‘DWTS’: Here’s How Season 29 Stars Rehearse Amid Pandemic Concerns

The time has come for the new cast of Dancing with the Stars to hit the dance floor. Season 29 of the reality dance competition has been different for a variety of reasons — namely everything surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Here’s how the show ensures the safety of all involved.

All ‘DWTS’ contestants tested daily for COVID-19

DANCING WITH THE STARS
Dancing With The Stars stars Carole Baskin | Frank Ockenfels /ABC via Getty Images

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On Monday, Sept. 14, DWTS kicks off season 29 with a diverse cast that ranges from rapper Nelly to Tiger King star Carole Baskin. With the pandemic afoot, how much different are rehearsals?

As one of the few productions braving the “new normal,” DWTS knows that safety is of the utmost concern. According to E! News, contestants are tested daily for any signs of COVID-19. Dancers also maintain at least 8 feet of space between themselves and anyone except their dance partner.

Along with health protocol, pro dancer — married or not — live apart. New host Tyra Banks welcomes new judge Derek Hough, and there will be no live studio audience when dancers perform.

“Every day we have to be tested. I was tested at my home before we started, just to get in the flow of things and make sure no one had it before we stepped in the building,” Disney Channel star Skai Jackson told E! News.

“And then they keep cleaning our rooms before someone else goes in. I am very pleased with how they are doing everything. They are very, very cautious. If we want to see someone dance, we could stand by the door, which we have done.”

Some ‘DWTS’ stars meet through Zoom

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During the grueling rehearsals process, all DWTS contestants are living in Los Angeles, self-quarantining when possible. And, while each competing pro/star team gets to stay in close contact for rehearsals, One Day at a Time star Justina Machado said the entire cast hasn’t met in person just yet, noting everything has been though Zoom.

Selling Sunset star Chrishell Stause said it’s a relief to go to rehearsal because it “feels like a little pocket of normal,” adding, “it was actually a really nice feeling to walk into a room and be able to hug someone and to be able to not wear a mask with them.”

Olympic skater Johnny Weir and The Real co-host Jeannie Mai said temperatures are taken when entering the studio. Their only interaction unmasked is with their partners. Those rehearsals last anywhere from three to five hours per day.

“This is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Mai added. “But it’s probably the greatest experience for 2020 because I missed human contact.”

Other ‘DWTS’ stars are more concerned with the actual dancing

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All the new safety precautions might be slightly inconvenient but necessary. Some of the season 29 contestants aren’t too concerned about the pandemic. They’re focused on getting the moves down.

Cheer coach Monica Aldama said it’ll be an adjustment to perform without crowd support, saying she’ll “create the energy” herself.

Anne Heche said she’s “embracing her inner showgirl,” with socially-distant requirements while others don’t want to make a fool of themselves.

“The training has been work, but my partner has been great,” Nelly said. “I might have to buy her a car after this because I can’t believe she is able to get me to move my feet on time.” 

As for Baskin, she knows she has a big task ahead of her.

“Yesterday I tripped falling into the security guard coming on my way out of rehearsals,” she said. “It was like, ‘Oh, I’ve just got so far to go.'”

Dancing with the Stars Season 29 premieres Monday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.