Dancing with the Stars has become a cultural phenomenon. Since its premiere in 2005, the American dance competition television series has been waltzing into the homes of viewers across the USA. They are now on the 24th season, which just premiered on March 20th. Emma Slater, is one of the professional dancers, dance instructors and choreographers. She is paired up this year with NFL player, Rashad Jennings. In addition to being on the show, she has a line of Dancing with the Stars self-tanning products. Slater has been featured in Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep and sang on the Grammy nominated soundtrack for the movie with the cast. She even was in the Dirty Dancing tour at the Aldwych Theatre where she was the Principle Latin Dancer and Ballroom Supervisor, and also served as an understudy for the role of Lisa Houseman, at certain locations. She is engaged to fellow dancer, Sasha Farber, who proposed on a broadcast of the show! Swoon!
“Being on Dancing with the Stars has completely shaped my life,” she explained. “I came out to America purely for the show. Sasha and I were already together, but we were on a world tour at the time so when we both got the call to work on DWTS, it was the first time that we actually moved in together, and in a completely new city – let alone country!” Furthermore, “DWTS really shaped our lives. I love my job, it doesn't even feel like a job to me because it is very much what I love to do, although it's a lot of work!” She talked about how they have hectic schedules, long rehearsals and intense performances. “The show consumes all of your brain power, when you have to choreograph multiple dances throughout the season,” she commented.
The format of the show is a celebrity contestant is paired up with a professional dancer, and each week they compete to stay. The dance instructors choreograph a dance routine each week, and they get points from the judges and audience votes. Whoever has the lowest combined score, gets eliminated. The hosts and star worthy: Tom Bergeron, Lisa Canning, Samantha Harris, Erin Andrews, Brooke Burke-Charvet, along with some famous stars to fill in from time to time such as; Leah Remini and Drew Lachey. The regular judges are notable in the dance industry: Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. There are often previous celeb contestants who come back to serve as a guest judge as well.
Slater joined the show in 2012. She is no stranger to competitive dancing, with multiple titles under her belt. In 2005 when she was only 16, she won the ‘British Under 21 Latin American Championships’ and in 2006 won the ‘United Kingdom Under 21 Latin American Championships’ at the Bournemouth Pavilions, England. She was ranked in the world’s top 10 and has represented the UK all over. When she joined DWTS, she danced and choreographed all of the opening dance numbers, including the finale. Later on, she went on to choreograph Usher at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas! In addition to the numerous dance titles, she has also appeared in music videos. At age 15 she appeared in a George Micahel music video for ‘Round Here’ and was in the fitness video ‘Latinasize’ filmed at Pinewood Studios.
“The challenge for me has always been bringing the best out of my partners, no matter what their dance ability. It's hard to make non dancers look dynamic if they really struggle with the steps. so you have to choreograph and teach accordingly, making them feel confident and able to fully execute what they are doing,” Slater stated. Her past celebrity dance partners have included: Bill Engvall, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Waltrip, Redfoo, Hayes Grier, Ricky Perry and currently Rashad Jennings. She has a lot of good memories with them all. “I remember Michael Waltrip would always forget at least one part of our dance, every single Monday during the live show.” She went on, “It was totally a nervous thing. He would just go blank and I knew exactly when it would happen because his face would say it all. Luckily, we always made it past those moments.” On the first couple of weeks she thought it was just a one off, but after four weeks in she realized it was just something he was always going to do. There are a lot of fun anecdotes and memories from rehearsals, live shows and performances.
Emma Slater feels she has “been blessed with partners.” On top of that, “I've loved them all,” she summed up. She is still close to Bill and Hayes. She also speaks to Michael too, every now and then just to check in. On her relationships with her dance partners she explained, “I do definitely feel like I bond very quickly to all my partners, I like being part of a team and I always enjoy having genuine and meaningful friends.” She added, “Spending so much time together does bring you close very quick!”
On this season, “Dancing with Rashad is amazing, I adore him.” She continued, “He has such an amazing attitude and passion for life, he's the type of person who is so genuine and uplifting to be around, he makes you enjoy life so much more just by knowing him.” They have a really good relationship, which is a necessity when you have to spend so much time together. They have to flow during their dance routines, and having a friendship makes them comfortable with one another on the dance floor and off. “I'm honestly so lucky to have him as my partner, he listens, picks up choreography and really tries his hardest,” she beamed. “We love playing around with steps and choreography together and I love having a partner I can be super creative with and go deeper into the details of each dance.”
When it comes to choreography, she has a creative process and routine. “I really listen to the music, what feeling it gives me, where does it transport me in my mind, what colours do I see, what shape of movement do I visualize,” she explained. “Sounds have shapes and feeling and texture to me, so I choreograph with that in mind.” But above all, emotion is the best tool to use in choreographing, in her opinion.
When you’re a performer of any kind, you need to have a gorgeous tan. This is because whether you’re doing a performance that will be aired on television, shown in movie theaters, or is live in front of an audience – all of the lights are on you. This means you need to have the right tan. “Being a dancer performing on stage or on TV without a tan is like being half dressed,” Slater disclosed. Self-tanning has always been a part of her life so, “Being the face of the Dancing with the Stars self tanner by Norvell is surreal to me,” she exclaimed. “I don't like to sunbathe and I feel like that is dangerous for my skin. Sometimes I don't have very long to put on a tan, so I need an efficient product to use that doesn't streak and is easy for me to apply,” she explained. “That's why I love Norvell.” The products include: Perfection self-tanning mousse autobronzante, dazzle shimmer mist, endurance color boosting skin perfector and performance self-tanning airbrush spray. Furthermore; “The product called Endurance, is a gradual tanner with an instant cosmetic bronzer, for the days where you need an extra dose of colour for an evening out,” Slater informed. An added bonus: It can also be used after you shower to build a natural glowing tan every day.
Slater loves the products, “The benefits of having the beautiful glow of Dancing with the Stars Self Tanner by Norvell is endless!” She utilizes the efficiency of it, “It's so easy that I can do it by myself and that's the best part.” There are no streaks, no patchy areas, and certainly no orange tones! “The Vio-7 makes sure of that,” she said. Slater has a natural glow and perfect tan when she appears on the show. “Having a consistent tan like that really tones the appearance of your skin, and there's nothing like a tan for making you look a little leaner,” Slater added. It’s a win-win situation!
Slater has a wide variety of dance and performance experience in her background. She opened up, “I think having a wide variety of dance experience has really opened my eyes. I wouldn't say that I have had a wide variety of formal training, but; I do think that I've had a large amount of work experience in the industry.” She explained that really prepares you and propels you further in your onward dance or entertainment career. She used to go to dance class every day in London, while also performing at night. She divulged, “I feel like the more knowledge that I got the more comfortable I became.”
Her variety of experience includes working on film, TV and theatre. When she worked on Mamma Mia! she had the experience of working with legends. “Working with Meryl Streep was absolutely amazing,” she exclaimed. “I couldn't stop watching her and admiring her work. She was such a professional. I've always been a massive fan of hers.” When she performed on stage, the classic film Dirty Dancing, she was in a yearlong contract with them in London. “I actually loved the routine of my days when I did that show. I had my days free until the evening, so just strolling into London for work was fun for me,” she talked about. It was a real crowd pleaser. “I loved the cast too, and it was such a fun show that was always sold out and really loved by the audience.” It was a great experience for her, as she was still quite young and learning when she did those.
Being on a demanding show, physically and emotionally, is a lot. The routines are demanding on your body, the rehearsals are intense and require a lot of endurance, and the days are tiring because of packed schedules. (Plus you have to keep your energy levels up!) It can be hard to balance, work, the show and family life. Slater makes it seem effortless, as smooth as a waltz, as fun as the mamba. Her relationship tip is, “You have to accept each other’s differences and learn to appreciate the fact that you are two individual people, committed to each other.” You don't have to become the same person to have a successful relationship. It is good to have individuality, and it is necessary. “Find the pleasure in the small little things, that you do together every day,” she said. “And always communicate and always remember you are on the same team,” she concluded.
Tune in this season and watch Emma Slater step to the beat, move to the rhythm, dance fantastically – with her perfect bronzed tan. We wish her a lot of luck and hope she takes home the disco ball trophy on finale night!
Katie Gray is a Marymount Manhattan College alum with degrees in Communication & Media Arts and Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. She is a New York City based freelance writer, journalist and reporter. She has had jobs and internships with: Marie Claire, Fox News, 5W Public Relations, NY1 News, Bloomingdale’s flagship, Cumulus Media with radio stations NASH FM & PLJ, Tribeca Film Festival and New York Fashion Week with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Her work has been featured in print and online publications: Brooklyn Reporter, Cupid’s Pulse, The Daily Meal, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Center for Communication, Bensonhurst Bean, and more. You can find her on her website: www.xoxokatiegray.com for more.