September 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Whew! What a week it’s been. Last Monday was our premiere and there were so many changes to the format we were all spinning, but that was just the beginning of last week. Next I had a crazy week of prepping for the Emmy Awards on Sunday. (Shout out to Derek Hough—he won for Outstanding Choreography!) The next day I was up early for my workout and had to head to the Dancing with the Stars set for our second and most action packed episode this season. It’s been a busy week so I’m happy to be sipping my coffee at home as I write my Ladies’ Home Journal blog. Let’s get to it.
Season 17 is a whole new Dancing with the Stars and I am truly enjoying the energy of it all. It wasn’t our choice to go to one day a week—it was the network’s decision—but we’re making it the best it can be. I know some of our fans are quite upset that the show is on only one night a week now, but change happens and the best option is to go with it. We will all miss what it was, but it’s time to embrace what it is. What I love most about the new season is that the pace moves so quickly! Sure, last night in particular felt like a speed race to the end with all 12 couples dancing and the elimination, but we knew it was going to be our “tightest” show. We have a few kinks to work out to make it a bit smoother but overall, I’m impressed with our producers for finding a really fun and action-packed way to make the necessary changes. I didn’t write a blog last week because it was such a crazy week, but I want to touch on our big opening number of the season. It was choreographed by my dear friend Mandy Jo Moore, who was my assistant for many years and is an now Emmy-nominated choreographer. For the first time in DWTS history, the judges got to dance. It was barely a count of eight, but it was so much fun to be dancing again. I thank Mandy once again for making that happen, and also Ashley Edens, who puts those fantastic numbers together week after week.
Okay, now on to my thoughts about the show. I got a lot of tweets about the lift rule so I want to take the time to explain it again. On our show, there are certain dances like the traditional ballroom and Latin dances that do not allow lifts. The rule was put in place in the beginning to keep the playing field even. We made the rule for those who are not as young or as agile so that everyone could play at the same level. However, after many seasons, we’ve added dances outside of the traditional dances to keep our fans excited and the show fresh. Argentine Tango, Salsa, Lindy Hop, Swing, Jazz and Contemporary all allow lifts. Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble, Rumba, Cha Cha, Samba and Jive do not. I realize we don’t have time to refresh everyone’s memory about lifts each season but I do hope this explains it.
So, who did you love most last night? Do you agree with who went home? (Spoiler alert for those of you who DVR the show!) The first to go was Keyshawn Johnson, and I wish he’d shown the audience more of his personality in the first week where their vote could’ve kept him in. It wouldn’t have changed his scores, but I do think the audience may not have connected with him last week. He seemed to be a bit “lost in the crowd” and with 12 couples competing, you need to find a way to stand out so that people remember you when they vote. You have to touch their hearts if you want them to root for you when your scores aren’t so great. Take Bill Nye, the Science Guy for example. Who would’ve thought he had so many fans? Wow! There were over three million YouTube hits for his “Weird Science” routine. He certainly touched some people and made an impact. I personally didn’t find the dance very creative, but he’s the type of contestant that makes our show special and gives it so much heart. From a judging perspective though, it seemed like we’d seen that dance before. I know Bill’s partner Tyne is a newbie to our show, but it’s her duty to research and come up with new and exciting ways to impress the judges. It’s no easy task, but it is an element to consider when creating these routines. It gives impact. And with a competition as tight as this one looks like it’s going to get, they need to have impact.
Last night, Bill’s Beethoven performance had impact. Tyne did a fantastic job of creating a great number—I loved it and it helped raise their scores. He was confident and focused and he delivered a performance that was complete. He needs to add more content and his footwork and placement need a lot of work, but the performance was definitely memorable. Others who stood out last night were Leah Remini, Christina Milian and Elizabeth Berkley for their new found confidence. Elizabeth stood out to me Val choreographed their dance so that they were right in front of us; he didn’t hide her behind him and block our view from the judging panel like so may others do. He faced us and showcased her beautifully. She’s a powerhouse of a dancer with a special languid strength to her movements. Christina blew me away with her new found confidence. People tend to harass me when I give constructive criticism to the ladies, as if I’m trying to put them down, but the goal is exactly what Christina produced last night. She listened and raised her confidence and as a result, she blossomed! She was fantastic. That’s the whole point of constructive criticism—so they can improve their performances. Kudos to Christina! Another woman who gained confidence this week was Leah Remini. Her story is pretty deep; I didn’t know about the Scientology and them wanting her to fail. That’s too bad, to feel that there are people out there who want you to fail. It can overwhelm even the best and most confident people. So once again, I celebrate a strong woman who is a survivor and is not giving up. She raised her game and she did it with a feisty vengeance. Go Samba Girl!
This season looks like it’s going to be fun, but if you blink you’ll miss it, so tune in on Monday nights! For you fashionistas, last night I was wearing an Aiden mattox gold beaded geo mini dress, Steve Madden Dipsiee gold spike pumps, and rings from XIV Karats LTD (to answer a Twitter question, the pear-shaped white diamond ring is 6.34 carats).
Stay tuned and let’s chat again soon. Love to you and remember to hug your animals! They make the world a better place. Just for fun, here’s a photo of my dog, Buddy, in a tree. Animal photos always make people smile, so smile!
May 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Season 16 has come to a close. I have to admit I had no idea who would take the mirror ball trophy home this season. The race was the tightest its been in a long time. I thought with Zendaya’s 2.7 million twitter followers, she was a shoo-in for the title. But Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough worked some magic on their freestyle routine and created a very profound moment of television. I ran into Derek backstage right after they won and he told me that he was inspired by my call to Kellie to find more expression and connect more to the emotions of the dance. I think he said it haunted him as he was putting the freestyle routine together. I’m so glad that he understood what I was going for when I made those comments. That’s what makes a winner to me—someone who can take on the challenges we give them instead of taking offense to them. Dancing With the Stars is a challenge that takes stamina, strategy and a willingness to face parts of yourself that you don’t want to. In order to win you have to find a way to incorporate our critiques and comments into your dances. When I gave Kellie feedback about the emotional quality of her dance, I was trying to help her grow.
I had a feeling that this season was going to be a tight race to the finish line. I know that the key to winning this competition is having breakthroughs and growth on top of the fantastic dances we expect in the finals. But magic is made when you push yourself to do something that’s really not a “sure thing.” When you accomplish that goal, there’s nothing like it.
A lot of shows out there will fake moments to create dramatic television, but I think the audience has become savvy to that and our audience is smarter than that. Kellie and Derek’s win is proof. I’m not saying that Zendaya and Val did anything fake or anything like that. Not at all. She is a phenomenal performer and Val’s choreography showcased her beautifully. She’s been outstanding the whole way and she has a special quality when she performs that will take her career very far. But Kellie hadn’t been completely connecting on an emotional level to her dances. She hadn’t really let go until that moment. She made progress, but in her final freestyle she discovered something new about herself and we all witnessed it. Derek created a piece of choreography that allowed her this discovery; in fact, it pushed her right into it. There was nowhere to hide. The movements lent themselves to vulnerability and heart connection. Kellie stepped right up to the plate and swung a home run.
I’m so happy for her success. As a dancer it is this heart-centered and honest type of performance that touches your audience’s core and creates loyal fans and supporters. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve seen talent come and go and I’ve seen amazingly talented people never find themselves in their performances and get lost in the shuffle of the entertainment industry. Eventually they fade out, but every once in a while someone is able to push themselves past their own limits and dig so deep that they find a whole new layer. But this applies to anyone. You have to continue to push yourself. Just when you get comfortable, I think it is imperative that you push and see what else there is and what else you have to offer this world. This courage is what creates a satisfying life and that’s something we all crave.
This was a big season for all of us at DWTS. We hit our 300th episode and it was the end of our two-episodes-a-week run. That part is bittersweet. I love having all of the production numbers and I think we did some amazing work with the DWTS Troupe. They were brilliant and truly a highlight of the season. They gave our show a fresh energy and I think it’s a good time to give thanks. Who knows what will happen in the future for the show, but I know our talented producers will come up with some great ideas to ensure that the show is even better. Now we’re pushing ourselves out of our own comfort zone. We’re heading into the unknown with courage and excitement, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Change can be a bit scary, but it’s good and a very important part of life. I know I speak for everyone when I say we’re so grateful to all of our viewers and fans that have tuned in for our 300+ episodes and we look forward the next 300.
What’s next for me? I’ll be busy producing my gala for The CAI Animal Project which is on October 18th, 2013 at the Century Plaza Hotel Ballroom in Los Angeles. There will be dancing, and everyone asks me when I’ll dance; well I’ll be dancing in this show for sure! And so will a lot of familiar faces. It’s going to be exciting. Raising money for animals in need is going to be my focus for the next few months and if you’d like to help, please check out our website, www.caiap.org, or if you’d like to help with our fundraising by buying some of the looks I’ve worn on the show, go to www.fashionproject.com. I have a closet there and I’ll be adding even more clothes so check back often. You can have a part of DWTS fashion history and do something good for the animals. It’s a win-win!
Congratulations to our Season 16 winners, Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough! And congratulations to our runners-up, Zendaya Coleman and Val Chermkovskiy. Both duos were fantastic and really wowed us with their talent and fortitude. I thought this was our best season ever and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Now it’s time for a mini-staycation! I’ll see you soon, and if you miss me, just follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/carrieanninaba.
Take care and God bless.
May 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Three hundred episodes! Wow. It’s an incredible feeling to celebrate our 300th episode. Back in the day, Mash was a very popular show that went on for quite a while. It felt like it was on the air my whole life, and they made 251 episodes. It was a breakthrough. I remember how America tuned in when it went off the air. It was such a big moment in my television history and now, to be a part of a show that has completed 300 episodes completed is an honor to say the least. I want to point out that there are three people who have been on every single episode since day one: myself, Tom Bergeron, and Bruno Tonioli.
It’s been a wonderful ride with extraordinary choreography, beautiful costumes and incredible production value. I’m really proud of our team. It takes so many people to make a show happen.
Here’s a list (in chronological order) of my top 10 dance performances on Dancing with the Stars in honor of our 300th episode.
1. Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke
Freestyle (Season 2)
This piece was such an inventive and entertaining way to approach the finale. Cheryl really created a great number here and their performance brought the house down. It was so exciting. Magic!
2. Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough
Quickstep (Season 5)
This performance was vibrant and lively, and it showcased Helio at his best.
3. Mel B. and Maksim Chermkovskiy
Paso Doble (Season 6)
It was powerful, and her costume was brilliant and very aggressive. She set a whole new standard for costumes and performance in this showstopper!
4. Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke
Argentine Tango (Season 8)
Wow. This was such a work of art and passion. Their partnership was such a sensual one. They just had chemistry that wouldn’t quit. Gilles had this wonderful way of adding a suave debonair touch to all the dances he did. He was like a character from a romance novel that’s come to life. This was smoldering at it’s best.
5. Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough
Quickstep (Season 10)
This one was such a classic. It was a tribute to the musicals that inspired so many of us to be where we are today. They danced in harmony and really made all of us feel good!
6. Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd
Bollywood (Season 15)
I loved this dance. We’d never had a Bollywood performance on the show before and it was just so energetic and lively. It really showcased the vibrancy of the Bollywood cultural phenomenon.
7. Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess
Vienesse Waltz (Season 16)
This was one of the most emotionally charged moments we’ve ever had on the show. He dedicated this dance to his daughter, Meg, and it touched our hearts in a very special way. He made an impact on all of us. He was celebrating his sobriety and his love for his daughter. It was a moment that had us all in tears.
8. Derek Hough
Macy’s Stars of Dance (Season 16)
Wow—this was such a great tribute to Fred Astaire’s Dancing on the Ceiling number but with a cool and modern twist. It was really innovative and pushed all understanding of gravity. But I think if you really want to appreciate the number and choreography and performances by Jaimie Goodwin and Derek, you have to see it while the “box” is moving. It was really something to behold.
9. Zendaya and Val Chermkovskiy
Samba (Season 16)
While it may not have gotten the best scores, I just loved this cool fusion samba. Her Beyonce-like presence on the dance floor blew us all away. The stylings of her movements and the way her body sung the dance made this a cool number not to be forgotten.
10. Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough
Argentine Tango (Season 16)
They started the dance in silhouette showcasing her beautiful lines, and her lines were perfection. Kellie delivered an impeccable and passionate performance.
Truly, there are too many great memories to mention. Being a part of the dance revival on television has been a great honor and achievement. I’ve been fortunate enough to see two generations of dance—back in the early 90s when the Fly Girls brought hip hop to mainstream television, and now again, as we see ballroom and Latin dances in our living rooms. I celebrate the great mind that really championed our show when we were just a pitch for a pilot. I have to give credit to Andrea Wong who really gave DWTS a shot in America. Here’s to you Andrea, and to the BBC and ABC for all you’ve done for dance in television. We’ve seen so many boundaries broken down and creative visions actualized; we are a lucky generation to have so much dance on the tube. It wasn’t always like this, but I’m sure glad it is now and I’m happy to be a part of all of it.
Until next week, keep dancing!
May 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Okay, I said the word “fart” on national TV. Live television is a blast and you never know what’s going to happen next! I apologize to anyone who hates the word or is trying to make sure their child doesn’t grow up making fart jokes. I honestly didn’t mean to offend anyone. It just made sense at the time. Sometimes the wrong word comes out. Len and Bruno were laughing so hard at me during the commercial break, and then they got on the bandwagon and said the word about 20 times back to me. Lol. I love my boys. I guess I’m just grateful I didn’t say “fart” and then fall off my chair, because that would have been a doozy! And my friends would never let me live that one down.
On a serious note, I have to say, I wish I could’ve given Andy Dick and Sharna a better score. But I couldn’t because at this point in the competition, I start to hone in on details and get really specific about things. I wanted Andy to stay in the competition until the end. He brought incredible heart to the show and he has a special quality to him. He’s a love bug on the dance floor and I love and respect him for his efforts and vulnerability. I was going to give him a 6 for that final routine, but then he had the lift in his routine, which means I dock a point. It happens. It’s my duty to do that, but I do hope he is okay. I worry about him because he is truly facing some big demons in his life. I want him to win the battle of staying clean and off of drugs as well as staying the positive role model he’s been this whole season. He’s given hope to the underdogs and shown that change is possible, fears can be faced, and demons can be battled and won—if you really want it. Andy really wanted to do well. He wasn’t afraid of making mistakes or looking silly. He just wanted to be his own personal best. In this day and age, we need more role models like him. If being inspirational were a category, I would’ve given him a 10. If courage were a category, yet another 10. If the power to move us were the only criteria we had to judge on, I’d give him a 10. Read more
April 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
I woke up this morning after a restless night of heartache for the suffering and pain that was caused yesterday by the Boston Marathon bombing, and I don’t think I was alone in that state. Yesterday was a very sad day indeed and my heart continues to go out to all of those affected by this incredibly cruel act of disrespect for human life. For all of us at Dancing with the Stars, there was a strong feeling of duty for our fellow human beings. At about 3:00 p.m., just two hours before show time, there was talk of pre-empting us due to local news coverage. But in the end, they decided that people needed to be able to change the channel from the coverage for their children, to have something else available on the television set to lighten hearts and ease people’s minds, if only for short while. I think it was a good decision. Some people may have needed a respite from the heaviness of the news and the questions that have once again arisen about our safety.
Yesterday our vulnerabilities were once again exposed in a tragic act of someone or some organization. We don’t know who did this yet. But my stomach churns to think of a mind that would come up with such a terrible creation of destruction and pain that hurt so many innocent people, people who were at the finish line to support their loved ones and cheer them on in their most challenging hour. May God bless all of them.
I pray for their suffering to be eased by the love that is pouring out to them from everyone across our country. Social media and the internet have become important tools in times of crisis. I’ve found that when someone is troubled, Facebook and Twitter provide wonderful platforms of support. When a family member is sick, or has passed on, the support that is given via tweets and Facebook posts is truly comforting and life-changing. I know this from my own experience, but I certainly saw it yesterday and it’s a beautiful thing. Sure, some people use the platform to spread hateful words and anger, but the love overpowers the negativity. That’s what is so incredible about the human race. We have found a way to make computers, technology, and apps tools of humanity. Yesterday, the tweets and posts were so uplifting and helpful. There were updates, photos, videos, places for people to stay, support and valuable information being shared non-stop. People helping each other… that’s what I saw yesterday both outside and inside the ballroom.
What happened in the ballroom yesterday is tiny compared to what happened in America, but I hope that it helped to lift the hearts of those who watched us yesterday despite this terrible situation we’re in. But we’re in it together, and we each can play a part. We can do something to help those who’ve been hurt by the bombings, both emotionally and physically. It’s our duty as human beings to do what we can to help our fellow human beings in their time of need. And each act of kindness and generosity helps to heal our own hearts.
I want to thank all the dancers for putting their hearts into their dances and giving so much of themselves. Ali is from Boston and had wonderful words to say about where she grew up. Our first two tens of the season, by Val and Zendaya, were dedicated to the Bostonians. There was a strong feeling of camaraderie amongst the crew, cast, audience and everyone who is a part of our show. We all knew we had to do our thing and that “the show must go on” for everyone at home who wanted a friend to sit with in their living room for a few hours, to take their mind off of what was happening. It seems strange to say, but there was more joy in the ballroom last night… there was more light and more vitality than I’ve felt in a while. I think that opening number was incredible. I wish they would do that every week; it added so much energy to the show. It was like a black pleather shot of liquid vitamin B—nothing but energy. It was a performance that celebrated our strength, vitality and never-ending determination. We all know that what happened yesterday isn’t going away and is now a part of our history. We will not forget this, but we will not let it stop us either…the dancing will continue and remind us to celebrate life.
That’s all for today. May you all be safe and celebrate life!
April 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
I think this week had two of the best shows we’ve produced in a long time. The competition show was filled with uplifting and inspiring performances as well as reminders of who our contestants are outside of the dance floor. It’s exciting to be reminded of their accomplishments. And then there was Andy Dick, who has captured so many of our hearts. His deeply moving performance to “Hallelujah” for his daughter was a real moment of magic. He went completely into his heart center and with the newfound elegance, posture and grace that he has worked so hard for with Sharna, he transported us all to somewhere deep into our own heart centers. I have never received more tweets and responses about a performance and how it touched people. A lot of men were also crying along with us, and that’s beautiful. To come into this competition not knowing anything about dance and then, in four weeks, be able to give us all a true moment of profound, intense and honest emotion is incredible. This is what dancing is all about. For me, dance in its truest form is about self-expression, movement to tell a story and inspiring people.
I was hit hard by Andy’s performance because of the recent loss of my father…it was the cry I haven’t really had yet, and it was really unexpected. I went four weeks without crying in public. I felt good because I had just gotten back from Hawaii and had a magical experience sending my father’s ashes back into the ocean, letting his physical form truly return to the earth from which it came. I felt peace and joy for all the beautiful memories he created, for all the laughter I heard and for all the love that was flowing. Andy’s love for his daughter was so beautifully expressed in his dance that it was a trigger for all of us.
Most people are so busy now. Our lives are packed with emails, texts, keeping up with our jobs, family responsibilities and Facebook friends that we don’t live with our hearts out front as much as we used to when things were simpler. Life is moving at a tempo that at times can feel out of control and overwhelming. Andy’s performance in particular reminded us that life is about magical moments. We have to stop and look up from our phones and computers to notice what is happening all around us. We need to slow down and take a moment to breathe in the joy and sadness and beauty that make up our lives.
I’m so grateful and proud to work on Dancing with the Stars because of these special moments that change the lives of our audience. With movement to music, we were able to open so many hearts, but it took great courage for that to happen.
To not be the best dancer, yet still go and pour every ounce of your being into something in front of millions of people with fear and trepidation is something to be applauded and applied to our own lives. To move forward with the fear you feel in your heart is the essence of living a full life. It’s strange to some that a dance could mean so much, but that is why I’ve loved being a dancer my whole life. The ability to touch people and get lost in the dance is a moment of beauty, and I wish for everyone to find those moments in their lives in whatever it is that makes them feel that way. This theme was evident in our results show with our courageous dancer Brilynn Rakes, who danced with Derek. She also proved that life is about facing fears courageously and she too inspired many with her dance and her courage. I also grew up legally blind but the doctors were able to correct my vision with contacts and glasses, so I understand how she sees the world. In fact, I was inspired when she said that because she couldn’t see very well, she had to rely on her emotions and how things felt. She taught me something—now I believe that is why I also honor my own emotions so much, because my sense of sight was diminished. And every morning when I wake up it’s still diminished, but I wear contact lenses and have perfect vision with them in. But at night, I love when I take out my contacts and just see the world hazy, and blurry, which some might consider a handicap. Brilynn proved that it is actually her advantage and it’s made her the beautiful person and dancer that she is.
Thank you to our producers and crew for making TV that inspires us, to the band for creating the music that is the foundation for all of the performances, and to everyone who works on our show so tirelessly. We have the most amazing staff and today I celebrate and thank them for making moments that we will not soon forget.
April 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
This week’s prom theme took us all down memory lane. It reminded me of the good times back in Hawaii, growing up in those beautiful islands, surrounded by wonderful people, dancing out on the deck of our house and dreaming that one day I would become a dancer. I had great parents who let me pursue my dreams and supported me 100 percent. They also challenged me to be a better person, and I hope that this show—and our prom week—did that for our contestants as well. I hope everyone had the chance to walk down memory lane and smile, remembering the good times and chuckling at the awkward moments that happened along the way to adulthood.
I have to say, I really enjoy writing these blogs. Although the conversation is kind of one sided, it feels like I’m sharing with my girlfriends. Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts with you each week. And as far as the dancing goes, well… I thought all of the performances last night had plenty of color and personality, and it feels like this season has a lot of heart. I also think the addition of the Jazz and Contemporary routines brings a new element to the show. There’s less mandatory technique in those dance styles, so we’re seeing some really creative approaches to showcasing the stars by our talented pros. For me, this season is revitalized and exciting and I really hate to see someone go home.
But someone has to get eliminated, and last night it was Wynonna Judd’s time to go. I wasn’t prepared for her early departure; I guess I thought she had a strong enough fan base that could save her. Sometimes I think the fans assume their favorite is safe, and maybe that’s what happened here. I was really hoping we would get to see her blossom and have a break through next week, but ultimately we need to remember why she joined the show. She had been through so much with her husband, supporting him through such a difficult time in his life, and then she had the courage to do something for herself. To me, she was a winner the moment she walked onto our dance floor. So many women get caught up doing everything for everyone else. I can relate to that, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve also been taking care of a lot of people for a long time, and it’s hard to remember to do things for ourselves. I applaud Wynonna for having the courage and strength to take her life into her own hands after giving so generously of herself for so long. She should be very proud of her choice and we should remember what she did. We’ve had two very courageous women go home so far, but they’re still very inspiring.
Who knew a dancing competition could be such a life changer? But it is! People’s lives are changed by our show; they learn new things about themselves. Watching Wynonna thank her country music fans with what seemed to be an even deeper appreciation of their support was a very poignant moment. And in turn, when we watch these moments, we learn new things about ourselves. That is television at its finest.
Have a great week and take care of yourselves. Treat yourself well.