By Carrie Ann Inaba
April 29, 2009 at 09:39 PM EDT
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Week 8 has come to a close on Dancing With the Stars and Chuck and Julianne have gone home. I think from here on out it is going to be very difficult to watch people leave, because this season has had a very special feeling to it. I’ve never seen the competition so close before and because of that competitiveness, we are watching these celebrities who aren’t professional dancers come out and do things that are amazing. There are breakthroughs and breakdowns. We are seeing more injuries this season than ever in the past and I do think it is because it is so competitive out there. It’s an exciting season on so many levels and I can’t wait for next week when they start doing two dances on their own.

I wanted to comment on Chuck and Julianne….I  found their journey to be particularly interesting because they were and still are a real-life couple. Their training video packages always had a different feeling to them and sometimes were uncomfortable to watch because unlike with the other pairs, it was their personal life that we were watching. When they argued or when Julianne was tough on Chuck, you couldn’t help but wonder what their real relationship was. And I think that made it difficult to watch. Of course, as judges, we only judge what we see on the dance floor — but the audience votes on what ever they want. I don’t think they (Chuck and Julianne) realized how much of a toll this show would take on their real-life romance. I was happy to hear that they are still together — but Chuck didn’t thank Julianne tonight, which I found a bit strange. I am sure he meant to — and in that last minute I’m sure they have so many things to say, so much to express. But he didn’t thank her for her love and her support. Most partners always express their affection for their partners.

I think that it took them some time to negotiate how to separate “reallife” from the dance competition. The roles we play in our own personallife may not be the roles we need to play on the dance floor. Ballroomand Latin dancing is all about role playing and taking on these“personas” that are heightened and highly theatrical versions of partsof ourselves. When you are dancing with someone for the sole purpose ofwinning a dance competition it is one thing, but when you are actuallydancing and acting with the one you love and go home to, it is a bitmore complicated. Many of us dancers have danced with our significantothers and many of us will tell you that it is not easy. It puts astrain on the relationship. When one person gets more attention, whenone person doesn’t do the moves right, when one person is off counts orforgets the choreography, it is something you can talk about when youget home. Your partner can be sympathetic to you and your needs, butwhen that person is also your partner, it is difficult to “leave it onthe dance floor.” I think that in the end, even though Chuck andJulianne had a very different journey than any other couple has in thehistory of the show, they ended up doing a brilliant job of overcomingtheir personal obstacles and that is what this show is truly about. Itis about overcoming things — growing up and expanding who you are. Iwish them both the best in their country careers and hope that theywill have fond memories of their time together on DWTS as the onlyreal-life couple to dance together. It took courage on some levels forthem to put themselves out there the way they did.

I’m glad they left on a high note, with a great performance and abreakthrough under their belt. But mostly, I’m glad that they lefttogether with a smile and still holding on to each other.

Now, the dancing — there were great performances, but you all saw thatyourselves. That Team Tango was brilliant when they danced in unison.We’ve seen many different approaches in the team dance and doing unisoncan always be risky if you are not clean and dancing as a team. Theydid exactly that and it was a beauty to see!

It was too bad about Melissa not being able to dance. She was thecaptain of her team and wasn’t able to help them with the scores. I dothink that had an effect on the outcome of the performance. I thinkLacey did an INCREDIBLE JOB out there with Tony — with little to notime to learn the dance — but in the end I think that her performancein the number hurt the celebrities who came after her. She almostoutshone the others…we didn’t judge Tony and Lacey, but theirperformance affected the dynamic of the number as a complete showcaseof teamwork. It threw off the balance of the performance, I think.Also, the end of the group mambo was a bit odd. I did laugh and foundit cute and enjoyable, but at this stage when the competition is SOTIGHT, you would think they would have put forth their absolute besteffort to do a great performance and not go for camp. But this is whatmakes the competition so fascinating.

The professional dancers surprised me last night. I was particularlyimpressed with Mayo. His height could have been a hindrance but insteadit only made his high-octane jive larger than life! He really showed usthat he could do both Latin and Ballroom and do both very well! Lenmade that comment but we all thought it — that we didn’t think hecould do Latin. But he proved us all wrong and I congratulate him forit. Afton did a great job working with Genya on the quickstep — he wasup to par, but Afton stood out to me in that number. She is polishedand a great teacher — it was proven in that performance. Anna is abeautiful girl and a really well-rounded and entertaining dancer. Thisis going to be a tough one to call…Next week will be the real test.They will have to dance with a celebrity partner and create thechoreography. I think that is when the real judging begins. Justbecause you can dance well does not mean you will make a good partneron our show. You must be able to lead but know when to fall into thebackground so your star can shine. You must know how to choreographperformances that will highlight your celebrity’s talent and hide theirflaws. You must be their support system and friend through all of theups and downs. You must coach them on their performance and be theshoulder for them to cry on when the judges are tough…It is not easy onthis show. The professional dancers have it rough and are the unsungheroes of our show. They work so hard to make their celebrities lookgood. And yet they will never be the “stars” of “dancing with the stars”– they will always be the professional dancers. But that is an honorthat is really worth applauding. Here’s to the pros! I salute you all.

Okay, one last thing before I go. The auction closes today for my DWTS Experience Package on, and I wanted to thank everyonewho bid on the package. The money raised will be going to the AndreaRizzo Foundation to help children with Cancer and special needs haveaccess to Dance and Movement Therapy to help them regain their sense ofself and control over their bodies. It is a wonderful charity and Iwant to thank my mom for inspiring me to get more involved in charityand giving back.

Remember to have fun in life and enjoy.

And don’t take things too seriously — remember, we are a reality showwhose trophy is a small disco mirror ball. It was always meant to makepeople smile and to be fun, not to make people upset and be cruel. So,smile and stay positive. We are going through rough times, but itdoesn’t help to be negative with each other. We can disagree withoutbeing disagreeable.

Have a beautiful week and we’ll see you Monday!

Until then, take care of yourselves.
Carrie Ann

More on Dancing With the Stars:
Carrie Ann’s blogs: Week 7, Week 6, Week 5, Week 4, Week 3, Week 2
Annie Barrett’s ‘DWTS’ elimination recap: Pro Bonus
‘DWTS’: Season 8’s Crazy Costume Watch!

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