On Dancing with the Stars, the celebrities rely on their professional partners to teach them about hitting the ballroom floor.
But recent first-time mirror ball trophy winner Emma Slater was the one being schooled by her partner, free agent football player Rashad Jennings.
“Every season you learn about yourself as a celebrity and a pro, most definitely,” says Slater in her thick Northern England accent.
“This time around I learned a lot from Rashad. He’s very, very inspirational. It’s easy to want to be like him. I aspire to be like him in so many different ways. I’ve spent a lot of time with him. I see how he operates and how he sees the world.”
Their bond is getting stronger while the two tour with Dancing with the Stars: Live!, which comes to the Tucson Music Hall at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 8.
“We have hours-long conversations about life,” she says. “I learn a lot more about how I want to see things.”
The tour is the perfect way to celebrate not only their friendship, but their season 24 win.
“This is the ultimate experience,” she says, calling from the tour stop in Washington, D.C. “Winning the show in itself was surreal. Doing this tour, it’s like a little victory lap. It’s so much fun. I’m so glad that Rashad gets to come on this tour with me as well.
“It’s an experience not everyone gets. So few people get to do this entire thing—winning and going on tour.”
Dancing with the Stars: Live! is full of high-energy dance numbers, Slater explains. She and Jennings will dance a paso doble in the movie section, a freestyle to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” and the cha-cha-cha to “24K Magic.”
“There’s also an audience participation part that goes down really well,” she adds. “There’s a love suite section. There’s an Americana section that pays homage to some great classic American songs. We have a summer/Latin section that has summer-inspired dances to Latin music. That’s the sexier, high-energy part of the show.
“We’re getting a really great response from the audience. It’s fantastic being on stage and performing live. It gives us a chance to see people’s faces. You don’t get to see that with a camera. The energy is fantastic.”
The choreographer isn’t taking it easy on Jennings, either, Slater adds.
“She definitely pulls out all the stops,” Slater says with a laugh. “She makes sure he’s in the numbers with the boys and the professional dancers. She didn’t direct down at all. He’s getting the full experience.”
And, Slater adds, Jennings is “loving it. He loves a good challenge. He’s so into it.”
One thing that isn’t challenging is their friendship, which goes deeper than the typical star-dancer relationship. They are true friends.
“He’s one of those people who makes you feel at home,” she says. “He’s so open, so positive and so willing. He never complains.
“I tend to feel comfortable with everyone anyway. We honestly feel like we’ve known each other for years. He’s a jokester. I appreciate how almost therapeutic rehearsals were for me, in particular, as opposed to the other rehearsals. He has this calming, stress-free quality. I think that was the factor that helped us go all the way. Actually, I’m absolutely sure.”
Dancing with the Stars: Live!, Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Avenue, Tucson, 520-791-4101, ext. 1, 800.745.3000, ticketmaster.com, tucsonmusichall.org, 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 8, $46.50-$178.