Greetings all! I’m Courtney, and I’m super pumped that I’ll be doing this season’s power rankings. Being that I’ve been an amateur ballroom dancer for the past 6 years, I tend to really get down to the “nitty gritty” of choreography and technique, but I’m also a sucker for an entertaining and likeable contestant, regardless of how good or bad they may have danced. I’m definitely looking forward to see how things pan out this season (16 couples…wow!), and I look forward to seeing what you guys think as well :-)
Since we now know all of the celebs and all of their pro partners, I thought I would do a preliminary power ranking based solely on each celeb’s previous dance/athletic experience & overall likeability. In addition, I have also taken into account their pro partner’s likeability and fan base, as the pro’s themselves have taken on an almost celeb status through the years, and many of them have almost as big a fan base as the celebs they teach (can you imagine how many teen voters tune into DWTS each week in the hopes that they might catch a glimpse of a bare-chested Mark or Derek?). So without further ado, here they are…I’m curious to see what you guys think, so please, all feedback is appreciated!
1.) Mya & Dmitry Chaplin - Mya has, arguably, the most previous dance experience of any of this season’s celebs. She had ballet & jazz training from the age of 2, and later picked up tap as well, and was good enough to land a spot performing with Savion Glover of the Dance Theater of Harlem (for those of you unfamiliar with him, he is to tap what Clint Eastwood is to Hollywood – a pretty big deal!). She’s also fairly recognizable, as she’s a Grammy-winning recording artist and has had bit parts in a few movies (anyone remember her as Vern’s fiance in Shall We Dance?). And Mya is SEXY…I don’t see her as someone who would be timid on the dance floor. Dmitry also has a following of his own from his SYTYCD days, and now also has an Emmy nomination under his belt for the Argentine tango he choreographed for season 4 of SYTYCD. For me, this is the couple to beat.
2.) Donny Osmond & Kym Johnson – Do I honestly think that Donny will outdance the 14 other couples in this competition? Absolutely not…but I think his fame alone (especially with female baby boomers) will make him a contender this season. Granted, Donny has SOME dance experience from his years performing with The Osmonds, but I’m not sure it’s enough to outshine trained dancers like Debi or Aaron. But think back to season 5, and the juggernaut that was Marie Osmond, who made it to the finals despite mediocre scores from the judges. He also has an advantage in having Kym, who I find to be one of the more consistent & likeable pros on the show. I don’t think these two have the “juice” to win the whole thing, but I definitely think they’ll be around for awhile.
3.) Debi Mazar & Maksim Chmerkovskiy - Little known fact: Debi began her career as a hip-hop B-girl in New York, and has appeared in 4 Madonna videos…so she is no stranger to dance. She’s also appeared in quite a few movies, so she’s a fairly recognizable actress (another fun fact: She appeared in Beethoven’s 2nd with another season 9 celeb – Ashley Hamilton). Debi is known for her roles as feisty, tough women, so that could be an advantage when it comes to aggressive dances like the paso doble & tango – however, it could also hurt her if she butts heads with her equally as feisty partner, Maks. I see Maks as one of the more popular pros on the show (especially with the ladies), so I see this pair having some staying power.
4.) Mark Dacascos & Lacey Schwimmer – Ok, so maybe he isn’t a household name, but once people see him, the lightbulb comes on: “Ohhh, that Iron Chef guy!”. You might also recognize him from martial arts films such as Cradle 2 The Grave, where he squared off with Jet Li. His expertise in martial arts could definitely be a strong advantage for him this season – I think he could be this season’s Gilles Marini, the lesser-known actor with a martial arts background that takes the competition by storm. Did I mention he’s also pretty easy on the eyes? It’s never been a disadvantage in this competition (at least for the men) to be good-looking. And he’s lucked into getting fan-fave Lacey as his partner, who I have found to have an almost cult-like following from both SYTYCD & the past two seasons of DWTS. A hot combo, these two!
5.) Aaron Carter & Karina Smirnoff - About 11 years ago, during my awkward teenage years, I attended a Backstreet Boys concert where Aaron was the opening act. I was amazed with the ease at which this kid was cartwheeling, handspringing, and flipping all over the stage…and he was only 10 at the time! Aaron’s got a background in gymnastics, as well as some hip-hop experience from his years as a pop act. However, he also has a bit of a checkered past: troubles with substance abuse and the demise of several romantic relationships have made several tabloid covers, which may make him a bit less “likeable” to viewers. But I could also see mom’s latching onto him as a sort of son-type figure, a la Cody Linley. I think Karina is also one of the strongest female pros on the show, and has a knack for choreographing to showcase her partner’s strengths while hiding their weaknesses. These two could either be really good or really bad – I’m crossing my fingers it’s the former.
6.) Melissa Joan Hart & Mark Ballas – Could they have picked a more adorable, likeable gal to be on this season of DWTS? I find Melissa to be a prime example of a “girl next door” type – or rather the girl upstairs type, as she played on Clarissa Explains It All. And she “bewitched” (pun intended) audiences for 7 seasons as a lovable teenager with magical powers on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I don’t know that she has any real dance experience, but, like Donny, I think she’ll be a contender based on star power alone. And I think reigning 2-time champ Mark has the chops (and the female following) to keep this pair going in the competition, regardless of the judge’s scores. These two also have an adorable moniker for their partnership – “Malarky”, which could help them to claim the spot as this season’s “cute” couple, much like Shawn & Mark last season.
7.) Joanna Krupa & Derek Hough – Models have generally not fared so well on the show. And I’m afraid Joanna’s recent obscenity-laden tyrade against Terrell Owens on this summer’s reality show The Superstars could make her look a bit, er, “witchy” in the eyes of female viewers. But the ladies love Derek Hough (ask Heidi!), and they want to keep him in the competition to watch him week after week. Not only that, but I find Derek’s choreography to be very clever and entertaining (think last season’s “Jailhouse Rock” jive with Lil Kim), so this pair could get by on Derek’s skill & popularity alone. They’re also both young & good-looking, which seems to be an advantage in romantic dances like the rumba & waltz.
8.) Kathy Ireland & Tony Dovolani – Echoing my sentiments above, models seem to really struggle on this show (remember first-round cast-offs Josie Maran & Paulina Porizkova?). However, Kathy Ireland seems to be one of the world’s most recognizable supermodels, appearing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue 13 years in a row, as well as owning a clothing line and writing 5 books. I think her level of fame could keep her around for a little while. Tony is a fairly experienced pro on the show, too, so maybe their collective “fame” will help carry them through week after week. They’re also well matched in stature (she’s 5’10″; he’s over 6′), which actually makes more of a difference (especially in the smooth dances, such as the waltz & foxtrot) than you might think!
9.) Ashley Hamilton & Edyta Sliwinska – I had to really rack my brain to think of a movie that Ashley had been in – and all I came up with was Beethoven’s 2nd (he was Nicholle Tom’s sleazy boyfriend). I did, however, remember his reputation as a bit of a partier, and his infamous 5-month marriage to Shannon Doherty. Oh, and he’s season 2 celeb George Hamilton’s son. I daresay Ashley might have a bit more to prove on the show given his iffy recognizability (on many messages boards I encountered, people thought he was a girl!), but he’s got Edyta, the only pro to be on all 9 seasons of the show, and they both are attractive individuals. If Ashley really works hard, I could see him moving up in the ranks.
10.) Natalie Coughlin & Alec Mazo – Olympic athletes seem to really thrive on the show (think Shawn Johnson & Apolo Ohno), so I think Natalie might have a lot to prove. But she is an athlete, so she may be able to withstand the grueling pace of the show. She has Alec, who, despite having choreography that the judges like, always seems to blend into the background for me. I fear that this pair might get lost in the shuffle, and may get forgotten by America when it comes time to vote.
11.) Michael Irvin & Anna Demidova - I’m a bit indecisive about this couple: on one hand, Michael is a former NFL Hall-of-Famer, and NFL players have generally done well on the show – however, he is also no stranger to controversy, having a few brushes with the law throughout the years. I fear that viewers might not like that, and may not vote as a result, even if he is quite good. But he does have Anna, who proved herself during last year’s pro competition and was voted by America to be part of this season’s cast, so she’s got a following…she also seems to know how to bring out the best in her partner, as evidenced by her tango with Maurice Greene last season. I have my fingers crossed with this pair as well – I would really like to see more of Anna.
12.) Chuck Liddell & Anna Trebunskaya – Not gonna lie – Chuck scares me! He’s a very intimidating guy,but I guess that comes with the territory when you’re a mixed-martial arts champion. So here’s my dilemma: the only precedents we have for professional “fighters” on the show are Evander Holyfield (the 2nd contestant voted out in season 1) and Floyd Mayweather (4th voted out in season 5) – and neither did exceedingly well. I fear that Chuck may fall prey to the problem of being rather “heavy” on his feet – however, he is extremely strong (which helps with lifts & stunts), and is obviously no stranger to grueling training, so he may be able to push through and really improve week after week. Anna has been out of the DWTS game since season 6 (due to the fact that she was one of the top ranked International Latin competitors in the country and was still competing as a pro – not an easy feat!), so she may not have quite as much of a following as some of the other pros…however, I think that at least some of Chucks MMA fans might tune in and vote for him, which could tip the scales in their favor.
13.) Louie Vito & Chelsie Hightower – Some of you are probably very shocked about my placement of this couple – let me explain. I think these two may have a lot of work to do based solely on the fact that not many people outside of the extreme sports venue have heard of Louie Vito (to quote my mother, “Wasn’t he in The Godfather?”). Looking back to previous seasons of DWTS, we can see that decent dancers are often voted out before their time simply because they don’t have the fan base to vote for them (I thought Ted McGinley in season 7 was great – but no one seemed to know who he was!) However, Louie is an athlete, so he is definitely not a stranger to getting physical, and Chelsie has some popularity from both her time on SYTYCD & last season of DWTS. If these two hit the ground running the first week and keep up the good work, they could be around for awhile.
14.) Kelly Osbourne & Louis Van Amstel – Oh Kelly…I sincerely hope your years as a foul-mouthed teen on The Osbournes and stint in rehab have not disgraced you in the eyes of the American public! While I adore Kelly’s quirky, edgy style and multiple tattoos, I don’t know that the rest of America will, and may not vote as a result. However, Kelly has lost quite a bit of weight through diet and exercise in recent years, so she may surprise us all. Louis has also been away from the pro role on DWTS since season 6, but he has definitely not fallen off the radar, performing in group numbers on the show & choreographing for the most recent season of SYTYCD.
15.) Macy Gray & Jonathan Roberts – Macy has been out of the spotlight for a few years now (her last album came out in 2007), and Jonathan has been as well (he returned last season after being absent since season 6, only to be voted out the first round). I worry this could hinder them in votes, as well as the fact that Macy is not an athlete – I think having at least some experience in a sport (or any form of movement) seems to help when learning any kind of dance, so compared to a lot of her competition this season, Macy may be at a disadvantage. She does, however, have an advantage in the fact that she is a mother of 3, which may endear her to the many moms that tune into the show.
16.) Tom DeLay & Cheryl Burke – Poor, poor Cheryl Burke. Someone had to take him on this season, and I guess she drew the short straw. At 62, he is the oldest contestant this season (and a non-athlete), so he may not be able to keep up with young, athletic powerhouses like Louie & Natalie. He’s also a former politician – a disgraced former politician. I think that alone will make him hard for America to rally behind, and may be his undoing in this competition. However, we have no precedents for politicians on the show, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the votes fall. I have a feeling that any chance of success this pair has this season will hinge upon Cheryl’s instruction and choreography. She’s a two-time DWTS champ, and is known for her “tough love” approach to teaching, which seems to bring out the best in her partners…so if anyone can keep Tom in the competition, it’s Cheryl!
So there you have it…my initial predictions for this season’s 16 couples. Who will end up on top and who will get stuck at the bottom of the heap? We’ll see!