Dialogue with LIFE+DOG: Kym Johnson
All Photos (c) LIFE+DOG.
Photos by Brett Chisholm
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Dancer and dog lover, Kym Johnson, has been waltzing her way into the hearts of Americans on ABC’s hit show Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) since her first appearance in the cast in 2003 with then-partner Jerry Springer. American audiences quickly fell in love with the dazzling dancer from “Down Under” and she has Jived and Hustled her way to becoming one of the top performers in the show’s history. Kym, along with fellow professional cast-mates Derek Hough and Raimondo Todaro are the only professionals in the history of the show’s franchise to have achieved three championship wins, and Johnson is the only professional dancer to win two different versions of DWTS, winning twice on the American version and once on the Australian version.
Born and raised in Australia, Kym started learning the art of dance at the age of three, training in all aspects of the performing arts including, singing, ballet, tap, jazz, and acrobatics. At 13, the talented teen was inspired to concentrate her efforts in the field of competitive ballroom dance, and a star was born. She then went on to be the Australian Ballroom Champion, represented Australia in the 'World 10' dance championships for two years running, and toured the world as a cast member of the modern ballroom stage show Burn the Floor. Television called and she soon was a regular cast member of Australia’s first three seasons of Dancing with the Stars, winning the top prize in season two along with her partner, television presenter Tom Williams. In 2006, during America’s third season of DWTS Kym came to America to partner with talk show icon Jerry Springer. They proved to be very popular with viewers and were the 7th couple sent off. Kym returned to the hit show for Season 4, this time partnering with N'Sync’s Joey Fatone, making it to the finals and taking second place. She continued to appear season after season, taking second again in season seven with partner Warren Sapp. In season nine Johnson was paired with former teen idol Donny Osmond and the two took the top spot, winning the coveted Mirrorball Trophy and making Kym the only dance professional to have won the title in two different countries. Two short seasons later Johnson, after losing out in season eleven with David Hasselhoff, was once again holding the top spot along with athlete Hines Ward. Not only did she win her record third championship, she and co-performer Mark Ballas each earned three perfect scores for their choreography and their freestyle routines, another first for Johnson as well as the show. Hot off her big season 12 win she was paired with David Arquette for this past Fall’s thirteenth season, coming in a respectable 6th place and marking her 10th season on the show.
During all of this she also managed to accomplish some personal goals. She achieved her lifelong dream and made her Broadway debut in the winter of 2009 in New York City, rejoining the cast of Burn the Floor. Kym has also enjoyed a successful hosting career, joining E! News as a 'Special Correspondent' for the 10th season of DWTS, where she delivered juicy backstage gossip while providing a "pro's perspective" of the performances. Her perspective and talent has also led her to appear in three fitness DVDs including the highest selling U.S. fitness DVD of all time, Dancing with the Stars: Cardio Dance.
We were so excited to get to have a whole day with the busy star and the light in her life, her pup Lola, just before the next season’s cast is announced, in one of the most beautiful cities—Palm Springs. We met the pair at the Del Marcos Hotel, a mid-century masterpiece nicely nestled in the desert, where we got to know Kym and Lola better and, like audiences worldwide, fall in love with the adorable Aussie. With Lola perched perfectly on her lap we started to chat with Kym about her LIFE, her DOG, and the thrills of dancing among the stars!
LIFE+DOG: How did you get into dancing? Did you always know you wanted to be a dancer?
Kym Johnson: I started dancing when I was three with ballet, jazz, and tap. My mom was a dancer and she encouraged me to start at a young age. I did it for fun with other girls and those girls are still my best friends today. They’re like a second family to me!
L+D: When did you make the transition to being a professional dancer?
KJ: Well when I was 11 I was working at the Australian equivalent of Disney Land where I played Penny in Inspector Gadget. I would work during all of the school holidays. I always wanted to be in musical theater but my brother wanted to be in ballroom dancing because there was a girl at school that he liked who was a ballroom dancer. I always thought that ballroom dancing was not interesting. I was a “real” dancer with my ballet bun and didn’t take what they were doing very seriously. I would go with my mum to pick him up and I’d see how much fun they were having, so I decided to start ballroom for fun. I eventually started representing Australia in competitions and that is when my career really took off.
L+D: What is your favorite dance?
KJ: I really like the traditional ballroom styles like Foxtrot. I love all of the old MGM movies with the Fred and Ginger style and I think that has to be my favorite.
L+D: What has dancing taught you in life?
KJ: I think from an early age you learn things about being an athlete, where you have to be dedicated and focused from the beginning and you’re taught discipline from the get-go. You’re also around your friends and it’s really a team atmosphere where you build lots of camaraderie. I would say every girl should go into dance.
L+D: Was Dancing with the Stars the first time you began to teach people to dance?
KJ: No I actually used to teach in a studio and I used to teach a lot of wedding couples, which I found to be great fun. It’s the most amazing time in these couples’ lives and I would have fun creating a special routine for them with a special song that they had chosen. A lot of people still ask me to do that for them today after watching me on DWTS. I also toured the world with a show called Burn The Floor where I got a lot of my instructional training skills from the director. A lot of what we did in the show was very flashy, which helped me tremendously with choreographing and teaching on DWTS.
L+D: How does it feel to watch your celebrity partner transform on the dance floor?
KJ: It is one of the most rewarding experiences and I feel so privileged that I get to do what I love for a living. To take someone who hasn’t been a dancer and slowly see this progression and ultimately turn them into a ballroom dancer is so incredible. Every celebrity is so different no matter who you have and even after 14 seasons it never gets old. From Jerry Springer to David Hasselhoff and Hines Ward, it is a great challenge because you have to adapt the way you teach with each person and you have to figure out what makes them trigger. A lot goes into each routine behind the scenes that the viewers don’t really see, and it is a challenging but fulfilling undertaking for all.