‘Dancing with the Stars’ Judges Get to See Performances Once Before the Live Show

Dancing with the Stars is a competition series featuring celebrities and professional dance partners competing for the Mirrorball Trophy. Each week, the celebrities perform a different style of ballroom dance hoping for a positive score from the judges. But contrary to popular belief, the Dancing with the Stars judges see the contestants perform their dances each week before the live show. 

'Dancing with the Stars' judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli pose for the camera during 'Grease' Night in season 30.
‘Dancing with the Stars’ judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli | ABC/Christopher Willard

How scoring and voting works on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ 

The Dancing with the Stars judges panel features four ballroom experts. In season 30, the panel includes Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough, and Bruno Tonioli. Each week, the judges provide critiques and a number score of each dance. Scores range from one through 10, which differs from the season 15 “All Stars” season, where half points were at play. 

“The judges have a piece of paper on their desk [on which] they’ll write down their score,” executive producer Joe Sungkur explained to Business Insider. He continued:

“The piece of paper [gets] run frantically to the control room. Standards and practices from ABC then verifies that everything is fair and checks those scores. Then [we] go to the judges to reveal their scoring and we double-check that the score they hold up reflects the score they wrote down.”

If a celebrity performs multiple dances in a scoring period, both scores combine to create a cumulative score. That score becomes a percentage based on the total number of points awarded in the episode. Say one couple earns 20 points in a night where 200 points are awarded. Their share is 10% of the judges’ votes. 

Showrunners take the percentage from the judges’ scores and add it to the percentage of fan votes each couple receives. In the past, the pairing with the lowest total score was sent home. But now, the two couples with the lowest score are both at risk of elimination. The judges step in and vote on whom to save.

‘Dancing with the Stars’ judges see the performances during dress rehearsal before watching them live

According to DWTS pro Britt Stewart‘s Instagram Stories from Oct. 17, the live performances fans get to see on Monday nights aren’t the first time the judges see each competitor dance.

“This is false,” Stewart said, addressing a fan-submitted question. “The judges watch dress rehearsals, so it’s really important to have a strong dress rehearsal and then of course come out with a bang during the live show.” 

It’s unclear why the judges watch dress rehearsals, especially considering they’re scoring the performances that happen live in the ballroom. 

Len Goodman’s vote to save ‘DWTS’ contestants explained 

In DWTS Season 30, the celebrity with the lowest score isn’t automatically out of the competition. Instead, showrunners reveal the celebrities with the two lowest scores, and then the judges choose whom to save from elimination.

RELATED: ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Pro Britt Stewart Shares Her Prediction For Season 30 Winner [Exclusive] 

As the head judge on Dancing with the Stars, Goodman’s vote has more weight to it.

“The only time Len would not choose a couple to save is if Bruno, Carrie-Ann, and Derek all three agree on the same person leaving,” Stewart explained to Showbiz Cheat Sheet over the phone in October 2021. “So [when Matt James got eliminated], the reason why Len made the final decision is because the three judges had different opinions on who they thought should go home.” 

James was eliminated from season 30, despite two out of the three judges voting to save him. In cases where the judges aren’t unanimous in their decision, Goodman always makes the final call.