Professional ballroom dancer Mark Ballas is very aware that he only has 10 more days to get his “Dancing With the Stars” partner Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, ready for primetime when the show premieres on Monday, Sept. 20.
“She’s not ready,” he tells Zap2it. “She’s not ready for the whirlwind yet. We’ve been going for two weeks now, and she’s doing really well, so I’m excited.”
Ballas calls in during a lunch break, saying, “Today is her first day dancing the routine to music, so she’s doing excellent today.”
Asked if 19-year-old Palin’s history as a high-school athlete helps, Ballas says, “I don’t know if it’s helping. She’s played basketball and stuff like that. She’s very nervous. She’s never performed or done anything like that in her life, so it’s like we’re starting completely from scratch and having to build her confidence and make her feel like she’s doing it well, which she is.
“For someone who’s never done anything like this before, it’s pretty impressive. I hope to help her embrace that and give her a chance.”
Regarding Palin’s strengths thus far and what she needs to work on, Ballas says, “Her strength so far is that she retains well. She can go away for a few days and come back and remember the routine. She doesn’t forget stuff, which is good.
“Her thing that she needs to work on is moving her hips and not being shy to be sexy and sensual and womanly when she’s dancing. She’s a little shy, little taken back. She’s out of her element. She’s uncomfortable. It’s new for her. But she’s getting comfortable with it as we go along.”
Last season, pro dancer Tony Dovolani — who used to babysit Ballas when he was a child — had to deal with a lot of tabloid chatter when he danced with Kate Gosselin, who first became a reality-TV celebrity with her TLC show about being the mother of multiple children, called “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”
The Palins have also been the subject of intense press scrutiny since GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.
Bristol has also had her share of headlines, largely because of her teen pregnancy and her on-again/off-again (currently way off) relationship with 20-month-old son Tripp‘s father, Levi Johnston (who’s pursued fame himself, both in print and on reality television).
This much attention can intrude on the concentration of a ballroom-dance teacher and his pupil, but Ballas says he isn’t letting it bother him.
“I’ve had a couple of bites,” he says, “but I don’t really care what people say about me — sticks and stones. I know what’s true. I know what we’re doing in rehearsal. I know Bristol’s a lovely girl. She’s having a great time. She’s doing something new, and people should respect that and be nice.
“I don’t really care about anyone else.”
In a recent interview with People, Palin said that she wanted to wear “modest” costumes (which is often not the case for “Dancing,” known for showing skin on both the men and the women).
Says Ballas, “Her costumes are really cute. I think we’re going to try them on at the end of the week. We kept it nice. We kept it classy, but at the same time, it’s got a little fire to it as well.”
Photo credit: ABC