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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

Ohio Star Ball Judge Charlotte Jorgensen Doesn’t Forget Her ‘DWTS’ Days

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

The Ohio Star Ball, which began as a one-day event in 1977, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To commemorate such an important milestone, Dance Dish is highlighting some of the events, dancers and judges participating in the 2017 competition. One of the big names judging this year is a familiar face to Dancing With the Stars audiences — Charlotte Jorgensen. She only appeared in one season, but it was the season that set the standard for the 24 seasons that have followed. 

Jorgensen talked to Dance Dish about why Ohio Star Ball is so special, that magical DWTS season, how the show has changed. 

Dance Dish: What makes Ohio Star Ball such a special competition?

Charlotte Jorgensen: With 40 years of having an extraordinarily successful competition and one that wants everyone to be there — that is an amazing feat. It has a lot to do with the charismatic Sam Sodano; everyone wants to be where Sam is. He makes everyone feel welcome and we all want to be a part of what he is doing.

DD: What are you looking for from competitors at the Ohio Star Ball?

Charlotte: I’m a dancer myself, so I care about the dancing. I have so much respect for the time everyone puts into preparing for a competition. We all have different views on what it means to be in a competition — some people come from the competitive side of things, some people come from the artistic side of things. It’s all OK as far as I’m concerned.

In the Professional division, I’m looking for dancing — an artistic expression, a beautiful relationship between two bodies that are not just dancing choreography. I want them to be able to react and interpret the music that is being played at that present moment time. That’s true competition when you can actually react to things on the spur of the moment. I don’t want the same choreography to the different music all of the time, it gets very contrived and fake.

You have to be flexible in the lead/follow relationship that you can actually deviate from and listen to and interpret the music. It’s one of the most complicated things and most different from ballet performances and Broadway shows to what ballroom dancers do.

DD: Are you seeing this young generation of dancers being cross-trained in other dance styles?

Charlotte: With the younger children that I am working with, I am definitely making sure they are stretched and educated in ballet barre exercises. I am also doing a ballroom barre with my kids because otherwise, things take too long to learn. It underscores all of the elements we do in ballroom if you have done ballet you see the similarities. 

DD: Now that we are in Season 25 of Dancing With the Stars, do you ever look back on what the entire Season 1 cast and crew created on that show?

Charlotte: I share John’s view that I never had any doubt that it was going to be successful. I knew it the first day we were there and ABC executives were terribly worried. What are worried about? This is going to be a hit! 

At the time it was not typical to have a show that was a hit during the summer. The formula was great. It was great to have Evander Holyfield there. He had a lot to do with the success because everyone wanted to see him. The show owes a lot to him for getting the viewers to tune in.

DD: What was it like working with John O’Hurley?

Charlotte: My time with John was fantastic. To this day, I think I had the best of John. When you take an actor and you take them out of their environment. They learned in acting lessons about trust and there was no place for him to go but trust. And he did — he trusted the process. It was a great time and a tense time. It was a lot of hard work with great rewards. I am happy to be a part of what started it all up.

DN: What are your thoughts about the evolution of DWTS over the years?

Charlotte: I think you could have left much of it alone and it still would have been successful. I will always be a purist. I believe in the product. You don’t always have to razzmatazz it. The product was always great to start with. 

Even from the first show to the second show, the packages changed once they realized they had all of these people watching. So you even felt it through those first six episodes. It became more and more produced. For me, I thought, why?

They call it a variety show, but it has the elements of a reality show. You just saw when they had success; the producers started changing things. It was interesting to observe since I don’t come from that world. It was interesting to see how things were played.


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