Behind The Scenes Of Dancing With The Stars

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Antonio Brown and partner Sharna Burgess get down to business during rehearsals. (Photo by Adam Raia)
Antonio Brown and partner Sharna Burgess get down to business during rehearsals. (Photo by Adam Raia)

Dust off your dancing shoes and loosen those hips, because Mondays are about to get a whole lot more rhythmic. The addicting show that is Dancing with the Stars returns to the ballroom on March 21 and as hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews can tell you, you won’t want to miss it. But it’s Adam Raia, the senior field producer of the show, who shared behind-the-scenes secrets, what happens outside the ballroom and why you should tune in this season, if you haven’t already. 

“I’ve been with Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) for seasons eight through 22, with the exception of season 19,” said Raia, who is a born New Yorker. “I started to work as a production assistant and did a lot of commercials, like the big Budweiser commercials, Michael Jordan and McDonalds.”

Raia also worked on Law and Order SVU and Third Watch before landing the ballroom gig, but it was a first-assistant camera job on The Apprentice that got him into shooting.

“I found there was a more creative side in producing, because producers are the ones that work more with the talent and the story and develop it more that way,” he said. “DWTS producer Ashley Eden Schaeffer was in need of a cameraman to shoot potential dancer interviews, so they hired me for season eight and I was with Lil’ Kim and Derek Hough.”

On learning the initial choreography, Raia said the show only does about two-and-a-half weeks of rehearsal time before the first episode.

“You have to know how to do a lot. Every week I work with a different celebrity, and film their rehearsal package,” said Raia of the opening clips viewers see before each dance. “I was with Carlos PenaVega last season. You’re with the celebrity for about five to six days, interviewing them and doing camera blocking.”

DWTS_MirrorBall_DWTSFacebookpageDancing with the Stars is by no means a straight dancing competition. Both celebrities and professional dancers have had emotional breakthroughs and breakdowns when dancing, a realization that performance is more than just an art form.

“We talk with them every day, and we like to catch the real reality,” said Raia, adding that producers only have four days to put a video package together. “We look at what’s going on in their life, like last season when Alek Skarlatos went to the World Series and I went with him. That was an awesome experience.”

Raia said that one of his favorite aspects of the show is that in two hours viewers get to see so many things, like great musical guests and dance performances.

“The level of dance and competition is outrageous now. The production and what we do in a limited time is phenomenal,” he said. “Every week, the team sits down with the celebrities and dancers and asks what ideas they have.”

You would think that being a senior producer on the show means that Raia knows far in advance who will be dancing, but that is not the case.

Dancing With The Stars judges, Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor“No one knows who the celebrities will be until a few days before. I usually film the first meet-and-greet,” he said. “They use fake names and I find out that day who I’m meeting…it’s super-secret.”

Some celebrities don’t sign contracts until a few days before, but this season features actresses Marla Maples, Kim Fields, Mischa Barton and Jodie Sweetin, model Nyle DiMarco, musician Wanya Morris, TV hosts Ginger Zee and Geraldo Rivera and athletes Doug Flutie, Antonio Brown, Von Miller and Paige VanZant.

According to Raia, the level of production and dance is unlike anything on television on a weekly basis.

“Tom Bergeron is so funny and so quick on his feet, and when some-thing happens live he can catch it in a minute and make a joke out of it. So can Erin Andrews,” he said.

The live aspect is becoming so popular in today’s society, and that is one of the aspects that Raia attributes to the show’s 10-year plus run.

“If our professional dancers aren’t the best dancers in the world, then our show isn’t a success,” he said of the dancers, who come up with choreography a few days prior to showtime. “I get to experience that right in front of me.


 

For more about the dancers on season 22 of Dancing With The Stars, see Back In The Ballroom

https://liweekly.wpengine.com/back-in-the-ballroom/

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