And the Dancing with the Stars Season 12 star and pro ‘pairings’are out! This morning we learned not only which pro dancers will compete this season, but how the stars and pros have been paired up. The following couples will be vying for the Season 12 Mirror Ball trophy:
- Sugar Ray Leonard & Anna Trebunskaya
- Kendra Wilkinson & Louis Van Amstel
- Kirstie Alley & Maks Chmerkovskiy
- Chris Jericho & Cheryl Burke
- Hines Ward & Kym Johnson
- Wendy Williams & Tony Dovolani
- Ralph Macchio &Karina Smirnoff
- Chelsea Kane & Mark Ballas
- Romeo & Chelsie Hightower
- “Psycho” Mike Catherwood & Lacey Schwimmer
- Petra Nemcova & Dimitry Chaplin
What factors went into these pairings? Once the cast of stars starts to take shape, the pro cast is chosen not only with an eye on which stars will be appearing, but also based on certain criteria, including and in no particular order of importance, availability (and this also depends on their contract terms), viewer following, and a degree of ‘office politics’. Once they have the star cast, the members of the pro cast pool are matched with and finalized based on their suitability for the stars. Stars aren’t supposed to be able to choose who they want for a partner (although legend has it that a star – Florence Henderson - requested her partner - Corky Ballas - and got him). Normally though, they don’t choose and often don’t find out who the partner is until a few days before we do. Height is an important consideration for partners.
A 3 to 4 inch difference is ideal, while a difference greater than 6 inches is challenging. So on the physicality level, the stars and pros this season are paired up pretty well, with no substantial height differences between them. The tallest male star, Hines Ward, is paired with the tallest female pro, Kym Johnson, while the two tallest female stars, Wendy and Petra, are paired with the two of the tallest male pros, Tony and Dimitry. But wait, Maks is the tallest male pro at 6’2′, what’s going on there? More on that below.
I’ve heard many say this season’s cast is ‘ho hum’. While we may not have any ‘controversial’contestants, we do have some strong personalities and great athletes which will make this an interesting and enjoyable season. On the personality front, the most curious pairing is Kirstie and Maks. At first I was surprised…and a little frightened! Both of them are very outspoken and opinionated people. Maks can be a demanding partner and coach, but only because he wants the absolute best from himself and his partner. Can Kirstie handle him? I don’t see Kirstie as someone who gives up control too easily or who enjoys taking orders. Can Maks handle Kirstie? Then I remembered, ah yes, the ratings. Sparks will surely fly between these two and their producer packages ought to be pure entertainment.
Wendy and Tony are a safe match temperament wise, and that’s all I am saying there. Watching Wendy react to the judges’ critiques will be exciting enough. Since she has been loudly critical of past contestants, we will be expecting a lot from her. To do well, she needs a strong partner, and Tony is as good as it gets. At 5’11, Wendy knows she’s a big girl, and to her credit, she’s already made Tony prove he could ‘lift’ her so there would be no surprises down the road.
Athletes typically make for good contestants on DWTS. They possess the physical stamina to endure the training and the competitive drive to win. The challenge for them is to learn to use their bodies in a different way than they have been trained. Most have done incredibly well on the show. Sugar Ray and Anna are a good pair in this regard. Anna has experience working with athletes and will get the best out of Sugar Ray. She took pro footballer Jerry Rice to 2nd place in Season 2, and Olympic skater Evan Lysacek to 2nd place in Season 10. On that note, Chris and Cheryl are also a dynamic pair. Cheryl is an extremely strong dancer and coach, while Chris was at the top of his game in the wrestling world. Like Anna, Cheryl has trained athletes with much success, including winning Season 3 with Emmitt Smith.
The most predictable pairing was Chelsea and Mark. Mark often gets the young and pretty girls (Shawn Johnson, Sabrina Bryan, Kim Kardashian and ahem, Bristol Palin) and he does work well with them. Chelsea has stage performance background and is Disney raised. They will definitely be adorable together and if Chelsea has some skill, Mark should be able to take her far.
Most disappointing for me in this line up? No Corky Ballas. He would have been paired with an older star contestant if there was one this time around. The Faye Dunaway rumor turned out to be a bust, but I’m hopeful to see Corky in some of the pro dances during the season. And that goes for any of the other pros you may be missing in this season’s cast, there’s always a good chance they will show up in a pro dance or two!
What’s up first for our new cast? After their initial training over the next three weeks, the couples’first dance will be either a foxtrot or a cha cha on the two hour season premiere of Dancing with the Stars on Monday, March 21 at 8pm (ET). After the judges scores and viewer votes are tallied, the couple with the lowest scores will be sent home the following week on the premiere of the Dancing with the Stars the Results Show, Tuesday March 29 at 9pm (ET). Read this column for recaps and reviews. On to Dancing with the Stars Season 12!