‘DWTS’ season 28 has been quite the roller coaster and judge Bruno Tonioli has seen it all. He spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about who has improved the most, what each finalist needs to do in the finals, and more.
Dancing With the Stars season 28 will crown another champion at the end of the Nov. 25 finale. It’s all down to Hannah Brown, Lauren Alaina, Ally Brooke, and Kel Mitchell. Like the fans, judges Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman, and Carrie Ann Inaba have seen the evolution of all the dancers since the premiere. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Bruno ahead of the season 28 finale.
Bruno noted that it’s such a “tight” race this season. “They all deserve to be there,” he said. He also discussed what he’s looking for in the highly-anticipated freestyle, the dance that all 4 of the finalists will be performing during the finale. In addition, the longtime judge offered his key advice to the 4 finalists and talked about Dancing With the Stars: Journey to Paradise.
Who do you think is the frontrunner based on talent?
Bruno Tonioli: I have to be honest, it’s so tight. It’s so close. Anyone really can win. I think really the first thing they have to do now is to try not to choke at the last hurdle. Sometimes in tennis matches, when you have very evenly matched players, they fail at the last hurdle. They get nervous, they make mistakes, and everything falls apart. I think they all have the ability. Don’t do something that the judges are going to pick on, obviously. And then the second part that always seems to clinch the final is the expectation that goes with the freestyle dance when they can do whatever they want. So, creatively, it’s a challenge but that is the dance that everybody remembers if they get it right. That’s where you get the public behind you, as well as the judges because it’s so close. The public vote is very, very important. When they get that dance right, you sense that they’ve won it. On points, it really is down to errors. They’re going to do their favorite dance again. They re-choreograph so that gives them a little bit more confidence. But there’s always a term of comparison with the first time. You have to be very smart about how you do it. But they’re all so evenly matched, to be honest. I get it. I get why the public is behind them. They all deserve to be there.
How do you feel about the elimination process this season now that you, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Len Goodman have had to make some of those tough decisions?
Bruno Tonioli: It’s in the UK show, so we’ve been doing it all the time. We make them dance again. I think it does give an opportunity to keep the best dancers in. Obviously, there are always people that complain about the judges. That will always happen. It goes with the territory, you know what I mean? I accept that. But I think overall we’ve been doing it in the UK from the beginning, so I’m used to it.
The remaining couples will be performing a freestyle in the finale. What stands out in the freestyle for you?
Bruno Tonioli: It’s a blend of creativity, spectacle, technique, and performance. Surprise me. We’ve seen them for 11 weeks, so you have some sense of expectation. When they turn it around and come out with a real show stopper, then you go, “Okay, you’ve shown me that you’ve got it.”
We’ve seen so many transformations over the course of this season. Who do you think has come the farthest and improved the most just from point A to point B?
Bruno Tonioli: Well, from point A, I would say Kel for me. At the beginning, there was some sort of distance. It felt like watching someone in a haze. And then all of a sudden, he found his footing, he found his persona as a dancer and as a performer. He showed range, he showed connection, ability, and, gosh, his commitment. It suddenly clicked. He has been a surprise.
There are things that the remaining finalists do need to work on. Is there anything specifically for each of them that you feel like they need to work on or that you would like to see them do?
Bruno Tonioli: I think Ally has to keep this trend going. Don’t choke. She’s proven she can do everything. So don’t get nervous at the end, because now this is it. This is the moment to prove. Kel has to maintain the momentum. He has to keep building on what he’s proven and go even further. Lauren is a great performer. She can sell it. We love her. But she’s the one that tends to do more mistakes. She has to really tighten up the technique. Hannah has to keep the growth as a performer. Physically, she’s very able. She has to show sides of herself that we haven’t seen. She has to expand her range, think of herself as an actress, and approach dance as a performing art.
What can you tease about Dancing With the Stars: Journey to Paradise?
Bruno Tonioli: It’s a big event. It’s like the Dancing With the Stars experience in The Bahamas. The location itself is breathtaking, and you have the dancers, myself, and there’ll be lots of events, entertainment, participation, surprises. It’s an unmissable party, let’s put it that way.