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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

13 Things We Learned from Season 23 of 'Dancing with the Stars'

Vanilla Ice and Witney Carson. Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

Over the last 11 weeks, we’ve experienced the highs and the lows of another Dancing With the Stars season. Each season teaches us some important lessons both on and off the dance floor. 

Here are some of Season 23’s DWTS lessons to walk away with:

1. It ain’t easy: We know it isn’t easy to be the first person voted out, but it’s also hard to be voted out when it’s your first season as a pro. Jenna Johnson has worked so hard in troupe over the years, so it was disappointing to watch her go during the first elimination with Jake T. Austin. 

2. It’s all a facade: Rick Perry was a controversial governor for the state of Texas, but he was pretty goofy on the dance floor. Are we ever going to forget him skipping in his Quickstep with partner Emma Slater or his bromance with Vanilla Ice? 

3. Finding your groove: Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds is one of the most successful producers and singers in the music industry, but he had a hard time finding his DWTS groove. He had a stellar Argentine Tango, but then had difficulty getting back in synch in subsequent weeks. 

4. 90s nostalgia doesn’t always save you: While I didn’t think Vanilla Ice would win the Mirror Ball Trophy, I certainly thought that the '90s kids would see him through until the seventh or eighth week. It’s worked with plenty of contestants like Danica McKellar, Elizabeth Berkley and Candace Cameron Bure, but I guess no one wanted to “stop, collaborate and listen” this season.

5. Don’t judge a book by its cover: Come on, admit it, you were ready to dislike Amber Rose. I was. I found her charismatic in her video packages, but very conservative and shy on the dance floor. While I wanted her to just MOVE out there, I do feel like I walked away understanding her personality more. Thanks, DWTS!

6. Marcia gets insecure, too: Marcia was always the pretty, popular girl on The Brady Bunch, but Maureen McCormick showed a different side to her public persona. It was a rollercoaster of emotions from week to week with Maureen, but it was clear she opened herself up to the experience and enjoyed looking at the handsome male pros along the way.

7. Second chances are given: Fans were kicking and screaming when Ryan Lochte was named to the cast after his Olympics debacle. If ever there were a right pro to get him back on track, it’s Cheryl Burke. The two of them huddled down in the studio, did the work and made it to a very respectable 7th place on the show. Ryan looks like he’s taking this second chance seriously — both personally and professionally.

8. Putting those myths to rest: It took until Season 23 to quiet Derek Hough’s detractors down. He doesn’t always get the best partners, he doesn't automatically get into the finale and producers don't favor him over other pros. 

Derek did his best to figure out how to make Marilu Henner feel comfortable and confident, but it came too late in the season. It sounds like he might take a break from the show, but I am happy to see all of the huge opportunities coming his way.

9. What DWTS does best: Terra Jolé won over so many people, including me, this season. We watched her confidence grow early in the season, but her journey showing what she can do as a dancer, as a woman and as a mom was inspiring to me. My only regret was not seeing her in the finale. 

10. Putting on a brave face: I cannot imagine what Jana Kramer is going through on a personal level. We’ve all had dark times, but these waters are rough. I think DWTS brought her some daily joy and a wonderful distraction to her marital issues. She put her heart out there at a time when she’s most vulnerable — that’s brave.

Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson. Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

11. When it’s right, it’s right: Everything about the partnership between Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson was right from Day 1. In a different season, I think we would be looking at the winners. Lindsay is proving to be one of the strongest female pros on DWTS and likable Calvin can count me as a total fan for life.

12. The hardest place to be: Sharna Burgess and James Hinchcliffe were also magic from the get-go. They were so close to that win, I could taste it for them. For a man who sits for a living, James proved that he has the work ethic to learn a new skill and master it beautifully. Sometimes second place is the hardest place to be, but I know my memory bank will store several of their dances for a long time to come.

13. A year of dreams: I’m not sure how Laurie Hernandez is going to top a year of gold medals and Mirror Ball Trophies, but she’s established herself as a telegenic star. While the gymnastics fan in me selfishly wants her back in the gym, Laurie deserves to soak in her success for a bit post-Olympics. Val Chmerkovskiy truly wanted this win for her, not him. You could see it throughout the season and I think his selfless act allowed his authenticity to shine through.

Congratulations, Laurie and Val!


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