Mark Ballas: Why He Decided to Return to the Dancing with the Stars Ballroom After 2 Seasons Away
"I'm so glad the timing worked out," Mark Ballas tells PEOPLE of returning to Dancing with the Stars
PEOPLE is celebrating the Sept. 18 premiere of Dancing with the Stars‘ 25th season with 25 days of exclusive interviews, fun retrospectives, and new details about what fans can expect from the milestone season.
After two seasons away, Mark Ballas is ready to get back in the ballroom.
“I’m so glad the timing worked out,” says the Dancing with the Stars pro, who spent the past year performing in the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, working on his own music, and, you know, getting married.
PEOPLE’s special issue 25 Seasons of ‘Dancing with The Stars’ is out Sept. 15.
Ballas, 31, is among a group of 12 pro dancers that were announced Thursday as competing on season 25 of the ABC reality dance competition.
As he prepares for the Sept. 18 premiere, the dancer opens up to PEOPLE about his decision to return to the show, what he did while he was away, and why he thinks he’s poised for his best season yet:
Why come back now?
There were aspects of it I missed, like getting to be creative and using that part of my skill set and brain. I like coming up with my own material. Doing Broadway was amazing, but you’re singing someone else’s words and doing someone else’s choreography and it’s the same every night. Here you get to do your own thing and change it up every week. It’s been an insane year for [wife BC Jean] and I between getting married, Broadway and the national tour of Jersey Boys, and then our own tour and putting together our upcoming EP. But the timing really worked out.
How has the show changed since you started on season 6?
Over the years the show has advanced. You’re not told what to do anymore. The production has come a long way in giving the pros free rein. They’ve incorporated new styles and they’ve really upped the production value. It’s a great collaborative effort and a lot of fun. I missed that. I’m excited to switch that part of my brain back on.
How have you changed since your first season?
When I was younger it was fun and new. Then I was around for a while and had some rough seasons and I was just happy to be there. I’ve had seasons where I’ve had a partner I thought was the best dancer but not won and other seasons where I had partners who weren’t the best but went really far. It’s really just about how you react to every situation. This season I just really want to get in there and keep my head down, get creative and do some great work.
Did you watch the show during your two seasons away?
The first season, I didn’t watch the show at all. I wanted a complete break. But I did watch last season because I wanted to root on [pro dancer Emma Slater]. She’s been a friend for a long time and it was really her first shot at a win and I wanted to support her. It was interesting to watch it when I wasn’t a part of it. It was a completely new experience and I think it’s going to make me a better pro because I’ve seen the show as a fan and as a competitor.
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We don’t know who you’ll be dancing with yet, but describe your ideal celeb partner.
It’s a mixture of things. Dancing is not the be all and end all. People can come on with dance experience and fans freak out saying, “That’s not fair!” But dance ability has nothing to do with who is going to win. It’s about having a connection and a willingness to learn. If you have a partner who really knows what they’re getting themselves in for and are willing to listen and work hard — and most importantly a trust between you — then all you need is a little spark of skill or natural talent and you’re going to go far. If you’re lucky enough to tick all the boxes, that’s when there’s a match made in heaven.
Season 25 of Dancing with the Stars premieres Sept. 18 on ABC.