ABC’s Dancing With the Stars has historically broken down boundaries this season, with the show taking a lead role among reality fare with its first same-sex dance partners. But on an entirely different level, this is still dance, and — with many styles remaining gendered — when JoJo Siwa and Jenna Johnson take the floor together, who gets to lead?
JoJo and Jenna have graced Season 30 with impressively executed routines in an array of ballroom styles. Each week, the pair showcase immaculate dance technique, impactful emotional performances, and exciting lifts, dips, and tricks.
JoJo is the “star” of the pair, with Jenna the professional dancer; however, JoJo has an ample amount of dance training in her background. She placed fifth on the Dance Moms competition show spin-off, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, and of course gained fame from her time on Dance Moms.
As JoJo and Jenna breeze through this season on DWTS, they’ve been sweeping up eights, nines, and tens on the scoreboard. This past Monday, the couple awed judges and audience alike with an amazing It-themed jazz number and went home with the second perfect score of the season.
JoJo and Jenna take on traditional ballroom dance styles and techniques with grace and skill — and an impressive play on traditionally gendered partner work. Here’s a dancer’s look at the couple’s routines this season.
Episode 1: The Quickstep
JoJo and Jenna made DWTS history with their Quickstep routine, becoming the first-ever same-sex couple to grace the iconic stage. The number, set to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” opened with separated movements that showed off JoJo’s dance knowledge through syncopation that matched the ferocious beats of the song. The duo then made their first physical connection, with JoJo placing a leading hand on Jenna’s shoulder (the typical frame position for the male dancer in a pairing). They traveled across the entire stage, making phenomenal use of the space while continuing to execute the signature fast-paced footwork of Quickstep. After one minor slip, their redemption was flawless and they exited with the highest score of the evening.
Episode 2: Cha-Cha-Cha
In the next week’s Cha-Cha-Cha routine, Jenna and JoJo began to explore more intense partner work skills such as supported spins and dips that involved sliding into a split. The pair began to show that there does not need to be one defined leader in traditional ballroom styles as they swapped roles and supported each other. The transitions between this passing of leadership were barely noticeable, showing just how much skill the two have. The separated side-by-side work in this routine featured a blend of traditional cha-cha footwork and arm movements. There was also the incorporation of jazzier, commercial steps blended into the cha-cha patterns, adding rhythmic dimension and gorgeous dynamic quality.
Episode 3: Argentine Tango
Argentine Tango is, and always has been, my own favorite ballroom style. The technique allows for exploration of the lengthening qualities within music, which Jenna and JoJo executed well in this episode’s routine. Their eye contact was the most memorable part of this number, danced to Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time.” They maintained a constant connection no matter how far apart their bodies were. This routine also tasked the pair with high-level lifts that are typically performed by a male and female dancer. They truly showed that women can do absolutely anything as JoJo supported Jenna in a hip-level turning lift as well as a flipping, front cartwheel-style lift.
Episode 4: Viennese Waltz
JoJo donned a Prince Charming costume as she led Jenna, dressed as Cinderella, through elegant waltz steps that covered the entire stage. They moved directly down center stage, performing reverse turns, leading into a stable attitude turn in which JoJo provided root-like support for Jenna, allowing her to go off of her body’s central axis. This moment was highly technical and demonstrated both strength and grace.
Episode 5: Paso Doble
On “Disney Villains” night, Jenna and JoJo performed a fierce Descendants 2 themed routine. They maintained a proper Paso Doble frame with their arms, featuring a high and supported back elbow. Their arm motions — making incredible (and visible) use of their back muscles, providing strength and support — added something compelling and robust to the routine’s powerful nature. The judges were in slight disagreement about this routine, with Carrie Ann Inaba mentioning that it was hectic and Len Goodman countering it by noting that he felt it was controlled.
Episode 6: Foxtrot
Foxtrot is a close second in terms of my personal favorite ballroom styles, and Jenna and JoJo’s Grease-themed routine, based on the friendship of Sandy and Frenchy, was simply captivating. This was one of their strongest routines to date, with an enviable display of technique. The pair fulfilled the desirable goal within dance of having so much strength that it all looks effortless. They utilized their plié — aka, the bend in their legs — to their advantage, making their movements grounded and allowing them to travel while executing flawless footwork. Along with exquisite technical skill, the pair grabbed at hearts with raw emotional performances and a beautiful connection to the music.
Episode 7: Jazz
JoJo and Jenna’s It-themed dance proved that they are not only talented ballroom dancers, but they also have mounds of dance training in other styles under their belts. The power couple performed contemporary-based floor work and leaps that are common within modern jazz dance moves. JoJo wowed audiences with a technically perfect side aerial, which is a cartwheel performed with no hands. The pair also showed off another side of their impressive acting skills as they nearly frightened audiences in the Halloween-themed episode.
We look forward to what JoJo and Jenna will bring to the stage throughout the rest of their time on Dancing With the Stars, especially since it’s easy to look back at their routines so far with admiration. The pair have not only made history, they have also demonstrated that two female dancers can truly do anything that a traditional ballroom pairing can do, if not more.
Dancing With the Stars, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC