How Does ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Pair Celebrities With Pro Dancers?

There are plenty of behind-the-scenes secrets that every fan would love to know about Dancing with the Stars. But one aspect of the show that just about everybody is curious about is the casting process. How do the producers choose which celebrities to cast? And how do they decide which contestant to pair with which professional dancer? It’s a pretty demanding process.

Ahead, discover everything we know about how Dancing with the Stars ends up with its celebrity-and-dancer pairs.

The producers consider height and weight

Showrunner Rob Wade told E! News that pairing celebrities and professional dancers is “based on height, build and personality and compatibility.” Similarly, fan-favorite pro dancer Mark Ballas explains that “They pair us on height and size, so it feels comfortable for the women and vice versa for the women when they’re dancing.” In many types of ballroom dance, a large height differential can prove problematic, as competitive dancer Deborah Peterson explains on Quora.

Putting the cast together is like ‘planning a dinner party’

Wade told People that putting the cast together for a season of Dancing with the Stars is similar to planning a party. “We obviously have a list of people that we begin to reach out to months in advance. We’ll get one or two people locked in and start to build around it,” he explains. “It’s like planning a dinner party. Once you’ve invited some friends, you start to work out which other friends to invite that will balance out the table.”

They don’t select pairs until after all the celebrities are cast

People also learned that typically, the producers of Dancing with the Stars don’t start selecting pairs until after they’ve cast all the celebrities, often choosing contestants based on current events or picking celebrities who love the show and genuinely want to learn to dance. “Normally, we just have our pros and then once the cast is booked, we decide the pairings,” Wade explained. “I personally get bored with seeing the pros with the same types of people season after season. It is fun to tell a different type of story when you pair them with different people.”

Producers don’t want too much drama

Like any competition show, Dancing with the Stars wouldn’t be as compelling without a little bit of backstage drama. But the producers don’t want so much drama that it would just derail the show. “We don’t pair people who aren’t going to get on,” Wade told E! News. “It’s too intense. It’s not like The Bachelor or something; we couldn’t do that. That would just be miserable experience for the celebrity, for us and the viewer. You don’t want to see two people who don’t like each other and, quite frankly, we have made that mistake pairing people up who didn’t get on so well.”

The dancers don’t get to choose their partners

Ballas told E! News that the dancers “don’t get a say in their partners.” However, producers do try to take the dancers’ personalities and teaching styles into account when they choose pairings. “Each one of the pro dancers has a different way of teaching, choreographing, and also just different personalities, as well as time-stamps on patience,” Ballas explains. “They kind of try to pair us accordingly.”

But producers try to give each pro a variety of contestants

E! News also learned that because some longtime Dancing with the Stars pros have become household names, the producers often try to pair them up with somebody who will bring out a side of them that the audience hasn’t seen before. And while the audience has noticed some trends — Tony Dovolani often gets older celebrities while Mark Ballas gets younger ones — Wade says that that’s not intentional. In fact, he explains that “every dancer gets a different range of type of people. . . and then they say they only get those people.”

Read more: These Are the Oldest ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Contestants Who Have Been on the Show Over the Years

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