Allison Holker is one of the new pros on Season 19 of Dancing With The Stars, but this isn’t the first time that she has performed on a major stage. The contemporary dancer was a Season 2 contestant on So You Think You Can Dance and finished in the top ten. Holker returned to the FOX dance competition several times as an all-star where she met her now husband, hip hop dancer, Steven “tWitch” Boss.
On DWTS, Allison has been paired with Mean Girls star, actor Jonathan Bennett, and their first two dances have gone off well. In week 1, Jonathan and Allison’s Jive earned praise from Carrie Ann Inaba who “was blown away, your kicks were great,” but in week 2, Len Goodman was not impressed with their Cha Cha saying, “There wasn’t enough Cha Cha Cha,” and called their choreography “flim-flam.” The morning after Bennett and Holker were saved by the fan’s votes, Allison and I chatted on by phone.
How did you feel when Tom Bergeron said that you and Jonathan were safe?
Oh my goodness, I was in complete shock that we were safe. Happy and ecstatic. We had a rough one! And I’m new to this, so I’m just learning the ropes.
Tell me about it! Len was harsh in his critique of your cha cha…
I understand what Len was saying, I do. But, I do think he got a little aggressive and a little harsh, not only because I’m new, but because it just was. (laughs) But, I’m here to learn — I’m a student — this is my first time being a pro, so I’m here to show something new, but I’m also here to grow as an artist. I will totally take corrections and hopefully I can apply them next week and show the judges a change that they like.
I thought you handled the criticism and hid your frustration well, so I compliment you on that.
Oh, thank you so much!
Tell me about working with Jonathan, because he could not be cuter (Fans of the pair have been using the Twitter hashtag #TeamJoker)…
Oh my god, Jonathan is the real deal. He’s like the all-American boy that is just hillaaaaaarrrrious, so much fun, and he makes my heart melt every time I look at him. He’s always thinking of me, always making sure I’m okay, always checking in with me. The moment we met, we became instant best friends to the point that we check in with each other at night. Outside of rehearsal, we’re like, “Hey, how are you doing?” He’s like, “How’s your daughter?”
This last week, the music had the word “kiss” and I said, “oh, my god, we should totally kiss on that!” Jonathan called my husband just to make sure everything was okay, and to ask if it was okay if we kissed. It was so cute.
That was actually one of my questions! What did tWitch say when he found out you would be kissing Jonathan?
My husband is a part of the dance industry as well and that makes my life a lot easier. He totally understands and didn’t even question it. He knew that it was what I wanted to do choreographically, it was a part of a number, and it didn’t mean anything was going on behind closed doors or behind the scenes. I felt it was good for the number, we just kinda went there it in there and he handled it really well. To be honest, I’ve seen tWitch do the same thing with another female in a number, so he’s very patient with me.
You said that Jonathan has a lot of energy and you’re going to have to dial him down for the more sensual dances. Do you think reining in his energy is going to be his biggest challenge?
I do think that’s his biggest challenge. Jonathan gets very excited so he starts moving his arms and his feet really quickly to the point where it gets him off-beat, because his body gets so anxious and excited. So even this next week, it’s going to be very hard on him to hone down on him but I think he’s going to be very impressive for the world to see him in a calmer state. A lot of it will still be who he is, but it will be nice for everyone to see a change that he’s gonna have and the growth.
Next week is movie night; do you know what you’re dancing?
We are doing a tango! I’m not allowed to reveal the song yet, I want fans to be surprised, so it’s a secret. (Sources reveal that Holker and Bennett will be dancing to Beyoncé & Andre 3000’s Back to Black from the 2013 film, The Great Gatsby.) But the routine is very dark, and I think that’s why it’s going to be a challenging week for Jonathan because he’s such a fun, lively person. We’re going to try to get him in to a deep, dark, place for this routine. But I know he can do it.
Jonathan doesn’t have any dance experience; how is that for you as a choreographer?
I’m taking everything back to the basics. Some of the celebrities on the show have a bit of a dance background or even an athletic background where they understand the harsh hours, eating healthy and tooling your mind right. But I’m having to take Jonathan back to the basics of, “Okay, this is what you have to eat, make sure you’re drinking a lot of water,” and teaching him how to stretch his body. He’s never even stretched, so I’m trying to help him out with his muscles, also make sure he’s healthy, making sure he’s taking ice baths at night, stretching before he goes to bed…You become someone’s life coach and caretaker sometimes which is great. It’s a whole new experience for me, but Jonathan’s taking to it really well and he’s excited about it. So, in my eyes, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner because he’s excited to come into rehearsals every day. There’s a lot to teach him, but he’s willing to work.
Tony Dovolani told me that in addition to teaching dance, he sometimes becomes a psychiatrist as he helps his partner overcome fears and pressures of the competition. Is that something you’re finding?
I am finding that! Even the first moment that I brought Jonathan on to the actual DWTS stage, it was like taking a kid and giving him candy for the first time. He had never been on a set like that. Yes, Jonathan has done a lot of movies and he’s been on a lot of sets, but he’s never been on a stage like this with the lighting, with music blaring in his ears. He’s never been around that energy ever, so his eyes got all googly. I said to him, “Jonathan, stay with me. We’re dancing baby!” You’re bringing someone into a whole different atmosphere and it’s exciting. But there are going to be lows as well, because it gets overwhelming. You have to be a strong unit for your partner and make sure that at all times, they feel cared for and taken care of.
What style of dance are you most excited to perform?
I’m looking forward to performing a contemporary dance with Jonathan. I think it could bring something unique out of him, and be a really great story. But I’m also really, really excited to do the Samba. I think Samba is so much fun — your hips are rolling, you’re bouncing — it’s really fun to watch.
What style of dance are you most nervous about?
Part of me is nervous to do a quickstep, because it’s very tricky, and it’s very hard, and it’s very fast. But I’m willing to take on that challenge. But I think everyone’s scared to do quickstep for good reason.
When you get to hip-hop are you going to bring in your husband tWitch?
Oh yes, of course! You know when we get hip hop we’re going all in. You know that we’re going to be bringing in my man, and together, we’re going to teach Jonathan. I’m hoping to dance to Jason Derulo’s Wiggle. That would be cool-ass.
What was it like when you got the call that you’d be joining DWTS as a pro?
Utter shock. I was ecstatic. All of us need challenges in our lives and I thought this was a great challenge for me. This is something I’ve never done, this is so new to me. I’m going to have to work twice as hard as the other pros in order to succeed in the show. And I’m willing to do that. When the show first gave me that call, I had never even considered even being a pro on Dancing With The Stars. I had never even thought that was an option for me. So when they called me asking my interest, I was like “Oooh, well sure, that could be cool.” And literally two days later, they were like, “Allright, let’s do it.” I couldn’t believe it! I said, “This is real life right now. I’m going to be a pro on DWTS!!” I can’t even explain the feeling because it was so overwhelming, but it was great.
In addition to the partner dances, you also do group dances with the other professional dancers. How many hours per week are you dancing?
I’m pulling 14-hour days, every day. I’m so exhausted, but I’m ecstatic about my life. I am so energized because I love the work I’m doing. But I’m so exhausted, but it’s a good feeling and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your entire career has been a dancer’s dream come true. First, you had success on So You Think You Can Dance, then you had the opportunity to return as an all-star, then you’ve worked with legendary people, and now DWTS. Every step of your career has been like, Oh my god!
That’s exactly how I feel! You took the words right out of my mouth. Everyone works so hard that I feel like when you work really hard, you meet fate and luck at the same time. And magic happens. I was lucky enough to have the right timing, and I’ve always been willing to accept a challenge. That’s what makes my work and my career so exciting. Because even if I throw myself into something that people think is crazy, I’m willing to put myself on the line and try to succeed because I believe in myself.
How have the other pros welcomed you?
I definitely am the new kid on the block. And there’s definitely a lot of nerves for me, but people are learning how I work and what I bring to the table. But everyone has been so welcoming to me, and they didn’t have to be. It’s not their jobs to be warm to me, but everyone’s been there for me. After Len’s comments, Mark found me and made sure I was okay and he gave me a pep-talk. Derek gives me advice as well. Everyone has been looking out for me.
Is there extra pressure now that you’re being judged on your dancing, your partner’s dancing and your choreography?
I think I’m being judged on everything I do in my life now. (laughs) I’ve had a lot of highs and lows in my life. I’ve finally came to the point in my life that I really let go of all of my fears and allow myself to be vulnerable. Some people aren’t going to like all of my work, but some people are. I have to trust in myself more than anything. Hopefully people grab onto that, I am trying to do something new, but I have to understand and be strong with the fact that other people aren’t always going to like it. It makes me better; it makes me stronger.
This week during the results show, you danced with Maddie Ziegler to Sia’s Chandelier. What was it like to bring something new to a song and a dance performance that is so well known?
It was an honor. I have been a fan of Sia ever since I first heard her music. Maddie has taken dance lessons from me over the years so we’ve grown fond of each other and it’s interesting that a lot of people thing we’re sisters. People ask if I’m her sister and vice versa. So the fact that we got to perform together was a dream come true. Maddie is just a genius! She’s 12 years-old and she’s so talented. She’s a technical dancer but she also portrays a character so well.
That music video is so dark, so twisted, and it leaves so many questions up in the air. Because there is one girl, one little girl, and many people wonder, “what is going on in this video?” and making up their own plots. So for DWTS, Sia wanted to complete the story. So they brought me in to answer those questions for people, that’s what I was told. For the audience members, they were saying, “ooh, the songs makes sense now.” So it was like this was meant to happen. Everyone foresaw this happening, and it was supposed to happen.
Who did the additional choreography that you danced for Chandelier?
Ryan Harrington choreographed it and he choreographed the music video for Chandelier. He is so inventive, he would give pieces of things like, “Oh, I think you should play with this movement” and he would trust in us as dancers to evolve it on our own with our own personal taste. He’s a great choreographer.
Next week, we will have Allison’s revealing answers to our “7 Questions.” You will absolutely love her genius answer to the question, “Who is your fantasy dance partner?”
If you want to support Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker, make sure to vote for them by using the phone number 1-800-868-3406.
all images ©ABC/ Adam Taylor