On ABC's Dancing with the Stars, Australian professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd is once again contending for the Mirrorball Trophy, this time alongside Bachelor Sean Lowe. BFTV stole a few minutes with the former ballet star to ask her how one lands a spot on the dance floor, what she takes away from Dancing, and who she is outside of TV.
Peta's dance career began with ballet at the age of four, and took off quickly. "I was about seven or eight [when] I knew I had a talent for ballet, and by the age of ten I had to make a big decision because I was accepted into a very big ballet school over in Australia. I had to make a decision on if I really wanted to make this a career or not at the age of ten!" she reflected. She went for it - and then eventually transitioned into ballroom dancing in a big way, joining the dance production Burn the Floor, with which she remained for six years.
"I did that and I ended up going all the way around the world," said Peta. "It was an amazing experience. I grew as a person, I grew as a dancer, leaving home at such a young age. It was really eye-opening. I ended up on Broadway with Burn the Floor in 2009 and I was the lead dancer in the show. We played there for eight months. That was one of my ultimate dreams, to be on Broadway, and we did it."
That experience ended up being pivotal in her life in a whole other way: it brought her to the attention of Dancing with the Stars producers. "I actually was chosen from being on Broadway," she continued. "The producers saw me over there and they immediately offered me a contract,which was so cool. They could see what I could do, then they took me on from there."
Peta joined Dancing with the Stars in season twelve, being promoted to the main professional cast with season thirteen. She's worked with NBA star Metta World Peace (season thirteen), NFL star Donald Driver (season fourteen), actor Gilles Marini (season fifteen), and is now the partner of Bachelor star Sean Lowe. She described how DWTS matches pros and celebs as based on "a combination of things, mainly on height - you just don't want to have a huge difference. And then it comes down to personality as well. Obviously the producers want to have some drama in the show, so they might want to put two fiery people together."
For Peta, her challenge has come from getting celebrity partners who have all been new to the ballroom dancing scene. "My four celebrities have never had any training," she said. "I always start from the basics. [Then] I figure out who they are as a person. I like to get to know them first, and see how they work and how they sort of get through their day."
Her favorite achievement on the show remains winning the title with Donald Driver in season fourteen, making her the second professional to take the crown after finishing in last place the season before. "That would have to be the most memorable moment, when I won with Donald and we did our freestyle together. That adrenaline rush before we went on and while we were dancing I don't think I've ever had again," she reflected. "[And] just the overwhelming joy when I heard our names being called. He's always going to be a part of my life. He's such a special person to me."
But winning isn't everything, either. Asked how she judges her success on the show, she said, "It's my partner improving every week and [that] he's learning something different. That to me is way more important than just getting through to the final. I want people to see that he's changed, that he's come from nothing and can succeed with having no background in dance at all. I think that's what the show is really about and what draws people in to watch the show."
When she's not on the dance floor, Peta is hoping to break through into acting, stating that she's "always wanted to be an actress." She's also a big supporter of breast cancer awareness and health enthusiast. "I'm passionate about health and fitness," she explained. "It's been a part of my life since I was a young child. Things of that nature I love to get involved in." More information about some of Peta's favorites - and videos from throughout her DWTS career - can be found at her official website. Having spent the majority of her life on the dance floor, she's now sharing her passion for that art form with a national audience.
You can keep up with Peta on Twitter (@PetaMurgatroyd). Dancing with the Stars continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on ABC.