On Monday Season 15 of the popular ABC tv reality show “Dancing with The Stars” begins with a bevy of past “star” competitors trying once again to win the coveted “Mirror Ball.” And dancing with the stars are the dancing stars themselves, including Connecticut resident Tony Dovolani, who is reunited with Melissa Rycroft, his partner from Season 8. The 39-year-old father of three, who lives with his wife and family in Stratford, is also a local businessman. He and fellow DWTS professionals, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Valentin Chmerkovskiy and partners, recently opened the fourth in their chain of “Dance With Me Dance Studios” in Stamford. Dovolani has also recently partnered with Capezio and launched his own line of dancewear. Between traveling back and forth to Los Angeles as he and dancing partner prepare for the show and his business ventures, Dovolani is busy, but not too busy to take a few minutes to Spill the Beans with a dance-challenged Java.
Q: How did you initially get selected for DWTS and what surprises you most about the show’s success?
A: I was the World Rhythm champion when the show was being cast and it was quite an exciting time for me because I was the first American to hold the title and held it for two years in a row. I had appeared in the movie “Shall We Dance” with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere and that was the connection that prompted the producer for DWTS to contact me about being part of the tv show. I couldn’t be in it the first season because I was still defending my national title but began the second season. I’m not surprised at how popular the show is. I knew people would eat it up. Everyone knows Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The idea of watching ballroom dancing just had to be reformatted. In this day and age of social media and no one ever talking directly to each other, dancing is the last form of relationship-based interaction.
Q: How did a kid from Kosovo like you end up in Connecticut?
A: My father is very driven by demographics and studies about the different areas of America. He felt Connecticut looked like home with its four seasons. So we settled here and now this is where my wife and I are raising our children.
Q: What will you secret dance weapon be with Melissa this time? You came so close to winning last time you danced together.
A: I’m working on keeping her healthy. We have redesigned her shoes so she is more comfortable and we have her in Capezio from head to toe. Now I can push her more.
Q: Ahh, a plug for your new business venture. Tell me about it. I always think of Capezio as pale pink tights and pointe shoes.
A: Capezio represents tradition in dancing so when I had the opportunity to join them, I did. I saw the company had a vision, a fashion forward vision that helps a dancer achieve creativity. I have designed dancewear and dance shoes the are comfortable and flexible. You should see the sneaker. It is so cool.
Q: What would viewers be most surprised to learn about Dancing with the Stars?
A: How much time is put into each routine. We dance five to seven hours a day when we first start and as the competition gets tighter we are spending eight hours a day and more in the studio.
Q: Your three children, are they dancers?
A: The twins are four and do dance and gymnastics and my seven-year-old daughter also takes dance lessons but loves playing golf. My wife is taking dance lessons, too at the Stamford studio. I won’t teach any of them. As far as the children, I want to be their dad, not their dance instructor. I support all them in their lessons.
Q: Who do you think is your stiffest competition in the upcoming season?
A: Apolo Ohno and Emmett Smith because they are fan favorites. You can never be sure who the biggest competition is going to be. It’s anybody’s game and comes down to who gets the most votes from the audience. I am trying to keep my choreography challenging and fresh. Melissa is back with a great attitude. Now that she is a mom she wants to win badly to show her kids she can do it. The challenge this season is we don’t have the surprise factor when we step onto the dance floor. The audience is going to expect more and rightfully so because all the stars have danced before.
Q: How old were you when you first started dancing?
A: I was three and it was with one of my classmates. I used to watch my mother and father dance tango in the living room and decided I wanted to dance too. It inspired my dad to take me to dance class. I went to school for architecture but without dance in my life I would go out of my mind.
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