Pop Culture

Don't like the 'Dancing' stars? Root for the pros!

“Dancing With the Stars” fans haven’t shied away from sharing their less-than-satisfied take  on the assortment of showbiz talent soon to join the 12th season of the ballroom bash. They’ve called the group “lackluster” and “barely recognizable.” Some have even considered tuning out all together.

It seems the thought of seeing Kendra Wilkinson or Mike Catherwood waltzing off with a win just isn’t exciting to many dance enthusiasts. And catching a glimpse of a sequin-covered Sugar Ray Leonard isn’t doing it for them either. So what’s an otherwise loyal “Dancing” devotee to do?

With Monday night’s premiere looming, it’s time to shift focus.

If Petra Nemcova and Ralph Macchio aren’t regarded as mirror-ball trophy material, just remember that “Dancing’s” top honors aren’t just for the (sort of) star-studded cast. Those ballroom bragging rights are shared by the professional hoofers tasked with turning all manner of celebrities into dance-floor contenders.

Don’t like the “Dancing” stars? Don’t worry! There are still plenty of deserving pros to cheer for when the season gets underway.

Overdue for ballroom bragging rights
Instead of getting worked up about dialing Romeo’s digits every week, consider giving his partner, Chelsie Hightower, the support. The “So You Think You Can Dance” alum has three good seasons under her ballroom belt. Granted, the less said about her fourth season alongside partner Michael Bolton the better. Then again, that wasn’t really her fault.

If Hightower doesn’t represent the high point of the professional footwork to come, just think of the other dancers long overdue for recognition, such as ballroom bad boy and Latin dance champ Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

The 12th season of “Dancing” marks Chmerkovskiy’s 10th term on the show. In addition to entertaining the crowd with his smooth moves and shirtless tendencies, the easy-on-the-eyes pro always offers extra entertainment with his attitude. Rehearsal footage reliably reveals his gruff backstage manners, and the 31-year-old’s on-stage encounters with “Dancing’s” veteran judges are often popcorn-worthy affairs. Surely he deserves a win for that!

On the off chance “Dancing” fans don’t agree about Chmerkovskiy, maybe they’re finally ready to reward the hardworking Tony Dovolani.

Dovolani’s long since brought his winning game to the stage, even if he hasn’t locked in a real win for it yet. His finale night runs with Stacy Keibler and Melissa Rycroft prove that. Still, there’s another reason someone should give him a trophy — just to make up for the dance-floor injustices Dovolani had to endure in 2010.

Last season, the 37-year-old left the show far earlier than his efforts warranted. That exit came courtesy of an inexplicable viewer vote that left Bristol Palin in the competition and Dovolani’s partner, Audrina Patridge, out. If that weren’t enough of a “Dancing” war wound, keep in mind that this is the same man who had to teach Kate Gosselin how to appear confident as she stumbled through each weekly routine two seasons ago. Talk about a thankless job.

No way to win this time
But let’s face it. Past performances aren’t going to win the pros any accolades. If they want to drum up big fan support, they’ll have to show equally big results with their pre-assigned celebrity sidekicks.

In other words, sorry, Chmerkovskiy and Dovolani!

It might be fun rooting for the fellas in the first few weeks, but with respective partners such as Kirstie Alley and Wendy Williams, the guys are doomed when it comes to the ultimate prize. Sure, the women are bound to entertain with their big personalities, but Williams is a self-proclaimed left foot, and Alley’s not exactly known for her graceful moves.

Too bad. Unless you happen to be one of the other nine pro dancers in the running. At least they stand a chance — some more than others.

Keep an eye on the triple threats While Anna Trebunskaya, Louis van Amstel, Dmitry Chaplin, Lacey Schwimmer, Kym Johnson, Karina Smirnoff and the aforementioned Hightower all enter the competition with an equal shot and an equal incentive to go all the way, two top dancers have an extra reason to curry fan favor.

For two-time “Dancing” champs Mark Ballas and Cheryl Burke, this season offers a rare shot at the coveted three-peat.

It’s a feat that’s been accomplished only by Derek Hough, who won with Nichole Scherzinger, now-host Brooke Burke and last season’s leading lady, Jennifer Grey. Hough won’t vie for a ... four-peat? Quad-peat? Whatever. The point is he’s out of the running for season 12, so it’s up to proven pros Ballas or Burke to snag an extra impressive win this season. Both hoofers have the track record, the fan bases and somewhat promising partners to pull it off.

C’mon, Chelsea Kane and Chris Jericho! Don’t disappoint them.

Regardless of which pro wins and which ones get early exits, fans come out on top just by throwing their support behind the dance-floor regulars. Good or bad, all-star casts come and go. Pros are perennial. Pick a few favorites now and no future “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity line-up can really be a letdown.

Ree Hines is rooting for a first-time winner this season. If it can’t be Maks, maybe Louis or Anna will finally grab the glittery glory. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and tell her you pro pick.