"It's like having an opera singer and a rapper come together," the pro says of pairing up with a ballet dancer

By Karina Smirnoff
April 09, 2012 02:45 PM
Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC

I was really hoping we were going to avoid being in the bottom last week on Dancing with the Stars. But in a way it was easier this second time because Gavin and I had been there before, so we knew what to expect.

I thought Gavin did really well with the rumba and I don’t think I have ever seen a celebrity progress at the rate that he has. We are taking it one week at a time and each week there is a huge improvement. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed we make it to the end of the finale, so I can see how far Gavin can take this because he is getting so good and turning in to a dancer.

One of the reasons he is improving is that we come into the studio looking forward to our rehearsals because we are laughing and having a good time. I met Gavin for the first time about three years ago at an event and I thought he was very cute and charming, but now that we are working together I have discovered even more sides of Gavin. He is intelligent, funny and he makes every situation better. We have a great, organic, natural relationship. I wouldn’t change a thing about our dynamic.

This week is rock week and Gavin is a rocker, so I think it is going to be right up his alley. I have some pretty cool tricks for the set up of our tango, which is a perfect dance for us because it’s all about the contrast of love and hate. Gavin is good at being loving as well as the source of my frustration – he jokes around so much that after a while I have to get stern with him.

This week I am also performing on the Tuesday results show with one of the world’s most famous ballet dancers, José Carreño, who is from Cuba. We both come from communist countries and had similar struggles to get where we are today, but we come from very different dance backgrounds – ballroom is fluid and soft and ballet is all about the frame. It’s like having an opera singer and a rapper come together.

I’m nervous, but rehearsals have been going great, and I am really passionate about the theme of the dance – that if you believe in yourself and don’t give up, you can achieve anything in life.

But two dances mean double rehearsals for me. I rehearse in the morning with José and Gavin in the afternoon. Today when the alarm went off my mind told my body, “It is time to get up and get ready and make some coffee and go to rehearsal.” But my body didn’t respond. I literally I had to throw my legs off the bed. Your muscles get so exhausted that they just don’t respond anymore, but once you are up and moving around you say, “I can do this.”