In ABC’s surprise summer hit, Dancing with the Stars, celebrities are paired with ballroom pros to compete in an American Idol-style dance-off (last week, viewers voted Bachelorette Trista Sutter off the dance floor). Now, with five couples left, meet the professional hoofers hoping to turn their star partners into the next cha-cha champ.
The pro: Jonathan Roberts
Celeb partner: Rachel Hunter (supermodel)
Notable steps: Roberts, 31, was the U.S. Rising Star Latin Champion in 2004, and is the current two-time undefeated USA Pro-Am 10 Dance Champion. He lives in San Jose with his wife and professional partner, Anna Trebunskaya.
His best moves: Latin-American smooth styles. He’s been dancing for 10 years, ever since he saw Al Pacino tango in Scent of a Woman. “The rest is history,” Roberts says. “I now teach dancing full time and travel around the world to coach, compete and do shows.
On Rachel: “She is a natural dancer, and very graceful and elegant,” he says.
The pro: Ashly DelGrosso
Celeb partner: Joey McIntyre (singer – and ex-New Kid on the Block)
Notable steps: “In 2002, I came in seventh in the Rising Star Latin category at the Blackpool Dance Festival in England, which is like the Super Bowl of dance, DelGrosso, 22, says. She teaches at Center Stage in Orum, Utah, and performs around the world with Odyssey Dance Theatre.
Her best moves: Latin. “It caught my eye because it had more flair, she says.
On Joey: “When I found out I was dancing with Joey, like, oh my God! I had a little crush on him,” she says. “I was just grateful I had someone with rhythm.”
The pro: Alec Mazo
Celeb partner: Kelly Monaco (actress, General Hospital)
Notable steps: The Belarus native, 27, moved to San Francisco at 13 and is CFO of the youth-oriented Genesis DanceSport Center there. In addition, “I was in Dance with Me, starring Vanessa Williams, he says.
His best moves: Latin – he’s a former Emerald Ball Latin Amateur Champion
On Kelly: During one practice, Mazo wasn’t feeling well and Monaco suggested he let out a belch. But he told her to do it first and, he says, “right on cue, the next few seconds were filled with a sound of Kelly’s loud burping talent. From then on, I’ve been practicing for the next time!”
The pro: Edyta Sliwinska
Celeb partner: Evander Holyfield (boxer)
Notable steps: Sliwinska, who also models, trains couples at Genesis DanceSport Center, where she works with Mazo, her boyfriend of four years.
Her best moves: Latin. She’s been a finalist in the U.S. championships the past four years, and this year won the Rising Star Latin Championship in San Francisco.
On Evander: “He had the guts to tell me that I’m heavy,” the 26-year-old says. “It took me a long time to explain to him that he is making technical mistakes, which make me feel heavy for him.
The pro: Charlotte Jorgensen
Celeb partner: John O’Hurley (actor – a.k.a. Seinfeld’s J. Peterman)
Notable steps: She’s a seven-time Danish amateur champion and a former world amateur champion. Retired since 2001, Jorgensen, 33, now teaches. “Richard Gere requested me as his special dance teacher for Shall We Dance?” she says. Plus, she judges the competition in the new documentary Mad Hot Ballroom.
Her best moves: The standards: the waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot and quickstep.
On John: “I love when he sings his ‘Little Teapot’ song,” she says. “We are restricted to what music we can play on-air, so we compose little songs with our rhythms, which is sweet.”