She was breathless, beyond excited, and on her way out to her car. At the end of August, Sabrina Bryan, better known as one of the Disney Channel's Cheetah Girls, had just finished her very first rehearsal for Dancing with the Stars with her professional dance partner, Mark Ballas. Like all the other celebrities on the show, Bryan was in the dark about the identity of her partner until the cameras could record their first meeting. "When I walked in and found out who it was, I was so excited," says Bryan, 22. "He's new to the show, but he was Julianne Hough's professional partner for eight years."
Bryan's energy is electric, even over the telephone. Talking to her is like talking to someone who ends every sentence with an exclamation mark. "I told him, 'I don't know the names of any of the dances! I don't know the difference between the tango and the cha-cha,'" she says. "But he just broke it down for me. He's incredible."
Bryan says it was getting two tickets for a Dancing with the Stars taping last spring — a Mother's Day gift for her mom — that made her want to move heaven and earth to get on the show. "There were still four couples," says Bryan, "and I'll never forget it. Apolo [Anton Ohno] and Julianne [Hough] did a Latin dance to 'Push It,' and I was just dying. It just got me so excited. It energized me 100 percent. I called my agent. And I met with one of the casting directors for the show. And I was like, 'I have to get on the show. I don't care what I have to do. I need to get on that show!'"
She needn't have worried. Her credentials are tailor-made for a show always on the lookout for celebrities who can attract younger viewers. As one of the Disney Channel's most popular stars, Bryan fits that bill perfectly and will follow in the footsteps of Season 3's Monique Coleman (High School Musical). "Monique and I were hanging out in Florida doing stuff for the Disney Channel," says Bryan, "and I just started picking her brain. Like, 'How was it? How involved were you in picking the songs? How involved were you in the creative process?' And she gave me the full layout. She said, 'I completely suggest that you do it. It's one of the most amazing experiences that I've ever had.'"
Bryan comes into the competition fit and strong. She has a substantial dance background in ballet, jazz and tap, and she competed locally in Southern California from the ages of 9 to 14. "I stopped training in dance when I got into high school," says Bryan, "because I got involved in cheerleading."
Her experience as a television and film performer has given her even more dance experience, having worked with director/choreographer Kenny Ortega on The Cheetah Girls movies. "He taught me that it's not just about the movements," says Bryan, "but what the dance means to the storyline. I think that's what's so cool about Dancing with the Stars. It's not just about the choreography that you do on stage. It's your performance, it's what you're wearing, it's the connection between you and your partner. Kenny says the difference between someone who is a dancer and someone who is a performer is that the dancer only thinks about steps. But the entertainer thinks about every aspect of every routine."
Bryan starts up her car, which could probably run on her energy alone. "Monique told me that I've got to keep practicing," she says. "And focus on everything."
Check out memorable Dancing with the Stars moments in our Online Video Guide.
The Sept. 24 issue of TV Guide features House star Hugh Laurie's most irreverent interview ever and a look at the new season of How I Met Your Mother. Try four risk-free issues now!