Mark Ballas, the two-time mirrored ball trophy winner on the ABC hit show Dancing with the Stars, joins the cast of Burn the Floor, presented by Broadway Across America Tuesday through Sunday at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Ballas, a Houston native, will be paired with So You Think You Can Dance Season 7 ballroom legend and Burn the Floor veteran Giselle Peacock.
Houston will finally get to see Ballas strut his steamy stuff with a pro in this ever popular ballroom extravaganza. After guiding Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson to the winner's circle, Ballas took on total ballroom newbie Bristol Palin in the latest DWTS season, taking his young charge all the way to the finals.
Ballas can not only burn the floor, he's also not too shabby on the guitar. He's just released his first solo CD, HurtLoveBox. Born into ballroom royalty, Ballas is the son of undefeated ballroom champions Corky and Shirley Ballas and grandson of Weed Eater inventor George Ballas.
He chatted with CultureMap about his Houston return and of course Palin.
CultureMap: I've seen Burn the Floor on Broadway, it's like ballroom on steroids. I'll be excited to see you dance with someone who matches your impressive skills. Tell us about your experience with the show.
Mark Ballas: I learned it two days. These are true professionals and it's been such a fun experience. It's Latin and other ballroom styles, thrilling and really amazing to watch. If you are a fan of Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, you are going to love the show.
If you are not already a dance fan, that's fine too, but dance lovers are really going to appreciate the show. I can't wait to do this show in Houston, my hometown. My grandparents will be in the audience, along with many family members. I hope I have represented Houston well on DWTS. But it's going to be so cool to get to dance in Houston. Sure, it's been a little hectic to go from the finals to learning a whole show. I just have to focus and go with it.
CM: Let's talk Bristol. She was your most unskilled partner thus far. Alaska isn't exactly a hotbed of dance. How did she compare to your other partners?
MB: You can't compare her to other partners. You can't even compare her to other contestants on the show this season, many of whom had dance training. It was so fun to mold someone from scratch, they become your creation. I have to keep them sane through the process, too.
I had to do that with Shawn Johnson. She had never danced with a partner before, but then again, she was an athlete. With Bristol, it was truly starting from the beginning. On the first day, she couldn't even walk in high heels. She was so naive and vulnerable.
It was amazing to take her as far as I did. I am extremely proud of her achievement. No individual has traveled as far as she did. If you watch what she accomplished from the start to the finish, you can see that she traveled an amazing journey.
Really, it was a miracle how well she did. Just awesome.
CM: How did you navigate the Palin spin machine, the Mama Grizzly and the controversy over making the finals?
MB: It was not an election. The show is not politics. Bristol is not Sarah Palin. You can't help who your mother is. I had to channel that stuff out.
As for making the finals, the complaining blows my mind. People have been complaining that the contestants have too much dance training. They finally got what they asked for, because Bristol had zero training and she was in that studio sometimes 11 hours a day.
The purpose of the show is for people to come home from a hard day of work and tune in to be inspired. It's joyous and positive. I think people truly enjoyed Bristol's journey.
CM: The last time we spoke, you were about to start your music career. You sound a little like a young James Taylor but hold the drug habit, very singer songwriterish, kind of Texas-y too, and not at all what I expected from a sexy ballroom dancer. What's happening in your musical life?
MB: Wow, thank you for comparing me to James Taylor. I think of myself along the lines of John Mayer or Maroon Five. I have a new album coming out this month, HurtLoveBox, that I am really proud of. I played all the guitars and the vocals. My music is not like the pop stuff you hear on the radio, it's about real life issues.
I will be going on tour soon, and hope we can stop in Texas.
CM: What don't we know about you and where can we get this album?
MB: That I have been playing guitar as long as I have been dancing. You can get HurtLoveBox at Walmart and online.
Mark Ballas leads Bristol Palin in a tango
Get a taste of Burn the Floor