Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dancing With the Stars’ is back in step with all-stars like Drew Lachey and Shawn Johnson


Shake out the excess sequins and polish those dancing shoes. “Dancing With the Stars” is back.
And this time around, it’s second chances for everyone involved — even for the winners.

Just ask Drew Lachey, who took home the coveted mirror-ball trophy on “Dancing With the Stars” in the show’s second season, and who will return with 12 other former competitors to vie for the prize again on Monday night.
“I need one for each side of the mantel, yes,” the former 98 Degrees boy-bander laughed about competing for a second time.

“My life has done a complete 180 since I last did the show. I mean, my wife was pregnant with my first child and we were living in L.A. at the time, and now I have two kids and we live in Ohio.

“So my life and my perspective and my priorities have completely shifted since the last time I was on the show.”
As they should.

It’s been six years since Lachey first stepped onto the well-lacquered dance floor with Cheryl Burke to wow audiences and judges with their energy and pizzazz (to this day, their freestyle dance “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” remains a fan favorite).

Since it first cha-cha-cha’d its way onto America’s radar back in 2005, “Dancing With the Stars” has played host to nearly 200 celebrities, more than its share of injuries and wardrobe malfunctions, and the occasional monkey suit (Bristol Palin, we’re looking at you).

Competitors have run the gamut from professional athletes to teen heartthrobs to actors to singers to models to reality TV stars. The show even gave Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak a spin on the floor.
But though much has changed in the ballroom — skimpier outfits, head-to-head dance-offs and the dreaded “instant dance” — it’s the real-life changes off set that have affected the stars the most as they prepare for their return in the all-star season.

“To me this feels like a completely different ball game,” season eight finalist Melissa Rycroft mused. “After going through pregnancy, labor and delivery, I feel like I have a whole new body. I definitely feel older than I did last time, even though that was only three years ago and I’m only 29!”
Rycroft, who came in third in her season after Gilles Marini and champion Shawn Johnson, said her 19-month-old daughter, Ava, now factors into the intensity of her practices as much as her ability to kick her leg up by her head.
“I want to be there every day as much as I can with my daughter, so I think that’s what’s going to keep me happy and sane as far as the show goes,” she said. Luckily for her, partner Tony Dovolani knows where she’s coming from, with three young kids of his own as well.

“When it comes to practice, we don’t want to go in and waste time,” the former “Bachelor” contestant said. “We go in and we’re ready to go because we both have other places that we need to be at the end of the day, and honestly, they’re places that we want to be, like home. With our kids.”

It’s this no-nonsense attitude that will undoubtedly drive the All-Star season, executive producer Conrad Green assessed. The returning group is fiercely dedicated, and a big part of what will make the competition so stiff this time is the personal investment each celebrity has made in a comeback.

“We require quite a lot of time from people, and they all know now just how much work they’ll need to put into the show, so I think it’s a testament of how much they enjoyed the experience that they said yes,” executive producer Conrad Green said. “It’s going to be a really tough one, a close call from the audience more than ever, I think.”

The judges will be stricter this time around as well, he explained, because “we’re not talking about random characters anymore in week one, we’re talking about celebrities who’ve gone through to the final weeks of competition.”
Along with Lachey and Rycroft, celebrities who will return to the dance floor include Pamela Anderson, Kirstie Alley, Apolo Ohno, Shawn Johnson, Emmitt Smith, Helio Castroneves, Gilles Marini, Joey Fatone, Bristol Palin, Sabrina Bryan and first-season winner Kelly Monaco.

For Monaco, who set the bar when she won in the show’s first iteration back in July 2005, coming back to the ballroom more than seven years later has been a daunting task.

When the "General Hospital" star first signed on for the show, it was still in its earliest stages, and most people “had no idea what ballroom dancing was.”

“It’s like a huge production now,” she said, reflecting on the show’s progression over the years. “When we did it we were building it from the ground up. There were no expectations. There wasn’t even the cha-cha yet! But now you know what you’re signing up for when you come on the show.”

Fellow soap star Gilles Marini agrees. The “Switched at Birth” actor, who came in as a runner-up after Shawn Johnson in season eight, isn’t going to let the mirror ball slip through his fingers again.
“I want to dance like a pro,” he quipped. “I won’t settle for dancing like a celebrity. I want people to not notice any difference between my partner and I. They said that during my previous season, and I took that as a compliment, it’s something that I want to hear from the judges.

Drew Lachey (season two winner)
Partner: Anna Trebunskaya
Handicap: Drew Lachey is currently making a comeback with his group, 98 Degrees, and the former boy-bander has proven that given the opportunity, he will definitely rise to the occasion. Though he’s now paired with Anna Trebunskaya, Lachey could show that he can translate his choreographed boy-band moves into a more studied technical practice on the “Dancing” stage, regardless of who his partner is. Fans of the singer are loyal. 10:1