How to be an armchair judge on 'Dancing with the Stars'

It looks pretty easy - watch some people strut their stuff on 'Dancing with the Stars' and then give an opinion on it.

But what does it take to be a professional judge on a TV dancing contest?

With the latest season of the show jam-packed with Olympians, we thought we had better brush up on our armchair judging.

To make sure we weren't doing it completely wrong, Olympic Channel called up dancing legend Peter Maxwell of the World DanceSport Federation.

The judge

Maxwell is a former world champion and good friends with DWTS judge Len Goodman.

He has also judged hundreds of competitions in his time.

So who better to give us the lowdown on what kind of skills Olympians bring to the table at these kind of competitions?

The Interview

What should we be looking out for when watching 'Dancing with the Stars' on TV?

If you see a routine where 90 percent of it is done without touching each other, then there is a message there.

The whole foundation of DanceSport is two people dancing together. It means that there (has to be) contact.

The easiest way out of the problem of that is simply don't touch.

The fun bit of watching is subjective, but what sort of things can we judge objectively about at home?

Everyone knows what is good coordination and what is not. If you see someone limping, for example, then you can see that something is up.

If it looks strange then it probably is... and, by the same measure, when you see someone simply moving beautifully it is quite easy to identify.

I'm always smiling which has been both a blessing and a curse. But how important is it for a dancer to have a winning smile?

It’s terribly important. I guess in other sports it’s not so important.

It’s more about what you are doing than the way you do it and the way you show it.

I don’t think Usain Bolt needed to smile all the way through the race in order to impress anybody.

It’s also a question of what came first – the chicken or the egg.

Do you have something wonderful to say with your body which gives you a great deal of pleasure which comes out (as a smile)? Or do you do something with your body that makes you feel good?

When you see that actual real genuine pleasure of the activity – it beams out of people in a very genuine way

If they are not enjoying it, then acting is always a good idea!

Adam Rippon on Dancing With The Stars: Athletes
Adam Rippon on Dancing With The Stars: Athletes

What makes it so fun to watch is that athletes in the show are pretty much beginners. What are the most common rookie mistakes and how can people correct them?

I think we have got to make a distinction between people who are just doing it for fun (and professionals).

It's difficult to say what mistakes are because if people are dancing and having fun - then that’s all we need.

When it comes to DanceSport, the most important thing is to get clear and consistent training on one line – it's very easy to get deviated to different specialists.

But, in the beginning, it's good to get a foundation in one direction. So, if anyone is thinking of taking up competitive activity - find a good teacher and stick with it.

Gold medal winning Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez celebrates her win back in 2016
Gold medal winning Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez celebrates her win back in 2016

The television programmes are a bit of a hybrid. Of course, they are beginners because they haven’t done DanceSport before.

But, at the same time, you don’t expect them to have great technical or stylistic skills. It takes years and years get to that level so to judge them on that would be a little bit unfair.

I think why athletes, and especially Olympians, do so well is because although they may be technically terrible - and they probably are, to be honest - they've got good bodies.

They stand up and look good before they begin and they can usually move effectively.

You've hinted that Olympians are a good fit for dancing contests because they can control their body. Is it down to their mental strength as well?

Yes. Absolutely. Most of them have a competitive attitude. They are in it to win it.

The other advantage is that Olympians are used to performing in public before a live audience and with pressure and with live TV.

Olympians come armed with a load of skills and experience that others may not have.

Put your coaching hat on for me, Peter. There are millions watching at home and loads of people in the studio. What would be your one bit of advice for someone about to perform on that stage?

Stand up. Look good.

Very simple.

The moment you get obsessed with where your feet are going – by the time you come to the performance then it's too late.

But if you can stand up and look good for the entire dance then you are going to be quite successful.

Olympic Luger Chris Madzer with dance partner 
Olympic Luger Chris Madzer with dance partner 

DanceSport isn't an Olympic sport, yet. How proud would be if you one day saw your sport at the Olympic Games?

There is already a precursor to that because at the Youth Olympic Games (in October) one branch of the World DanceSport Federation will be competing with breaking.

If that is successful then I think that will definitely help in persuading the IOC to accept DanceSport.

There is so much evidence now about the physical and mental strengths that the athletes need. (I think it) does deserve a place as (an Olympic) medal sport.

This interview was edited and condensed to make it easier to read.

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