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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dancing with the Stars: Juniors is very similar to Dancing with the Stars in structure but features teams of child and young teen stars and professional dancers. Contestants come from a range of backgrounds, from fame by association like NBA great Scottie Pippen's daughter Sophia to reality TV notoriety like Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson. As such, their dance abilities and ease in the spotlight varies greatly, but all seem to genuinely enjoy the experience of learning to dance and competing on this big stage. Contestants must learn to work with their partners and their adult mentors/choreographers and to step outside of their comfort zones to take chances on the floor. Judges encourage but offer honest criticism when its warranted, and all of the cast members show sportsmanship in victory and defeat.
What's the story?
Like its parent series, DANCING WITH THE STARS: JUNIORS is a reality competition that pairs accomplished ballroom dancers with celebrities for a series of performances and the chance to take home the coveted mirror ball trophy. Here the competitors are kids and young teens who have made names for themselves in entertainment, sports, reality TV, and even in one case a spelling phenom. Each week the couples will perform a dance in a different ballroom discipline, including foxtrot, salsa, and jive. At the end of each round of competition, a combination of judges' scores and studio audience voting determines which team is eliminated.
Is it any good?
This exuberant spin-off of a long-running reality competition favorite is a genuinely enjoyable watch, thanks to the enthusiastic young cast of stars and pros. There's a decided absence of hesitation among the contestants who, regardless of their dance skills (or lack thereof) coming into the competition, throw themselves into training and performing with gusto. Even when their stage work gets a little off beat, they obviously have fun doing it and seem to revel in the opportunity to learn something new. The whole package makes for great family entertainment.
The only thing missing in Dancing with the Stars: Juniors is audience involvement that helps drive the drama of the contest. Because eliminations are determined onsite by the judges and the live audience, viewers at home are left without any say in the results, which is a big miss for a show that has such broad appeal for families. Even so, there's a lot to like about the contestants' enthusiasm for the challenge, the diversity among the cast members that defies stereotypes about dancing, and the lessons in teamwork and perseverance that the endeavor holds for them. Oh, and the dancing itself is pretty spectacular considering many of the juniors are grade-school age.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this show's messages about stereotypes in dance and the performing arts. Did any of the pros surprise you in how they looked or performed? Before watching, did you think of ballroom dance as something that young girls and boys would enjoy? Does this show change your assumptions about that?
To what degree does a positive attitude influence the stars' performance success? Were there dances that lacked finesse but won you over because of the partners' personalities? How does this competition reward ability over attitude, or is there balance between the two factors? Did you agree with the elimination decision?
Besides teamwork, what other strong character strengths are evident in some or all of the competitors' efforts? How did the mentors and judges act as role models for the contestants? Were there times when the stars had to rely on their own strength to overcome a challenge? Were they successful in doing so?
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