cheryl Burke, Derek Hough and Julianne Hough; judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli; hosts Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris and executive producer Conrad Green.
Several times during the night, newcomer Winokur has to stop proceedings and remind the previous seasons’ competitors not to scare her with tales of how harrowing the process is. Among the horror stories are dislocated shoulders (Mark Ballas), pulling the muscles in the rib cage (Seymour) and not being able to move the neck (Lachey).
"Again," says Winokur, indicating herself. "Still just starting the show."
"The hernia check wasn’t so bad," jokes Lachey, "and then the colonic at the end."
The rigorous workout and stress isn’t all bad though. It also contributes to the stars’ slimmer figures.
"I drank so much beer on that show and still lost weight," says Lachey, to which Bergeron adds, "That explains why you were always leaving to pee."
"You can eat pie," continues Lachey. "You can eat cake. You can eat a gallon of ice cream –"
At this point Winokur interrupts, "Clearly I’ve been doing it wrong."
Green says that pairing the stars with the professionals is partly practical when it comes to height, but it really comes down to chemistry. Not only do they have to exhibit some sort of chemistry on the dance floor, but they also have to get along with each other for three months if they make it to the finals.
The pros also feel responsible for each of their celebrities beyond just teaching them the right moves.
"I think the first show is the scariest," says Burke, who had partnered two DWTS winners. "You don’t know how they’ll perform live or handle pressure."
Adds Derek Hough, "Give them things to think about. We’re like therapists. We’re there to take care of them."
The pros also try to cover for their partners’ mistakes, whether it’s performing fancy footwork around them or even dancing right up to the judges’ desk so their feet aren’t visible to the judges.
Some things, however, are not done with the celebrity’s comfort in mind, namely the wardrobe. The pro is usually the person who dictates what the star will wear. Lachey complains about Burke wanting his pants to always be tighter and the "elastric straps that go between your legs to hold your shirt down." Some of the stars don’t mind at all though. Champion Helio Castroneves apparently "wanted the sparkles."
That night, Julianne Hough and brother Derek finally put it on the record that there is no sibling rivalry on the show.
"No, but everyone wants there to be," says Julianne, who has also partnered two stars for back-to-back wins.
"She let me keep the second trophy," jokes her brother.
Derek Hough also calls attention to the fall during a dance with him and Jennie Garth, wondering why it didn’t make it to the Top 10 memorable moments mentioned earlier in the evening. He blames the fall on a wardrobe miscalculation because they had always rehearsed in other clothes, but the dress had extra material.
"We didn’t account for the dress. It was not my fault," he insists.
His sister, who led Apolo Anton Ohno and then Castroneves to victory, assesses each of her partners, including current partner Adam Carolla.
"Apolo was the easiest because he was an Olympic athlete. If I said, ‘Jump,’ he’d say ‘How high?’" she says. "As far as Helio, he was always talking and had an opinion about everhthing. Adam is funny. I have the most fun with him. It’s hard to get through to him because I can’t get a word in edgewise."
Who’s your favorite dancer/pro? Who has the best chance of winning this season?