Reality dance stars step up
By STEVEN MARK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Ready to get your dance fix on?
Then waltz on over to “Ballroom With a Twist,” a mix-and-match program of song and dance featuring stars from some of today’s hottest reality talent TV shows.
“Dancing With the Stars” dancers Cheryl Burke and Maksim Chmerkovskiy will be among the artists taking the stage, joining “DWTS” colleagues and performers from “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “American Idol.”
‘BALLROOM WITH A TWIST’
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
“It’s a very high-energy, two-hour show,” Burke said. “We go into the audience and get them moving. It’s really a chance for them to connect with us. A lot of people have questions, and they’re always interested in (the) behind-the-scenes of ‘Dancing With the Stars.’”
Burke is a Bay Area native who feels right at home in Hawaii’s multiethnic society, being half-Filipina herself. She grew up doing ballet and ballroom dancing and was into competitive ballroom dancing when she got invited to join “DWTS.”
“I actually turned them down (at first) because I didn’t know about the show,” she said. “I didn’t know how long it was going to last and I didn’t want to waste all those years of training.”
She expected to do only one season, but she’s been on the show for 10 years — 17 seasons.
Burke described a grueling schedule, working every day to prepare for the show. Teams prepare for three weeks before the performances begin as well. Burke said she checks out her prospective partner — “if he’s flexible, if he has rhythm” — and bases her choreographies from that.
Both of her two victories in the show — she’s the only competitor to have repeated — came with surprises.
Her freestyle choreography to “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” with Drew Lachey won her the “DWTS” mirror-ball trophy in 2006 and was voted the most popular routine in the show’s history. She initially didn’t even want to do it because “I did not want to do country,” but Lachey pressed her on it.
“I listened to it, and it actually had a cool beat and rhythm and it was just something different that the show had never seen before,” she says now. “It was actually one of the most fun routines I’ve ever done.”
Her victory the next season was with football star Emmitt Smith.
“I had no idea who he was, and as soon as I met him, I was like ‘Oh crap, he’s a humongous football player. We’re going to be eliminated the first week,’” she said. “But Emmitt had so much rhythm, and he had so much charisma, and he just won America’s heart. … I think people were so surprised, because the show was so new at the time, to see a football player of his size be so light on his feet.”
CHMERKOVSKIY is coming off his first victory on “DWTS,” dancing with Olympic ice-dancing gold medalist Meryl Davis.
His 14 seasons on the show have a storybook quality. They were marked by controversy initially, with video clips suggesting a tough-love approach with his partners that might have hurt him with voters.
But to Chmerkovskiy, it was merely evidence of the passion that he brings to his craft.
“I was always very honest, and that honesty didn’t translate too well on television, hence the bad-boy image,” said Chmerkovskiy, whose online spats with former partner Kirstie Alley added to his notoriety and who also enhanced his public profile via a “friendship” with Jennifer Lopez.
“With Meryl, that was the first time that the production let me be me, and not necessarily guess what I wanted to say,” he noted. “I was not packaged to be that dark prince.”
After so many seasons on the show, he sounds like many an athlete talking about the demands of competition. Though he knew he had a good partner in Davis, he tried to take each week “one dance at a time” and applied himself not just physically, but mentally as well.
It took calculation to figure out how to get a skater accustomed to gliding across ice to dancing across the floor.
“I couldn’t just — no pun intended — skate by on the fact that she had that great background,” he said. “I found that it was just as difficult as working with someone that did not have any dance background.”
Chmerkovskiy was prepared to hear that he had lost the finale, having experienced that loss four times previously.
“I’m standing there, honestly thinking there’s no way I won, and when they give me the mic and ask what do you feel right now, having lost yet again, I just didnt want to be a sore loser and say some stupid s– that I would not be proud of,” he revealed. “When they called my name, it was a win-win.”
Chmerkovskiy was born in Ukraine and, though he took dancing lessons at a young age, wanted to be an athlete when he was young. He overcame a devastating childhood skiing accident to become a successful Latin ballroom dance competitor.
Though he will continue dancing, he has announced that he is retiring from “DWTS.”
Part of that decision is the grueling nature of the show.
“By week seven, no matter who you have, no matter how brilliant they are, no matter how easy they are to work with, your body is exhausted and you just want to die,” he said.
Nonetheless, his victory also has given him a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for what he does so well.
“I never really appreciated myself or the talent that I have, till now,” Chmerkovskiy said. “So now I do a show like ‘Ballroom With a Twist.’ I never would do this kind of thing before.
“Finally I said yes to these things because I just want the stage. I love the stage, I love to move, I love the audience interaction. I want to say thank you — live.”
Note: “Dancing With the Stars” announced its lineup of professional dancers this week. Cheryl Burke, Val Chmerkovskiy, Karina Smirnoff and Tony Dovolani, who perform in Hawaii in “Ballroom with a Twist,” are returning, along with Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Peta Murgatroyd, Emma Slater and Witney Carson. New pros include Artem Chigvintsev, who has been part of the show’s dancing crew, and new additions Keoikantse “Keo” Motsepe and Allison Holker.