When the Dancing With the Stars Season 18 cast was announced, one of the first pairs that jumped out to us was Sharna Burgess and Charlie White. Sharna won fans' hearts during Season 16, when she managed to make America fall in love with Andy Dick, and we've been waiting to see what the creative choreographer can do with a real contender. Well, we couldn't ask for her to be paired with someone more talented that Olympic Ice Dancing champ Charlie White.
Wetpaint Entertainment chatted with Sharna about her exciting new partnership and what they have in store for Week 1 — plus we got the scoop on how Charlie and his ice dancing partner, Meryl Davis, who's paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, are reacting to being pitted against each other for the first time.
Wetpaint Entertainment: We're so excited to see you paired with Charlie. How did you react when you found out he was your new partner?
Sharna Burgess: I don't know how you put it into words. I was grateful, excited — shocked isn't the right word, maybe not surprised either. I didn't expect it, that's for sure. I heard that Charlie was going to be on, but I guess I just didn't think I'd be lucky enough to get him. And he's just so sweet, and so wonderful. After speaking to him for five minutes I just thought, "Wow, it's such a blessing to be able to work with such a wonderful, humble person who's so ready to learn, a fantastic student with, of course, an abundance of talent." Just over the moon right now, to be honest.
Obviously, he brings a lot of skill to the table. But what's your biggest challenge with him?
Everybody thinks that he is a — the word they use is "ringer," because he's had dance experience on the ice. Yes, that does help him in many ways with his lines, and his fluidity in the arms, and his posture. But everything from the waist down, if not the ribcage down, is completely the opposite from what he does on the ice. So, especially with the Latin dances that we've been working on — just basic technique of each dance — he really has to, and I have to, untrain his body from what it's been doing for the last 25 years, and train it to do something else.
So, it's definitely quite difficult. I think our strengths are going to be our ballroom dances, our in-hold Waltzes, Foxtrots, soft flowing things like that. I think when it comes to things like Samba, we might be having a slight struggle that week, just to get the right technique. But at the same time, he is a fantastic student that takes on information very well. So it's a pleasure to teach him, and I think as difficult as it is right now, we'll definitely see him improve in leaps and bounds throughout the season.
Of course, Charlie's ice dancing partner, Meryl Davis, is also on this season. Do they have a rivalry going on?
They are like one person. They've been dancing together for so long, they just truly are so happy for each other, and excited to have this experience. They just won a gold medal at the Olympics. They have dedicated their entire lives to taking this gold medal, and they did it. I think they're both just ready to have fun, learn something different and creative, a new craft, and enjoy it for each other. As Maks and I have spoken to each other about how our day went, the one thing we both can say with absolute certainty is that they're just loving being taught something fresh and new.
There’s always going to be a healthy rivalry, because they're competitors, and that's part of who they are. But I would say that Meryl would say she wants Charlie to win, and Charlie would say he wants Meryl to win.
That's great. And we're really excited to see you dance with Charlie.
It's going to be great! Our Week 1 dance is going to be just beautiful. I haven't been able to choreograph a Contemporary routine on the show yet with any of my partners, so I have just had so much fun.
So you're doing Contemporary?
Contemporary is our first dance. He's just so wonderful to work with. Yesterday [March 5] was our first day doing the routine, and he picked up the whole thing in two hours, which initially I was unbelievably excited about. But then I came home and thought, "No, I'm not happy with that. Obviously, it's not enough." So I went in today and pretty much changed everything on him. And now he's got his brain working. So it's definitely a challenge for him now, but he's going to nail it, and everybody's just going to love it.
For more from Sharna, follow her on Twitter @SharnaBurgess, and, of course, catch Dancing With the Stars Season 18 when it premieres on March 17, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC!