It's Not All About Dancing: What It Takes to Win 'Dancing with the Stars'
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Want to stay on Dancing with the Stars? It takes a lot more than good dancing.

As the past two weeks have shown us, it's not always the worst dancer who goes home. Audrina's weeks of solid performances (she never had a bad night and actually won in week 3) and a second-place finish in week 6 were not enough to keep her on the show. Rick had his best dance of the season -- which is saying a lot for a man with seven weeks of good work -- just before his week 7 elimination. But both were voted off. Why?

In order to stay on the show, you need a combination of voter support, personality and dance ability. In that order.

Voter Support
No matter how you feel about her, answer this question honestly. Would Bristol Palin be returning for week 8 if her mother's supporters (and a bunch of troublemaking Internet types) weren't blindly voting for her? She's a decent dancer, and she's put in a good showing. But no one with a pair of eyes can say she's better than Audrina or Rick.

Bristol stays because she gets votes. And she gets votes for reasons that, for the most part, have nothing to do with dance and performance.

The same may be true about Kurt Warner. I haven't quite figured out who exactly loves Kurt so much, but they're out there. Are women swooning for the nice guy who looks incredible in every outfit? Are there a bunch of football-loving men being forced to watch DWTS by wives and girlfriends? Whoever is voting, they're doing a good job. Kurt managed to survive week 6 with a dance that was painfully deserving of elimination.

It's safe to say that Audrina was a victim of the personality aspect of DWTS. She didn't have much, and the voters responded. You need personality to keep going in a dance competition.

Personality probably accounts for Kyle's continued presence on Dancing with the Stars. Most people hadn't heard of him before this season, but he has quickly become beloved. A fun and energetic young man with a sense of humor most often directed at himself -- what's not to love? His dancing is decent, but we keep him around for the fun of it.

Will personality bring down the leading dancers, Brandy and Jennifer? Neither lack for personality, but both can rub voters the wrong way. Brandy often comes off as abrasive, especially when producers highlight her spats with Maks. And Jennifer is the season's "Crier." Even though logic insists that she must occasionally stop crying and start rehearsing, the tears are all we see. Good for sympathy, but also irritating.

Dance Ability
Obviously, you won't last on Dancing with the Stars if you can't get through your routine. But what about that grey area between mediocre dancers and those with actual skill? Based on judges' scores, Rick was a better dancer than Kurt, but the average viewer might debate that.

And then there's the question of innate skill versus improvement. If improvement is your definition for the best dancer, Kyle, Bristol and Brandy (don't forget -- she struggled in the early weeks) should be front-runners. If a high starting point is more important, Jennifer and Audrina are the winners.

These issues serve to downplay the importance of actual dancing ability on Dancing with the Stars. When you can't (or won't) rely on skill alone, you must turn to other important factors.

And that's why the results can surprise us.

What do you think? Is dancing what matters? Or could personality and voter support bring about a surprise victor on Dancing with the Stars?

(Image courtesy of ABC)