By Lauren Kirchmyer
Getting cast on Dancing with the Stars was a life-changing moment for Emma Slater. The petite, blonde, UK-born dancer/choreographer compared the show to a soul-searching journey when she spoke with BuffaloScoop.com on the phone about the Dancing with the Stars: Live! – Hot Summer Nights Tour, which is coming to the Auditorium Theater in Rochester on June 22.
“I don’t think people realize this show is constantly teaching you things about yourself,” she shared. “You come into such contact with other people for a short but very, very, very intense period of time. You learn about yourself very quickly. People think it’s about steps but going through this experience allows you to explore yourself. It’s incredible.”
The show, which recently wrapped season 24, pairs about a dozen professional dancers with celebrities, who then compete in hopes of winning a mirror ball trophy. The length of their journey on the show comes down to two factors, the scores given to them by the judges and the number of votes provided to them by their fans. Week by week couples go home until only one champion pair is left standing.
Slater, who joined DWTS in season 14 as a troupe dancer and worked her way up to a pro in season 17, has had quite the variety of celebrity partners. From Vine stars to movie stars, comedians to presidential candidates, she has worked with people of all ages and abilities.
“Psychologically you have to figure out very quickly what kind of person they are,” she shared. “You have to figure out what they’re most connected to as a person, what their traits are and what they resonate with then speak to them in that language.”
When the professional can figure out how to truly connect with their celebrity partner, magic happens on the dance floor. This was the case with her most recent partner, NFL Running Back Rashad Jennings.
“Rashad was absolutely everything, all different kinds of spectrums of learning and life, which I can relate to,” Slater gushed. “I would teach him the meaning behind something and all of a sudden he would have so much more personality and character. With Rashad, everything was a lot more emotional, which I really enjoyed.”
What helped them continue to flourish was the fact that Slater wasn’t the only partner in the pair acting as a teacher. Every morning before rehearsal, Jennings would perform his NFL warm ups then go work on choreography for the show. “He has got the most amazing warm ups from being one of the top athletes in the world, so I was really keen on him showing me that. I’m really going to continue that and learn from him the rest of my career, hopefully.”
But Jennings was able to dig deeper and teach Slater more than just physical activity. He taught her how to not let stress take over her life.
“I would be so stressed coming into rehearsal then spend five minutes with him and all my stress would leave. It would be a really calm and great environment to be in,” Slater explained. “He never stresses and he doesn’t need to. It made me realize stress is an absolute waste of time. He is happy and radiates that good energy and it makes everything come full circle. It’s exactly how I want to be. It makes you enjoy life.”
Their strong bond helped them work their way up to earning this season’s mirror ball trophy! Slater was thrilled to win after all of the seasons she has been on the show and is ecstatic Jennings decided to join the cast of the live tour.
“It’s so fantastic being able to bring him on. It’s like we get an extension,” she said cheerfully. “To win is something I didn’t think was going to happen to me, but the feeling is completely indescribable and it couldn’t have happened to a better person than Rashad. He deserves everything and more.
“He’s such a positive, happy, upbeat person and gives everybody his entire attention. I’m so glad people got to know the man behind the helmet, and now I get to show him what it’s like to be a dancer and live the life of a touring performer. This is our little reward for all the hard work from the season.”
Compared to the TV series, which is all about the camera angles and performing for the people at home verses the 1,100 people in the studio, the live tour allows the dancers to perform for one angle, the audience and see their faces and reactions
“That’s such an amazing energy,” Slater said. “You can hear the applause at the end of each performance and we can’t help but give the audience everything. They make us so happy. It’s such an outstanding feeling.”
Joining Slater and Jennings on tour are Sharna Burgess, Artem Chigvintsev, Lindsay Arnold, Hayley Erbert, Gleb Savchenko, Keo Motsepe, Alan Bersten, Britt Stewart and Slater’s fiancé Sasha Farber, who proposed to her live on DWTS during season 23. See the best ballroom dancers perform live in this all-new production showcasing every type of ballroom and modern dance seen on the show including sizzling group numbers, steamy duets and over-the-top original pieces. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through Ticket Master.