Dancing with the Stars will be back for Season 29 on September 14, but not without some big changes. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a number of traditional aspects of the show have been changed for the safety of the cast and crew.
According to The New York Times, new episodes will be filmed without a studio audience and there will be no group dances from the professionals. Season 29 will also forgo the staple sky box where the celebrities and their partners used to head after their performances to get their scores and watch their co-stars.
Another big change will see the judges — Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Derek Hough (who will be taking over from Len Goodman due to travel restrictions) — sit at an “extra long table” that keeps them eight feet apart. Len is expected to call in remotely from his home in the U.K.
Cameramen will stay out of rehearsals as remote cameras will be installed to capture how the couples are training in between shows, while the celebrities and their partners will be tested for the virus five times a week.
If either tests positive, it means they’ll be instantly eliminated from the competition, though neither is required to wear masks during dances.
But despite some glaring differences, DWTS probably won’t be constantly addressing the pandemic each week.
“If you want to know you are in the middle of a pandemic there are a million places you can go,” said Rob Mills, the ABC television executive overseeing the show.
“What we want to do is give you a respite from that and just entertain you for two hours,” he added.
Executive producer Andrew Llinares said this year’s series “will be much more about the couple and the dance again.”
“It takes [it] back to the core of what it is really about,” he added.
Professional dancers and real-life couple Sasha Farber and Emma Slater previously told ABC 7 last month that those involved have had to self-isolate and couples must live apart for the duration of the season.
“They’ve covered every angle: masks, cleaning the studios, sanitizing, and making sure the husband and wife — people are not together because if one of us gets it, that’s two couples out of the competition,” Sasha said.
In addition to the COVID-19 related changes, Dancing with the Stars has also seen a big hosting shake-up.