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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

Celebrating Chinese New Year with 'DWTS' Judge, Carrie Ann Inaba

Season 24 of Dancing With the Stars is just around the corner and longtime judge Carrie Ann Inaba is gearing up for a fresh new season. Dance Dish chatted with the choreographer about DWTS seasons past, why she loves a good dance cry and why her partnership with P.F. Chang’s for Chinese New Year is so important to her and her fiancé, Robb Derringer.

Dance Dish: How has the dance industry changed since the inception of Dancing With the Stars?

Carrie Ann Inaba: From the inception of the show, I’ve seen dance change drastically. Because we’ve had shows like Dancing With the StarsSo You Think You Can DanceAmerica’s Best Dance Crew, there’s been so many shows — not just our show — it has helped to change movement. It’s gotten more competitive and the style we see is much more athletic. I think what has been really nice is the blending of the more formal ballroom styles that have actual set technique versus mixing it with the jazz, the contemporary and the hip-hop. I love the blend that has happened. I think both coming together have advanced the dance industry, the community and the style of movement so much. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

DD: Do you have a season of DWTS that stands out to you? Why?

Carrie Ann: There are so many seasons that are memorable. I just remember the first season with Evander Holyfield wondering: What are we doing here? What is happening? I remember that was so powerful because it turned into this beautiful show that people have fallen in love with and were appreciative of that. It’s nice to see that the American public and worldwide, people love to dance and I think that’s important especially in this day and age to keep dance and the arts out there. [And we have] people willing to get out there and try something new, which is what they do on our show.

I will say the season we had Nyle DiMarco on, he did so well and it was such an inspiration. I did not know how a person who couldn’t hear would dance. He proved to me, and the rest of the world, that anything is possible. It was such an inspiring season for me after so many seasons of doing it.

DD: And you got a good couple of “Carrie Ann Inaba” cries in there.

Carrie Ann: I get a good couple “Carrie Ann Inaba” cries all of the time because dance is so important to me. It’s such an emotional expression for me. I grew up as storytelling as emotion — not ballroom dance competition — I grew up with a different meaning. I always find moments that touch me so deeply.

DD: What is the one thing you would like to see on DWTS that hasn’t been done yet?

Carrie Ann: Gosh, what hasn’t been done yet? I remember thinking, I wish they would do dancing on the ceiling and then we did it. [Derek Hough’s Macy’s Stars of Dance piece, Walking on Air.] There’s not much we haven’t seen yet on Dancing With the Stars but there will be something that we haven’t seen that we will see this year.

DD: And your production crew will be able to pull it off. They are amazing!

Carrie Ann: They are incredible and a special shout out to Mandy Moore who’s been choreographing our show for many years now, she’s a producer — who was my assistant many years ago. She choreographed La La Land and I am so proud of her. Dance is just everywhere — in the films now — it’s all good. I’m so happy for dance.

DD: With Chinese New Year here, there is a wonderful tie-in to dance. Can you share that with us?

Carrie Ann: One of my favorite parts growing up, as a child going to Chinese New Year celebrations was the lion dance. It’s where the big mask with the googly eyes — the lion dance is where there are a few people behind. People confuse it with the Dragon dance which is only two people dancing it. The lion dance is performed to help ward off evil spirits and clear the air and clear the aura for the New Year to bring good luck, good health and prosperity to all of your friends and family.

DD: How are you celebrating Chinese New Year?

Carrie Ann: Chinese New Year is a really important celebration for me. It’s the most important traditional holiday in the Chinese calendar. I’ve partnered with P.F. Chang’s Home Menu to launch their new chicken and pork dumplings as well as their first ever family-size skillet meals — chicken fried rice and orange chicken. It’s all so yummy!

We are going to be hosting a small Chinese dinner for the New Year. We are going to be family style, which means a variety of dishes out on the table. The reason why we do that is in Chinese culture there is a lot of symbolism to the food. Dumplings, for instance, represent wealth and good fortune. Noodles represent longevity and for dessert, mandarin oranges represent good luck.

What’s nice about hosting a Chinese New Year’s dinner like this is that you are wishing good luck, prosperity, health and longevity with your food. It’s always nice to bring people together to celebrate anything.


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