How's it going? Hope you've had a great 2014 so far! I'm excited to be blogging again and I'm so stoked for the new season and to be with Amy.
For those of you who don't know, Amy is a Paralympic snowboarder — and she just won a bronze today! Woohoo! She is a double amputee and is absolutely amazing. I am in awe of her. I went to Sochi to rehearse with her and it was a really great experience, not just working with Amy, but to be among the energy of the Games. What was really interesting was that the Dancing with the Stars crew never made it out. I had gotten my visa first and within 24 hours, because of everything happening in Ukraine, they got more strict about issuing visas, so the crew couldn't get theirs. So I went over by myself and I had to film all of our rehearsals! I basically put the camera on a tripod and filmed it as best I could. Don't be too harsh on my directorial debut on Monday!
We didn't have rehearsal space over there. We basically rehearsed in the lobby of the hotel with mirrors that only showed half our bodies. It was a makeshift rehearsal studio, but it was great. Amy showed me around the village. It was really cool to be over there. I did a lot of sightseeing when Amy was in training. Check out a photo below. (Excuse the hole in my sleeve!) I also befriended a stray dog and wanted to bring him home. I called him Ru because he sat every day underneath the same sign that said "RU" for Russia. I so badly wanted to take him home.
Amy would train in the morning and then she'd travel down on the gondola to where I was at the Olympic village to rehearse. It's a lot of commitment. It's pretty wild when you think about it. Usually when we've had Olympians, they were a month removed from the Games — like Meryl and Charlie now — but Amy has been training for both things simultaneously. She raced on Friday, will get to L.A. on Sunday and the show premieres Monday. That is crazy. For me, juggling the schedule wasn't hard because when we weren't rehearsing, I was just at the hotel or checking out the sights. But her coach and I spoke, and we made sure we coordinated our schedules and had a game plan. I assured him that I was being cautious about her well-being and making sure that we didn't push too hard. The thing with prosthetic legs is you get pressure points and it gets really sore. Obviously, dancing and using different parts of her body that she's not used to create new pressure points for her. I made it clear that I definitely knew that the first priority was the Olympic Games. I had to keep an eye on her too. She would want to continue to practice because that's the person she is, but I would stop her and say, "No. I don't want to go any further. I don't want to jeopardize this competition for you." It's still remarkable to me — an Olympic athlete learning a cha-cha during the biggest week of her life.
There's no special dancing prosthetic. That doesn't exist. It's just her walking-around legs we're using at the moment. We've had to make adjustments after talking to her prosthetics maker. Amy's a pioneer in that area. She created her own snowboarding prosthetics because they're not really available in any market. The cha-cha's looking good. We were both unsure what was going to happen giving the timing of everything. The odds are stacked against us. You look at our situation and it's a challenge. To add the timing of the Olympics and the traveling and the jet lag — that is rough. She doesn't get back until Sunday. I had a fitting with the costume department yesterday and they obviously couldn't fit her. It's all so last minute and under the gun. Everybody else has had two full weeks. We've had a couple days total in Russia. I'm not complaining because I wouldn't trade the past few weeks for anything.
The hardest part of rehearsals so far have been the mirrors. Since it's not floor-to-ceiling length, it was difficult for us to correct the bottom half. We get a little bit of time to rehearse before the live show, so hopefully we can make some last-minute changes to get it up to standard. I've had to change my language teaching Amy. If I wanted her to close her feet or squeeze her thighs together, I have to find ways to communicate that make more sense and is more simple for her. She's doing great. I'm surprised and I think she's surprised about what she's accomplished. We want to use the first dance as a building block for the rest of the season. Hopefully we can continue doing some great things.
I think the rest of the cast is great. I'm excited to see Meryl and Charlie out there. They're going to be fantastic. Everybody has high expectations of them because they're ice dancers. I know people get upset about ringers and all this stuff. For me, looking at the show as a whole, which I always try to do, I think it's important that people that have ability are on the show mixed with people who aren't. If everybody were a complete beginner, I don't know what the standard would be like. I think it's good that there are people on the show that have experience and are good because that raises everybody else's standard. Plus, sometimes you think someone will be good, but they're having as much trouble as a non-ringer, so you just never know. Meryl and Charlie are the coolest and nicest people in the world. I'm so happy they're doing the show.
I had no idea they were doing it until the announcement pretty much. It's normally like that for all of us. But the producers did talk to me about who might be my partner this season and after they told me about Amy, that was definitely one of the reasons why I came back because it really inspired me. Doing the show for however many seasons I've done, you kind of go, "Why is this season going to be different? What can I bring that is different? How is this experience going to be unique?" When they told me about Amy, it gave me a whole new meaning. It didn't just become about competition or winning. They were talking to me about her, like, "We have somebody in mind for you." They didn't tell me what her disability was, but that it was pretty substantial. For somebody to take the chance and be courageous enough to do a show like this, it's just really inspiring to me. I could tell without even meeting her that she didn't see herself as disabled. That inspired me to be part of that partnership.
I'm not saying it was my idea, but four or five seasons ago, I said, "Why don't we switch partners in the middle of the show?" The producers said, "We thought about it, but we don't know if that's the best idea." So when they told me about the switch-up, I was very amused! The reason I suggested it was because people say to me, "You always get good partners. You would never be able to teach this person's partner." So I was like, "Well, I wonder what I could do if I had somebody else's partner for a week and vice versa." I think it will be interesting, but here's the thing. I was thinking about it strategically and I'm totally joking, but if you change partners and then you change back to your original partner, couldn't you just sabotage the person you were with so they would go home? If you're playing a Big Brother-type of game, you could totally screw them over! I don't think anyone would that that on our show though. I think it'll either be a trainwreck or it'll be really cool. But it'll definitely change the dynamic and I think the show needs something like that now. It'll be fresh and exciting.
I'm sad Brooke won't be back, but I know she's going on to better and bigger things. Brooke is a goddess. She's got so many things in her career going on. Things happen and that's life. The truth is it's one of those things where you look at it — and she has — like, "I was part of this for seven seasons." She looked at what she got and not what she lost. Amy is similar. She doesn't like saying she lost her legs; she says she has two prosthetic legs — she gained something. "I have" instead of "I lost" — just changing your language changes your own outlook at life.
Thanks for reading! See you Monday!