The truth about how Dancing with the Stars pairs up the pro dancers and stars

JoJo Siwa & Jenna and Iman Shumpert & Daniella on Dancing with the Stars
JoJo Siwa & Jenna and Iman Shumpert & Daniella on Dancing with the Stars. Pic credit: ABC

There was a lot of talk this season about how Dancing with the Stars pairs up the pros with their stars.

When Jenna Johnson was partnered with JoJo Siwa as the first same-sex pairing, she said she was nervous at first but then embraced it.

That partnership ended up as one of the best of the season as the two girls bonded and finished the season strong.

Jenna’s husband Val Chmerkovskiy said he wouldn’t mind partnering with a male dancer in the future, but the truth is that the pros have little to no say in who they are partnered with each season.

The truth about Dancing with the Stars partner pairings

The truth about how Dancing with the Stars pairs their partners were revealed by the people behind the scenes.

In a discussion back before the Season 21 premiere, showrunner Rob Wade, casting director Deena Katz, and former pro Mark Ballas explained the process.

Wade said that it is the production team that pairs up the stars and pro dancers before the season begins.

They get the list of stars that will compete that season and the professional dancers who signed up and they take several things into account.

“It’s based on height, build and personality and compatibility,” Wade said at the time. “We don’t pair people who aren’t going to get on. It’s too intense.”

He said that Dancing with the Stars is not like The Bachelor, where controversy sells the show to fans. In the case of DWTS, it is about bringing out the best in the dancers, and conflict would ruin that.

“That would just be a miserable experience for the celebrity, for us and the viewer,” Wade explained. “You don’t want to see two people who don’t like each other and, quite frankly, we have made that mistake pairing people up who didn’t get on so well.”

Katz said that there will still be drama for the fans who look for that.

“There’s still the drama,” she said. “There’s still the fights about their cha-chas that are silly.”

That was revealed when Bachelor star Hannah Brown revealed her clash with pro Alan Bersten from Season 29.

The pro dancer’s take on Dancing with the Stars pairings

Mark Ballas competed on Dancing with the Stars longer than almost anyone in history.

He was partnered with a variety of people, including athletes like Shawn Johnson, reality TV stars like Kim Kardashian, and TV stars like Shannen Doherty. He won the entire thing twice and finished as low as 11th twice.

He said the dancers get no say at all in who they are partnered with.

“They also try and make us compatible based on personality, and what they think will work well,” Mark said. “Each one of the pro dancers has a different way of teaching, choreographing, and also just different personalities, as well as time-stamps on patience. They kind of try to pair us accordingly.”

Sometimes it works and sometimes the entire pairing goes down in flames.

Dancing with the Stars is on hiatus. Season 31 should premiere late in 2022.

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