“Ballroom with a Twist” will play two performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
If you’re not a reality show groupie, no worries. It sounds like the artists will engage even the shows’ harshest critics. The performance features 2014 “Dancing with the Stars” professional dance winner Maksim Chmerkovskiy with his partner, dance pro Karina Smirnoff; and earlier season winners Tony Dovolani and Cheryl Burke. Finalists from “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” will also be featured in “Ballroom with a Twist.”
The talented Dovolani will dance with Burke, who was Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith’s partner the season he took home the mirror ball. A few of the celebrities, who have put themselves in the dancing limelight besides Smith are Dallas’ Chris Harrison, Mark Cuban and Michael Ervin.
Dovolani, who has been with “Dancing with the Stars” since its second season, said he has asked a number of celebrities if they would do it again. “Everyone has answered, ‘In a heartbeat.’”
He admits that, although he’s had a great time with all of his partners, he especially enjoyed Melissa Rycroft, with whom he won Season 15, Susan Lucci and Leah Remini. He said he respected partners Kathy Ireland and Kate Goslyn, neither of whom ever had a dance lesson. “They were ready to learn and great partners,” he said.
During the three months of the season, the pros don’t get any breaks or days off. Training is intense throughout.
Of course, the longer the stars stay in the competition, the more they practice. “It takes about three week to unwind after a season ends to wind down,” Dovolani explained.
When asked about injuries, Dovolani said he’s hurt his back, toes and knee, for starters. “I do not know one dancer who dances without injuries.” During the season, the dancers endure six to 12 hours of rehearsal every day.
The dancer has become a health and wellness expert who demonstrates how dance leads to fitness, confidence and overcoming health issues.
He has guest-hosted segments of television shows including “Ellen,” the Golf Channel’s “The Morning Drive” and ABC’s syndicated “On the Red Carpet” and “Good Morning America.” He and fellow dancers Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy are partners in Dance With Me USA Dance Studios in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The 40-year-old lives in Connecticut with his wife of almost 15 years, Lina, and three children, Luana and twins Adrian and Ariana. During the season, his family generally comes to town to see the show, but last season he was able to make it home a number of times. “My wife is the best person I know. Marrying her was the best thing I ever did in my life,” he said.
When asked how long he plans to do the show, he said, “As long as they’ll have me. I love the difference it makes in a person’s life and how it inspires others.”
Dovolani was proficient in Albanian folk dancing in his birthplace, Pristina, Kosovo, by the age of three. He was inspired by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly films as a kid.
After immigrating to the United States as a political refugee from his native Kosovo, Tony trained at a Connecticut Fred Astaire dance studio and eventually became one of the most dominant competitive dancers in the country.
Dovolani’s first Hollywood gig was coaching Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere for the 2004 film “Shall We Dance?” in which he also had a small role. Besides being nominated for an EMMY for outstanding choreography in 2006, Dovolani has earned too many dance championships to name. He and Burke choreographed and performed a special Paso Doble for Pixar Studios, who used it to create a dance sequence in “Toy Story 3” featuring Buzz Lightyear.
Producers call “Ballroom with a Twist” a family-friendly show, and it will feature colorful, sparkly costumes with yards of fringe like those seen on “Dancing with the Stars.” They also promise “magnificent music and breathtaking performances, pushing the boundaries of ballroom dance while infusing it with the energy and intensity of the latest contemporary and ‘hip-hop’ styles.”
“American Idol” finalists Von Smith and Haley Scarnato will be featured. The hit show’s fans know how often America gets it wrong, when finalists are more talented than winners. Jenna Johnson, Legacy, Randi Lynn Strong and Jonathan Platero, “So You Think You Can Dance” finalists are in the cast.
Dovolani said it was a lot of fun having Cowboys Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith on the show. Cheryl Burke, who was Smith’s pro dance partner winning their season, is also in “Ballroom with a Twist.”
An avid golfer, Dovolani enjoyed playing at the Dallas Cowboys Golf Course, while meeting Jerry Jones and other Cowboys players and personnel.
Although the fan said he loves the Cowboys, he has experienced some triple-digit days in Dallas.
He said he really likes the city anyway, and he ended our conversation with a very sincere, “I look forward to seeing y’all.”