Chelsie Hightower Dances into the Next Chapter of Her Career
Dance fans who crossover from So You Think You Can Dance to Dancing With the Stars always talk about the pro they miss the most — Chelsie Hightower. The 27-year-old departed from DWTS after Season 15, but she hasn’t left dancing behind. She’s still pursuing her dance career on a different level and on her terms.
Despite an absence from the ABC dance competition show, Hightower isn’t absent from viewers’ television screens. She returns for a third year to Nivea In-Shower Body Lotion Shall We Dance On Ice with fellow DWTS alumni Tony Dovolani, Anna Trebunskaya and Dmitry Chaplin.
The dance pros join Olympic ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White and hosts Kristi Yamaguchi and Robert Herjavec. It was nothing short of a DWTS reunion even though not everyone competed on the same season.
“Anyone who has been on the show understands what it takes,” says Hightower. “There’s an unspoken bond there and it creates a family feeling.”
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Dance Dish spoke to Chelsie recently about Shall We Dance On Ice, her time on SYTYCD and that question she gets twice a year about DWTS…
Dance Dish: How does the choreography come together for Shall We Dance On Ice?
Chelsie Hightower: We get to the place where we are performing and we have two days before the actual show. We put the dances together when we get there because I’m based out of Utah now. Tony and I got together Thursday night and Friday during the day and put everything together.
It’s amazing that we put the whole show together in four days total with the ice dancers. What you see on the show is a product of the rehearsals three days before the performance. Everybody is professional; it comes together and creates an outstanding product.
DD: What can fans expect to see in this year’s show?
Chelsie: The ballroom dancers are doing everything you can expect to see on Dancing With the Stars — the Latin styles, the Ballroom styles. With the ice dancers, it’s phenomenal to watch. The way they move across this ice blows me away. The moves so fast across the ice and grab so much momentum.
The Goo Goo Dolls are also in the show. It’s a really fun program.
DD: Do you get on the ice at all during the show?
Chelsie: I don’t get on the ice at all during the show, only during the bows. If you look closely you will see me almost fall on my face as I slipped. I hope they didn’t catch that on camera. (Laughs)
DD: As we are approaching Season 24 of DWTS, are you getting the questions about returning to the show from fans on social media?
Chelsie: Yes, I do get it. That’s such a fun question to get and it’s so unpredictable… you never know. I enjoy what I am doing now. I just started some dance camps called Dance Elevated, which are camps geared for youth to elevate their lives through dance.
I am also back in class and training other dance styles, which I love to do. You never know what can happen, though, if the opportunity presents itself with my schedule and with Dancing With the Stars. It’s not on the agenda right now, but we will see what happens in the future.
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DD: We can say the door is open a crack?
Chelsie: Yes, the door is not shut by any means. It was a great show and it served five wonderful years of my life. I loved the experiences I had from it and I look back with very fond memories, so you never know what will happen.
DD: It seems like you’ve gone through an incredible transformation after leaving DWTS. You seem so confident and comfortable with where you are in your life right now.
Chelsie: I was 19 when I first got on the show [DWTS] and it was such an overwhelming experience for me. Here I was, just out of high school and thrown into this world where I was competing against some of my idols. It was a great challenge, but it pushed me in so many ways.
To be able to step away from it and be able to relax in my own skin, even more, was really, really good for me. Part of me stepping back was to be able to find that peace and happiness. If I went back to the show, it would be a very different experience. I definitely feel a lot more settled now.
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DN: How has dance evolved since you started on SYTYCD?
Chelsie: The show was so new and fresh when I first started and there were so many things the audience hadn’t seen. My season was the first season of lyrical hip-hop, NappyTabs and Sonya Tayeh. It was also one of Mia Michaels’ most brilliant seasons of choreography.
Now dancers go into it knowing what to expect and how to prepare, so it is a different show now with the All-Stars. It’s a more professional and polished show now. Everything runs tighter, including the packages. We used to go into our interviews and speak off the top of our heads; it was so funny. That was relatable to the audience. We were fresh out of our hometowns.
They have broader training and they are well-rounded now. It’s inspiring, but it’s a different show and a different vibe. Going back as an All-Star is cool. You realize it isn’t about me anymore, just like Dancing With the Stars. It’s about their journey and helping them to dance the best that they can dance. That’s a rewarding experience.
DN: What is the one thing you could change about the dance industry, what would it be?
Chelsie: I think to keep that feeling of “we are all in this together.” Let’s lift each other, let’s build each other up, and let’s encourage each other so we can all love this art form. We shouldn’t take the experience away from each other by trying to one up the person next to us or bring someone down to build ourselves up. I think constant encouragement can be improved at times.
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