Everything You Need to Know About “Dancing with the Stars”

  • Aug 2, 2021
  • Daniel Tynski
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For more than 15 years, ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” has captivated viewers, introducing the world of ballroom and professional dance to a whole new audience. With season 30 kicking off in September, here’s a definitive guide on the program and everything you need to know about the host, the pro dancers, and the stars who make this popular show what it is.

“Dancing with the Stars”: The Basics

“Dancing with the Stars” brings the beauty, hard work, and technicality of the world of dance to the mainstream by pairing celebrities with professional dancers as they compete for the Mirrorball Trophy each season.

Whether you’re a longtime fan or checking out the show for the first time, here’s what you need to know about this popular televised dance competition.

Format  

Since the show premiered June 1, 2005, each season of “Dancing with the Stars” has featured pairs of pro dancers and celebs competing each week.

Each couple is assigned specific dances – including Latin, American, and ballroom dances — ahead of each televised live show, which airs on Monday nights. Some weeks also feature special themes, like Halloween, 80s music, or Disney.

The dance partners choreograph and practice their routines throughout the week, performing them live for judges, a studio audience, and audiences watching at home on TV. The judges assign scores to each pair, offering tips, critiques, and compliments along the way.

One couple is sent home each week. The couple that leaves is decided based on a combination of the judges’ scores and audience votes. Couples are eliminated weekly until just one—the champion— remains and receives the coveted Mirrorball Trophy.

Host, Judges, and Other Show Personalities

It takes a lot of talent to make “Dancing with the Stars” happen. Here are some key people, including hosts, judges, competing celebrities, dance professionals, and other important personalities, which lend a hand to the show’s success.

Hosts include:

  • Tyra Banks: This supermodel and current “Dancing with the Stars” host is no stranger to reality programming. She produced and hosted “America’s Next Top Model.”
  • Tom Bergeron: With the show for its first 28 seasons, Tom Bergeron — who also hosted “America’s Funniest Home Videos” — exited “Dancing with the Stars” in July 2020.
  • Lisa Canning: Canning served as co-host to Tom Bergeron in season one.
  • Samantha Harris: Harris served as co-host to Tom Bergeron from seasons two through nine.
  • Erin Andrews: Andrews served as co-host to Tom Bergeron from seasons 18 through 28.

Judges include:

  • Len Goodman: A former head judge on the U.K.’s “Strictly Come Dancing,” dance professional and coach, Len Goodman was part of “Dancing with the Stars” when the show launched. He’s sat out several seasons over the years, including season 29 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will return for season 30.
  • Bruno Tonioli: Another judge on “Strictly Come Dancing,” Bruno Tonioli is a top choreographer who has worked on many TV shows, movies, commercials, concerts, and other shows. He’s also been a judge on “Dancing with the Stars” for all seasons so far.
  • Carrie Ann Inaba: Also, a “Dancing with the Stars” judge since the show’s start, this veteran choreographer has worked on “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Other key personalities include:

  • Sharna Burgess: This Australian ballroom dancer joined the cast of “Dancing with the Stars” in season 13. She won season 27 when paired with Bobby Bones.
  • Cheryl Burke: This dancer, model, and TV host has been a professional dancer on the show since season two. She even won the Mirrorball Trophy in seasons two and three with Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith.
  • Artem Chigvintsev: This Russian American dancer specializes in Latin dance and has been part of DWTS since season 19. He won season 29 with partner Kaitlyn Bristowe.
  • Val Chmerkovskiy: This Ukrainian American has been a dance pro on “Dancing with the Stars” since season 13. However, he took a break for season 26. He’s won the show twice — season 20 with Rumer Willis as his partner and season 23 with Laurie Hernandez.
  • Derek Hough: A dancer since age 11, this two-time Emmy Award winner got his start with “Dancing with the Stars” as a professional paired with a celebrity, winning the competition six times. Last year, he filled in as a judge for Len Goodman, who couldn’t travel to host the show because of the pandemic. Hough will remain as a judge in season 30.
  • Julianne Hough: A former dance professional on “Dancing with the Stars” — and Derek Hough’s sister — Julianne also served as a judge from seasons 19 to 21.
  • Jenna Johnson: Getting her start on DWTS as a troupe member, Jenna Johnson graduated as a dance professional in season 23. She sat out season 24, returned as a troupe member in season 25, and was named a dance professional again in season 26, winning the season with her partner, Adam Rippon. She’s been a pro on the show since.
  • Keo Motsepe: This South African dancer who specializes in Latin and ballroom has been a dance professional with the show since season 19 — aside from season 23 when he was a troupe member.
  • Peta Murgatroyd: This New Zealand-born Australian professional dancer specializes in Latin dance. She’s been part of DWTS as a dance professional since season 13, winning the show twice — in season 14 with partner Donald Driver and in season 22 when paired with Nyle DiMarco.
  • Gleb Savchenko: This Russian dance professional and model has been on “Dancing with the Stars” since season 16.

Where to Stream

If you don’t have cable but don’t want to miss your weekly dancing fix, don’t worry! You can still live stream “Dancing with the Stars” each week. You can stream it on fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, or the ABC website or ABC Go app.

Dancing with the Stars: A Breakdown of Each Season

With 29 seasons of “Dancing with the Stars” — so far — you might have missed a lot. Luckily, we’ll recap each season for you below and bring you up to speed. 

Season One 

The first season of “Dancing with the Stars” featured just six pairs of celebrities and professional dancers competing in six episodes. The winners of this first season were actress Kelly Monaco and dancer Alec Mazo. They beat actor John O’Hurley and his partner, Charlotte Jørgensen, in a rematch episode. 

Season Two

With the success of season one, the second season — which premiered on Jan. 5, 2006 — expanded each episode from an hour to 90 minutes. It also featured more couples — 10 celeb and professional pairings — who competed over eight episodes. Ultimately, singer Drew Lachey and his partner, Cheryl Burke, came out on top.

Season Three

The scoring system was tweaked a bit by this season, which premiered Sept. 12, 2006, so that the audience vote accounted for less — just 25% — of each pair’s total score each week, and more weight was put on the judge’s scores. An additional pairing was added, as well, so that 11 couples competed over 10 episodes. Dance professional Cheryl Burke earned a back-to-back championship with her partner, NFL player Emmitt Smith.

Season Four 

This season, which premiered March 19, 2007, DWTS began airing its performance show on Monday nights, with the results aired Tuesday. This increased the number of episodes to 20. The show also stopped eliminating a couple during the first week of performances so that each pair participated for at least two weeks. Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno won this season with his dance partner, Julianne Hough.

Season Five

The fifth season premiered Sept. 24, 2007, with a special three-night premiere. And 12 dancing couples were competing over 21 episodes. The winner was race car driver Helio Castroneves and his pro partner Julianne Hough.

Season Six

This season, which premiered on March 17, 2008, 12 couples competed for the championship title over 21 episodes. Season six also saw DWTS’ 100th episode, which was commemorated with a special two-hour episode. Ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi won the season with her partner, Mark Ballas. The pair earned perfect scores on their three dances during the finale.

Season Seven

The number of couples competing increased to 13 this season, which premiered Sept. 22, 2008. However, the number of episodes remained the same at 21. There were some other additions this season, including several new dances — hustle, salsa, jitterbug, West Coast swing, and Team Dancing. Model and television host Brooke Burke won the season with her professional partner Derek Hough.

Season Eight

This season premiered on March 9, 2009, with 13 couples competing throughout 21 episodes. There were some changes to the format, including two new dances — the Argentine tango and Lindy Hop — and sometimes requiring a dance-off between the lowest-scoring couples. Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson won the season with her dance partner Mark Ballas.

Season Nine

This season, which premiered Sept. 21, 2009, expanded with 16 couples competing over 23 episodes. Four new dances — bolero, lambada, two-step, and the Charleston — were introduced, and relay dances were added. There were also three double-elimination weeks. Ultimately, singer Donny Osmond won the competition with dance pro Kym Johnson.

Season 10

Premiering March 22, 2010, season 10 saw fewer contestants competing — just 11 — over 19 episodes. Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger won the season with her partner Derek Hough.

Season 11

This season, which premiered Sept. 20, 2010, featured 12 celebrity dancers competing in 20 episodes. This was a big season for the DWTS franchise, as it celebrated its 200th episode. The show invited back fan-favorite competitors to serve as guest judges to celebrate the milestone. They also served as team captains on the team dances. Actress Jennifer Grey won this season with her partner Derek Hough.

Season 12

This 12th season of “Dancing with the Stars” premiered on March 21, 2011, with 11 couples competing over 19 episodes. This time, the DWTS website allowed people to suggest celebrities who should compete on the show. Football player Hines Ward won with his partner Kym Johnson. 

Season 13

Premiering Sept. 19, 2011, this season featured 12 celebrities dancing throughout 20 episodes. Actor and U.S. Army veteran J.R. Martinez won the competition this season with his dance pro partner Karina Smirnoff.

Season 14

In this season, which premiered on March 19, 2012, 12 couples competed over 20 episodes. For the first time, in several episodes, the lowest-scoring couples were asked to compete in a dance duel to determine who would leave the show. Football player Donald Driver won this season with his partner Peta Murgatroyd, making him the third NFL player at the time to win DWTS.

Season 15

This season, which premiered Sept. 24, 2012, featured an all-star cast for the first time ever. This gave stars who competed in previous seasons — including several who won their seasons — another chance to take home the Mirrorball Trophy. 13 couples competed over 19 episodes. The winner was television presenter Melissa Rycroft, who was partnered with Tony Dovolani. This season also introduced fractional scores for the first time.

Season 16

Premiering March 18, 2013, 12 couples competed over 20 episodes. Judges returned to scoring in whole numbers this season. Country music singer Kellie Pickler, who was partnered with Derek Hough, was this season’s winner.

Season 17

In this season, which premiered Sept. 16, 2013, 12 pairings competed over 12 episodes. Since the inaugural season, it was also the first time that DWTS didn’t air a separate Tuesday night results show. The season’s winner was Glee actress Amber Riley and her partner Derek Hough.

Season 18

This season, which premiered March 17, 2014, featured an exciting challenge for the first time, “The Switch Up,” which allowed viewers to vote and change up the celebrity and professional pairings for one week. Throughout the season, 12 couples competed in 11 episodes. The winner was Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis, who was paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Season 19

Premiering Sept. 15, 2014, 13 celebrities competed with their dance professionals over 15 episodes. Actor and TV host Alfonso Ribeiro partnered with Witney Carson, a former “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant, to win this season.

Season 20

Premiering March 16, 2015, 12 couples competed throughout 14 episodes. This season also celebrated the show’s 10th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, the winners — actress Rumer Willis and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy — received a golden Mirrorball Trophy.

Season 21

In this season, which premiered Sept. 14, 2015, 13 couples competed over 14 episodes. Bindi Irwin, wildlife conservationist, actress, and the daughter of the late Steve Irwin won the competition with her partner Derek Hough.

Season 22

Premiering March 21, 2016, this season saw 12 couples competing for the championship over 11 episodes. This season’s winner was Nyle DiMarco, who is deaf, and his partner Peta Murgatroyd.

Season 23

This season of DWTS premiered on Sept. 12, 2016. It featured 13 couples competing for the championship over 15 episodes. The winner was Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy. 

Season 24

This season, which pitted 12 couples against each other in 11 episodes, premiered on March 20, 2017. Athlete Rashad Jennings continued the tradition of NFL players winning DWTS when crowned the winner with his partner Emma Slater.

Season 25

Premiering Sept. 18, 2017, 13 couples competed over 12 episodes. Actor and singer Jordan Fisher won this season with his partner Lindsay Arnold.

Season 26

This season, which premiered April 30, 2018, was the shortest in DWTS history — just four weeks long — and only featured former athletes. 10 couples competed in just four episodes, which meant several pairings were eliminated each week. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon and his partner Jenna Johnson were crowned the winner.

Season 27

Premiering Sept. 24, 2018, 13 couples competed in 11 episodes. Radio personality Bobby Bones, partnered with professional Sharna Burgess, was the winner.

Season 28

This season, which premiered Sept. 16, 2019, featured 12 couples competing in 11 episodes. Bachelorette star Hannah Brown, paired with Alan Bersten, was the winner.

Season 29

Premiering Sept. 14, 2020, 15 couples competed over 11 episodes during this season of “Dancing with the Stars.” Bachelorette star Kaitlyn Bristowe won this season with her partner Artem Chigvintsev.

“Dancing with the Stars” FAQs

Here are answers to popular questions viewers have about DWTS.

Who Were the Most Recent Winners of “Dancing with the Stars”?

Bachelorette star Kaitlyn Bristowe won the most recent season of DWTS, which aired in the fall of 2020, with her partner Artem Chigvintsev. There was no season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What NFL Star Was a Season Champion on “Dancing with the Stars”?

There were actually four NFL stars who won their respective seasons of DWTS. Running back, Emmitt Smith won the title in season three. Wide receiver Hines Ward was the winner of season 12. Former NFL player Donald Driver came out on top in season 14. And former NFL running back Rashad Jennings won season 24.

What Time Does “Dancing with the Stars” Come On?

DWTS airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern Time and 7 p.m. Central Time. 

When Do New Seasons of “Dancing with the Stars” Usually Start?

Generally, there are two seasons of DWTS each year — one airing in the spring, either the end of April or in March, and the other airing in September. Because of the pandemic, there were no seasons in the spring of 2020 or 2021.

What Apple Co-Founder Appeared on “Dancing with the Stars”?

Steve Wozniak, one of the talented individuals behind tech brand Apple, appeared on season eight of “Dancing with the Stars.” He partnered with dance pro Karina Smirnoff and placed 10th that season.

What Does the Winner of “Dancing with the Stars” Get?

Each season’s winning celebrity takes home the Mirrorball Trophy. And while all the stars are paid for their time spent competing, the winner usually earns around $345,000 to $360,000.

Get All the Latest Updates on Dancing with the Stars From BuddyTV

Whether you’re a longtime fan of “Dancing with the Stars” or plan to watch DWTS for the first time during season 30, don’t miss out on the action! For all the latest entertainment news and recaps of your favorite shows, including “Dancing with the Stars,” check out BuddyTV.

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