Two of the five athletes competing on Dancing With the Stars Season 18 are gold-medal-winning Olympic ice dancers. The word “dancer” is right there in their job descriptions and they are considered the world’s best. So is it fair for them to be competing on the same playing field as, say, 76-year-old actor Billy Dee Williams?
When Team USA’s Charlie White and Meryl Davis first considered joining the show, a lot of fans loved the idea, but others thought they’d have too big an advantage. Kristi Yamaguchi smoked (or iced?) the competition back on Season 6 and she didn’t even have “dancer” in her Olympic title.
It just seems obvious that Charlie and Meryl will do well and they seem like clear targets for the “ringer” label. Vegas gives Meryl the best odds to win and we can’t really argue with that. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them being here, but every season the previous dance experience debate emerges and this year it’s like they’re daring us not to question Charlie and Meryl. What is the difference between them and the pros?
Then again, we’ve seen the “ringer” label backfire. The best dancer doesn’t always — or even often — win DWTS. Consider the past two seasons: Both Zendaya and Corbin Bleu battled ringer labels through their entire seasons, taking second in part because some people felt they had too much dance background to even be there. What will those same people say to two Olympic ice dancers? Olympians tend to do well on this show, for a number of reasons, but they don’t always win. Shawn Johnson won Season 8 but she took second on All-Stars. Evan Lysacek also took second on Season 10. Apollo won Season 4 but had to settle for fifth in All Stars, and Vegas initially gave him best odds to win that season.
Sometimes the more obvious it seems that you’ll do well, the less people want to help you do it. That, in part, is how a guy like Bill Engvall was able to outlast a strong dancer like Elizabeth Berkley. The judges may adore Meryl and Charlie, but they may also hold them to a much higher standard. (Remember how much they nit-picked Corbin?) Even if Meryl and Charlie dominate the judges’ leaderboard, will that just push some fans to vote for the “underdogs”? And who are the underdogs this season, beyond perhaps our two stars over 60? We have two young pop stars with giant fan bases in Cody Simpson and James Maslow, and musicians tend to have great natural musicality as it is. We also have Danica McKellar, who has some ballroom dance experience but isn’t famous for it, so it’s not so obvious as to be a double-edged sword.
Who really has the biggest advantage on Dancing With the Stars? The celeb with the most previous dance training? The one with the most natural talent? The one with the biggest fan base? The one who’s paired with This or That pro?
If Meryl or Charlie wins this season, we’ll probably hear cries that it was unfair. If they don’t win, we may also hear cries that it wasn’t fair, for different reasons. Where do you stand on the idea that they have an advantage, because of their status as the top ice dancers in the world? Unfair? Totally fair? Will you need to see them in action to decide?
Sound off in the comments below!