By RODNEY HOemail@example.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.
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:
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