Recent seasons have seen very little turnover among the ranks of the Dancing With the Stars pro dancers, but that’s changed for Season 13, as three pros will be in the competition for the first time. But the newbies aren’t strangers to fans of the show; two are graduates of the so-called Troupe, while the other has a familiar (and difficult to spell) name.
The pairings for the upcoming season were announced Wednesday morning. The list, along with some thoughts about how the pros might or might not help their celeb:
David Arquette/Kym Johnson: Maybe Arquette is going to be a contender after all? Kym is the only female pro who has won in any of the last seven seasons, and she’s managed the feat twice. So getting to work with her is a sizable coup for the goofball. It’s true that Hines Ward came onto DWTS with an enormous fanbase already, but Kym made him a believable winner despite having to work around an injury in the later stages of the season. Except for Ricki Lake (see below), no one benefits more from their pairing than Arquette.
Ron Artest/Peta Murgatroyd: Peta was part of the Troupe and has popped up in various pro segments in recent seasons, so it’s not surprising that she was finally called up to the big leagues. But it’s curious that she would be paired with the eccentric Artest, who might have been a little easier for one of the DWTS brand name pros to handle. The show is much more established now than it was even in Season 7, when Lacey Schwimmer first came on board; the veteran pros come into new seasons with their own solid fanbases. Unless Artest is truly fantastic, it’s going to be hard for him and the newbie to break through.
Chaz Bono/Lacey Schwimmer: Because Chaz is so short, there was never going to be an ideal partner for him. Lacey is one of the smaller female pros, but the thinking behind this pairing was probably her success in partnering with Kyle Massey, who was on the rotund side. But compared with Massey, Chaz is even shorter, fatter, and twice as old. Lacey was the first pro out last season (partnered with Mike Catherwood), and is going to have her work cut out having a much longer stay this fall.
Elizabetta Canalis/Val Chmerkovskiy: The younger brother of Maks has made the occasional appearance on DWTS, most notably in a bizarre dance/instrumental “duel” with Mark Ballas, which featured Val on violin and Mark massacring a guitar solo. But this will be his first time competing, and the sibling rivalry ought to lend new intrigue to this and coming seasons. It’s a safe bet that female viewers aren’t necessarily going to mind having a new Chmerkovskiy as an inspiration for their fan fiction, but it won’t be easy for him to score highly right out of the box.
Kristin Cavallari/Mark Ballas: This is a hard pairing to gauge. Mark has won twice, finished third the last two seasons (including the Bristol Palin season), and the judges like him despite their occasional quarrels. So in that respect, it might seem like the show is doing Kristin a favor. But those celebs who are known predominantly for reality TV have not scored highly on DWTS – the only reality stars to make the finals, Melissa Rycroft and Kelly Osbourne, owed most of their success to “underdog” storylines. Mark has a way of checking out if he thinks his partner doesn’t have a chance, so he might not be all that motivated by Kristin.
Nancy Grace/Tristan MacManus: Tristan was another member of the Troupe, and becomes the latest attempt by DWTS to introduce a male pro with the same sort of appeal as veterans Mark, Derek, Tony, and Maks. So is this the show’s version of a hazing – saddling the new guy with a fiftysomething lawyer/talk show host with a perpetually sour disposition? I doubt the second coming of Nureyev could get Grace into the second half of the season, so someone with no fanbase to speak of is probably safe making other plans for, say, early October.
Rob Kardashian/Cheryl Burke: This fall marks the fifth anniversary of Cheryl’s win with Emmitt Smith, which now seems so long ago. She hasn’t been getting the most desirable star partners in recent seasons, and now she has to deal with the least famous of the Kardashian siblings. It’s one thing to be paired with someone without much natural talent, but Rob has come out and said he’s doing DWTS only as a means of getting in shape. Cheryl can motivate, but good luck in shaking some sense into this slug.
Carson Kressley/Anna Trebunskaya: Anna may be the most even-tempered person on the show but has an underrated sense of humor, and Carson can be counted on to be zany. So this should be an entertaining pair and a likely fan favorite. Anna has never won, and there are questions about whether her choreography is strong enough to get a promising celeb over the top. But she has done good work with athletes who had trouble telling their right foot from their left. Carson might be a little easier to train than what she’s been used to.
Ricki Lake/Derek Hough: My pick of Ricki as the favorite heading into the season is looking better all the time. Back after a season away on a film set, Derek is the only pro to win three times, and has victories the last two seasons he’s competed. No one is better at coming up with choreography that makes people sit up and take notice. Ricki has a lot of similarities to Derek’s last partner, Jennifer Grey – someone else who had to dance in a movie when much younger. She can protest about not being “the ringer” all she wants, but partnering with Derek is practically a ticket to the finals for her.
J.R. Martinez/Karina Smirnoff: Martinez is relatively unfamiliar, so in that sense he might come across as the latest in a long line of undesirable partners for Karina. But his awesome backstory ought to be enough to keep him safe for at least the early weeks, and this will give her time to impart some wisdom. I don’t know that the judges have ever been huge fans of Karina, and it would be a stretch to say she’s ever been beloved by the viewers, but she knows how the game is played at this point. This could be her ticket back to the finals after a long absence.
Chynna Phillips/Tony Dovolani: Chynna is one of the older stars this season and there’s no reason to believe she has pre-existing dance ability, but she also doesn’t have the obvious flaws of some of Tony’s recent partners, such as body type (Wendy Williams), massive unpopularity (Kate Gosselin), or lousy attitude (both). So in that respect, he ought to enjoy this season. Tony is a patient teacher and his stars rarely underachieve, but he probably lacks that extra bit of charisma to go all the way.
Hope Solo/Maksim Chmerkovskiy: DWTS hasn’t always made Maks happy, but he got his wish with this partnership. It’s a natural match, as the tallest female star is paired with the tallest pro dancer. Maks got to the finals with Kirstie Alley, but he seems to be at his best with more athletic women. Hope could be a good fit with his skill set, but she has been pretty vocal about not knowing what she’s doing, and he’s not the most patient fellow in the world. Hope has a bit of a temper as well. Look for lots of colorful rehearsal footage here.
Among those missing this season: Louis Van Amstel, Chelsie Hightower, and Dmitry Chaplin. Eh, everyone can use time to regroup.