Derek Hough on 'Dancing with the Stars' Partner Bindi Irwin: 'She's a Breath of Fresh Air'

"We all need a little Bindi in our life," Derek Hough says of his partner

Photo: Ida Mae Astute/ABC; Brian Dowling/Invision/AP

Bindi Irwin is going from Jungle Girl to dancing queen.

“We are gonna bust out with a kind of on-the-nose song the first week,” her partner Derek Hough told PEOPLE of their Dancing with the Stars debut at the Television Academy Cocktail Reception for Outstanding Choreography at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on Sunday.

“I’m in this space right now where I’m super pumped on life right now. I feel connected. I feel great. And then she walks in my life. You don’t understand what positive energy she is,” the pro added of late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin‘s daughter.

Hough, 30, said there’s something about the young star’s lifelong conservation work that makes her special.

“I’m trying to figure out what it is,” he said of her spark. “I just got off a vacation on a lake, and I was thinking maybe it’s because she’s connected to nature and the animals or something. And if you’re that connected, you feel whole I guess. I don’t know what it is. I love her. She’s amazing. She’s a breath of fresh air. We all need a little Bindi in our life. Seriously.”

Bindi, 17, announced she’s competing on season 21 of the ABC reality competition last week, and she was officially partnered with Hough on Good Morning America‘s cast reveal Wednesday.

“This is going to be more terrifying than jumping on top of a crocodile,” she says in the latest issue of PEOPLE. “Crocodiles, they are very special because they are modern-day dinosaurs. But I’ve kind of worked with them my whole life, whereas I’ve never danced before in my life.”

DWTS premieres Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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