Let's get right into it this week!
TALKING WITH THE STARS
"Dancing With the Stars" professional dancers Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya are coming to Chautauqua Institution Friday at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater as part of "Ballroom With a Twist!" a national tour directed and choreographed by Louis van Amstel, also of "Dancing With the Stars." The tour also features Kristi Yamaguch, Sabrina Bryan, star of Disney Channel's "The Cheetah Girls," a dance ensemble of 14 dancers and two "American Idol" singers. (Visit www.ciweb.org for ticket information). I spoke with Jonathan and Anna, a married pair of ballroom dancers, about the tour and their experiences on "Dancing With the Stars."
Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya of “Dancing With the Stars” will be part of Ballroom With a Twist! at Chautauqua Institution on Friday.
Can you tell me a little bit about Ballroom with a Twist?
Jonathan Roberts: It's a combination of, I think, the most successful reality shows in America, really based on the format of dancing. You have dancers from "Dancing With the Stars" and from "So You Think You Can Dance," and some singers from "American Idol." It's not just a singing show or a dancing show but everything mingled together. There's so many different dance styles, from hip hop to ballet, contemporary, to Latin dancing to ballroom dancing, it's just a very interesting show.
Ballroom with a Twist is a national tour -- how long have you been on tour so far?
J: Anna and I ourselves don't do all of the dates. We do, I think, five of the summer dates of the tour. Because everybody's schedules get very busy, they have a core group of company dancers and then they bring in different couples from "Dancing With the Stars" so it kind of ends up being a different show every time. This is our first show of the summer and we're very excited about it.
Are you and Anna going to be doing "Dancing With the Stars" next season?
J: We never know for certain. The way the show works, they cast all the celebrities first. Once they sign their contracts, then they pair us up, based on height, personality, things like that. So what often happens is people don't sign the contracts until the last minute, so they can never 100 percent confirm us until they have the celebrity confirm. So it's kind of a last-minute deal.
So, for example, the next season of "Dancing With the Stars" is scheduled to start Sept. 20. How far advance might you find out?
J: Sometimes it's literally five or six days before we start the training do we find out if we're officially on the show. And you never know - like the season I danced with Marie Osmond, they had me paired with someone else. So they never tell us who we have. That way we can't back out early if we think we have a bad partner! (laughs). I guess I had a partner, they matched me up, something happened and she backed out of her contract, and they picked out Marie Osmond literally five days before the training was supposed to start. So, you never know what's going to happen - you can get very lucky with a great partner or not so much.
I had no idea it was so last-minute!
J: Yeah, some celebrities that they have confirmed six months in advance and everything's fine, and with others, it's very down-to-the-wire.
What would you say was the most memorable moment you've had on "Dancing With the Stars" so far?
J: Definitely the most memorable moment was with Marie Osmond when she fainted. It was pretty scary at first. I knew something was wrong when we were doing the dance because I could hear she was having trouble breathing, and when we stood in front of the judges and she just crashed on the floor, I heard her head literally "whack" on the floor - she wasn't moving. A couple of her kids were there and one of her brothers, and they ran out of the audience and you don't know what it is, what happened. Once she recovered I thought, "Great!" but I was pretty worried at first.
That is definitely an unexpected situation.
J: A few people had to pull out of the show due to serious injuries. You just never know - I don't think the average person realizes how tough the celebrities have to work and how hard ballroom dancing is. As the show progresses, you train more and more. Like when Anna danced with Jerry Rice or Evan (Lysacek), or myself with Marie, by the finals, you're training sometimes 8-9 hours a day and you haven't had a break in three months. It's pretty mentally and physically exhausting.
Do you plan on being involved in the show for as many seasons as it may last?
J: We're all amazed that it lasted 10 seasons and the 10th season was the most successful one, even beating "American Idol" a couple of times. I definitely enjoy doing it very much. It's very enjoyable, to me, meeting celebrities who are very successful in their particular walk of life and then seeing how they handle the stress of doing something completely different and new. I think you can especially see that with the sports players because they're used to being coached and overcoming odds, and playing through things and it doesn't matter if it feels good or bad, they just do it. It's one reason why some of the sports players do so well with the show. Whereas sometimes you'll get someone from a different walk of life and they're not used to pushing themselves, especially physically. I really enjoy the teaching process and getting a partner, seeing them grow and becoming a dancer.
Anna, you made it to the finals last season with Evan. It seems like an Olympic gold medalist might find it easier to pick up ballroom dancing than some of the other celebrities. Were there still some things that he struggled with?
Anna Trebunskaya: When he started the show, people would tell him, "Oh, it's going to be so easy," and he kind of thought that it would be. After the first week, he was depressed a little bit because he realized it's not as easy as it looks and he would have to work hard at it. So I wouldn't say everything came easy to him but the advantage of him being an Olympian was that he had the ethics, the hard work and the determination and that really helped.
What was your most memorable moment on the show so far?
A: I would say one of the most memorable moments was my first season, dancing with Jerry Rice, who is an absolute football legend. It was our freestyle and had on a big afro wig and did a disco routine.
Do you have a particular routine that you've performed on that show that is one of your favorites?
A: It's hard to say because there are so many and you get attached to all of them and you love all of them. But probably, when Patrick Swayze passed away last year, our dancers put this medley of different dances that were from "Dirty Dancing" and Jonathan and I got to celebrate Patrick Swayze's career.
(Anna said she and Jonathan haven't done any competitive dancing for about a year and a half). Do you plan on ever returning to competitive ballroom dancing?
A: We don't know. We have an opportunity to go back to competing but at the same time, we have other opportunities so it's kind of hard to tell right now.
Well with the way the show has taken off, I can see why you'd want to stay with it.
A: Absolutely! It's amazing how people think about ballroom dancing now - before it was (seen as) just a hobby for older people and now they realize that it's hard; they're seeing world-class athletes getting hurt and I think there's definitely more respect for dancing now.
How did you and Jonathan meet?
A: Through dancing - we started dancing together.
Are you ever competitive with each other or are you cheering each other on?
A: Well, we met before "Dancing With the Stars," we were dancing together for six years before the show, and we always had the approach of being a team. When we're paired with different celebrities during the same season, we're not really competitive with each other, we're more supportive. It's often not up to us but to our celebrity, how well they can do and we both know that.
What if you both end up in the final together?
A: That would be pretty cool! That would probably an interesting situation that would be fun. If we get to the final, we might get a little competitive (laughs) because we are both competitors - it's our nature.
What other projects do you have in the works?
A: We're both part owners of the "You Can Dance" Studio with my mom, actually and then we're going around the USA, teaching in different studios and coaching some competitive people and some people who just really want to learn how to dance and were inspired by "Dancing With the Stars."
With summer TV, lowering your standards is necessary. The only consolation I can offer is that "True Blood" continues to be awesome, "Mad Men" returns July 25, and new episodes of "Project Runway" and "Jersey Shore" will be back before the end of July. Fist pumping!
On Monday, July 19 at 9 p.m., however, we might be in store for a true Lifetime movie gem: Jennifer Love Hewitt in "The Client List," costarring Cybill Shepherd. It has everything a perfect Lifetime movie should have: desperation, soft-core sexuality, pageant hair, and all based on a true story! I think a sangria would go nicely with this, paired with chicken fingers.
Every Thursday in July on Turner Classic Movies is classic Teen Movie night, but tonight it's specifically all about the '80s hookers, drunken foreign exchange students, questionable dance moves and even more dubious fashion choices. While some of these movies are on TV often, on TCM they're in their unedited glory. It starts with "Better Off Dead" (1985) at 8 p.m., starring John Cusack as an ill-fated high schooler who gets dumped by his girlfriend and then endures one absurd catastrophe after another. "Sixteen Candles" (1984), on at 10 p.m., needs no explanation, but I'd like to add that I was reading some IMDB trivia and was shocked when I read that the birthday cake at the end of the movie is made of cardboard. But it looks so real and that scene is just so magical! I feel deceived. The rest of the lineup includes "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) at midnight, "Risky Business" (1983) at 2 a.m. and "Fame" (1980) at 3:45 a.m.
Friday's TCM prime time features all circus freak movies - just in time for the fair, which is right around the corner. It will whet your appetite for creepy carnies.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Give her the dish on what's happening at firstname.lastname@example.org