Sunday, May 31, 2015

10 Years and 20 Seasons Later - How I Learned to Finally Appreciate "Dancing with the Stars"

The 20th season of "Dancing with Stars" came to end on May 19, 2015 (Teddy's birthday!) with #TeamValenRue, Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, as the Mirror Ball Trophy victors. #TeamRallison, Riker Lynch and Allison Holker, came in second place and #TeamShway, Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess, came in third.


This was the first time I watched a whole season of DWTS from beginning to end, dedicated to it and making a point to tune in each week, so now I want to write about it. :) These are my reflections. I have a lot to say, so hang in there.

To open up this post, check out how they opened the season. This is so cool.:

I have a confession to make. I was never a fan of DWTS. I watched it every so often, but the concept always bugged me. I always considered it a show for has been celebrities grasping at their last claim to fame, a final grab at attention because they just want to be in the spotlight one more time. And...unfortunately I'm sort have right about that. Oftentimes the celebs you see on there are those who haven't been as relevant in awhile. They probably get paid for it, so why wouldn't they jump at the chance of being on the show? I brought this up to my aunt once and she disagreed with me, saying that they do the show because they want to learn how to dance and they enjoy it. I've taken this into consideration, but wasn't necessarily convinced. I still had this "bitterness," for lack of a better word, towards the show, so therefore I never really cared about it or any of the cast reveals. I also often compared it to SYTYCD, which I considered the better show because it helps young people who aren't well known break out into their dancing careers. It angered me a bit to see DWTS continue to be so successful while SYTYCD struggled with ratings.

(Added June 15 12:14 AM) I also was never that crazy about the show because I was never really that excited about ballroom dancing, the style that is the most prominent on "Dancing with the Stars". (End addition. Wow! I can't believe that I forgot to include this part!)

The reason why I watched THIS season was because Alan Bersten, one of my favorite dancers from SYTYCD, was making his debut on the show as a troupe member. He was all excited about his new job before (and throughout) the season, so I was all like, "Great, now I HAVE to watch it to support Alan." Even when I watched the premiere episode I wasn't really foreseeing myself watching the entire thing, but it did make me want to continue watching the following episodes.

It also helped that I really liked members of this particular cast, like Patti LaBelle. Most people know her as a legendary singer. I, however, know her as a guest star on the holiday episode of "The Puzzle Place".

What's funny is that she wasn't well known to kids my age, so this show introduced me to her. I have a fondness for her for appearing on one of favorite childhood TV shows. Fast forward 20-something years. She looks great at 70 and delivers just the right amount of spunk. In fact, her salsa for "My Jam Monday" set to 50 Cent's "In Da Club", which is a reenactment of her 70th birthday party, is pretty much my favorite from the entire season.:

Obviously it was her most popular routine, for she danced it again for the finale:

Can I party with her too?

When she first appeared on the show, she said that she hoped for a patient partner. She couldn't have had a better partner than Artem Chingvintsev. :)

Another celebrity that I was excited about was Suzanne Somers. My family and I often watch "Three's Company" together on Antenna TV, so it was really cool seeing her in the present dancing on a competition TV show and then later on that night go back in time seeing her as Chrissy Snow. One time I even watched both at the same time, which was interesting because for "Most Memorable Year Week", she danced to the theme song of "Three's Company" in an exact replica of the show's set. While I was watching "Three's Company" on TV and this routine on YouTube simultaneously, it showed Somers both times in the same exact room, positioned almost the same way, then and now. It was kinda eerie.

Who would have thought back when Patti LaBelle was on "The Puzzle Place" and Suzanne Somers was on "Three's Company" that years later they would be dancing on "Dancing with the Stars"?

But of course, let's be honest here. In addition to Alan, my true reason for watching "Dancing with the Stars" this season was this dork:

Oh, Chris. What are we going to do with you???

A round of applause for the former "Bachelor" Chris Soules, everyone! He brought me so much laughter these past five months on ABC!!! LOL

Because I decided to take it upon myself to endure his full season on "The Bachelor" and enjoyed making fun of him because he's just so comical and backward, I decided to watch him on DWTS as well. He was partnered with Season 19 winner and SYTYCD alum Witney Carson and I must say, he brought it! Being a farmer, you'd figure that he might be shy on the dance floor, but he was the exact opposite. He put everything into it and I laughed (still do) any time I saw him onscreen.

How, may I ask, was Chris's first dance his best one??? The world may never know.

Other people weren't as excited as I was about Chris being on the show because they were sick of "Bachelors" being chosen as stars and they figured that Witney was such a success the prior season and now partnered with Chris she had a slimmer chance of repeating that. I understand their concerns.

After awhile though, I started to get annoyed with him myself and was so done with watching him on TV. He started to always look miserable, made Witney cry once, and was still safe when 14-year-old Hunger Games actress Willow Shields, who obviously loved being on the show and has a lot of talent, left the show in a tearful elimination. I figured that he just wanted to be off the show so he could finally move on with life with new fiancee Whitney Bischoff. However, he eventually redeemed himself and got back to his original dorkiness before he finally got eliminated.

During the season I had been hearing rumors that Chris and his fiancee were having problems, so this explained his change of attitude to me. Now that the two have actually called off their engagement, my theory is a bit more confirmed. Maybe there was no connection between the two, but they did seem to run parallel to each other.

One thing I noticed about DWTS through this season is that not only does it feature "has been" celebrities, it also features breakout performers, which is actually a very clever device. I always thought that while SYTYCD catered to younger people, DWTS catered to older people, which would explain why plenty of older celebrities are chosen for the show. However, choosing younger stars to compete on DWTS as well helps expose them to new audiences and get their names out there. This season's breakout performers were Willow Shields, Riker Lynch, and Rumer Willis.

I was a bit concerned for Willow considering she is underage and dances on this show sometimes have a sexiness requirement. However, her partner Mark Ballas worked around this marvelously and the two delivered clearly the most creative routines of the season both dance wise and production wise. Even their packages beforehand were the most creative. The entire "Disney Week" night I was gushing about how amazing Mark's White Rabbit makeup work was. He even favorited one of my tweets about it, which was REALLY cool!

Here's their full Alice in Wonderland routine:

Creepy, right? But creepy in the best way possible.

Willow's elimination was the shocker elimination of the season. Everyone, including fans, was so heartbroken. I really disliked how they put her up against Rumer, an obvious favorite, and that Chris was still in the competition. She's a very sweet kid and being a child star, I really hope she stays that way.

So now that Willow was on the show, more people are familiar with her. The same goes for Riker and Noah, for me personally. I had no idea who either of them were before they were on the show. After doing some research about them, I have come to the conclusion that I live under a rock because the both of them have been relevant for quite some time now. 

The only time I heard about Riker was when Twitter friends of mine would tweet about him and his band R5. After watching his first routine with Allison I was like, "This man can DANCE!" But, for some reason, I didn't have them on my radar at first. I think it's because of my personal unfamiliarity with Riker and that I always considered DWTS as a ballroom dancing centered show and Allison, though gifted in many styles, is primarily a contemporary dancer. Anyway, as they gradually danced their way towards finals, I started to like them and their partnership more and rooted for them more. I also loved how he was determined to get the "10 from Len" and then Len Goodman proudly gave it to him. :)

Their most memorable routine was clearly their Pirates of the Caribbean paso doble. They then chose to improve and perform it again for finals. His fans knew that he was a huge fan of the movie and the Captain Jack Sparrow character so they were really looking forward to this. I forgot he was a blond for a night. The whole "Disney Night" he never broke character. He has the Captain Jack Sparrow voice and mannerisms down pat.



His finals Freestyle was also great. I missed a majority of this episode because I was out but when I finally got to a TV this was the first routine I watched. It was it was obviously popular among audiences because it was chosen for an encore presentation the night of the grand finale:

It's funny how host Tom Bergeron had to drag them away to get their scores at the end. lol You can see that part in this video.

Seeing the following he has, during the season I decided to look the mystery man up and made the most incredible discovery...:

WE HAVE THE SAME BIRTHDAY!!!! AAAAHHHH!!! He is EXACTLY one year younger than me!! How cool is that???? I think this is what got me noticing him more. :P

As I was writing this I also excitedly noticed that Riker's Wikipedia picture was taken in no other than New Jersey. Aww yeah. ;)

Evidently I actually did know who Riker was before DWTS. I just used to refer to him as the "blond Warbler" on "Glee". That's how my friends discovered him as well. He's the oldest of the Lynch sibling clan and he, along with three siblings and a family friend, formed the band R5, which has been active since 2009. Go check them out. They're actually a very talented and funny bunch and will be releasing a new album and touring this summer. :) I think the reason why I was unaware of Riker and R5 before is because they seem to reach the teenage demographic better, with lead singer Ross Lynch being the star of Disney's "Austin and Ally" and all.

Here is another reason why I haven't heard about them. I looked them up Buzzfeed, which I consider a news source for younger people, and got this as a result:

Isn't this glorious??? I love this and let me explain why. I hate it when news outlets shove the same thing at me constantly. Like news about One Direction, for example. It makes me less likely to care. When I don't hear about something or someone constantly, it makes me more interested to learn about it so then I in turn make the extra effort to do the research. R5 not being in the news also shows that they are never involved with drama, which is nice. Let's keep it this way. So, to reiterate my point, DWTS introduced me to a whole new band of talented youngsters. Ever since the finale I've been on a Riker Lynch/R5 kick and feel a little disappointed that I wasn't as much into him during the show to get more excited about him performing. That's okay though. I was excited towards the end and during the actual finale and have seemingly caught the Riker bug. Even now I have been watching Team Rallison videos on YouTube, them bringing back memories. Better late than never. ;)

Of course, I can't talk about Riker without mentioning his hot, crocked rockstar hairstyle. I mean,...

Hair in front of the eyes = SEXY

...I didn't really like it much when they combed it back and it was plastered to his head for certain routines. It looked SO not him. He also has this iconic, as I like to call, "The Riker Jump", that they incorporated into their routines and I didn't really notice his jumping dance style until my aunt pointed it out. I guess it just comes from his rockstar persona.

There it is. This photo was adorable to see every week when I voted on Facebook.:


Another thing I learned about him is that he is cousins with DWTS pros Derek and Julianne Hough and has dance competition experience. His youth and broad performance background was certainly an advantage to him.

Fellow finalist Noah didn't have these advantages but yet he still went very far in the competition. At first I didn't understand why he was even on the show, and when I asked my mom, she replied that "He's the greatest star of all," which made me ashamed for even questioning it. My thing was he's not the only service person who has overcome military struggles and lost limbs in combat, so what made him stand out enough to get asked to dance on DWTS?

It turns out that he is very well known for being the first veteran and amputee to be put on the cover of Men's Health Magazine. He also has many other athletic credits and aspirations.

Look at this! He even made an appearance on "The Ellen Show" WAY before being on DWTS!

He's just such an amazing, great guy. He's certainly an inspiration to us all and he's actually part of my motivation to continue weight lifting. Have you seen his incredible bicep? ;)

Although he made my mother and myself emotional every time he performed, he was certainly a good sport throughout the experience, always looked happy, and is actually a very decent dancer. Fans were complaining about him going far in the competition though, claiming that he was getting pity votes and people should vote based on dancing alone. I don't think he got pity votes but more so votes out of respect and admiration for what he has accomplished. Did I think he deserved to win? No. Rumer and Riker deserved that honor way more for the mere fact that they are better dancers. But if he did win, I wouldn't be overly upset.

There is a children's book out now about his friendship with a 3-legged dog called Bo Meets a Hero, written by Bo's owner Sharman Martin.

Noah has also been pretty active on Twitter lately and has interacted with people, myself included. :D

Not only did DWTS make Noah happy, it made everyone else on the show happy too, ESPECIALLY "Shark Tank's" Robert Herjavec and Chris. I'm convinced that their time on this show was the happiest time of their LIVES!

Yes, Chris too. Forget making out with 25 beautiful women, THIS is what brought him sheer joy! Even though he didn't look pleased in the middle there, in general you could tell that he was having a fun time just being there and was frustrated when he didn't do things correctly. He actually cried when he was eliminated because it was such an incredible experience for him. Being a farmer, he probably NEVER foresaw any of this in his future. I mean, check out his excitement here in this Instagram video I found recently.

I highly recommend checking out the rest of that Instagram account, by the way. The content is fantastic.

Even though Robert didn't win, his constant smile that pretty much never left his face proved that the experience was still satisfactory for him as well because he found happiness and love again in Kym Johnson, given that he went through a painful divorce. I just love how much he participated and was so into it.

My favorite parts of the season were the team dances. This was where I felt everyone's dedication and interest were truly displayed.

Team YOLO:

Team Trouble:

I love how Chris was chosen last. lol :P

Look. At some point they even vlogged about their rehearsals like I would do.:

Riker: The pros are discussing...
Chris: The pros are making things happen and I'm just...getting ready to be told what I am supposed to do.

This was actually my favorite part of the Team Trouble rehearsal package. I crack up every time I hear Chris utter that last line.

I originally thought that Team YOLO was better danced but Team Trouble's concept was more creative. I was rooting more for #TeamTrouble on Twitter because I liked the creativity and favored them more in general. But watching it again now, Team Trouble's routine was a lot better all around and from looking at the package beforehand, they were way more prepared.

Team YOLO's unpreparedness had to do with Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough's unavailability for most of the season. I was excited about seeing Nastia because I remember watching her compete in the 2008 Olympics. Both she and Derek are extremely skilled and work well together, but I have no idea why they couldn't have just sat this season out. Derek was starring in the New York Spring Spectacular and Nastia is currently studying at NYU, so therefore they both had to constantly travel back and forth from New York to LA. They were able to work together a bit in New York but when Derek wasn't present in LA Nastia had to rehearse with troupe member Henry Byalikov (who was another reason why I kept watching ;) ), which isn't the same as dancing with Derek. Then Derek went ahead and injured himself so therefore Nastia then had to dance with troupe member Sasha Farber but for some reason Derek just HAD to insert himself into the routines instead of just choreographing them. I don't know. I just feel like their partnership was a bit of a mess with plenty of problems that could have been avoided.

Since I am talking about stuff that I didn't like about the season, I might as well bring up my feelings about model Charlotte McKinney and how the show portrayed her.

We get it. She's hot. And has nice huge natural tits.

Apparently she was a bullying target while on the show. While no one deserves to be bullied, if you are in the public eye, you are going to get criticism. I have no problem with hot models being on the show. However, I do have a problem with other aspects. Charlotte is known as the hot chick who ate a cheeseburger in that Super Bowl commercial:

It would've been nice if they got a model who is known for something MORE THAN THIS. Someone who comes to mind is Cindy Crawford or Tyra Banks. Charlotte claimed that she wanted to use the show to prove that she is more than just her big boobs, but it seemed that all the show did was draw attention to her breasts more and make jokes about how well endowed she is. Her first package poked fun at how she is known for her giant glands, but it was just dumb.

What I couldn't stand about her the most though was how she kept overly playing up to the camera. Now I'm not sure if this was her idea or the producers told her to do this, so whoever it was, I'm calling them out. Charlotte is a good looking young woman. If you got it, which she does, you don't have to try too hard to be sexy. Tone it down a bit, girl. ;)

She wasn't a horrible dancer per se, but she wasn't that good either and I really didn't want her to last on the show, so thankfully she was eliminated the second week of competition. I enjoyed her more in the grand finale when she was just dancing for fun and not for votes.

People claim that the women who criticize her are just jealous. A friend of mine even gave me a counterargument about how Noah and football player Michael Sam danced with their shirts open and people made comments about their abs. So what's the difference? The difference is that breasts on women are more so regarded as sex seductive characteristics that are often used to objectify them whereas muscles on men are sexy because it is an outward display of their strength. Chances are if a male model was chosen for the show and his gimmick all along was having a huge package wearing speedos, people would be complaining about him as well.

Then finally we have our winner, the daughter of two legendary movie stars, Miss Rumer Willis. I'm a fan of her mother Demi Moore and her father Bruce Willis actually attended Montclair State University. I just found out on May 1 that an administrator from my high school, who also attended MSU, acted with him. How COOL is THAT????

Anyway, back to Rumer. I like her parents, so therefore I was looking forward to seeing her on the show. I always considered her just Bruce and Demi's daughter so I never really knew Rumer the person as much. As soon as I saw her dancing on the show the first night I knew she was going to win. She danced like one of the pros already! Also, this is what she looks like in that season opening:

Have you ever seen a daughter look so much like her parents?

She comes stomping in like a catwalk model, metaphorically stomping on the competition, and has this determined smirk on her face. You don't mess with this chick on the dance floor.

During the show she talked about being bullied for her looks and I actually do remember these harsh years when it happened. This was the only time I really heard about her from what I recall so it was interesting getting to know her better through this show. A lot of young women, including myself, could relate to her and find her an inpsiration. I feel like she would be every girl's best friend.

People said that she was also getting the pity vote talking about the bullying and her low self-esteem, but I feel like she won based on her amazing abilities. She deserved the win. It also helped that Val had a bunch of fans along with SYTYCD's Serge Onik pulling for them. Val has been close so many other times to winning the Mirror Ball Trophy and this was his year.

After she won, I looked her up and found out that she has a handful of film and TV credits! I didn't really know this! For example, she was one of the sorority sisters in the Sorority Row (2009) remake, a movie I was interested in seeing, and plays recurring character Zoe in "Pretty Little Liars". I looked these up on YouTube and was so excited to see her in them! I also ended up finding other trailers of indie movies in which she stars. Good for her. She's creating quite a career for herself. :)

I really like that I finally caught on the show during such a milestone time: 10 years, 20 seasons. I watched the 10th Anniversary Special full of flashbacks and it brought back so many memories, even for me. A lot of the interviews consisted of past stars talking about how the show has positively affected their lives. I never realized that it made such a significant impact on them all. In fact, an encore presentation of this will be airing tonight at 8 on ABC.

All of this made me realize that even though DWTS still may be a show for some has been celebrities to have their final hurrah, it is also a chance for all of these celebrities to discover something new about themselves after all of these years...their love for dance. Through dance they find their capability of learning something new to further build themselves as people. Patti may be a legendary singer, Robert may be a multi-millionaire businessman, Chris may be a farmer, Noah may be a war hero, not to mention the numerous football players that have performed over the years, etc., but they all take dance so seriously. It brings people from all walks of life together. It's a beautiful thing.

I realized too that another reason why I enjoyed DWTS is that I was relaxed while following it as opposed to when following SYTYCD, which often gets me pumped. It gives me a new dance TV show to watch and a whole new population of dancers to appreciate, a majority of them SYTYCD alum actually. So therefore, in conclusion, DWTS isn't necessarily as stupid or useless as I thought. I was also very fascinated by the DWTS All Access live stream stuff they did online during the scheduled rehearsals and the live shows. The cast would interact with their fan audiences during rehearsals and the cameras would show different angles of the studios.

Basically, I have to thank Alan Bersten for all of this. lol

I'm actually a little sad that the season has ended. I remember when it all first started and I am going to miss it. This is the first time I have ever felt DWTS withdrawals. I enjoy still seeing those involved with the show and fans still talk about it on Twitter and Instagram. I even enjoyed the judges and hosts, so I'm also sad that the first season I hopped aboard the DWTS fan train was apparently judge Len Goodman's final season.

I never thought I'd say this but, I'm really looking forward to Season 21 of "Dancing with the Stars" and the new group of stars to take on dance. Here's to 10 more years and 20 more seasons! :D

By the way, when is the show "Dancing with the Freelance Writers" going to start? ;)

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