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Dancing With the Stars is a US reality show where dancers and celebrities duke it out on the ballroom dance floor. The show has hosted two competitions per season since summer of 2005. The humor of the early weeks is in seeing the dancers trying to train the celebrities in the vagaries of each of the many styles of ballroom dance.

The show stars Tom Bergeron as host, with Lisa Canning, Samantha Harris, Drew Lachey, and Brooke Burke serving as cohosts. The judges are, in order of judging, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli.

In general, it follows the Strictly Come Dancing celebrity formula: Of the contestants, usually at least one has a bit of controversy around them, at least one is a 50-plus-year-old man with two left feet, at least one is a B- or C- list actor or actress, and at least one is famous in the world of sports (and these are most likely to win it all; seven of the fourteen winners have some sporting experience, with the rest (with the exception of J.R. Martinez) having dancing training beforehand).

Oh, the winners! Here are the winners of previous competitions:

  • Season 1: Kelly Monaco, beating out John O'Hurley and Joey McIntyre.
  • Season 2: Drew Lachey, beating out Jerry Rice and Stacy Keibler.
  • Season 3: Emmitt Smith, beating out Mario Lopez and Joey Lawrence.
  • Season 4: Apolo Anton Ohno, beating out Joey Fatone and Laila Ali.
  • Season 5: Helio Castroneves, beating out Melanie Brown and Marie Osmond.
  • Season 6: Kristi Yamaguchi, beating out Jason Taylor and Cristian de la Fuente.
  • Season 7: Brooke Burke, beating out Warren Sapp (!!) and Lance Bass.
  • Season 8: Shawn Johnson, beating out Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft.
  • Season 9: Donny Osmond, beating out Mya and Kelly Osborne.
  • Season 10: Nicole Scherzinger, beating out Evan Lysacek and Erin Andrews.
  • Season 11: Jennifer Grey, beating out Kyle Massey and Bristol Palin (!!).
  • Season 12: Hines Ward, beating out Kirstie Alley (!!) and Chelsea Kane.
  • Season 13: J.R. Martinez, beating out Rob Kardashian and Ricki Lake (!!).
  • Season 14: Donald Driver, beating out Katherine Jenkins and William Levy.
Tropes used in Dancing With the Stars include:
  • Acrofatic: Warren Sapp in Season 7 pretty much stunned everyone with the light feet on his hefty frame.
    • Kyle Massey was pretty impressive in this department as well.
    • Kirstie Alley did better than pretty much anyone would've guessed, especially when you consider her age, too.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Several of the female athlete contestants, such as Laila Ali, Misty May Traynor, Natalie Coughlin, and Hope Solo.
  • Camp Gay: Bruno Tonioli, especially whenever the men are half naked or take their shirts off.
    • Always Camp
    • Season 13 Contestant Carson Kressley plays this for all it's worth.
  • Covered with Scars: Season 13 contestant and Iraq war vet JR Martinez has burn scars over 40% of his body. And a missing ear.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kenny Mayne during the Dancecenter segments. Tom Bergeron pretty much all the time.
  • Dramatic Pause: It wouldn't be a talent show without one...
  • Dueling Shows: A rare Dual-Wielding version; Dancing is fighting off American Idol with one hand and So You Think You Can Dance with the other.
  • Fan Service: It's ballroom dancing, thus it's a contractual requirement that the women's dresses reveal as much as possible.[1]
    • Not to mention the abundance of he-cleavage.
    • Kendra survived week 6 by doing a clothed exotic dance.
    • Maksim lives and breathes this trope. He's sex on a stick.
  • Fiery Redhead: Anna Trebunskaya.
  • Filler: A whole lot of it in the last few weeks of each season. (The show fills up the same amount of time, only instead of 14 dancers, there's only 3.)
    • Dear God, the elimination shows. They often find ways to stretch them out for two hours!
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers
  • Four Point Scale: anything short of falling into the audience will get you at least a four. Averted with Michael Bolton's second dance of Season Eleven which earned him a 3 from Bruno.
    • Which was promptly lampshaded by Tom... We have a 3?!
  • Genre Savvy: Donald Driver in the Season 14 finals. After correctly identifying the types of freestyles his opponents would be doing, Donald decided not to go with the expected hip-hop theme and do something unexpected: country. And it was awesome!
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Season 14, Gladys Knight and Martina Navratilova
  • Happily Married: Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts. It's apparent whenever they dance together.
    • Also Alec Mazo and Edyta Śliwińska.
  • Hold Up Your Score
  • Large Ham: Bruno
    • On the side of the dancers, Mark Ballas. He's got some pretty... unique facial expressions when he dances.
  • Made of Iron: They may look willowy and fragile, but it would be hard to argue that these dancers aren't tough, especially the women. Julianne was back and dancing less than a month after having an emergency appendectomy. The winner, however, might be Kym, who endured a knee injury with Jerry Springer and kept dancing, and a nearly broken neck with Hines Ward, and went on to win. Not surprisingly, she's an Aussie.
  • The Mean Brit: Len Goodman fills this role here.
  • Momma's Boy: Hines Ward, proudly so.
  • Mr. Fanservice: "Bad Boy of Ballroom" Maksim. Dancers will occasionally take off a season for various reasons, often with little fanfare. When Maks decides to take a season off, it makes the headlines.
    • And now as of Season 13 we have Mr. Fanservice little brother, Valentin. New pro Tristan (with the Oirish Accent) is also gaining a fast following.
  • Old Shame: In Week 6, they decided to show Bruno's role in Elton John's video for "I'm Still Standing", in which he's mainly in a speedo humping the air. His face got so red that it nearly threw off the transmission's color balance.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Also a contractual requirement of ballroom dancing.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya of Season 10, reportedly. Particularly seeing as how she's, you know, married. Anna and Evan had fantastic chemistry and clearly had a blast together, but compare her waltz with Evan to this dance with her hubby, and the difference is instantly apparent.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: For a show that requires male participants to wear shiny sparkly outfits and dance, it has attracted a substantial amount of athletes from sports such as MMA, boxing, and football. Almost every season has featured a major name American Football player. Season 12 alone featured Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, and Chris Jericho.
  • The Runner Up Takes It All: While Season 8 Champion Shawn Johnson didn't suffer any setbacks, it was really second place finisher Gilles Marini whose career got a tremendous boost from being on the show.
    • Season 5 runner up Mel B parlayed her appearance into several TV gigs. Season 5 champion Helio Castroneves was convicted of tax evasion.
      • This isn't exactly unbelievable, since a large number of the winners have been pro athletes. The athletes simply do the show for fun either during retirement or during the off-season. Many don't have plans to leverage their success into other ventures, whereas the others might.
  • Running Gag: Maksim Chmerkovskiy manhandling Tom Bergeron after the judges commentary.
    • Also Derek Hough "getting yanked" off camera, and pulling funny faces/poses on the last note of the DWTS theme nearly every time it plays when he's on camera.
  • Shirtless Scene
  • Shocking Elimination: The elimination of Sabrina Bryan in Week 6 of Season 5, which shocked and brought tears to everyone.
    • And in Season 11, Brandy in the Semi-Finals, despite her getting a near-perfect score on her two dances
      • Kristin Cavallari and Chynna Phillips in Season 13.
        • Sherri Shepherd and Jaleel White in Season 14.
  • Showgirl Skirt
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Oftentimes the music does not match what is traditional for the dance. The Paso Doble (the Spanish bullfighter dance) has been performed to songs such as "I Kissed a Girl" and the Monday Night Football theme. The Foxtrot (which is basically the ballroom dance most likely to be done to Rat Pack music) has been done to songs like The Guess Who's "American Woman" and Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow."
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Brooke Burke replacing Samantha Harris as co-host.
  • Take That: Guitar Hero once showed a parody of the show called "Washed Up Celebrity Dance-Off"
  • Technician Versus Performer: Season 1. Kelly Monaco (the Performer) won it over John O'Hurley (the Technician). Hotly contested, enough so that the two couples squared off in a TV special which O'Hurley won.
    • Another pair of examples, different seasons, are Season 11: Audrina Patridge (the Technician) and Carson Kressley (the Performer). Patridge was even told multiple times by Bruno "you have excellent foot work, but you look like a barbie."
    • Many of the seasons start out eliminating the "terrible" performers and then working to the "uninteresting" technicians. Then the balanced dancers and finally to those that have a balanced mix of both.
  • Throw It In: The couples can sometimes have an amazing ability to bounce back during a dance, such as Ralph Macchio catching Karina Smirnoff during a fall after his swinging coat knocked her to the floor.
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Of Strictly Come Dancing.
    • Counts as a Market-Based Title as well.
      • Actually, Dancing With The Stars is the title for all the non-British versions, since Strictly Come Dancing is a pun on Strictly Ballroom and the old BBC show Come Dancing (the latter of which didn't export, so no one would get the reference outside Britain).
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Kelly Monaco had one of these during a dance, but managed to keep everything covered and finished the dance.
    • And as of Season 13, Nancy Grace had a nip slip after finishing her second dance. The camera awkwardly panned to show premade footage of audience members just sitting there staring.
    • In season 14, professional dancer (not celeb) Maria Menounos had an unfortunate malfunction where one of her breasts popped out entirely of her top. Courtesy of the eight second delay, all home viewers saw was the Dancing With The Stars logo for a few seconds while she adjusted her top.
  • What Could Have Been: The show has a "wish list" of celebs that they would like to be on the show and have contacted in the past (some have had to decline for various reasons, but did the show later, such as Melissa Joan Hart and Kirstie Alley.) Some of the ones on the list include Bill Clinton, Lindsay Lohan, and having Portia de Rossi in the show's first same-sex couple.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Some people had this reaction to Nicole Scherzinger being let on as a contestant in Season 10. A group of amateur celebrity dancers vs. a woman who dances for a living... nope, no unfair advantage there, no sir.
    • The same was said for Stacy Kiebler (a member of WCW's Nitro Girls dancing troupe and a cheerleader before that) in season 2.
    • Same with Sabrina Bryan, who had studied Jazz and Tap most of her childhood, and actually released a Dancing fitness video called BYOU, and Kristi Yamaguchi, who was a professional figure skater (essentially a professional dancer on skates.)
      • It could be said that professional dancing celebs are brought on to counter the athlete celebs. So far, you've been guaranteed to have either a celeb with dancing experience or an athlete win it all (six dancers and six athletes so far).
      • The official stance of the show (at least initially) was that ballroom is very much its own domain, and having experience in another area of dance (hip-hop, tap, music video choreography, etc.) doesn't really lend itself to ballroom (with the obvious advantages of stamina, flexibility, etc.) They have said that they would veto anybody with a blatant disadvantage, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, but that may have changed in recent seasons.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Brandy. Season 11. Grade AS! Hot damn.
  1. Unless you are Shawn Johnson, whose costumes were noticeably more modest (but still just as clingy). This was because she was seventeen at the time, and so was underage - she was legally required to cover it up.