Here's a radical proposal. It is ... to quit pretending Dancing with the Stars bears any resemblance to a "real" ballroom competition, and give people what they want. Which is ... tricks! Flips! LIFTS!
In support of this shocking proposition, I offer the following list of ways in which the program's presentation of ballroom dancing is inconsistent with actual competition.
- Performers dance solo. In the "real" ballroom world, this only happens in a category called "solo" and the performers are only nominally judged against each other. They pay a hefty entrance fee to present a show dance, usually the only one of its kind (hence, not really competition), collect a showy trophy, buy an expensive video, and go home. In real competitive events, multiple couples are on the floor at the same time.
- Performers dance to preselected music. Again, in the "real" ballroom world, this only happens in the "solo" events. In a competitive heat, none of the dancers know what music is going to come up. DWTS nods to this in their "instant" dances, but even in those, they give the couples a little advance notice and time to adjust their choreography.
- Performers dance a mix of American & International ballroom dances. On DWTS, they do American style foxtrot, slow waltz, and Viennese waltz, with International style quickstep and tango. Except even in the quickstep and tango, the partners are allowed to separate at the beginning and end of their routines - and this is most assuredly NOT allowed in competition International style.
- Performers dance a mix of American & International latin dances. On DWTS, the rumbas and cha-chas incorporate both American & International style figures and styling. The jives incorporate East Coast, West Coast, Lindy, and Jive figures and styling. Paso Doble and Samba are only competition dances in International style. And the Sambas tend to collapse into salsa with about half of the competitors. ... They tried American-style Bolero and Mambo a couple of times and bombed, possibly because the professional dancers on the show are almost all International style dancers. I distinctly remember the Mambo episode in which only one couple consistently broke on the 2 beat and yet no-one else got penalized for what would be a fatal error in a real competition.
- Performers do club dances, as well as ballroom and latin. There may be salsa or Argentine Tango events at some ballroom competitions, but they aren't going to get you any closer to the title. They don't count toward a championship at all. They are just for fun. To be a salsa or Argentine Tango champion, you have to go through a whole separate competition circuit. In which, yes, lifts are allowed.
- Performers eventually clinch their win with a "freestyle" dance. In which most do as little ballroom dancing as possible. Some real ballroom competitions feature a show dance event, but it is never part of the championship, and the dancers must still produce a dance that is recognizably within one of the ballroom or latin styles.
- Performers can pull out a backflip in a quickstep without being instantly disqualified or marked down. That would never, never pass in a real competition. Pirouettes, sure. Flying scissors or tours jetées, absolutely. Maybe even a cartwheel or walkover. But a professional who put in gymnastics for himself in a pro-am event, in a transparent attempt to draw attention away from his less-proficient partner, would end up losing her a few places. In a pro-am competition, the professional's job is to present his or her partner in the best possible light. Not to jump around going "look at meeee!"
So you get the point. The show's presentation is nothing like real competition. So who cares if there are lifts? Who cares if the dancers separate during quicksteps or tangos? Who cares if there is an "excessive" amount of Lindy Hop in a Jive?
Not me. If I want to watch real ballroom competition, I know where to go.
And it ain't ABC.
In my unsolicited and completely extraneous opinion, the show would be better if they cut the restrictions and instead made one simple rule: 60 seconds of the 90 seconds of choreography must be school figures from the dance style. That would take care of it, don't you think?