Dancing With the Stars Season 17 Pro Awards: Best Debut, Biggest Transformation, and More!
It’s time to fill out the Dancing With the StarsSeason 17 yearbook with superlatives for the pros who work so hard on-and-off-camera to entertain us — even without the showcase of a Results Show. (We miss you, Tuesdays!). All of the pros deserve special mention, but here are our five “awards” for the fall 2013 season.
Over the summer it was revealed that Emma would be leaving the DWTS pro troupe to be a competing pro on the U.K. show, Strictly Come Dancing. Instead, she ended up with Bill Engvall in one of the biggest underdog success stories of DWTS history. Bill got all the attention as a 56-year-old regular guy, but he may not have charmed America quite so much without Emma. She set the tone with her positive spirit and creative, clever choreography — highlighting everything good about their partnership with none of the competitive drama. She always put Bill first, never allowing herself to upstage him — which would've been easy, especially with her amazing body in those costumes. (She also wins the costume award this season, especially for that Argentine Tango. Wowza!) Whoever gets paired with her next season is already a lucky guy.
Cheryl Burke's celeb partners have been all over the map — sometimes she gets a great dancer like Gilles Marini, and other times she gets a Wayne Newton or a Tom DeLay. This season she got Jack Osbourne, who didn't initially seem like he had a ton of dance potential, but since he was with Cheryl we figured maybe he'd get the Rob Kardashian treatment. Yes and no. Not only did she help Jack earn his way to the Finals — earn, not from sympathy votes — she showed a completely new side to herself. We're used to celebs being intimidated by Cheryl's no-nonsense teaching style. It obviously works, but Jack brought out her sensitive, caring side too. Toward the end of the season, we saw her tearing up with pride over Jack's achievement. She's still the same sarcastic spitfire we know and love, but it was really beautiful to see those moments of genuine emotion.
Tristan MacManus has become the go-to guy to support and champion beloved icons — women just a wee bit older than him with strong spirits if not strong dance ability. He glowed with Gladys Knight, had his time cut short with Dorothy Hamill, and had just enough time to light up the dance floor with Valerie Harper. Valerie wasn't really up to the strenuous standards of the second half of the season — three or four dances a week? — but she was the beating heart of the show, with the perfect man beside her. It gave us the warm and fuzzies every time they called each other by their full names, just marveling at how wonderful the other was. We love great dancing, but we love these relationships just as much. Tristan has truly shown himself to be a wonderful partner with his priorities squarely in order. We wouldn't mind him getting a chance to shine with a partner who was talented from day one, but if DWTS wants to keep with the current pattern ... maybe see if Betty White wants the Tristan treatment?
Corbin Bleu was Karina Smirnoff’s dream partner for years and she did not waste the opportunity to show him off. They may have lost the season because he was too good, but that idea is actually a huge compliment to Karina. Corbin was not a ballroom dancer, and to convince people he was already pro level is a testament not only to his talent but also to her training. Their combined powers gave us some of the most memorable routines of the season. Think of that Game of Thrones dance, the Trio Jazz, that gorgeous Rumba, the Smooth Criminal Freestyle. They were remarkable from start to finish, with Karina showing some of her finest work. Who needs a cheap Mirror Ball trophy when you have priceless performance videos to illustrate your achievement?
The man. The myth. The legend. It has to be frustrating for the pros to see Derek win and win and win — five times now, including both seasons of 2013 — but it’s not like it’s hard to see why. Derek isn’t necessarily the “best” teacher and choreographer, but he clearly owns the recipe to the secret sauce that wins DWTS. This is a unique show with a unique set of demands separate from the rest of the dance world. Yes, Derek often gets partners with some performance background and dance talent clear from Week 1; it would be nice to see him challenged with a partner like Tristan or Tony Dovolani gets. Derek seems like the kind of guy who would welcome more of a challenge. But he illustrated why he’s so good for this show when Amber Riley did that little clap thing in Week 3 rehearsals and Derek put the idea in his brain, whipping it out for their Freestyle to perfectly highlight her strengths. That’s what he does, and he does it with deceptive ease. It’s hard to say whether he’s too good for the show or absolutely perfect for it; at the very least, he should be high on the list to transition to judge. If anyone knows how to advise couples to win, it’s Derek.
More pros need love! Which ones would you award this season and why? Sound off below...