This week on Dancing With the Stars, newly engaged Olympian Ryan Lochte and his partner, Cheryl Burke, will go back in time to one of the athlete’s most memorable years. In his blog for Yahoo TV, Lochte talks about his emotional Week 5 dance, his shock over surviving last week’s double elimination, and his surprising friendship with Vanilla Ice.
This week we’re doing contemporary dance. I have no idea what that is. I’m still trying to figure that out, and we’ve had, like, two days of rehearsal. The steps aren’t too difficult, but contemporary is more emotional, it’s more about feelings and stuff like that, so I think that’s the hardest part. I’m getting the steps. The steps are becoming easier for me now; now I just have to sell it. I have to really put my heart and soul into this, and it’s hard.
I’m doing the year 2008, when I won my very first Olympic individual gold medal. I’m dedicating this routine to my mom. She has been there through my entire journey. And through my whole swimming journey I’ve had up and downs, I’ve had a lot of bumps in the road, and she was always there to help me and to keep me fighting and keep on the right track and headed toward my dreams. So that’s what the whole routine is going to be about.
Our trip to Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas was amazing. We watched the Cirque performers do a routine, and after that I got to go into the pool. We talked to them about their characters and how they play the role, just to get a little bit of perspective on how they do it. Afterward, I got in the water with them — I had to do a swim test — and they did a little choreography of synchronized swimming that I had to do with them. So I had a blast doing that. It was so much fun.
I think it helped me with my dance, because as much fun as I was having in the water, I had to transfer all of that energy and just mimic me being so graceful in the water. The whole routine last week, I had to picture myself pretty much just walking on water. And if I was able to get into that kind of mindset, I was able to easily flow through the dance routine instead of making it all bumpy and making it look like I’m not a dancer.
It was also a lot easier to play a character. Before I danced last week, I was a lot calmer. I wasn’t as nervous. I didn’t get too into my head, so I was able to just relax. And I think that is definitely going to help me going into this week — just being more relaxed and not caring so much about the judges and people judging me. Just thinking I want to go out here and just put on a good dance routine for everyone.
One thing the judges have commented on for the past three or four weeks is my swimmer’s back. If I stand up straight and put my shoulders back, good frame, I think that’s one of the main things they’ve really talked about because I’m so tense. If I just relax and get my good frame up it looks 10 times better. That, and I really need to get more into character.
I was in shock when I got my first 8 last week. I was like, “How the heck did that happen?” I was surprised because I’ve been on the bottom for almost this whole show. I thought for sure I was going home. I had no idea that I was going to be safe, and it surprised the heck out of me.
Since the first show, since that incident with the protesters, Vanilla Ice and I have gotten really close. We’re always talking, hanging out. I got his contact info so we can keep in touch, and that’s what we’ve been doing this week. He’s just a really nice guy. I used to listen to his songs when I was growing up, so it’s kind of awesome to actually meet him and be a friend of his now.
This week I also went to St. Francis de Sales Elementary School’s swim team practice, and they let me be an honorary coach. So in between my rehearsals I went over there, and I hung out with the kids and taught them some things that I’ve learned throughout my swimming career. Toward the end, I got to race a couple of the kids just for giggles.
After that, I went straight to the studio to rehearse with Cheryl.
For this week, I think I need to stop thinking of this as a competition so much, because the more I think about a competition the more I psych myself out and I get more tense. So if I can relax as we go into the show, if I just think I’m going out there to do my best, I’ll be more relaxed and I’ll be able to show emotion, show my character that I’m playing, and I’ll get better scores. If I do that, I think I’ll be happy.
Stay tuned for this week’s dance. Hopefully, it will be very emotional and sentimental. And no matter what, I need your votes. I need that help.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Ryan Lochte is a competitive swimmer and 12-time Olympic medalist. He is currently competing on the 23rd season of Dancing With the Stars.