Can Mirai, Arike or Chris Break the Salsa Curse on 'Dancing with the Stars: Athletes'?
Can Mirai, Arike or Chris Break the Salsa Curse on 'Dancing with the Stars: Athletes'?
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
When it comes to the first routine on Dancing with the Stars, fans usually know what to expect. For the overwhelming majority of couples, their ballroom journeys begin with a Cha-Cha-Cha, Foxtrot or Waltz. But in recent seasons, new styles have been added to the first night's dance line-up and the one you definitely don't want is the Salsa.

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While there isn't a ton of data, it's worth noting that none of the couples who have ever performed a Salsa as their first routine have ever made it to the Final 3. In fact, the overwhelming majority of night 1 Salsa dancers tend to go home in the first few weeks of the competition. Is the style cursed? Let's look at the evidence.

A Brief History of First Dances

For the first 15 seasons of DWTS, the first dance for almost every couple was either a Cha-Cha-Cha-, Foxtrot or Waltz. Season 9 is the one exception, when four women were given the Salsa. The show switched things up in season 16, adding Contemporary as a week 1 style for three seasons. In season 19 the Jive was introduced to night 1, with the Quickstep joining in season 21 and the Tango in season 22.

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Those are all of the styles that have been performed on the first night of the competition, though the Cha-Cha-Cha, Foxtrot and Waltz remain the gold standard.

Success with Other Styles

To fully understand the Salsa Curse, you first have to understand that these other styles that have been added in recent seasons have resulted in some very successful stars.  Zendaya and Corbin Bleu both had Contemporary as their first routines and both finished in second place. The Jive was the first style given to Alfonso Ribeiro and Bindi Irwin, two winners, while season 25 champion Jordan Fisher kicked things off with a week 1 Tango.

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In season 24, David Ross and Normani Kordei, who finished in second and third place, both began with a Quickstep. Clearly being given one of these different week 1 styles has not been an impediment for success on the show.

The Salsa Curse

This brings us to the Salsa Curse. A total of 10 couples have been given the Salsa as their first dance style: four from season 9 and two each in seasons 21, 24 and 25. Sadly, the results are not good.

In the three most recent seasons, the Salsa was the first dance for Barbara Corcoran, Derek Fisher, Charo, Erika Jayne, Victor Espinoza and Kim Zolciak. None of them scored better than a 6 from any of the judges for their Salsas and all of them were among the first four couples eliminated from their seasons. That's a pretty damning trend.

Back in season 9, the news wasn't much better. Kathy Ireland and Debi Mazar both had Salsas that earned 16s from the judges and both were among the first five couples eliminated from a massive 16-person cast. Natalie Coughlin didn't do much better, getting a 19 for her Salsa but still going home in 10th place.

The only good week 1 Salsa in the show's history came from season 9's Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough, who earned a 24 from the judges and went on to finish in fourth place. However, that's the rare exception to the rule.

Will Season 26 Break the Curse?

Now the question is whether this curse will doom the three athletes who will perform Salsas on the premiere of season 26. It could certainly be bad news for Arike Ogunbowale and Chris Mazdzer, two relatively unknown athletes who might be in serious danger of going home the first or second night, especially if they get the kinds of scores most Salsas get on night 1.

The hope, however, comes from Mirai Nagasu. As an Olympic figure skater, she certainly seems like an early frontrunner to win the Mirror Ball. She could certainly duplicate Joanma Krupa's week 1 Salsa score of 24. But if Mirai stumbles and fails to make it to week 4 (aka the finale), she can always blame it on the Salsa Curse.


Do you think there's a week 1 Salsa Curse, or is it just a coincidence that most of the stars who've been given that style happened to be bad dancers?

Dancing with the Stars: Athletes premieres Monday, April 30 at 8/7c on ABC. For more updates, like BuddyTV's DWTS Facebook page.


(Image courtesy of ABC)