There are two seasons of Dancing With the Stars each year, but only one professional dancer can be arbitrarily designated The Pro of 2011. We have plenty of options for the honor, since several DWTS pros had breakout, standout and talked-about seasons — on and off the dance floor. We already named our pro stars of Season 13, but we’re looking at a bigger picture this time. So here are our four runners-up and the big winner who gets … 2,011 virtual pats on the back! Way better than a cheap Mirror Ball trophy, obviously...
5. Tristan MacManus
We didn’t even know we were missing an adorable Irish lucky charm until he and his extra-long tongue arrived in the ballroom. Every site from Entertainment Weekly to TV Guide lauded Tristan as the newcomer of the year.
He’s not higher up on this list because he didn’t get too much TV time as part of the DWTS pro troupe for Season 12 and only really got a chance to shine on Season 13, alongside his partner in crime Nancy Grace. But shine he did. We’ll be looking for more from Mr. MacManus very soon.
4. Mark Ballas
He was everywhere this year! With Derek Hough absent on Season 12, Mark was the creative choreography king — and he had a perfect partner in Chelsea Kane. They made it to third place on what was a star-making season for her.
Mark was robbed success with his next pretty blonde partner, Kristin Cavallari, in Season 13 but they were still impressive on the dance floor. Mark kept himself busy between DWTS seasons — to put it mildly. He played music, created videos, toured, taught former DWTS partner Kim Kardashian her wedding dance with soon-to-be-ex-hubby Kris Humphries, went to the collector’s item wedding, choreographed a Pepsi commercial and showed off his home on HGTV’s Hollywood at Home. Next month he’ll be one of the judges of the Miss America pageant. And pretty soon we expect to see him romantically linked to a new American Idol contestant. It’s only a matter of time!
3. Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Maks started his year as The Ukraine’s first Bachelor. He did not find love, but he seemed to find himself through the process, using it as good therapy. He continued finding the softer side of Maks with one of his best DWTS partners to date — Kirstie Alley. They brought out the best in each other and had a blast on the way to almost winning Season 12. Maks was especially frustrated at coming so close yet so far once again.
Over the summer Maksim picked his own partner for Season 13 — Hope Solo — and although they made it to the Semifinals, it was not the happiest of unions. It ended Maks’ DWTS year on a pitchy note, leaving some to wonder if he would even want to return for Season 14. The jury is still out on that, but Maks ended the rest of the year going back to his teaching roots, alongside his brother Val — also a hot new DWTS pro — and best friend Tony Dovolani. At the very least, 2011 showed everyone how passionate and loyal Maks’ fans can be, standing by their man through thick and thin. (And hair! Have you seen him lately?)
2. Karina Smirnoff
Karina really hit the jackpot with DWTS partners this year. She was first paired with Ralph Macchio in Season 12, who became her big brother and “best friend.” They were robbed a chance to reach the finals, but their Romeo and Juliet Waltz was one of the best routines of the year and it inspired Karina’s new Capulet boot.
The warmth and love between Ralph and Karina helped tone down some of the shock of seeing Karina on the May cover of Playboy. Presumably her then-fiance, Brad Penny, was fine with the cover but we were surprised to see her do that while appearing on a more PG-13 show like DWTS.
As the show entered the fall, we were sad to hear that she had postponed her wedding to Brad, planned for this January. However, her year seems to be ending on a high note — she won her first Mirror Ball trophy with new superstar J.R. Martinez and she’s booked all kinds of events, including a New Year’s Eve party in NYC. So maybe her love life is complicated, but her career seems to be going great guns.
Our Pick for Pro of 2011: Kym Johnson
When she wasn’t busy winning a sibling for her Season 9 Mirror Ball trophy, Kym was locked in romance rumors with two sexy studs — her DWTS Season 12 partner Hines “I Have A Cameo In The New Batman Movie And You Don’t” Ward and #5 on this list, Tristan “He Was Totally Ours First” MacManus. Tough life, eh?
Hines and Kym were the shining stars to watch throughout Season 12 and we were thrilled to see them take home the win. Kym also had a good if less successful Season 13 with partner David Arquette. And between seasons she’s kept busy posing in health magazines, taping an upcoming DWTS fitness DVD with Mark Ballas, hanging out with Cheryl Burke in Australia and doing whatever else she’s been doing with Tristan. Kym continues to show everyone how it’s done with a perpetually positive, professional attitude with zero drama behind the scenes. She’s too humble to ever toot her own Aussie horn, so we’re doing it for her. Long live Queen Kym!
Who do you think is the Pro of 2011? Vote in our poll below and we’ll announce the reader’s choice pick on Friday, December 30.
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