Rules Dancing With The Stars Contestants Have To Follow

"Dancing with the Stars" is a unique reality competition show that brings celebrities into the ballroom and teaches them how to dance. In the studio, the competitors work with a professional ballroom dancer to learn the technique and discipline that is ballroom dancing. Each week, the couples perform live on stage in front of a studio audience and thousands of at-home viewers, showcasing everything they learned the week prior. The couples give it their all in hopes of improving each week, earning high scores, and getting enough viewer votes that they stay in the competition week after week. The winner of the show gets to take home the coveted Mirrorball Trophy and, of course, wins bragging rights to throw around whenever they feel it's appropriate.

Along with the grueling rehearsals, the tight-knit friendships, and the overall experience that is "DWTS," these celebs also have to play by a rule book that is fairly strict. From mandatory rehearsals and interviews to what they wear on the dance floor, there isn't too much wiggle room. We're taking a look at some of the rules set forth by production that "DWTS" contestants must follow if they ink a deal to appear on the show.

Casting directors have to seek celebrities out, not the other way around

Perhaps one of the more interesting rules for potential "Dancing with the Stars" contestants is that they can't volunteer to do the show. While there have been plenty of celebrities who have expressed interest in competing for a Mirrorball Trophy, those who are cast must be contacted by the team and not the other way around.

In a 2016 interview with Slate, "DWTS" casting director Deena Katz explained that only a small group of people who have reached out to be on the show actually landed the role, including WWE personality Stacy Keibler, who competed on Season 2. "It doesn't matter if you were the MVP of the Super Bowl. For your marketing, for your career, this is like Willy Wonka's golden ticket," Katz said.

Casting is an extensive process because, at the end of the day, "DWTS" is a television show. There needs to be the right mix of celebs, athletes, reality stars, and perhaps an unexpected name thrown in, just to make things interesting. "It's trying to find a little something for everyone and, yet, trying to find people that cross over a little more. And my dream is always you turn on this show because you're looking for one or two or you can't wait to see Carole Baskin, but then you end up falling in love with the people that you might not have been so aware of," Katz explained to Cinema Blend in 2020.

The celebrities have to keep their casting a secret

After the initial casting is completed for "Dancing with the Stars," the secret of who made the cut is kept quiet until the big cast reveal announcement. However, the cast members have to meet their ballroom professional partners before that, and rehearsals start shortly thereafter. While making their way to the studio, each celebrity is required to keep their identity hidden, which often means baggy clothing, hats, face coverings, glasses, and other disguises.

Over the years, "DWTS" fans have gotten pretty good at picking up on who might be on the cast and will often compare things like jewelry, tattoos, and even stature to try to figure out who might be on the season. For example, in September 2023, eagle-eyed fans noticed that someone walking into rehearsals appeared to be wearing the same bracelet that "Buying Beverly Hills" star Mauricio Umansky had been spotted wearing in some of his Instagram photos. The unique wrist wrap had multiple strands, including one with red beads. Despite completely covering his face with a tinted shield and having a sweatshirt over his head, fans had it all figured out. Sure enough, Umansky was cast in Season 32, dancing alongside pro Emma Slater.

Pro and star pairings are done strategically

"Dancing with the Stars" contestants are partnered with their professional dancers based on a number of factors, but their preferences aren't exactly at the top of that list. "There are some celebs that have wishes, and we always say we can't guarantee it. That's why we meet all the celebrities and know all the dancers because some celebs think they know better," casting director Deena Katz divulged to Glamour in 2015. "We are never ever going to try to pair people that we think won't get along," she added. Of course, this doesn't always work, and there have been some major "DWTS" feuds, though they are few and far between.

There's quite a bit more that goes into dance partnerships than just pairing up people based on their personalities, however. Height is also taken into consideration, especially with celebrity contestants who are or were in the NBA, for example. "They pair us on height and size, so it feels comfortable for the women and vice versa for the women when they're dancing," former pro dancer Mark Ballas told E! News in 2015. "They also try and make us compatible based on personality, and what they think will work well. Each one of the pro dancers has a different way of teaching, choreographing, and also just different personalities, as well as time-stamps on patience."

Showmances are not only allowed, but encouraged

We simply cannot talk about "Dancing with the Stars" without talking about the showmances. Piggybacking off the strategic partnerships, production is well aware that a flirtatious couple is good all around, whether that is simply for show, undeniable chemistry, or real love — and all three things have happened over and over again on "DWTS." While chatting with Glamour in 2015, executive producers Rob Wade and Ashley Edens both expressed being on board when love blossoms in the ballroom. It's no secret that people love love and that translates in the reality television world, getting people even more invested in tuning into the show. 

When it comes to "DWTS," there have been some incredible love stories that have lasted well beyond the ballroom, such as Season 31's Britt Stewart and Daniel Durant and Season 20's Kym Johnson and her eventual husband, Robert Herjavec. There have also been some close friendships that included plenty of flirting, which may have been dialed up to bring in the votes. Headlines have speculated about a budding romance on Season 32 between "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" husband Mauricio Umansky and his "DWTS" partner, Emma Slater, although they have denied any relationship. Plus, there were rumors surrounding fellow Season 32 contestant Harry Jowsey and his pro partner, Rylee Arnold.

Celebs are paid to compete on the show

It's interesting that some people don't realize that celebrities get paid to do "Dancing with the Stars." The paychecks aren't skimpy, either. Aside from getting a major boost on their social platforms and being able to market a brand simply by learning how to dance, competitors on the show also earn money, though every deal is different. According to Variety, the stars allegedly earn a base salary starting around $125,000 for an expected 20 hours per week of work for just two weeks on the show. Some celebs have reportedly earned upwards of $300,000, and even receive bonuses each week they stay on the show. For the most part, the monetary side of things is kept pretty hush hush, which, we imagine, is by design. 

The stars generally don't talk about the money aspect of the show, though some have shared what they plan on doing with the money. Ahead of Season 32, "Zoey 101" actor Jamie Lynn Spears said that she was planning to donate her "DWTS" salary. "I have this unique opportunity where I was offered a chance to work when my community cannot work, so I figured I'll do this, and I will donate my weekly salary to SAG, WGA. Just give back to them at a time where they can't even give to themselves," she said on "Good Morning America."

Lifts aren't allowed in certain dances

One thing on "Dancing with the Stars" that can result in a point deduction in scoring, if not followed, is the no lifts rule. A lift occurs when one partner lifts the other off the ground — even slightly. There are a couple of styles of dance in which lifts are allowed — such as contemporary — but a lift during the Paso Doble will cost you.

"From day one it was decided that there would be no lifts in the proper Ballroom and Latin dances, just like in a true Ballroom and Latin dance competition, since that was the original basis of the show, to learn ballroom dances," longtime judge Carrie Ann Inaba explained in a lengthy Facebook post in 2017. "If lifts were allowed in every dance, people would start doing lifts to make their dances visually exciting, because truth be told, a good lift is always great to watch."

Inaba also explained that keeping lifts at a minimum keeps things fair across the board, as some of the older competitors on the show aren't able to incorporate lifts into routines as easily as some of the younger contestants, for example. While the other judges tend to be a bit more lenient when it comes to lifts, especially small ones, Inaba said she plays by the rules and will absolutely deduct a point if she catches a lift where there shouldn't be one.

Rehearsals are required

When a celebrity agrees to join "Dancing with the Stars," they aren't just in the studio for an hour or two a day. They are inking a deal that includes their participation in daily rehearsals, the live show's dress rehearsal, camera blocking, and more.

"There are no off days. Everyone is dancing every day, building right up until Mondays/show days, when you arrive on the set at about 7 a.m. and you are there all day and all night. Then last night we had dance practice after the show until midnight. Then we all start our routines for next week ... It's exhausting, but it's also a total blast," Season 18 runner-up Amy Purdy told the Los Angeles Times in 2014. 

If a star has a prior engagement or something comes up, their partners will often travel with them to ensure they get enough practice time in. We saw this in Season 10 when Tony Dovolani traveled to Pennsylvania to practice with his then-partner, Kate Gosselin. And, on Season 32, Gleb Savchenko tagged along for Mira Sorvino's birthday trip to Mexico so they could rehearse before the live performance. 

DWTS has its own glam team the stars have to use

When it comes to getting ready for "Dancing with the Stars," the show's production team not only has you covered, but they don't give you any other choice. Hair and makeup artists are provided for each contestant, and bringing in your own outside team of people is not allowed. The well-trained, experienced personnel hired by production know what looks best when it comes to being on television and dancing ballroom. A unique skill, really. 

"As department heads, we've had to soften the look and find the balance between the show's competition and entertainment values," key hairstylist Mary Guerrero explained to Variety in 2015. Meanwhile, talent co-executive producer Deena Katz told Glamour that this policy is mandatory. "It's something we can't negotiate. We are so specific on what we do," she said. "The hair and makeup is all done for them."

For most stars, using the provided hair and makeup teams isn't a problem, but there have been some complaints in the past. For example, Season 12 competitor Kirstie Alley wasn't super keen on having someone else in charge of her hair and makeup. Katz told Glamour that the "Look Who's Talking" actor "fought" the process, but eventually let up. After it was said and done, Katz noted that Alley ended up hiring her "DWTS" makeup artist to work for her personally. 

Proper dance shoes are required

Wearing the proper ballroom shoes is required for every person competing on "Dancing with the Stars." For the women on the show, that means competing in heels for the majority of the competition. Cue the blisters! But there are reasons why women wear specific shoes during ballroom dance. One of those reasons is for the visual appearance, according to PureDWTS.

"The neutral flesh tone of the fabric blends nicely with the skin, giving a nice, long, unbroken line; the heels themselves of course make the women look taller, which in turn enhances the illusion of long legs," they answered in the blog post. There's also a technical need for the special shoes. "The shoes actually help to ensure that the ladies are using the proper technique in their dances."

Of course, there are times where high-heeled ballroom shoes aren't required, generally during contemporary routines. Moreover, injuries can cause an exception to the rule. On Season 32, "Vanderpump Rules" star Ariana Madix wore a pair of sneakers while dancing during a live performance. "I am dealing with an injury on my right foot," she told EW following the show.

Cast members are required to get weekly spray tans

Believe it or not, spray tans on "Dancing with the Stars" are required. Each week, the celebrity contestants and their pro partners get sprayed down to ensure that their skin is bronzed and glowing. While some contestants are hesitant at first to go under the spray gun, "DWTS" makeup artist Zena Shteysel explained to People that oftentimes, it's the last piece of the hair and makeup puzzle.

"They see that the reason that they're doing it is because of ... these costumes that they're wearing. [When] they're scantily clad, they're like, 'Bring on the spray tan,'" they said in the 2013 interview. When it comes to getting the male contestants and pros ready for show nights? "We'll do some abs, we'll carve that out if they're wearing, like, no shirt or an open shirt. We get lots of requests for that," the makeup artist recounted.

Known as "Spray Tan Sundays," the dancers have all worked this step into their schedules. "It's just always been a big show for spray tanning because it gives them just that beautiful, polished, flawless look on stage when they're dancing. They have so much skin showing that it's so important to have," body bronzing artist Julie Nostrand told Yahoo! in 2011.

Celebs can only keep their costumes if they purchase them

Each week, the costume team over at "Dancing with the Stars" is hard at work, designing, sewing, and making adjustments to more than a dozen costumes. Rhinestones, feathers, tassels, and just about everything in between is flying around trying to ensure that each costume fits each dancer like a glove. It's a very important — and pricey — step. According to Parade, the outfits worn on "DWTS" can cost upwards of $5,000 on materials alone. Former pro Tony Dovolani said that no one gets to wear their costumes until dress rehearsal. "There are alterations being made from dress rehearsal until the live show," he told Glamour.

Some of the outfits worn in the ballroom have been incredibly unique and detailed, such as Charli D'Amelio's Season 31 Marge Simpson costume. After the show, she shared a TikTok video during which she said that it took her more than one hour change into her street clothes, and then multiple showers to remove the yellow paint off of her body.

Costume designers Daniela Gschwendtner and Steven Lee told Parade that the costumes are organized in a storage area after each dance is completed. When the season is over, the celebrities can pay to keep their costumes; Stars who have purchased their entire season of costumes include Ricki Lake and Kristi Yamaguchi. The leftover outfits can then be recycled to use on the "DWTS" dance troupe.

Injuries can take a celeb out of the competition

"Dancing with the Stars" competitors have experienced many injuries over the years, from bruised ribs to broken bones. Sometimes, a celebrity can work through the pain, especially if it's only a broken toe or a hairline fracture. However, if a doctor says that a person is at risk of further injuring themselves by staying in the competition, they must withdraw. For example, supermodel Christie Brinkley actually never made it to the Season 28 premiere after she suffered injuries in rehearsals caused her to drop out of the competition. Her daughter, Sailor Brinkley-Cook, took her place. 

That same season, football player Ray Lewis had to see himself out after he aggravated an old injury in his foot. "Not the ending I had hoped or worked for but that mirror ball wasn't in the plans for me," Lewis captioned his Instagram post at the time. The health and safety of "DWTS" contestants is paramount to the production of the show, and some injuries just aren't worth pushing it.

Stars aren't allowed to wear any logos or brands on camera

Celebrities hoping to go on "Dancing with the Stars" to promote their personal brands by wearing shirts or hats with their logos on it will be out of luck. Moreover, if they want to wear other brands, like Nike or Lululemon? That won't fly either. The producers try to keep things neutral whenever the cameras are rolling, and while most contestants don't have any issues complying with that rule, there is at least one person who pitched an absolute fit over it.

"I was at a couple of [meetings] when Master P threatened to leave. He wanted to wear this jacket with a logo on it and threatened to leave because of it, and I was like, 'OK, you can wear the jacket!'" executive producer Joe Sungkur told Glamour. One thing seems very clear: Production wants to keep the show focused on ballroom dancing without any unnecessary distractions or hiccups — and that seems to work for (almost) everyone.