Competitors are pint-sized, but the rewards are big
Judge with Dancing With the Stars: Juniors says show was ‘magical’ to work on
There is no question for Mandy Moore, the choreographer who became famous for the Oscar-winning movie La La Land, who the stars are in Dancing With the Stars: Juniors.
It’s the 12 youthful celebrities, who range in age from 9 to 14, competing on the new reality show, a spinoff of longrunning ABC series Dancing With the Stars. It debuts Sunday on Global TV.
“Kids are magic, they’re fearless, they love to learn. They don’t come in with a lot of preconceived notions about anything,” says Moore, who is also known for her Emmywinning choreography on the grown-up DWTS as well as So You Think You Can Dance.
“We found the kids (on DWTS: Juniors) were really open to wanting to be better. If we gave them criticism or a critique or asked them to do something better, they really took it seriously to make it better for the next week.”
The “we” includes DWTS professional dancer Val Chmerkovskiy, and DWTS and figure-skating champion Adam Rippon, Moore’s fellow judges on Juniors.
Just don’t expect Len Goodman-style grumpiness or Bruno Tonioli-level antics. The trio had lots of discussions about how to handle the young competitors, who are paired with equally youthful professional dancers.
The judges didn’t want to be patronizing to the kids, but “No one wants to see a kid cry.” Twelve child celebrities ranging in age from 9 to 14 are paired with youthful professional dancers on Dancing With the Stars: Juniors, a spinoff of the long-running grown-up ABC series.
At the same time, “I’ve found that kids love authenticity,” says Moore. “They can see when you’re being truthful to them and they can understand that.”
So, the judges settled on helpful critiques prefaced with compliments about things the kids did right.
“We ended up being another set of eyes to help them get better.”
And get better, they did, Moore says. She believes viewers “are going to be inspired by these kids’ evolution through the weeks. They grew a lot.”
“These kids would come out and be pulling out these tricks or pulling out styles, where you would think, ‘How are we gonna get away with an Argentine tango with a 10year-old?’ but we’re doing it.”
Another thing that impressed Mandy Moore, Val Chmerkovskiy and Adam Rippon are judges.
Moore was the camaraderie among the cast, “which doesn’t always happen on the big show.”
“That team dynamic between mentor and pro and celebrity was really beautiful to watch … the way they would care for each other and hold
hands when someone was eliminated (and were) literally screaming their faces off” when their friends performed.
Moore, 42, got her own start as a dancer taking lessons in a studio in the small town of Breckenridge, Colo., where she grew up.
She hopes there’s always a place for dance on TV, but she’s also thinking about “the next wave” and the fact that dance will likely have to be presented differently as viewers increasingly consume TV in non-traditional ways.
For now, she hopes viewers enjoy watching Dancing With the Stars: Juniors as much as she and the rest of the cast enjoyed making it.
“We felt it was magical.”
Who’s competing? Find out at thestar.com/television