CLOSE

15 Facts About Dancing With the Stars

Grab the popcorn and put on your dancing shoes, because Dancing With the Stars is back for a 23rd season. Before you see whether Ryan Lochte can out-dance Marcia Brady, here are 15 facts about the beloved reality series.

1. IT’S BASED ON A BRITISH REALITY SERIES.

Though Dancing With the Stars is an American obsession, its roots are based in England. It’s based on the British series Strictly Come Dancing (known simply as Strictly to its fans), which has been airing on BBC One since 2004—a year before the U.S. version made its dancing debut.

2. ITS POPULARITY WAS A SURPRISE TO EVERYONE.

Since its debut, DWTS has been a ratings juggernaut—much to the surprise of those involved. “The thing I will always take away from this experience is how unpredictable it was,” host Tom Bergeron told Boston Magazine earlier this year. “Even those of us in the midst of getting it ready to go on the air in 2005, while we all believed we had an entertaining show, that in and of itself is no guarantee. A lot of people have entertaining shows and they get canceled. The fact that we have a celebrity ballroom competition that is now in its 11th year is something none of us could have predicted.”

3. GYMNAST SHAWN JOHNSON IS THE YOUNGEST PERSON TO TAKE HOME THE MIRROR BALL TROPHY.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

In the spring of 2009, 17-year-old Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson became DWTS's youngest ever winner when she and partner Mark Ballas took home the competition’s Mirror Ball trophy. Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno was just 25 years old when he and Julianne Hough won in the spring of 2007 (he won the trophy on his birthday).

In terms of non-winning competitors: At 14 years old, Hunger Games star Willow Shields was the youngest competitor, while fan favorite Cloris Leachman was the oldest; she was 82 years old when she competed in 2008.

4. DONNY OSMOND IS THE OLDEST CELEBRITY TO TAKE HOME THE TOP PRIZE.

Legendary entertainer Donny Osmond was two weeks shy of his 52nd birthday when he and Kym Johnson won the competition in the fall of 2009, making him the show’s oldest champion. Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey was 50 years old when she and Derek Hough took home the top prize in the fall of 2010.

5. KATE GOSSELIN CREATED A BIT OF CONTROVERSY IN 2010.

Former reality star Kate Gosselin created some drama behind the scenes when she competed on DWTS in 2010. Though the audience was only allowed to vote a maximum five times per performance, she allegedly sent out emails asking friends and family to forward her email to another 10 people, and asked that everyone vote for her 10 times (which is a no-no).

6. GOSSELIN’S DANCING PARTNER CLAIMED HE NEEDED THERAPY AFTER THEIR PAIRING.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

While appearing on Anderson in 2012, Anderson Cooper told Gosselin’s dancing partner, Tony Dovolani, that he had always felt bad for him "because you got stuck with Kate Gosselin. I remember watching her dance. I'm still traumatized by that experience." To which Dovolani responded, "Wait, wait—Anderson, did you just call it 'dance?' We didn't dance!" Dovolani also joked that there was "a lot of therapy was involved" in the wake of their pairing. Gosselin was not amused.

7. FOOTBALL PLAYERS HAVE PROVEN TO BE STIFF COMPETITION.

“We’ve had great success with NFL players on the show over the years, several of whom have won,” Bergeron told Boston Magazine. In 2013, the NFL ranked their favorite athletes-turned-dancers.

8. THE CELEBRITIES ARE WELL COMPENSATED.

Win or lose, celebrities have much to gain by appearing on the show, at least in terms of their bank account balances. More than one contestant has cited $125,000 as the base salary for appearing on the show—even if you don't make it past episode one. The longer a contestant sticks around, the more cash he or she stands to earn.

9. BINDI IRWIN’S CONTRACT AND PAYCHECK GOT CAUGHT UP IN THE COURTS.

Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

Because she was just 17 years old when she competed—and won—in 2015, Bindi Irwin was considered a minor, and therefore needed her parents to sign off on her contract, which stipulates they will not touch her money. While Bindi’s mom, Terri Irwin, was quick to sign on the dotted line, a court ended up rejecting Bindi’s contract because it did not have her father’s signature—even though her father, “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, had passed away in 2006. In order to get both her contract settled and her estimated $360,000 paycheck from the show, Bindi had to go to court to prove that her father was dead.

10. KENNY MAYNE WAS THE SHOW’S WORST DANCER.

For the show’s 200th episode, the hosts presented the Dancing With the Stars Awards. ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne was honored with the title of Worst Dancer; his competition included Master P, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kate Gosselin, and Steve Wozniak.

11. MASTER P EARNED THE LOWEST EVER SCORE.

In 2006, rapper Master P earned the show’s lowest score ever when he and partner Ashly DelGrosso earned an eight (out of 30) for their Paso Doble. In Master P’s defense, he wasn’t even supposed to be there; he was a last-minute replacement for his son, Lil Romeo, who was scheduled to compete but had to drop out because of an injury. In 2011, Lil Romeo finally joined the cast.

12. THE SHOW HAS SPARKED SOME LOVE CONNECTIONS.

Over the years, the show has sparked a number of romances—some rumored, some confirmed. Karina Smirnoff dated Mario Lopez, her partner in season three, for two years and later became engaged to fellow dancer Makism Chmerkovsky (though they eventually called it off). Chmerkovsky is now engaged to fellow DWTS dancer Peta Murgatroyd. In July, Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec married his DWTS partner Kym Johnson.

13. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF INJURIES, TOO.

From torn tendons to rib injuries, the contestants on DWTS have proven—time and again—that dancing can be dangerous. Among the most memorable injuries to occur (not all of them dance-related) are Misty May-Treanor’s torn Achilles tendon, Jackass star Steve-O’s back injury, stress fractures in both of former House Majority Leader’s Tom DeLay’s feet, and Bill Nye’s quad injury.

14. IT BROUGHT BACK “THE CARLTON.”

Alfonso Ribeiro won DWTS’s 19th season, with a little help from his The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character when he and his partner, Witney Carson, broke into “The Carlton.”

15. YOU CAN LEARN THE DANCES AT HOME.

For viewers who want to get in on the dancing action, the show has released a handful of branded instructional and exercise videos with titles like Cardio Dance, Cardio Dance for Weight Loss, and Dance Off the Pounds.

arrow
TBT
Michael Jackson's Moonwalk Turns 35

“What the hell was that?” For a moment, members of the production staff monitoring the stage at California's Pasadena Civic Auditorium forgot about the control panels in front of them and exchanged puzzled looks with one another. As the team charged with overseeing the ABC special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, a celebration of the famed record label’s silver anniversary, they were typically too focused on their jobs to become starstruck. But what they were witnessing was something else entirely.

Onetime Jackson 5 bandmate Michael Jackson had taken the stage solo to perform “Billie Jean,” which was already the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 chart. In between all the twisting, contorting, and spinning, Jackson took a fleeting moment to glide backwards on his feet. It had the smooth kinetic energy of someone skating on ice. It lasted barely a second. The crowd erupted.

Jackson had not used the dance move in rehearsals for the show. It was a surprise to everyone, including the live audience and the 33.9 million people who would watch the tape-delayed event on television on May 16, 1983. Jackson was already a superstar, but his moonwalk would take him to another stratosphere of fame. And although many assumed Jackson invented the gliding step himself, he was simply following in the footsteps of dance giants from the past.

Usually referred to as the back slide or the back float, the seemingly weightless backward slide had touched down across a number of decades and performers before Jackson's interpretation debuted on March 25, 1983. Famed French mime Marcel Marceau performed an act he titled “Walking in the Wind,” in which he seemed to be bracing against imaginary gale forces, his feet trying to find purchase on the ground. Jazz singer Cab Calloway pulled it off in performances; so did tap dancer Bill Bailey (as seen above) in the 1950s. James Brown incorporated the move into his stage shows, as did Bill “Mr. Bojangles” Robinson. David Bowie performed a more economical version of it during the 1973 tour for his Aladdin Sane album.

While Jackson credited Brown and Marcel as being particular influences on his performance style, he first learned of what he came to call the "moonwalk" after seeing two break-dancers appear on a 1979 episode of Soul Train. During the show, Geron "Caszper" Canidate and Cooley Jaxson performed a routine set to Jackson’s “Workin’ Day and Night.” The singer remembered the performance and asked his staff to arrange a meeting between him and both men in Los Angeles while he was preparing for the Motown special in early 1983. Jackson asked them to teach him the back slide, which he practiced until he was satisfied he had it down. (Cooley would later express disappointment that Jackson never credited the duo directly. The singer wrote in his autobiography, Moonwalker, that the move was a “break-dance” step created on street corners. While that could be true, it was Cooley and Jaxson who gave Jackson a tutorial.)

Although it may look like an optical illusion, the step is the result of weight-shifting. Dancers begin on their right foot, heel raised, and weight bearing on the right. As they lower the right heel, the left foot moves backward until the toes are aligned with the heel of the right. The left heel is then raised, weight is shifted to the left, and the process repeats itself. For those who are not particularly agile, it can look clumsy. For Jackson, who had been dancing practically his entire life, it was seamless.

For the Motown special, Jackson reportedly agreed to appear with his brothers, the Jackson 5, only if Motown owner and show producer Berry Gordy allowed him a solo performance. Jackson’s Thriller album had been released in November 1982 and was on its way to becoming one of the most successful releases of all time. It’s likely Jackson didn’t feel like he needed the appearance, and some accounts relate that Jackson was initially reluctant to do it because he feared being overexposed. Gordy’s producer, Suzanne de Passe, convinced him the show wouldn’t be the same without the Jackson 5.

Whatever got Jackson on stage that evening, he was clearly prepared for the moment. Short pants and white socks drew attention to his feet; he insisted a stage manager rehearse the placement of his hat following the Jackson 5 performance so that it would be within reach when he segued into his solo performance.

“I have to say, those were the good old days,” Jackson told the crowd after finishing with his brothers. “Those were good songs. I like those songs a lot … but, especially, I like the new songs.” It may have sounded off the cuff, but Jackson’s mid-performance speech was actually written by Motown 25 scriptwriter Buz Kohan.

With that, Jackson got down to business. “Billie Jean” was the only non-Motown song performed during the special, and it felt like a jolt of energy in a sea of nostalgia. Jackson, who was 24 years old at the time, moved effortlessly. Tossing his hat to the side and mouthing lyrics into the microphone, the contrast between Jackson in the middle of a medley with his brothers and then alone on stage was striking. Though he was two solo albums deep by this point, the performance helped cement that he was out on his own.

Jackson spent nearly three and a half minutes singing before debuting the moonwalk. It lasted barely a second but seemed to send the crowd into a mania. With 20 seconds to go, he took another few brief steps backward. After the song played out, Jackson received a standing ovation.

When the performance aired several weeks later on ABC, Motown 25 was a ratings hit. Jackson’s reputation as a live entertainer benefited from a broadcast network audience, and the moonwalk became linked to his routine. Fred Astaire called to congratulate him, a gesture that Jackson—a huge Astaire fan—could never quite believe.

Jackson’s fame led to an untold number of people trying to perfect the moonwalk, with varying degrees of success. Anyone who thought it included some camera or visual trickery may have been dismayed to find it simply required some lower-limb dexterity. Those who got the hang of it were able to impress friends. Those who didn't probably felt a little disappointed at their lack of coordination, especially when they heard that Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, learned to do a variation of it.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
History
The Ambiguous Origins of the Hokey Pokey
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey,
And you turn it all around,
That's what it's all about..."

No other song seems to symbolize a good time for people and bring smiles to their faces to quite the same extent as "The Hokey Pokey." But where did this quirky song come from? It's complicated.

LONDON ORIGINS

In 1942, Irish songwriter and publisher Jimmy Kennedy, best known for "The Teddy Bear's Picnic," created a dance, and an instructional song to go with it, called "The Hokey Cokey."

Written to entertain Canadian troops stationed in London, the song was similar to the "Hokey Pokey" we all know today.

Composer Al Tabor was also entertaining Canadian troops in wartime London, and in 1942 he wrote a participation dance song called "The Hokey Pokey." He claims the name came from the London ice cream vendors of his youth, called "Hokey Pokey Men." The accompanying dance was very similar to Kennedy's.

MEANWHILE, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND ...

In 1946, totally unaware of the British "Hokey Cokey" and "Hokey Pokey," two Scranton, Pennsylvania musicians—Robert Degan and Joe Brier—recorded "The Hokey-Pokey Dance" to entertain summer vacationers at Poconos Mountains resorts. The song was a regional favorite at dances and resorts for the rest of the 1940s, but that still isn't the song we know today.

To confuse matters even more, British bandleader Gerry Hoey also claimed to have authored a similar tune, "The Hoey Oka," in 1940.

BUT THE ONE WE KNOW TODAY ...

The general belief is that Charles Mack, Taft Baker, and Larry Laprise wrote the American version of the song "The Hokey Pokey" in 1949 to entertain skiers at the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. The song was a hit at the resorts, so Laprise recorded it.

The recording flopped, but Degan and Brier found out about it and sued Laprise for ripping off their "Hokey-Pokey Dance." Despite the fact that his version came out after theirs, Laprise won the rights to anything having to do with "The Hokey Pokey."

In 1953, Ray Anthony's orchestra recorded it—a double A-side single with "The Bunny Hop"—and it made it to #13 on the charts. That's the version we know today.

A MAGICAL HISTORY

The origins of the song, though, go back even further. Some argue that "The Hokey Pokey" (or "Cokey") is a corruption of "hocus pocus," the familiar term used by magicians.

"Hocus pocus" derives, in turn, from a Latin line in the Catholic Mass, "Hoc corpus meum" ("This is my body"), indicating the transformation of the communion "bread" into the body of Jesus Christ.

The dance that goes along with the song—in which the participants all dance in a ring, putting the relevant arm or foot in or out, and then shaking it around—goes back a fair way, too.

Similar dances and songs were recorded in Robert Chambers's Popular Rhymes of Scotland (1826); other versions have been traced to 17th-century minstrels.

THE REAL ORIGIN?

But the earliest accurate record, so far, of the song we all know and love is from an account, dated 1857, of two sisters from Canterbury, England, on a trip to Bridgewater, New Hampshire. During their visit, they taught the locals a song that went something like this:

"I put my right hand in,
I put my right hand out,
I give my hand a shake, shake, shake,
And I turn myself about."

Apparently, the performance of the song—called "Right Elbow In" and several verses long—was accompanied by "appropriate gestures" and was danced with a slow, rhythmic motion.

Whether or not an earlier reference will ever be found, it seems the origins of "The Hokey Pokey" do not lie in America, as currently claimed. The song was merely imported there. The song's great popularity definitely makes it a part of Americana, however.

Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios