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'Dancing With the Stars' pro Val: Forget the judges, it's about the fans

Steffen Thalemann

"Dancing With the Stars

"Dancing With the Stars" pro Val Chmerkovskiy will be blogging about his experiences and thoughts on his fourth quest for the mirror ball trophy in The Clicker throughout the season. The 14-time US champion in dance is paired with 16-year-old Disney star Zendaya, who plays Rocky Blue on "Shake It Up!" 

This blog post was written prior to Monday's premiere. Stay tuned to see how Val feels about being on top of the leader board with Zendaya in week one! 

I’m very excited to come out and perform my first dance with Zendaya! I’m really impatient with finally revealing the product. I think people are really going to enjoy it!

We’re doing the contemporary first. The dance is finished. We’ve been actually touching base on other dances and other techniques because I feel like contemporary is a dance that for Zendaya is way easier for instance, than the tango or the cha-cha or the rumba.

Contemporary, being that it’s a very interpretive dance style, it gives her a lot of freedom. In general, it’s more fitting for her prior dance experience. Something like the cha-cha that we’ve been trying to cover and the rumba, waltz and general principles, that’s what’s really foreign for her. Posture, keeping her shoulders down and keeping her extremely lengthy limbs in place and coordinated, those have been the biggest challenges. But she’s got a great working mind.  She’s got discipline. We don’t take breaks. We work really, really hard. That’s all A+.

When you think “Shake It Up,” you think youthful, very expressive shoulders, moving around, bad posture, kids wobbling … no offense! Just the polar opposite of what it means to be a queen (in ballroom), whether it’s waltz or foxtrot. Polar opposite of what it means to be an alpha female in the rumba, or the paso doble … it’s completely different genres of expression, of creativity. Just finding that maturity in her movement has been the biggest challenge. I don’t care about super crazy choreography.  I don’t care about coming out with some hip-hop. I’m not looking at her strengths and going, “All right, look. She knows how to do hip-hop, so I’m going to request every pop song that I can, then I’m going to choreograph a cha-cha that looks like hip-hop.” I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do a rumba that looks like authentic rumba and get real authentic rumba movements into her body so when she comes out, people aren’t looking at her like, “Pfft. All right, we expected her to do that.” They’re going to look at her and be like, “Who is that?! “ This is a different person doing things we haven’t seen and never thought we’d see her do. I want her to be flawless, really. I really want her to come out and be so ready and so prepared.

I’m sure our dance will deserve more than three 7s! We’ll try for that. I don’t know why – I’m not trying to sound cool – but I’ve never really prioritized the judges that much. I want Zendaya to dance really well, for her to put out a great, great number that I can call my parents back with and then they’ll be like, “That was great!” Where her parents can be proud of her, we’re proud of each other, and it’s a number that the fans like. Obviously for me, that means more than a 10 for me, more than any 30 that these judges can give. That kind of feedback from the audience, that’s my biggest priority.

I think Derek (Hough)said it best one time: “I’m not trying to get great scores, I’m trying to make YouTube videos.” That’s what it’s about. It’s about putting out a number that has all that entertainment value. Forget what the judges think. It’s about the visuals that really move people, that really inspire people, that will make people want to click on that video and see it again and again and again.

The judges are so sporadic and so random with their comments and their feedback sometimes that I’m not really even paying attention to them. And I don’t blame them! I just think that it’s a tough competition to judge! They’re put into places where … there’s discrepancies in their feedback. I’m sorry: How do you judge a 16-year-old girl against a 19-year-old gymnast? Or a 19-year-old gymnast versus a 65-year-old actress or 45-year-old wrestler? You can’t! Second of all, how do you judge a male dancer against a woman dancer?! They’re too different, doing two completely different things. There are different challenges for each. They’re a form of entertainment on our show, as are we. That’s how I treat the judges, with love and respect, but I don’t really preoccupy myself with trying to please them so much.

Guys, thank you so much for reading my blogs. I’m keeping it 100 percent honest and from the heart. Hopefully you enjoy that.

The “Dancing With the Stars” performance shows air at 8 p.m. Mondays on ABC.

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