Dancing With The Stars

Dancing With The Stars – A Look Behind the TV Screen

 

Before Ricki Lake, J.R. Martinez or Rob Kardashian walk off with the coveted Mirrorball from Dancing With The Stars this Tuesday, Nov. 22, I feel compelled to admit I’m addicted to the show. And should there be any fellow addicts reading this story, I thought I’d share my experiences visiting the studio.

In the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to sit in the studio audience at Dancing With The Stars four times, and as recently as Nov. 8. Last year, I got to meet some of the contestants, professional dancers, choreographers and one judge – Len Goodman. He’s pictured here with me, and as delightful in person as he is – on occasion – gruff on TV. Just witness his smile when I asked for a photo.

On my first visit, during season 10, I watched nearly all the contestants compete. They included Buzz Aldrin, Aiden Turner, Kate Gosselin, Jake Pavelka, Pamela Anderson, Niecy Nash, Chad Ochocinco, Erin Andrews, Evan Lysacek and Nicole Scherzinger. It was early in the season and the dancers were still honing their skills, but nearly all looked terrific on the dance floor.

In fact, they looked even better on television. Thanks to TIVO, I watched the same show again later that night and funny enough, the missteps seemed to disappear and the less accomplished dancers looked relatively polished on the home screen. So congratulations, camera operators.

During season 12, I saw Ralph Macchio, Kirstie Alley, Hines Ward, Romeo, Kendra Wilkinson and Chelsea Kane dance one night and watched Wilkinson get eliminated the next. This season I sat in for the elimination show when Andrea Bocelli sang, Flo Rida did two rap numbers, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson troupe performed and at the end, Nancy Grace exited.   

As interesting as the up-close view of the show is, there’s a good reason why members of the studio audience don’t tweet their comments or upload photos during the show. Guests are required to surrender cameras and cell phones before entering the studio. Audience members pass through airport-style metal detectors and handbags are searched before entering.    

On my first visit, I received an advance directive, which included, aside from parking instructions, the prohibition against recording devices and other general information: a dress code, requesting cocktail attire for women; jackets and ties for the men. No jeans, baseball caps or T-shirts with messages.

“If anyone managed to sneak in a camera,” came an announcement after we were seated at the Nov. 8 show, “Be sure to silence your phones and do not take pictures.” Nor is gum-chewing permitted. After making the statement, an enforcer brought a trash bag to an offender in the back row.

Guests were also asked not to wave to the camera. Or read the teleprompter along with Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke. 

Before the show and during commercials, a chap called Cory gave away T-shirts, tossed out flashing rings and chatted with people around the dance floor and in the balconies. “Stand up if you want. Applaud if you like something. Applaud anyway,” he said.

Not surprisingly, enthusiasm was encouraged.  “Go crazy,” Cory said. “We want to blow the roof off this joint.”

Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour” was pre-taped, twice. So we had the privilege of seeing the aerialists, acrobats, contortionist and Michael Jackson facsimiles perform twice live, and then a third time on the wall-size television screen. It wasn’t hard to go crazy.

For a final treat before the show began, Cory invited the audience onto the floor for a dance party. And as the music played and the audience danced, Tom Bergeron ventured into the studio. Rob Kardashian and J.R. Martinez waved from the balcony, and we caught a glimpse of the other contestants then still remaining: Ricki Lake, Nancy Grace and Hope Solo. Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace, and an early Season 13 contestant, seated himself in the audience. It was almost time for the show to begin.

So Cory led the audience members still on the floor through a “YMCA” dance finale. Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman took their places. The show began, and as the last few contestants were introduced to the viewers at home, we wondered who would be left to wave from the balcony the next week. And who would take home the Dancing With The Stars Mirrorball this season.

 

Photos: Above, and in the gallery below, were taken outside the studio during Season 12, when a friend took me behind the scenes. Like the other audience members, I surrendered my camera before entering the building, so there were no pictures taken during the show.

 

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Published Nov. 18, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA