• Kristyn Burtt

Inside The 'Dancing with The Stars' Studio


Tonight you are getting the inside scoop from the ballroom at Dancing With the Stars. I knew this was going to be a juicy night on the dance floor when I was seated about five rows back from the judges’ table and next to a guy I used to date years ago. You can’t get any better than that, my friends!


Here are some of my DWTS notes from inside the studio.


More: 'Dancing with the Stars': Let's Talk About Laurie Hernandez


1. Security: Security was in full force tonight and the changes are very evident compared to prior visits before the Ryan Lochte protest in Week 1. ABC probably prefers that the security measures aren’t published, but I will say there were eight to 10 guards stationed on the floor at all times. 


2. Pre-tape: There were two pre-taped segments tonight — Allison Holker and Keo Motsepe’s contemporary duet and Idina Menzel’s number. So when she left the judges’ table, that was all staged, thanks to the magic of television.


3. Derek Hough and Marilu Henner: Their samba looked energetic and fun. The freedom we all wanted Marilu to have all season long was finally evident. They were smiling and relaxed during the commercial break and they ran through the number before the show started. It was clear they were not going to have a repeat of last week.

4. Mark Ballas: It was a thrill to see Mark perform with some of the Jersey Boys cast. You could tell he was a bit nervous to sing in front of his peers. He took a few deep breaths and then just hit both of the numbers, “Oh What A Night” and “Sherry.” The other singers were not from the Broadway show, so I am wondering if they are from the national tour or the recently closed Las Vegas cast?


After his final number, Mark ran to Carrie Ann Inaba, Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli, who all gave him genuine hugs. Julianne looked thrilled to see Mark out there and incredibly happy for his Broadway success.


More: Halloween Night Isn't the Same Without Mark Ballas on 'DWTS'


5. Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson: I am giving Calvin the honor of having the best package of the week (See what I did there?). I am still laughing over the dance-belt incident.

The couple’s height difference is more evident in person, so it is remarkable what they have achieved this season. It has to be hard to maneuver in hold, but they manage to make it look so graceful and effortless. I wish they weren't so underrated by the judges. I wonder why they aren't seeing the same magic many of us are?


6. Sharna Burgess and James Hinchcliffe: Even though Jenna Johnson filled in for Sharna again, I want to remind some of you that James is still Sharna’s partner. Jenna is assisting the couple so that he can continue through the competition. That role was quite evident as it was Sharna who was supervising the rehearsal during the commercial break. She gave Jenna and James a big hug and a quick pep talk before they danced. 


James was uncharacteristically off tonight in both the opening number and this jazz piece. His recovery was wonderful though. As an Indy car driver, if you have a bad lap, you have to make quick decisions to course correct — that is exactly what he did out there on the dance floor, too. It’s a great skill to have as a competitor.


7. Sasha Farber and Terra Jolé: This Charleston number was a showstopper. I really love what Terra is doing out there on the dance floor. I like her as a person because I feel like she’s authentically showing us who she really is. This number had energy and personality as well as some great choreography.


8. Gleb Savchenko and Jana Kramer: This waltz left me cold and I couldn’t figure out why. I noticed that Jana watched her entire video package before the dance, so I wonder if it disconnected her emotionally. I wish the judges called out her shoulders in hold as well because they are creeping up to her neck while she is dancing. It’s something that should be fixed by this point in the competition. 


9. Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy: I was waiting all week for this Argentine tango because I knew it was perfected suited to the Olympian. She has the fire within her to feel the music and execute the movement needed in this dance. I’ve visited the show every season since Season 15 and I think this was the loudest standing ovation I’ve ever experienced. It was well-deserved.


More: 'DWTS' Pros Jenna Johnson & Val Chmerkovskiy Level Up Ballroom at 24 SEVEN


10. Rob Wade: I am sure this isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s one I noticed the most because of where I was sitting this time around. The executive producer visits the judges’ table at every commercial break. I wasn’t close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation, but it sure looked odd from my vantage point. Why do they need coaching at every break?


11. Celebrity factor: Usually the ballroom is filled with celebrities visiting their friends and supporting their castmates. This was the first time that I thought the star wattage was rather low. I recognized lots of people from the dance community, but the TV stars and DWTS alumni were not seen tonight. That’s a rarity most seasons.


It looks like we are back to Laurie on top with James nipping at her heels again. Calvin looks like he is going to wind up in third place even though their work is worthy of higher placement. That leaves that fourth spot open for the finale in two weeks. Who gets it — Jana or Terra?

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