TV

Why Dancing With The Stars is so much more than just an entertainment show

It's glitter and sequins on the surface, but behind the dazzle there is so much more to this show.

By Karyn Henger
In a week's time it will all be over and there will be many people left with "a hole in their life that wasn't there before", to quote finalist Clint Randell.
We're talking, of course, about Dancing With The Stars ending. Its final live show airs on Sunday June 16 when the glitter ball trophy will be fiercely contested by finalists Clint Randell, William Waiirua, Manu Vatuvei and Laura Daniel and their respective partners.
The winning couple will be announced and then the studio packed up, the costumes put into storage and everyone will go back to their former lives.
For some New Zealanders the series' ending will have little to no bearing on their lives, but for the stars and their dance partners as well as the show's production and support crews, they will likely feel a void. After 10 weeks of the kind of intensity that only comes with creating live television, not to mention the hours upon hours of training sessions and rehearsals that they've been involved in, life will feel empty.
Last year's winner, Samantha Hayes, spoke of finding herself in "a real funk" after the series' end.
"I felt physically and emotionally exhausted, and just really down," she told Woman's Day. "I missed the cast and the crew – you make all these deep friendships, but just like that, it's over. I've since found out it's a real thing – actors and musicians call it the post-show blues."
I've been to a few live shows and those connections are clear to see.
Manu and William seem like brothers, constantly joined at the hip, play fighting and joking around.
And at Monday's semi-final, from across the dance floor Laura Daniel made love heart shapes with her hands to Nadia Lim as Nadia waited to hear if she would be eliminated. (She was.) Nadia made heart shapes and catching motions back. Like Manu and William, these two have forged a very real bond.
William Waiirua and Manu Vatuvei are like brothers on DWTS.
Many of the celebrities claim they'll continue dancing after the show, but as co-host Sharyn Casey pointed out at the semi-final, so far no one has. Maybe, like a holiday romance, it's best left there where the memories are preserved as wonderful.
Ballroom dancing is not for the faint-hearted. Even when you don't have to train as intensely as you do to keep up with the pace of DWTS, there is still blood, sweat and tears. It's physically demanding and you have to put hours in to get results.
You get a sense of this when you hear elite athletes like former All Black Glen Osborne say he's never worked as hard as he has on this reality TV show.
My daughter was involved with ballroom dancing for a few years and I saw first-hand what went on behind the scenes. The dancers make it look beautiful and effortless. You don't see the pain.
But if they never dance again they can be so proud of what they've achieved.
These men and women, irrespective of how far they made it in the competition, put their lives on hold and helped raise thousands of dollars for their chosen charities. They also raised public awareness about them and campaigned for them outside the TV and dance studios, in their own time.
They pushed their bodies to their limits; they pushed themselves well out of their comfort zones, and in doing so made themselves vulnerable in a way that had a profound effect on viewers (an average of 146,000 per episode in the 25-54 years demographic).
In the cases of Manu Vatuvei and Glen Osborne, in particular, revered as hard men on the rugby and league fields, respectively, this has done so much for men's mental health.
They showed Kiwi men that it's okay to cry, it's okay to express your emotions and it's okay to allow others to see your 'soft' side. What an inspiration.
On Sunday the winner will be revealed (and if it's Randell there will also be a trip to the tattoo studio because he promised he'd get a glitter ball tattoo if he won.)
Commentators such as former DWTS dancer and judge Carol-Ann Hanna have observed that the level of dancing has never been this good so this final will be a fiercely contested one. The entertainment factor will be high.
Whoever wins can walk away knowing they absolutely deserved it. But every other cast member, dancer, production and support crew member should also walk away knowing that they contributed to something very special.
Dancing With The Stars is so much more than a glitzy entertainment show, and can only leave an indelible print on the hearts of many.