Mark Ballas in Atlanta for 'DWTS' live tour, lauds Sadie Robertson, Derek Hough

The "Dancing With the Stars" live tour cast spent more than hour at Children's Healthcare at Egleston visiting sick children including Mark Ballas (right), including Abby in the center. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

By RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com, filed December 31, 2014

Several of the professional dancers of "Dancing With the Stars", along with the most recent winner Alfonso Ribeiro, are crisscrossing the country on tour, including its sold-out show at Cobb Energy Centre New Year's Eve.

The entire cast swung by Children's Healthcare at Egleston, where Seacrest Studios is located. (It was once called The Voice, but then NBC's "The Voice" arrived so Ryan Seacrest quietly changed the name.)

Of the pros who made the tour, Mark Ballas is the elder statesman. Sure, he's only 28 years old but he has been on "Dancing With the Stars" for 15 consecutive seasons. With Cheryl Burke leaving, he will be the longest-running remaining dancer come season 20 in early 2015.

Mark Ballas played his song "Get My Name" at Seacrest Studios on New Year's Eve 2014. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Ballas is also one of the most imaginative choreographers on the cast and is a two-time winner with Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson. His work can captivate even when his celebrity isn't up to snuff. And given his following and the fact he's better known than many of the so-called "celebrities" he is paired up with, I figure he draws votes in and of himself, much like his old friend Derek Hough, who has won five times.

I spoke with him below about his time working with "Duck Dynasty" reality star Sadie Robertson, who had zero dance experience coming in and came in runner up behind Ribiero last month. He found her energizing, agreeable and fun to work with. And I got a sense he took great pride in taking her to the finals. He said he still stays in touch with her and honestly thought they had a shot at winning. He said if she had, she would have truly been the first untrained non-athlete victor ever.

He declined to comment about judge Len Goodman possibly leaving next season, saying it's just a rumor. And though Goodman has occasionally complained that Ballas' work strays  beyond the strictures of specific dance rules in place, Ballas said he is okay with that. Besides, he's known Goodman since he was a kid, much like he has known several of his castmates before they had even hit puberty - Hough included.

He also demurred when asked how much longer he plans to stay on the show. I know asking that was kind of pointless because really, even if he had a departure date in mind, why would he break the news about that to me, of all people? (Then again, I had to ask, right?)

Here are some other photos I took at the event:

"Dancing With the Stars" season 19 winner Alfonso Ribeiro and host of the live show spent time talking with Wendy Threatt in Seacrest Studios. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Alfonso Ribeiro poses with a little four-year-old cancer survivor Karma Lilly of Macon. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Emma Slater joined "Dancing With the Stars" season 17 and helped lead Michael Waltrip, the rather flat-footed pro driver, to seventh place. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Grace (center) surrounds the "Dancing With the Stars' live tour cast. On the far right is Ribeiro's winning dance partner Witney Carson. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Kym Johnson, who won "Dancing With the Stars" season 12 with Atlanta's Hines Ward, left the show after season 16 after 13 seasons but that doesn't preclude her returning at some point. (Many dancers come and go.) CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
The Seacrest Studios wall features many of the celebrities who have stopped by in the past, including many former "Idol' contestants such as Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert. You might also see a certain Derek Hough on the wall, too. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
The hospital feed while former Star 94 host Wendy Threatt interviewed them. Threatt is an admitted super fan. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Ryan Seacrest originally called his hospital studios (now in multiple cities) the Voice but after NBC took that name for its rival show so he quietly changed them to "Seacrest Studios." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Maks' kinder, gentler brother Valentin Chmerkovskiy, has been on "Dancing With the Stars" for seven season. His best finish was with Zandaya season 16. She came in second. This past season, his celebrity partner and "Pretty Little Liars" actress Janel Parrish finished third. On the right is Sasha Farber, who danced with Snooki season 17.  CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Former Star 94 host Wendy Threatt has been hosting at Seacrest Studios for more than four years now. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Mark-Ballas-close-up

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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