On Monday night's Icon Night episode of Dancing With the Stars, AJ McLean and partner Cheryl Burke were eliminated by the judges, and to put it simply, Burke is not pleased. The duo sat down with Entertainment Tonight following their elimination, and Burke expressed some concern over whether the judges' scoring system is inconsistent.
"What are the rules?" Burke said. "What are you judging? What are you expecting? Are the rules the same as when Len was here, or is it different? Is this a ballroom competition, or is it not? This is simple." The dance pro's comment referred to Len Goodman, a former judge on the show who was unable to film this season as he could not return to the United States due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Goodman has a strong ballroom background and a reputation as being the strictest judge to focus on official ballroom technique.
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"There's rules in ballroom, and this was a ballroom show, I thought," Burke went on to say. "It's just not consistent." Burke raised the issue of "breaking hold," which should lead to a point deduction in many ballroom dances including quick step, which she and McLean danced, as well as tango. "If you can't break hold in quick step, yet you're giving out perfect scores when people are breaking holds, what are the rules?" Burke said, likely referring to Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev's perfect score from earlier in the night for their Argentine tango.
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"I do think the judges score the celebrities against themselves," Burke said. "I do not think that AJ and Nelly, for example, are on the same plane. If AJ were to do what Nelly has done, they wouldn’t give him the same score. They do put people that they think have dance experience up on a different pedestal."
Unlike McLean and Burke, Nelly and his partner Daniella Karagach did advance through last night's episode to the semi-finals. Burke was shocked by her team's elimination, saying, "I already had his other two routines choreographed for the semi-finals. Normally I'm not that confident going in, but I was like, 'For sure, there's no way [we'll get eliminated].'"
And though McLean did call his surprise elimination a "major bummer," he seemed OK with the judges' final decision. "I've always been one to bow out from whatever the situation is with ease and grace and with a lot of gratitude," McLean said. "Honest to God, I've made a lot of great friends here, both on the stage and off the stage."
The show's semi-finals will air next Monday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.
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