‘Dancing With the Stars’ Judge Carrie Ann Inaba Issues a Warning to Season 31 Semi-Finalists: ‘Keep the Rules in Mind’

DWTS’ Carrie Ann Inaba: Lifts Are Against ‘The Rules’ for Semi-Finalists
Carrie Ann Inaba. ABC/Eric McCandless

Playing by the rules. Dancing With the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba warned the season 31 contestants to make sure that they play it safe with their upcoming routines.

"To all the semi-finalists: Please ... No lifts tomorrow night," the former Talk host, 51, wrote via her Instagram Story on Sunday, November 13. "In watching the shows back, I see I may have missed a lift or two. The competition is very close so let's keep the rules in mind." Inaba concluded her post by wishing all of the remaining contestants "all the best" of luck before the next show.

DWTS’ Carrie Ann Inaba: Lifts Are Against ‘The Rules’ for Semi-Finalists
Courtesy of Carrie Ann Inaba/Instagram

The Hawaii native revealed in September 2015 that the DWTS producers made it a rule that dancers aren't allowed to lift their partners. While discussing season 21 Mirrorball champions Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough's tango. "I didn’t make it up. The producers have had this rule in place since the first season," she wrote in a blog for Parade at the time. "I know it upsets people but it is a rule."

Inaba added that the National Dance Council of America Rule Book defines a lift as "any movement during which one of the dancers has both feet off the floor at the same time with the assistance or support of their partner," while revealing that she doesn't enjoy docking points for lifts. "Just to clarify, I do not get any joy in docking a point for breaking a rule," she wrote. "Rules are rules and I do my best to enforce them."

Two years later, the choreographer revealed that the show's producers originally instituted the rule as a nod to traditional ballroom competitions. "From day one it was decided that there would be no lifts in the proper Ballroom and Latin dances, just like in a true ballroom and Latin dance competition, since that was the original basis of the show, to learn ballroom dances," Inaba wrote via Facebook in April 2017. "It [also] keeps it fair for competitors of all ages and abilities to compete on our show. It levels the playing field for those who have physical challenges that make lifts impossible."

She continued: "If lifts were allowed in every dance, people would start doing lifts to make their dances visually exciting, because truth be told, a good lift is always great to watch."

Inaba's judging style has been critiqued by fans in the past. In November 2020, she faced backlash from fans who felt she was judging Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvinstev too harshly because of her previous relationship with the Russia native.

“I think it’s hysterical. You know what I love though? This is what I love about the Bachelor fans and Bachelorette fans. They can create a story around it!” she told Us Weekly and other reporters at the time. “And it’s weird because I totally understood what they were doing. They’re like, there’s jealousy there and there’s this and that because that’s what the Bachelor and Bachelorette is all about, right? It’s about creating stories about everybody."

Inaba and Chigvinstev, 38, dated for three years before splitting in 2009. He moved on with Nikki Bella and the couple welcomed son Matteo in July 2020 before tying the knot in August.

"I love Artem, I respect him, I love him and Nikki together," she continued at the time. "None of [the backlash] bothers me. I know that people are passionate about Dancing With the Stars. They’re passionate about who they’re voting for. I love that. I will not stand for bullying of me or anyone. ... I’m never gonna stand for that, I’m never gonna support it. But I am OK with passion and I am OK with discussion."