At an age when most folks are just hitting their career stride, 34-year-old Dancing With the Stars professional Jonathan Roberts is coming out of retirement — returning to the competitive dance circuit this year after quitting in 2006 to focus on ABC's hit reality TV competition.
In three years on the show, he has coached Rachel Hunter, Giselle Fernandez, Monica Seles, Heather Mills and Marie Osmond — reaching the finals once, with Osmond.
He doesn't know yet whether he'll be back on the show this fall, but when champion dancer Valentina Kostenko asked Roberts to try for a national title, he accepted. Before dancing Friday at the Millennium Dancesport Championships at Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Roberts talked about the show and his partners.
1 What did you think when you walked in the room and saw Heather Mills, a woman with one leg?
My heart kind of sank at first — I thought, what can I do? Dancing is all about your maneuverability and balance. But the thing about Heather was that she had this absolutely awesome attitude that she was willing to try anything. She didn't care if she fell down or she failed, she would give it a go at 100 percent. My favorite moment in all of Dancing With the Stars was in our second dance when we did our mambo and she did that back handspring flip over my leg. I saw all three judges' mouths drop.
2 Marie Osmond passed out right after a dance. What went through your mind?
Marie and I goofed around a lot with each other. So when she first slipped I thought she was joking. But when I heard her head kind of whack the floor and she didn't move, I started to panic. And then her kids came out of the audience and her brothers, and the kids are going, "Mom, Mom.'' And she's just not moving. That was a pretty scary moment there.
3 How competitive do the dancers get about judging and which celebrity you get?
With Marie Osmond . . . I knew she was very popular and everyone in America loved her, but when we first started she took two steps and was out of breath. But she lost 35 pounds on the show and people saw, even though the judges were mean to her, she kept coming back, working hard and being herself.
Before the show started, people would ask me what I did for a living and I would be embarrassed to say ballroom dancer. Now they recognize us and get involved. Ballroom dancing is cool.