Karina Smirnoff Exclusive Interview

Karina SmirnoffKarina Smirnoff has danced her way into America’s heart with partners including two sexy Marios (Lopez, and more recently, the R&B sensation who goes without a last name). Though she has yet to win the mirror ball trophy, she’s already a winner – a five time U.S. National Champion. We talked with Karina about who she thinks will win, and of course, we got the scoop on dancing, from tips to training.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Tell us a little bit about what made you want to be part of Dancing With The Stars from the beginning?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
The show actually originated in England, and BBC was the one that came up with the idea. They started out in England during one of the biggest competitions in the year. They actually approached me, if I was gonna do the show in England first. When the show just started out, they didn’t have the budget for the dancers as they do right now, and I had to pass on it because otherwise, I would need to find a different place to live in…all the expenses that I had. Then, when they moved the show to the U.S. and ABC picked it up, they asked me if I could do it…my partner and I were five time U.S. National Champions. When you compete, you can’t take time off to do a televisions how for two months. My coaches would never allow me, and the schedule would never allow me.

Then, for Season 3, I was in between partners, and they offered it again and again, and I love dancing. I will dance literally anywhere, anytime. It’s my life. So, I thought it was a great way…[to] take a little break and travel the globe. I did Season 3 and I totally got hooked in it. It’s an amazing show, an amazing feeling to be in front of millions and millions of viewers. You get to meet a lot of great people, a lot of different celebrities and producers. It opens up so many doors, and so many different avenues, that it’s a blessing.

THE STAR SCOOP:
People see a little bit of what it’s like to learn dance by watching the celebrities learn. But to be a champion, what kind of training and skills does it take?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
I started with figure skating when I was five years old. I did ballet, gymnastics. I’m the only child. My parents put me literally into everything. About 10, 11, when I discovered ballroom dancing…I got totally hooked on it. It takes a lot of time. It’s a full on career. You train about five, six hours a day, you take lessons daily, and it does require a lot of time for travel. It is an international sport. The training is gruesome, the traveling is pretty much ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s got so many benefits, that you’re willing to put up all the work because the benefits are really worth it.

THE STAR SCOOP:
When you’re on dancing with the stars, you have to turn around and teach someone else. What kind of different challenge does that pose as opposed to learning routines or dance steps?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
I still teach professionals, all the time. When you get a celebrity, you get a newcomer, someone who has never danced, or had any kind of dancing experience before. It’s a little bit different. I remember in Season 3, when I had Mario Lopez, I was really lucky because he was naturally a great dancer. You have to find your way of being really patient. Usually, if you tell a professional, they just do it. If they don’t get it right away, they can find a different way of saying your information and eventually getting the hang of it. But, with someone who hasn’t had any ballroom experience, you have to [do] trial and error. You find out what makes them click, you find which way is better to get the information across to them, and you can do it over and over and over again. It’s a lot of repetition until they feel comfortable enough with the step to put their own personality on top of it. Especially with celebrities on the show, you have to remember that this is as much [a] personality contest as it is dancing. You always have to remind your celebrity, make sure that they really see you, your personality, your character comes out. We want to see who they really are…you teach them the steps, but you also kind of try to pull their character out through the steps and the dance as well.

THE STAR SCOOP:
This season, your partner was Mario, and unfortunately you didn’t make it to the finale. Do you feel that in the future you’ll make it there? What do you think you have to do to get even further with your next partner?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
You know, honestly, I was really lucky with Mario this season. He’s amazing. He’s truly a class act. He’s only 21, extremely mature, very well mannered, and he’s really, really goal-oriented. He was willing to work [a] ridiculous amount of hours. We would be in the studio until three in the morning, physically exhausted by still pounding on those routines and steps. I don’t know, I thought Mario definitely had what it takes to make it to the final – character wise, personality wise, dancing wise for sure. But I guess, it does come down to the vote, and celebrities’ fan bases play a huge role in that. As much as Mario is a huge megastar in the R&B world, he I guess is not as well known on the Dancing With The Stars demographic as we would want him to be. We didn’t make it to the finals, but it was honestly such a great experience that if I could have him back every season, I would. But I do hope, you know, I’ll have a partner with whom I’ll be able to go all the way. I’m willing to work as hard as I can, and I’m hoping that my partner would be, too.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Do you feel like you have a sense of who you think will win the finale? Are there different reasons why each person has a shot?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
The best part about the show is that the audience gets to see the celebrity grow, grow as a performer, grow as a dancer, grow as a person. So, it’s like, you grow with them. When the audience watches, they grow with them, and they fall in love with certain celebrities more than others. This season, you have Jason, you have Cristian, and you have Kristi. I’m kind of thinking that the boys might split the vote, and Kristi will go through. But she is definitely the better dancer. But Jason does have a very charming, addictive personality that you want to keep watching over and over again. So I don’t know. It will be hard. I’m definitely going to be watching and rooting for all of them. I hope they can split the trophy in three places and all walk away with it.

THE STAR SCOOP:
It’s been a very long time since there was a female winner.

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
That’s true.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Do the girls have it a lot harder than the men?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
A lot of people say that girls have it harder, but as a girl dancer, I don’t think so. Girls have it harder only in the aspect that they do have to show a lot of legs, because a lot of dresses are short. Automatically being compared to the pro dancing, and we’ve been working on the legs and footwork for decades. So, in that aspect yes, they have it harder because they have to make sure that their legs and feet look top notch. But I think boy dancers have an advantage – they can physically maneuver the lady around the floor easier because they’re physically stronger. With us, pro dancers, we kind of have to teach them and make them move, because if they are not moving around the floor on their own, we can’t physically move them around – we’re just not strong enough, you know? There are pro and cons to every situation.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Dancing With The Stars
has the whole country into dancing. For someone who is a beginner, what is the best dance to learn?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
If you want to go Latin, definitely either Mambo, Salsa, or Rumba would be one of the easiest dances to start with, simply because Mambo does not have as rushed beats. It’s all about having fun. And Rumba is a slower dance. It will be easier for people to learn. If they were thinking of doing ballroom, I would start with Waltz, [a] slow waltz, it’s easier done than the Foxtrot. It does not have as much rise or fall. It is a difficult dance, but for the beginners, I think it might be easier than doing Foxtrot or Tango, or Viennese Waltz.

THE STAR SCOOP:
So now we have to ask you: what personally is your favorite dance?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
You know, I am such a chameleon. I’ll be honest. My favorite dance depends on what mood I’m in. If I’m in a fiesty mood, fiery, then I love Salsa, Tango, and Samba. If I’m into a flirtatious mood, then I love Rumba. I love all of them. It’s like, every single week, I’m like, Yay! I love every single dance except the Jive. Jive is the only dance that I’m not crazy about. Because you pretty much have to jump around for three minutes, look like you’re not hyperventilating, like you’re not tired, smile, and there’s no appeal to it.

THE STAR SCOOP:
For people who aren’t naturally gifted as dancers, what can they do to improve? Do you have any tips?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
Well, physically, to do Yoga or Pilates would help a lot, because then you’re lengthening your muscles, so you’re loosening them up, and you’re getting more flexible in order to move. If we’re talking about not a physical aspect of how to get better, the attitude plays a huge role. If you just started dance, the attitude that you have in a dance, that’s the way the dance is going to go. You come in with your open mind, with smiles, and ready to have fun, the dance is going to come along a lot easier.

THE STAR SCOOP:
You said how being a part of the show has opened doors and opportunities. You guys have become almost celebrities as well, with your own fans. What do you want to tell all of your fans?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
Well, thank you so much for everything. Thank you for supporting us. Ultimately we’re here only because of the fans. We’re trying our best to entertain them, and hopefully they get entertained, and they keep supporting us. It is true, people recognize us dancers on the street, which is amazing, and then they come up to us. It’s totally cool. I’m enjoying every single minute of it.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Will you be back next season?

KARINA SMIRNOFF:
If they have me, I would love to come back. I love to dance.

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