Skip to main content

Fans of Dancing With the Stars love watching celebrities and their professional dance partners swirl around the ballroom. From the Cha Cha to the Rhumba and the Viennese Waltz, each dance incorporates moves that indicate that style.

Occasionally, the pros will throw some tricks into their choreography to really wow viewers and the judges. Some fans might not know that there are rules surrounding such tricks! There is one rule in particular that judge Carrie Ann Inaba will not stand to have broken — the lift rule. Find out why Inaba docks a point for any couple willing to break this rule in the ballroom. 

Carrie Ann Inaba
Carrie Ann Inaba | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

What is a lift in ballroom dancing? 

As Inaba explained in a 2017 Facebook post, “[The National Dance Council of America defines] a lift [as] any movement during which one of the dancers has both feet off the floor at the same time with the assistance or support of their partner.” 

Dancing With the Stars does include dance styles that allow lifts, like the Jitterbug, Argentine Tango, Salsa, Jazz, Contemporary, and the Charleston.

Lifts are not allowed in dances like the Rhumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Paso Doble, Samba, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Fox Trot, or Quickstep. Lifts are not indicative of these styles, so throwing one into the choreography is often perceived as the pros adding that “wow-factor” for the sake of obtaining votes. 

A list of the NDCA rules is affixed to the desk in front of each judge to serve as a reminder of this and other rules when they’re scoring dances. 

Why is there a lift rule on ‘Dancing With the Stars’?

As Inaba described in her post, the lift rule was established on Dancing With the Stars in 2005. It was brought into play to emphasize dance technique instead of showmanship. After all, that’s what Dancing With the Stars is about — the art of the dance! 

“[The lift rule] levels the playing field for those who have physical challenges that make lifts impossible,” Inaba explained. “If lifts were allowed in every dance, people would start doing lifts to make their dances visually exciting, because truth be told, a good lift is always great to watch.”

Why Carrie Ann Inaba takes points away when dancers break the no life rule on ‘DWTS’

For Inaba, taking a point off when the lift rule is broken is “fair.” In her mind, if every judge docked points for breaking the lift rule, “the contestants’ scores would suffer greatly for something that is not that serious of a crime.” But she’s fine being the judge that primarily takes away points for technicalities like that.


‘DWTS’: Fans Aren’t Happy About Nev Schulman’s Prior Dance Experience

“I LOVE a lot of the lifts that I see,” she admitted. “It hurts me sometimes to take a point off. But if they did that same move in a ballroom competition, they would be penalized.”

Inaba observes the lift rule so that Dancing With the Stars can be an authentic ballroom competition. “I will always do my best to judge fairly,” she concluded. “If that earns me the title of ‘Lift Police,’ well, then I wear that badge with honor.”