Mark Ballas rates his Dancing With the Stars Partners highly

December 31st, 2014

By Hal Boedeker

ncer-singer Mark Ballas says fans can expect a versatile show from the "Dancing With the Stars" tour and rattles off the variety: ragtime, Gene Kelly, modern, Latin, traditional ballroom, even ’70s funk.

"It's crowd reactive, intimate, up close and personal," says Ballas, who has won the ABC contest twice.

The Orlando performance, at 8 p.m. Friday at the Bob Carr Theater, is sold-out. Current champ Alfonso Ribeiro hosts the 40-city tour, which includes professional dancers Witney Carson, Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Kym Johnson, Emma Slater, Keo Motsepe and Sasha Farber.

Ballas praises Ribeiro's style. "He's got a loud voice and a huge presence. He brings the show together," he said.

During the tour, Ballas performs his songs, such as "Get My Name"; plays three numbers on guitar; and dances at least eight times.

"My goal is to entertain, not put my eggs in one basket," Ballas said, noting that he choreographs and started in musical theater. "At some point I'd like to do a Broadway show. Music is a tremendous focus for me. I don't want to succumb to the idea you can do only one thing."

He writes or co-writes his songs: "It's more personal when it's coming from the artist's heart."

His album "Kicking Clouds" has drawn comparisons to Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, but Ballas says his guitar style, with flamenco and blues techniques, gives his music a fresh, percussive style. His song "Miss Incredible" aims to celebrate and inspire women. 

He certainly has been inspired by his female partners on the ABC show. "I loved the seasons with Kristi [Yamaguchi] and Shawn [Johnson], my two champions," he said.

He raves about his last partner, Sadie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty." "She's just a really awesome, sweet girl. She took this competition head on and had the right attitude," he said. "She had a sense of calmness. That kept me calm. Her beautiful attitude made it enjoyable for me going into my 15th season."

Was she easy to train? "She was incredibly easy to train. Her attitude was flawless," he said. "She never complained, never had any tantrums. She was there on time, a smile on her face, the sweetest disposition."

He also praises other former dance partners. His take on:

Sabrina Bryan: "Awesome. She was probably the most natural and aggressive and fierce partner. She did have prior dance training. She was young and athletic, everything was super fast. It was my first season. We got along really well. She showed me around L.A., introduced me to her friends. It was a tremendous season. We remain good friends."

Candace Cameron Bure: "She had natural ability. She started off strong. Her nerves would get the best of her. In rehearsal she'd be excellent. ... She started to crack under the pressure. We had an amazing time. I love her family and kids. I loved my time with her. We became good friends."

Kim Kardashian: She "wasn't the best dancing partner. I love her, she's awesome, we became good friends. I know the family well. Dancing was not her thing, but she's a great girl."

Dancing with Bristol Palin, daughter of former Gov. Sarah Palin, was a unique experience, Ballas said. "She was not the best dancer, she was not the most outgoing person, but people found her intriguing," he said. "People were thinking they'd be like her, a fish out of water, if they were on the show. We made the finals. There were better dancers. It showed the power of the fans."

Ballas said he couldn't say if he'll be with "Dancing" when it celebrates its 10th anniversary in the spring.

Why has it lasted? "Every season is always changing," he said. "You're seeing the same style dances but done a million different ways. It's intriguing and appealing to the audience. It's not the same, redundant things. The show lets dancers express ourselves."

Originally posted:

Healthy Resolution: Mark Ballas On Quitting Smoking and More

December 16th, 2014

For more than 13 years Dancing with the Stars pro Mark Ballas has smoked. He’s made numerous previous attempts to quit but nothing seemed to stick — until last year when he finally quit for good. The dancer and musician was recently in NYC talking about his experience. Now as a spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) — he credits the NicoDerm CQ patches with helping him finally kick the habit — he wants to help others do the same. We caught up with Ballas to learn more about what worked for him, and of course learn more about his recent DWTS runner-up title as well as how he likes to stay fit when he’s not on the dance floor. And, in case you missed it — we also challenged him to a fitness showdown.

What was different this time?

During previous attempts to quit, I went cold turkey. This time I used the NicoDerm CQ patch. It really helped me. It reduced my cravings and I didn’t feel like I was [constantly] waiting to get out [to smoke]. Nowadays when I get stressed [a former trigger] I just don’t feel that urge.

What would be your tips for someone who wants to quit smoking as a 2015 health resolution?

Admitting that you need to stop is the first step. And, persistence and patience are everything, it’s not going to happen over night. It’s okay to get external help because the goal is to quit, so it doesn’t matter how you get there, you just got to get there. It’s not the Olympics, it’s quitting something that will help you live a healthier life, so if that requires external help, there’s no shame in that.

Your promoting the “What’s Your Why?” campaign that helps others quit smoking. What was your why?

When I was between 16 and 20 years old, it [smoking] wouldn’t bother me at all, I could smoke a pack a day. In your mind you start being like “Oh, I’m invincible, this will never catch up with me.” But when I was around 25 years old, that’s when I noticed it. I was in rehearsal one day, teaching my kids in Utah where the altitude is different, and I was really struggling and breathing hard. One of my students actually made a joke like ‘keep up old man.’ That was kind of the realization that now smoking was taking a toll. Partnering with GSK and now this new “What’s Your Why?” campaign is really cool because all smokers, people who want to quit or have quit, can get online and use the hashtag #WhatsYourWhy and explain why they wanted to quit.

For me it was living a cleaner lifestyle, and also because I’ve dedicated my whole life to this entertainment industry, and I don’t want to slow myself down at a young age. It’s all about my health, stamina, endurance, vocal clarity and keeping my voice in good condition.

And you were recently named runner-up in this season of DWTS with partner Sadie Robertson. What made this season special?

Sadie, she’s like a diamond. It was probably my most stress-free season. The show is fun, but it’s stressful, it’s an emotional rollercoaster (you go through every emotion from happiness, highs, lows, sadness, stress), but I would say 95 percent was just all up this season. She had that thing, even for a person who dances really well, you have to have a certain swag/personality/outgoingness to do the kind of stuff that allows you to be creative and memorable. That’s what I was allowed to do this season. Because of her personality and her willingness to just go for it, I was able to exercise myself choreographically like that, and I haven’t been able to do that for awhile. So being able to get that creative was really awesome.

So how can we dance with this type of swag — whether out with friends or at a dance cardio workout class?

I think honestly, it’s confidence. That’s the thing with Sadie, whenever we went out on the floor, we’d always have this moment of stillness where she’d say a prayer or we’d put our heads together. I remember just seeing in her eyes [a feeling of] ‘I know what I’m doing.’ It was that mental stillness at her age that was really inspiring to watch. The mental stillness is really just focus on the task and the goal, not being deterred from what you want to accomplish and not letting your mind take over for your heart.

Dancing is an incredible workout, what else do you do to stay healthy and in shape?

I’m a pretty healthy person in general. My diet and workout regime are pretty strict, especially when I’m on the season. Most of my cardio comes from dance, it is an incredible workout, but I also like to bike ride and hike. I have a personal trainer and I do a lot on TRX cables and resistance training. I have a lot of injuries, so there are a lot of different things I can do that don’t require brute strength. 

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