Editor’s note: Dorothy Hamill will share her experiences on the SKATING magazine blog each week before the show. Come back for detailed recaps, the current leaderboard and all the latest Dancing with the Stars news.
By Mimi Whetstone
Dorothy Hamill’s name evokes a myriad of memories: Olympic champion. The Hamill camel. Enduring style trends, such as her wedge hairstyle and oversized glasses.
Dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” after winning the gold medal in 1976, Hamill still has a legion of fans — and she wants every one of them to be active voters tonight (March 18) as she makes her debut on Dancing with the Stars, which kicks off Season 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
“For a long time I’ve been a fan of the show and went to see Evan (Lysacek) dance,” Hamill said. “I always thought it would be fun to do but never thought I’d be invited. This time around, my agent called with the opportunity. It was very last minute, but I was thrilled.”
Hamill’s decision to compete wasn’t an easy one.
“I was still skating with Stars on Ice at the time, so it was kind of a tough decision because I had made that commitment,” Hamill said of the tour that just ended March 10. “I thought I would just kick myself if I didn’t have a chance to do it, so I said OK. Now it’s better because I’m not trying to do both anymore. I have a little more time to focus on what I’m learning. So far it’s been fun. The cast is such a nice group of people.”
Joining Hamill in the competition are Olympic gymnastics champion Aly Raisman, Super Bowl champion Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens and boxer Victor Ortiz. Also competing are actors Andy Dick and Ingo Rademacher, Disney star Zendaya Coleman, comedian D.L. Hughley, singers Wynonna Judd and Kellie Pickler and reality stars Sean Lowe and Lisa Vanderpump.
In the first 15 seasons, seven athletes have won the show’s coveted Mirror Ball Trophy.
Hamill will be the third figure skater to compete: 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi won Season 6 and 2010 Olympic champion Lysacek finished second in Season 10.
Based on that success rate, viewers might wonder if grace on the ice easily transfers to grace on the floor. Some viewers could even argue that an athlete with artistry may have an unfair advantage. Hamill disagrees.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage at all,” Hamill said. “Kristi can do anything. I think she’s most certainly had a lot more experience with quick, intricate choreography than I ever learned. In my era, we held long positions to slow music and didn’t really showcase a lot of steps.
“Evan did unbelievably well, too, but I think they both just worked hard and are athletic, talented and musical. I don’t think it’s only because they’re skaters; they’re just extraordinarily talented people.”
Partnered with popular ballroom champion Tristan MacManus, Hamill has been training up to four hours a day to prepare for tonight’s live competition.
“For a while, we knew what our dance was going to be but we didn’t know the music,” Hamill said. “It was so hard because we knew we were supposed to be training. It’s like in skating if you know you have to compete, but you don’t know how to skate and you don’t have your music. Especially preparing for this first show, between wrapping up Stars on Ice and all of the Dancing press, it’s been physically taxing.”
Hamill said she feels prepared for her first dance, a contemporary piece.
“It’s new to the show this year and I think it’s a new thing for both of us as well,” Hamill said. “I don’t think Tristan really has a contemporary dance background and I’m not really sure what some of the differences are to make something contemporary. The technique is very precise in ballroom, but this style has fewer restrictions. I guess it’s better for me for the very first week, so I can ease myself into dancing. … I’m just going to do the best job that I can with what they give us to work with and the rest is out of my hands.”
Dancing vs. skating
Oddly, this is familiar ground for Hamill, who as a champion figure skater performed her best only to have her fate decided by judges. But, she says, skating and dancing are two very different sports.
“It’s been really difficult unlearning what I know and how I move on the ice,” she said. “That movement doesn’t really translate to the floor. It’s been frustrating because Tristan keeps telling me to relax and just shift my weight from side to side and I keep trying to push side to side like I’m skating. He says ‘You’re down in your knees too much’ and I say ‘No, I’m not!’”
In skating, deep knee bend means more powerful pushes, which translate to faster movement across the ice. On the floor, however, deeper knee bends only move you closer to the floor, giving the dance a feeling of heaviness, as opposed to using the knees to dance the steps forward.
“The thing about skating is you always have to be in your knees,” Hamill said. “When you’re dancing, it’s not that you don’t have a flexed knee, but you don’t have to push forward or push off of anything. The turning is also very different. It’s been very fascinating to learn. I’m not sure I have it just yet, but I’m working on it.”
To relieve some of the pressure, none of the couples will be voted off after the first dance. Each performance will be scored by the judges, which will contribute to their overall score heading into the first elimination round after next week’s second dance.
“Unfortunately,” Hamill laughed, “our second dance is the jive. It’s terrifying. I remember watching Kristi’s jive with Mark Ballas and thinking ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s unbelievable. I could never do that.’ Now here we are, Week 2, and I guess I’ll have to see if I can!”
Supporting Hamill from the audience tonight will be her husband, John MacColl. Hamill’s daughter Alexandra Forsythe, 24, plans to cheer on her famous mom live in Week 2.
And like a true competitor, Hamill wants to do well. Her one plea?
“Help! Please vote for us!” she said with a laugh. “If you don’t want to vote for me, vote for Tristan! He’s so cute. Don’t put him out of a job!”
How to vote
During live shows, judges and fans will determine who advances. Judges will score each couple based on several factors, including technical execution. Fans then vote as well, using one of these four methods:
Voting is open during each performance. Phone lines and text voting will stay open until 60 minutes after the end of the show in your local time zone. Facebook and online voting at ABC.com will remain open until 11 a.m. ET the following day.
In the Dancing with the Stars Results Show, the couple with the lowest combined score from judges and viewer votes will be eliminated. The scoring is divided evenly between the judges and view votes.
Courtesy of ABC.com/shows/dancing-with-the-stars/about-voting