It is an honor and a thrill to welcome ballroom dancing phenom Tony Dovolani to atombash.com!
Ever since his debut on the sophomore season of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) in January 2006, Tony has become a fan-favorite professional partner and has teamed up with a diverse group of women that include Stacy Keibler (Season Two), Marissa Jaret Winokur (Season Six), Susan Lucci (Season Seven), Melissa Rycroft (Season Eight), Wendy Williams (Season 12), Leah Remini (Season 17), NeNe Leaks (Season 18), Betsey Johnson (Season 19) and Suzanne Somers (Season 20). While Tony took both Keibler and Rycroft to their respective finals, he proved that the third time was the charm as he and Rycroft were crowned champions of the show’s All-Star Season in 2012!
Outside of Dancing with the Stars, Tony does guest corresponding work for EXTRA, the Golf Channel’s The Morning Drive and Good Morning America. He also has appeared on the Silver Screen as Latin bad boy Slick Willy in the hit film, Shall We Dance, which he also had the privilege to coach and work with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Stanley Tucci. He also collaborated with former DWTS pro Cheryl Burke on a special Paso Doble that Pixar used for the climax of the Oscar-winning Toy Story 3.
Tony’s passion for ballroom dancing has lead him to form Dance with Me USA, a collective of dance studios that he runs with fellow DWTS pros and business partners Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. While Dance with Me USA continues to enroll countless students who want to learn the magic of ballroom dancing, Tony will travel with the Chmerkovskies, Peta Murgatroyd and DWTS winners Meryl Davis and Rumer Willis to Miami this December to showcase their impeccable skills in a special series of five shows called Sway: A Dance Trilogy!
In this edition of A Conversation, Tony shared Sway’s origin story, teased what audience could expect from the five shows and stated which one of his former DWTS partners almost joined the Sway cast in Miami.
Jacob Elyachar: Tony, could you please describe “Sway’s” origin story to my readers?
Tony Dovolani: Sway was created by Maks’ father, Aleksandr, who founded the Dance with Me Studios. He had this vision about doing a beautiful Broadway production and he talked to all of us and we were unanimous with our decision and jumped on board. Next, we recruited David Thomas Moore and Joao Tiago Fernandes to do the choreography and they helped us come with the show’s concept. Sway is focused around a trilogy-myself, Val and Maks and our personalities. My set is dedicated to the 1930s and 1940s, which focuses on the Rainbow Room and will feel like a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. Val’s section is very urban and focuses on Brooklyn dance. Finally, Maks’ portion is all about Latin fusion and Miami. It became very entertaining to watch, because one of us is performing their respective section…the other two are watching backstage and cheering that dancer on and that is pretty awesome!
JE: How has “Sway” evolved as a show since its inception?
TD: I think that the more you know the show, the more your personality will show. The cast has become a big part of the show’s success. We have some of the best dancers in the world as a part of our cast. Our dancers which I call them, “stage dancers,” are fully involved with both acting and storytelling portions of our program especially when it comes to my section of the show, which heavily relies on storytelling. I always want to be as real as possible while I am performing and not thinking about steps or what I have to do next. One of the things that sets Sway apart from other dance shows is that our audience feels like they are a part of the show.
JE: Since “Sway” is a giant and lavish production, what are some of the challenges that the company goes through in order to prepare for the show? How do you overcome them?
TD: The challenges that we have faced in the past have involved coordination. But, as much as it was a challenge, all of our cast really came together and tackled the challenge head on. I feel that since we are all so involved in the production, we can overcome any challenge that is in front of us!
JE: Earlier in this interview, you said that Maks LOVES Miami! That being said, the company will travel to Miami for five shows. What were the factors that were behind the decision to take the show to Florida?
TD: Our fans have been asking us to take Sway to other locations across the country. Miami feels right, because not only Maks loves Miami…we have a lot of fans down there that were hoping to have us come and do a show! We listened to the fans and decided to make plans to travel to Florida! It will be in one location and we will have five different shows, which will allow our fans to pick and choose the shows they want to go to if they have problems with their schedule. The response has been overwhelming!
JE: For this go around, “Sway” welcomed both Maks and Val’s former “Dancing with the Stars” partners, Meryl Davis and Rumer Wills, to the cast. Would you like to see any of your former “Dancing” partners join the cast in the future?
TD: Of course I would! But, it is all based on availability and their schedules. Most of my former partners are always busy for some reason. (Laughs) Although, both Meryl and Rumer have busy schedules, it finally worked out that both of them had that week free. We are so grateful that they will be joining us in Miami for those five shows. Obviously, I reached out to Melissa (Rycroft) and unfortunately, she had something she had to do that weekend and she was even trying to change it…but it did not work out! I feel like my section is so dance heavy that in some ways that it is better for me to dance with an actual dancer that knows our show! It takes a lot of time to learn my 45-minute section! Once you get on stage to start my section, you do not get off the stage until it is done!
JE: What can the audience expect from the show?
TD: The audience can expect to be taken through a journey of musical and dance history. I feel that we have reached every genre and age group with the music that we chosen and as an audience member, I think that we are taking part in something and not just sitting there and watching the performance. You will feel emotional highs and lows based on what performance you are watching. There is never going to be a moment that you will say: “Phew! I am glad that number came up because I want to take a break!” You are going to be at the edge of your seat throughout the entire show! You will love every part of it.
JE: If you had the chance to meet aspiring ballroom dancers who wants to have a career in the entertainment industry, what advice would you share with them?
TD: My biggest piece of advice that I have is “Don’t change!” Accolades that you receive from television or the press should not change who you are as a person. Make sure that you know who you are from the beginning before you enter the entertainment realm.