Football players have dominated the dance floor on “Dancing With The Stars” in the show’s 24 seasons, but how about a baseball player?
David Ross will be the first ever MLB star to join the ABC competition series, and his professional partner, Lindsay Arnold, is ready to show America what he can do.
“[David] has so much potential,” Arnold told Dance.com. “He came from zero background in dance and has never done anything like this before.”
Despite his lack of experience, she’s been impressed by his attention to detail and flawless footwork, she said. Paired with his hard work ethic, she expects the pair will be fierce competitors, even though the competition has been criticized for being unfair this season. (One celeb competitor, Heather Morris, is already a professional dancer while another, Normani Kordei, was in girl band Fifth Harmony.)
Arnold shared with Dance.com how she feels about the competition, what she has up her sleeve and David’s dirty little dance secret.
Dance.com: What excited you most about partnering with David Ross?
Arnold: “I have the first baseball player ever on ‘Dancing With The Stars!’ It’s cool because i think people don’t know what to expect from a baseball player. I think he has so much potential. He came from zero background in dance and has never done anything like this before. That gives me the opportunity to start from scratch and pull out all of his strengths and show America that a baseball player can dance!”
What kind of training are you giving him?
“We’ve been training in several styles of dance. I started off teaching him the choreography. I’ve gone through a few different things. I try a few steps on him and be like, ‘OK. No that doesn’t work.’ Then I try some other ones and realize those are going to be his strengths. It’s all about finding the movement that works for the body you’re working with. It’s been really cool to see what has been working with him.”
What are his strengths so far?
“It’s surprising how great his footwork is. I don’t know a ton about baseball so I didn’t expect a lot when it came to footwork. Especially because I learned that he was a catcher, so I’m thinking he’s not necessarily working on footwork and doing drills. But to my surprise, they do a lot of that. He’s very quick on his feet. And he’s also very smart. He remembers choreography and he takes corrections very well.”
How about weaknesses?
“As a baseball player, he is not ever thinking about his posture. He’s just doing what he needs to do. He’s not thinking about how it looks while he does it. And that’s something you have to think about when dancing. Also gracefulness isn’t something he’s used to thinking about. I can tell it’s not natural for him but, then again, who is that natural for? It’s very awkward to be constantly thinking about everything your body is doing when you’re doing things as simple as walking. It’s been interesting to watch his mind change.
I saw on Instagram that you’ve been working on his flexibility.
“He’s stretching! One of the first things he told me was when he found out that he was going to do the show, he started taking Pilates classes. And he’s really doing everything he can to be the best in the competition and I love that.”
He seems so into it.
Since you’ve been partnered with athletes before, do you find athletes can naturally adapt to dance very quickly?
“What athletes have is they really pay attention to detail. Their entire job, it all comes down to details. Baseball, football, whatever you’re playing, it’s those minor tweaks. It’s all those details that you have to pay attention to. I don’t have to be too simple with them. I can really dive into the mechanics of everything they do.
I also find that they’re very competitive, which is awesome. They want to do well. If they’re not doing well, it frustrates them and pushes them to want to be better. I love that because it’s something that as a teacher, you want your student to want to do better. If they don’t want to be better, it makes your job really hard.
Are you nervous about the competition?
“You know what? This season has a lot of already gifted dancers that they have brought on to the show. You have someone like Heather Morris who is a professional dancer and has been for her entire life. Also Normani Kordei has danced and learned choreography for years being in Fifth Harmony. So you have a bunch of naturally gifted movers who are already going to have that on the other competitors. But at the same time, I’m not worried.”
Why? What’s the secret to winning?
“I’ve recognized that it’s not about the best dancer at all. It’s about America’s favorite dancer. And it’s so much more important to show them the progress and to show them that even though they might not be the best at it, they’re going to work hard. People respond to that. I know that if David and I can work hard every week and show his improvement, and as long as we don’t stay the same or get worse, we’re going to be really in good hands.”
How long do you practice every week?
“Right now, since we have a little bit more time, we’re rehearsing earlier and more days than we will during the show. We’re going four hours every day, but when the competition starts going, the least amount of hours you’re trying to do every day is four. The most would be six. And when it gets into the finale, there were 10-hour days for Calvin [Johnson] and I last season. As the season progresses, you need more hours because they start adding more dances, the dances get longer and also, you just want to be better. It’s good to start off a bit slower and ease into what we’re doing because it is something so different. You want to make sure they feel comfortable and don’t get wiped out too soon.”
What have you learned in your years working on this show?
“Every season is a new experience for me. I’m not doing the same exact teaching methods every time, and I’m not teaching the same steps. I’m adjusting the way I teach to each partner, and I found that is the most important thing. If you can figure out their personality and what moves they can do right off the bat, then you’re going to be in good shape. You want to feature them. You want them to look strong and comfortable and show their personality.”
What’s your favorite style of dancing?
“My favorite dances are Paso Doble and the Argentine Tango. It’s funny because I’m not a super intense person in regular life, but when it comes to dancing, I really like showing the aggression and the passion behind it. That’s not something that I don’t necessarily release on a daily basis.”
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?
“To remember who you are and where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness that is celebrity world. On the show, it’s tough. There are a lot of stresses that come into it and you want to do well and make it far every season. But when times get tough, I always remember why I’m here and how grateful I am to be where I am. I’m very lucky to be in the position where I am. Yes, I worked hard but at the same time, I feel very blessed and grateful.”
What’s next for your career?
“There’s acting, singing, modeling. Those are all things I want to try. I’ve danced my entire life. I’m not ever going to stop dancing. This is my life, and I love it. But it’s cool for me to see there are other things I can do out there. I definitely want to venture out into that.”