This week marked the 24th season of ABC’s long-standing, live competition show “Dancing with the Stars.” Coincidentally, this also marks the 400th episode for the series, for which the network has spared no expense in celebration of its accomplishments. Opening with a number aimed at replicating the Oscar-winning film “La La Land,” the cast waltzed onto the stage for their first dance of the season. 

Perhaps the most notable celebrity cast member this season is Normani Kordei, one of the members of girl band Fifth Harmony, which has received recent backlash after member Camila Cabello’s sudden departure. However, Normani is quick to distance herself from her singing career, announcing from the beginning that her grandmother’s love of the show is what ultimately compelled her to join the cast. True to her fierce personality as a member of Fifth Harmony, Normani leaves it all on the dance floor.

On the other side of the spectrum, “Saturday Night Live” alum Chris Kattan, with partner Witney Carson, embrace the comedian’s personality to perfection in their dance — so much so that the pair’s score for the night pulls them to the bottom of the ranks this season. Was their jazz number truly horrendous? Not necessarily, just pulled off in a novel approach that didn’t sit well with the judges. These discrepancies between the elements of a celebrity’s background and character that ultimately win over the judges and determines whether or not they will advance in the competition begs the question of subjectivity. While one couple’s tango is beautifully executed in terms of style and precision in step, another couple’s quickstep may suffer from too much of the celebrity’s personality interjected into their dance.

While some groups may choose to dress in the manner of their professions, others draw from their experiences. All in all, this trend seems to indicate that numbers choreographed in a manner least connected to the dancers seem to work the best on “DWTS.”

Another example of this is the performance of professional bull rider Bonner Bolton and dancing companion Sharna Burgess. Though they performed their country cha cha with unmistakable chemistry and a hint of sass, their overall score kept them situated nicely in the middle of the competition. One of the main influences of their performance came from Bolton’s bull riding days, as the couple struts the stage with blue jeans and plaid shirts, cha cha-ing the stage with a southern strut and bedazzling the crowd. Alternatively, Simone Biles, a gold medal Olympic gymnast, stunned with a beautiful dance. Biles is clearly the frontrunner of the competition, if she can continue producing equally exquisite moves in future performances. What differentiates these two pairs, once again, seems to be their ability to incorporate style and the way in which strong elements of their personalities leak into their performances.

This season of “Dancing with the Stars” is clearly off to an interesting start, as the dancing duos attempt to balance out their interests and bring the best aspects of the personalities into their performances. Though some performers may learn from their mistakes, others grapple with the idea of letting go of personality quirks in favor of higher scores. All points aside, the 400th episode is a true reflection of what “Dancing with the Stars” is all about.

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