'Dancing With the Stars': After Kate Gosselin, Tony Dovolani dances on
"I love being part of our show," he tells Zap2it. "How long I last doesn't matter, because I get to have fun with all my friends there and enjoy myself."
Over the seasons, Dovolani has had his share of challenges, including, in Season 8, losing partner Nancy O'Dell to injury before competition even began but still taking his last-minute replacement, "The Bachelor" star Melissa Rycroft, all the way to the finals. Other partners -- such as country-music star Sara Evans, talk-show host Leeza Gibbons and model Kathy Ireland -- came with little dance experience.
"I take that as a compliment," says Dovolani of the challenges thrown at him. "It means that I'm well-qualified as a teacher. Part of the reason maybe I get some more challenging ones or whatever you want to call it, is because they know that they're always going to be in good hands, and that I'll get the best out of them every single time."
This year, though, he only made it to week five, and that wasn't because his dance partner, "Jon & Kate Plus 8" star Kate Gosselin had much, or indeed, any, natural dancing ability.
"Kate's biggest strength and weakness," he says, "is that she can handle a lot and she has a lot to handle. She would show up for six hours, but she was present maybe for an hour of it. There were too many things going on outside that were distracting her from the actual task at hand.
"I take pride in saying that I can teach anybody to dance. I even taught her how to dance. I literally had to teach her how to walk the first week, how to walk in heels and how to walk to rhythm. This woman had never taken a dance step in her life. That's not an exaggeration; that's actually an understatement.
"The moment she was in front of the public's eyes, she froze. She had a lot of fears to battle, and I guided her through it. I did the best I possibly could with her, under the circumstances."
While the video clips showing the two at practice focused on drama, Dovolani says there was more to it.
"She had a book release recently," he says, "and she wrote a nice note in there that she really did have fun. Yes, I said 'fun.' I was pleased to see that, because that was my goal from the start, to make sure she had fun."
Asked what he felt when Gosselin's name was announced for elimination, Dovolani says, "First thing, I knew she was going to cry, so I kept tissues in my pocket, waiting for her. I knew she was going to cry, because I know her. People know her as this tough cookie. She is a tough cookie, but at the same time, she's a softie."
Realizing Gosselin would need a moment to compose herself, Dovolani spoke first to hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke.
"I spoke from the heart," he says. "It was not so much just about Kate, but about all the single parents out there. My heart goes out to them."
Regarding which of the remaining dancers will make it to the final three, Dovolani says, "My opinion is Nicole [Scherzinger], Evan [Lysacek] and Erin [Andrews]. I'm very impressed with Erin. She's great. She brought out a really good side of my buddy Maks (Maksim Chmerkovsky)."
This season, there are romance rumors swirling around Andrews and Chmerkovskiy, and around pro Cheryl Burke and her partner, NFL star Chad Ochocinco.
Dovolani, himself happily married with three children, says, "It's about dancing, really. If relationships develop out of it, great. If they don't, so what? They're all short-lived anyway.
"If you think back, have any relationships that have developed on 'Dancing With the Stars' continued? That's basically it. It's like a nice fling, almost like a spring love. It's for the moment, whatever.
"I'm not confirming anything. I'm just saying that the rumors sometimes are true, sometimes are not. That's why they're called rumors. Otherwise, they'd be called facts."
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Photo credit: ABC