Peta Murgatroyd is a former Dancing with the Stars champion, taking the coveted mirror-ball trophy in season 14 – only her second season on the series – with Donald Driver. The Australia native will be blogging for PEOPLE.com about competing with Gilles Marini in the all-star season.
This all-star season is crazy competitive. There’s a lot more pressure on the pro dancers to come up with amazing choreography each week. Every celebrity has been here before, so they know the ins and outs of the competition. I think Gilles has the talent to go all the way. He’s an amazingly naturally talented dancer. I think it’s going to be a great competition.
I feel like everyone’s got something to offer. Everyone has got their own special thing about them, whether they’ve got a huge fan base or whether they’re just amazing dancers, or they’ve just got this incredible personality and they’re funny.
The athletes have been great so far in the competition: Shawn [Johnson] with Derek [Hough] and Apolo [Ohno] with Karina [Smirnoff]. But it’s so hard to say who will come out on top because Joey [Fatone] and Kym [Johnson] went home the second week, and that was such a jaw-dropper. We weren’t expecting that. Joey was a fabulous personality on the show, and he was a really good dancer.
This week is Bollywood for us, and it’s so much more pressure. It’s interesting because it’s not really student-teacher at the moment because I’ve never done Bollywood either. So this is very different for me, and Gilles and I are just taking it step-by-step and putting this routine together. It’s going to be fun, though. I’m looking forward to it.
This style of dance is a crowd-pleaser. Everyone is going to be dressed up in costumes. It’s not going to be the typical ballroom dance. We’ll definitely be embracing the facial and finger movements. Indian dancing is very interesting. If you do one little hand sign wrong, you can offend people. We’re really going to make sure all of the hand movements are correct. The Indian community will know the difference.
I think every week, Gilles is amazing at getting into character. He’s amazing at embracing the different characterization of every dance. But this week he needs to focus. We’re so into getting the moves down that sometimes he forgets what comes next. He needs to think ahead.
Gilles and I both have wonderful support systems. I’ve met his kids. They’re so sweet and so encouraging of their dad doing the show. He really wants to win the mirror-ball for his little girl, Julianna. She wants it in her bedroom, so that’s our main goal. His wife Carole is also great. He’s got a really solid family.
I’m lucky because I still have the support of my partner from last season, Donald Driver. We talk every week. We’ve definitely kept the friendship going. He’s an amazing person, and I can’t imagine not staying friends with him. He’s been trying to rally the votes with the Packers fans, which has been awesome for me. I think he would love to be doing the show again, but the football season is here and he’s got a job to do.
Both of these partners have something in common: They are popular with the ladies. Gilles is a hot commodity with the women – that’s for sure. We were recently filming Extra at the Grove with Mario Lopez, and Gilles was just attacked like a flock of seagulls. And I’m just sort of left standing there, like, “Gilles, uh, we’ve got to go.” These women literally wouldn’t let go of him. It was very funny.