I got this call last second, but since Mark Ballas is one of the most successful “Dancing With the Stars” pro dancers, I was intrigued: he’s also a singer! He’s promoting his upcoming new album “HurtLoveBox,” performing this Sunday at 8 p.m. at Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Atlanta.
So his publicist got him on the phone with me today.
The 24-year-old Houston native has been a pro dancer on “Dancing With the Stars” seven times, helping two celebrities, Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson, win the mirror-ball trophy. (Each time, he got one, too. He has them both on his mantle.)
The fact he helped Bristol Palin make it into the finals this past season says a lot about his teaching skills. (Then again, even he can only perform so many miracles. One season, Shannen Doherty lasted a mere two weeks, and Kim Kardashian, three.)
Ballas spent eight years in a music school in London so he not only received a dance background, but a singing one as well. He played in bands and finally got a shot at recording an album. “I wrote the whole thing and arranged it all,” he said. “It’s relatable. It’s real, raw and emotional.
He’s now on a 20-city promo tour, hitting casinos, House of Blues and Hard Rock Cafes. On the show, he’s performed musically a couple of times, showing off his flamenco guitar skills. During the concert, you’ll hear mostly originals with a mini-medley of hit songs that have some similar riffs: “Sexual Healing” into “Waiting for the World to Change” into “Rude Boy” into “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Ballas’ musical tastes are eclectic, ranging from flamenco and Spanish music to Michael Jackson to heavy rock (Slipknot, Korn) and singer-songwriter stuff like John Mayer.
I then asked him a few “Dancing With the Stars” questions. For instance, how much power does he have over the music? Apparently, he can pick songs but if they don’t get cleared quickly, he has to take what’s given him. One time, he did protest the pick: “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s for a jive. He got that changed.
He said he never knows until right before a season starts whether he’ll get a contract. So far, “Dancing” obviously likes him, given his track record. After the magic he performed with Palin, I’d say he’s certain to be back this spring.
His thoughts about Palin: “We’re great friends for life. We still text back and forth. I love her to death.”
The story behind the gorilla suit: “She absolutely hated the dance. She didn’t know the song they assigned her. It was the Monkees. Why would a 19-year-old know that? It didn’t make any sense. So I said, ‘Why not wear a gorilla outfit?’ She went for it. People can say all they want aboutit but if we hadn’t, she would have gone home. If she had forgotten the dance in a normal outfit, it would have been over. And being a gorilla costume? That made it way more funny.”
In effect, Ballas gets the joke when it comes to many aspects of “Dancing.” It’s not meant to be weighty by any stretch.
My wife had a question to ask him: would he think same-sex couples would work? “I have no problems with it. But it would be a disadvantage to whoever is the same-sex couple when you look at the logistics. A man can’t move like a woman and a woman can’t move like a man. The technical scores are based on a masculine/feminine set of moves. [Then again,] it would be fun and interesting.”
8 p.m., Sunday, January 30, 2011
$8 advance, $10 at door (over 21); $10 advance, $12 door (under 21)
Hard Rock Café, 215 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta