One of Utah's favorite professional dancers, Chelsie Hightower and her Season 9 celebrity partner, professional snowboarder, Louie Vito, know just what it's like to step out on the "Dancing With the Stars" stage for the first time. They vividly remember the nerves and excitement of that first night on the dance floor. Between the live music, elaborate costumes, tough judges and millions of eyes watching, they say the pressure for these performers is off the charts.
“I think the first night is definitely the most nerve racking for me, for all of us, because we don't know how they are going to perform under pressure. That's the first time that you can see what they do,” admits Hightower.
To which Vito adds, “For me I think it's hard because you don't really know what to expect. Your anxiety is super high, you're anxious to kind of go out there and see what that first show is all about, see how the crowd reacts and see how you react to pressure, the nerves the live music.”
Step by trepidacious step, Vito says it's a miracle to just make it all the way through the first dance. “It's such a high. You're like yes! You especially when you feel like she's pretty happy. You know you've practiced for this one moment and if you make it through without tripping or any major mistakes you're still pretty excited,” he describes.
But, Vito recalls, you’re brought back to reality with harsh criticism from the judges. “So you're on this high and then the judges just get at you to chop you down real quick - bring you down - so it's really a roller coaster of emotions,” states Vito.
Hightower and Vito took 8th place in Season 9. But for the dance pros and their celebrity partners, the first dance is the first step to a life-long friendship.
“I've kept in touch with most of them, but I've hung out with this one (Vito) the most for sure because we were really really close on the show,” admits Hightower.
And for many of the celebrities, “Dancing With the Stars can either jump start an old career or amp up an existing one. Vito says, “I love my mom fans and grandma fans, people who are now following snowboarding.”
Vito explains with over 22-million viewers a week, you're bound to pick up a few new fans.
The roles between Hightower and Vito are now reversed. Hightower has become the student; Vito is teaching her to snowboard. It’s a friendship that was born on “Dancing With the Stars.”