Season 26 of Dancing with the Stars begins on April 30, but things are very, very different this season. In the past, the show always began its spring season in March, a week after The Bachelor finale. This year, the American Idol reboot came along with an enormous budget and is squatting on the prime Monday night real estate.
DWTS fans weren’t too thrilled to hear the news, but they are happy to have any sort of season. In May 2017, ABC announced they were going to do a junior version of the show with celebrity kids, but that changed at the end of Season 25 when the all-athletes version was revealed.
With Season 26 just around the corner, here’s all of the information we know about DWTS right now. Get ready for the glitter, the sparkle and the Mirrorball Trophy!
Fans can look forward to a four-week season. There will be 10 athletes competing on Season 26, and the show will be one night a week — no Tuesday results shows are scheduled this season.
For the first three weeks, the show will be two hours long. The finale show airs on May 21, but DWTS only has an hour to wrap up the season. According to ABC publicity, American Idol will also wrap up its season with a two-hour finale after DWTS.
What we're not sure about is how eliminations will be handled. Will eliminations begin the very first week? Will the show wait until the second week? How many contestants will be eliminated each week? There are a lot of questions left to be answered by DWTS producers.
Snowboarder Jamie Anderson, figure skater Adam Rippon and figure skater Tonya Harding were all confirmed as contestants (albeit unofficially) before we knew the official cast lineup for the mini-season. The rest of the Season 26 cast was announced on Friday on Good Morning America — a longstanding DWTS tradition. There will be lots of Olympic star power, with figure skater Mirai Nagasu, luger Chris Mazdzer and softball pitcher Jennie Finch all competing. Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale, retired pro athletes Johnny Damon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and football star Josh Norman will round out the cast.
Additionally, Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews will be back as cohosts of the show. There will only be three judges on the panel this season rather than four, however. Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman will return, but Julianne Hough shared with Entertainment Tonight that she will not be returning to DWTS for Season 26. Instead, she will be seen in a mentoring role with brother Derek Hough’s show World of Dance this summer.
What’s great about an all-athletes edition is that they tend to be very competitive contenders since they are in top physical shape. They know how to work their bodies, even if ballroom dance is unfamiliar to them. Athletes work harder and rarely complain about the number of hours required to win DWTS.
While some athletes need to work on the performance aspect, that’s the type of thing gymnasts and figure skaters are already adept at. It’s why Olympians like Adam Rippon, Mirai Nagasu and Alex and Maia Shibutani have all publicly talked about wanting to do the show.
If you take a look at the winners over the last 25 seasons, 10 of them have been athletes. Football is the most represented sport with four wins followed by gymnastics with two wins, so it makes sense DWTS decided to do a special edition of the show.
Even with all these changes in Season 26, don’t get too concerned about DWTS being canceled, because the show has already been picked up for Season 27. The dance competition show will be back in the fall with a full season, which averages around 10 weeks. That demonstrates the confidence ABC has in the show’s longevity.
If you can’t wait until the fall, Dancing With the Stars Junior already auditioned for young pros in February. While ABC hasn’t given the show an official timetable, DWTS pros Cheryl Burke and Karina Smirnoff have hinted the network is aiming for a summer release. In fact, Burke would love a very specific role on the pint-size show. “There is also talk of Dancing With the Stars Junior in the summer and I’d love to come back for that as a judge,” Burke wrote in her Season 25 DWTS blog for Us Magazine. “Coming fresh off Dance Moms and being a kid myself when I started ballroom, I think I would be the perfect judge. I know exactly what these kids are going through because I went through it, and I know how to handle kids from what I saw on Dance Moms. I’d love to be part of both shows.”
Dancing With the Stars premieres April 30 at 8/7c on ABC.
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