We've all heard the rumors about celebrities hooking up with their partners on DWTS. Occasionally it's true. Actress Shannon Elizabeth and dance partner Derek Hough started dating when she appeared on season six and are still together. Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff made for heavy-duty tabloid fodder for nearly two years, until she learned there were other partners on his dance card.
Most of the time, though, it's just wishful thinking on the part of viewers who can't quite understand how a couple could transmit so much chemistry on the dance floor and not allow the magnetism to spill over into real life. Being a professional dancer, especially one dancing with non-pros, means creating intensity and sensuality during a performance, no matter how you feel about your partner in real life. Read: Dancing Can Improve Your Relationship
"For me, it almost doesn't matter who you are dancing with. What I feel more than anything is the love for the dance," says Chelsie Hightower, a professional ballroom dancer who cooked with four different partners on last summer's So You Think You Can Dance and stunningly rose to the challenge of turning cowboy Ty Murray into a graceful gentleman on this season's Dancing With The Stars.
"When you're dancing with someone who's never danced before and doesn't really know anything about chemistry, you look at them as much as you can and you tell them to look at you," she says. "Eventually they start feeling what you're feeling and they start feeding off of what you're doing. You could be dancing with someone you absolutely hate and that you never want to see again, but you have to make it look like you are in love with that person."
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Hightower, 19, makes it clear, she's quite fond of Murray, a world champion bull rider 20 years her senior, but on a strictly dancer-to-dancer basis. When Murray had to do a solo during their sexy rumba, she just pointed his swiveling hips toward his wife, the singer Jewel.
"I would never step on anyone else's relationship. As long as that person's significant other knows what's going on I feel okay about it," says Hightower. "You have to play the part. You can't say, 'Oh, they're married, I can't [dance] with them.' In the end, you've got to sell what you're doing."
"Sell it" is exactly what season six champion Kristi Yamaguchi heard from her professional partner Mark Ballas. The judges also told Yamaguchi to show more emotion. So when she and Ballas had to do a rumba, known as the dance of the bedroom, she decided to throw off the shackles of inhibition—after getting thumbs up from her husband Bret Hedican.