Surrounded by smoke, Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas stepped to the sharp beat with eyes wide and arms at an angle. Dancers dressed as zombies swirled at Ms. Robertson’s feet, as she twirled among fake tombstones and flashing lights.
Monday night’s “Dancing With The Stars” graveyard routine was a far cry from Ms. Robertson’s daily life in West Monroe, La. But the 17-year-old “Duck Dynasty” favorite has held her own in the 19th season of “Dancing With The Stars” – attracting fan support over the season’s nine episodes.
The pasodoble dance earned 30 of 40 points from the show’s four judges, the couple’s worst score this season. Despite the critical response, fans enthusiastically cheered Robertson and Mr. Ballas — dubbed “Team Quack Attack” on Twitter.
Sadie Robertson comes to “DWTS” from “Duck Dynasty,” one of the most popular cable-TV shows ever. It chronicles the life of Robertson’s family members, who operate a company that manufactures duck-hunting merchandise in Louisiana. While widely watched, the show has been criticized by some for perpetuating stereotypes of the south. Others say that it glorifies the family’s conservative, evangelical Christian politics.
Eric Deggans, television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, says there are two types of audiences drawn to Duck Dynasty and other so-called "redneck" TV hits: one group that “feels like they’re from that world, and another that likes to mock them.”
Clearly DWTS producers are savvy enough to weave the popular world of “Duck Dynasty” into the reality competition’s narrative. Some 13 million viewers watched Monday's episode, the biggest audience for any TV show that night, reports TV By the Numbers.
During her numbers, the camera often cuts to her family in the audience, who smile as they watch her dance. Earlier this month, several family members joined her onstage for a “Dynasty”-themed samba number, during which Ballas and Robertson flapped their hands to resemble a duck’s feathers.
“Do it for the family — do it for the Robertsons,” she said in a pre-dance clip before performing the samba.
Earlier this season, Robertson revealed that her father reviewed every outfit before she took the stage, making sure she showed “basic modesty,” ABC News reported.
“Out of respect, we ask my dad if it’s OK,” she said.
(“Those aren’t dresses, those are dishtowels,” dad said in one wardrobe review clip.)
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Sadie Robertson can actually dance.
In last week’s episode, the judges praised Robertson and Ballas for keeping their rumba dance “tasteful, essential, romantic and lyrical” — instead of letting it veer raunchy. That round, the couple received 35 of 40 points from the judges.
In the show’s 11th and 15th seasons, Ballas partnered with Bristol Palin, who also spoke openly about her Christian faith during and after her seasons on air.
“It is faith that brought me through this,” she told People magazine after placing third in the 2010 season. “Just praying on the time, just relying on God, and knowing that he is on our side and we’ll get through this.”