Sharna Burgess is not only the reigning Mirrorball Trophy winner with partner Bobby Bones on Dancing With the Stars, but she's also one of the new judges on Dancing With the Stars Australia. The gig tops off a whirlwind year that also included her first-time choreographing on So You Think You Can Dance last summer.
Things are going pretty well for Sharna, who has put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes to build her brand beyond the ballroom. It's taking her in a meaningful direction and allowing her to give back to women around the world.
Dance Dish spoke with Sharna last week to check in on how her experience with DWTSau is going so far.
Dance Dish: How did the Dancing With the Stars Australia opportunity come your way?
Sharna Burgess: Well, I've been a part of the Dancing With the Stars family for a very long time now since 2011. I had been saying to them for a long time, "I would love to grow within the family. What have we got coming up?" I have no intentions of moving on from Dancing With the Stars. I want to stay with my fam, but I was at that point where I was looking for something new as well.
I guess that stayed in their ear from when I said it. When Dancing with the Stars Australia came about, I went to the producers and I said that I would love for them to consider me to be a judge on this version. I knew it would be a dream job to be able to go home and share everything that I've learned from getting on the American one.
I got asked to go in and audition, so it's not like the job was given to me at all. I had to come in and show that I wasn't just great at the dancing and the teaching side, but that I had something to offer. I was in a room with about six or seven other people and we tested it out on different combinations of us. We critiqued different videos and gave our style of judging. Then I played the waiting game, just like every other audition. I finally got the call to say that they were bringing me over. It took me a good minute to realize that it was happening.
DD: What has been getting the job meant to you personally?
Sharna: It's so real and so wonderful. In that first show, I had my mom and dad in the audience and my dad had never been able to fly to America to watch me on Dancing With the Stars. I felt my dad's pride and saw the tear in his eye because he could finally be a part of it. It's so many different dreams rolled into one to me. I'm so grateful.
DD: What is it like working with Tristan MacManus and Craig Revel Horwood as judges?
Sharna: I think we have an amazing combination of opinions of personalities. I think all three judges are different, we don't deliver anything the same as the other. Craig is always going to be factual — this was what was wrong, this is why I'm not going to give you a high score and that's it.
Tristan — he has the Irish accent. What more can I say? He can say anything and get away with it. [She laughs.] He's tough at times and he's nurturing at other times. It depends on what inspires him at the moment.
And then you have me in the middle of it. I'm the defender of the couples from Craig's critiques. Now and then, his comments rub me the wrong way and I want to turn around and say, "I think you're not right in what you're saying."
I'm the nurturing, kind one, I think being on the other side of the judges for so long, I know how much the dancers want a little bit of validation for all of the hard work that they just went through. Whether you crushed it or you didn't, you just worked a good 40-plus hours a week on it. Everyone wants to hear, "Hey, good job!"
I'm tough and I'm a technician, but I'm really hoping that I can bring something to inspire and improve, but by no means, do I ever want to be mean... because I know that sucks on the other side. [She laughs again.]
DD: Now you have a level of understanding for what Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba go through.
Sharna: I have a newfound respect for what our judges go through because we are all on the other side of it as dancers — testing the boundaries, pushing the limits and breaking the rules. When you're sitting there as a judge, these are the standards that you have to stick with and the biggest thing that you have to stick to is consistency.
Carrie Ann is the "lift police," Len is Grumpy Old Len and he's the technician. We know exactly what we're going to get from them and I think that's so helpful. The dancers need to know what they need to do to impress the judges. So it's been really interesting for me to find my place and what it is that I'm going to stand for when I'm at the judges' table.
DD: We know you are returning for Season 28 of Dancing With the Stars in the fall. Do you think you will be back choreographing for Season 16 of So You Think You Can Dance?
Sharna: Yes, I've been in conversations with them. I'm going to come back. I will be back in LA at the beginning of May, so I'm looking forward to working with them. Slavik [Pustovoytov] and Genessy [Castillo] are still my little dance babies.
DD: I know you've been broadening your brand outside of the Dancing With the Stars' world. Where are you looking to expand your empire?
Sharna: My cardio series has been taking off and I think the fitness part of my life is something I'm going to be sharing more and more of. I'm also in the works for a hair care line. We've developed this for almost a year now. We're trying to get the formula right before we officially launch, but that is something that's happening this year.
It's also going to be a for-purpose company, so that was the driving force behind it. How can I do some good and how can I create some change with my platform? We're teaming up with a company to benefit women in need — mostly with hygiene and feminine hygiene products for women in Africa, women in America and women in need everywhere.
Being on TV now for nearly eight years, it's given me a life I could never have imagined. I do some philanthropic work, but I don't feel like I've made my mark and I don't feel like I've made a difference yet. I do feel like I have a voice and I do feel like I can create change. So that's a big move for me in 2019.
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