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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.

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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.

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politics
New York City Will Now Allow You to Dance Without a License
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In New York City, there’s a tricky law on the books that requires any business serving food or drinks to acquire what’s known as a Cabaret License in order to allow customers to dance. The mandate stems from a 1926 policy introduced by then-mayor Jimmy Walker to help curb what some residents believed to be “altogether too much running wild” in the Jazz Age clubs of the era. (It's also possible that the law was meant to prevent interracial coupling.) City officials have regularly enforced the law during the proceeding century, with some clubs even cutting off music—or switching to country—when inspectors arrived unannounced.

Now, it appears the outdated restriction has come to an end. According to The New York Times, Brooklyn councilman Rafael Espinal has introduced a bill expected to pass Tuesday that will forever end any and all comparisons to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footloose. The repeal comes on the heels of concerns that the prohibition pushes people into attending "underground" dance clubs that exceed (or ignore) fire department capacity limits.

While Espinal is convinced he has the necessary votes to move forward, several proprietors have attempted to challenge the law over the years. In 2014, bar owner and attorney Andrew Muchmore filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the restriction was outdated and obtaining the license was a laborious process. To approve an application, the city’s Department of Consumer affairs has to verify a venue has security cameras and owners have to attend regular board conferences. The cost of the license can range from $300 to $1000, depending on the area’s capacity and, for some unfathomable reason, whether it’s an even or odd year.

Espinal's efforts and anticipated success getting rid of the Cabaret Law will cap 91 years of illicit dancing within the city limits. Just don't get too cozy with your partner: thanks to another antiquated regulation, you can still be fined $25 for flirting.

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Animals
Move Over, Goat Yoga: Alpaca Dance Classes Have Arrived
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A surprising number of people want to exercise alongside farm animals. Multiple farms across the U.S. offer yoga with goats, a livestock twist on the trend of doing yoga with cats. And in Canada, you can now learn to dance with alpacas, according to Travel + Leisure.

Anola, Manitoba's 313 Farms launched its all-ages AlpacaZone Dance and Fitness classes this summer, offering hip-hop, barre, pilates, and cardio classes for six weekends.

Sadly, the alpacas aren’t teaching the dances. But the classes do take place outdoors among the merry camelids, who are free to wander into your choreography at any time. Taking a water break during class is so passé; better to take an alpaca-petting break. After class, you get a meet-and-greet with the animals, giving you even more time to pal around. (Take note: One of the alpacas reportedly loves kisses.)

Two adults and several children dance in the midst of an alpaca pasture.
Courtesy 313 Farms

313 Farms owner Ann Patman told Travel + Leisure that she was inspired to start the alpaca dance program when a nearby farm started offering a popular goat yoga series. Patman, a Detroit native who named her farm after her hometown’s area code, had previously worked at a dance studio.

The registration for classes like the hip-hop focused “Poppin’ Pacas” and “Barn Barre” costs a low $10 pre-sale, or $15 the day of. The AlpacaZone classes end on August 19, but the owners may offer more because of high demand. Sounds like it's time for a little alpaca-exercise-induced road trip to rural Canada.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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