‘Dancing With the Stars’ Season 14 Cast Reveals Rehearsal Secrets

Mar 6, 2012 12:51pm

The season premiere of “Dancing With the Stars” is less than a week away and the new celebrity cast has been busy, clocking serious hours in rehearsals to prepare to for their debuts.

A dozen celebrities from the TV, music and sports worlds are furiously learning how to Cha Cha and Foxtrot. Though their rehearsals are closed to the press, the stars have started to spill some secrets  on Twitter.

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Contestant Sherri Shepherd is already bonding with her pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy. Shepherd has tweeted out photos of a shirtless Chmerkovskiy from rehearsals and isn’t shy about scoring a hot, young partner.

“It’s great! You get a young one. That’s part of my strategy. Always,” she joked about Chmerkovskiy, who is nearly twenty years her junior. “Get a young one. Be a cougar. It’s going to work out.”

Shepherd told her colleagues on “The View” that it’s going to be a competitive season on the dance floor.

“Everybody had the same look in their eyes. Jaleel White. Gladys Knight. They were like: I want to win. I’m winning this thing. And I got scared,” Shepherd said.

Chmerkovskiy’s older brother Maks Chmerkovskiy, a veteran “DWTS” dancer, is paired up with actress Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” The outspoken pro admitted that he didn’t know who Gilbert was before he met her last week.

Chmerkovskiy makes no apologies for how TV viewers might perceive him, admitting he’s “difficult,” but “for all the right reasons.”

His tough love approach has been on display in rehearsals, Gilbert revealed. “The number one thing I heard yesterday when we were rehearsing was, ‘Don’t talk, Shut up. I hear talking. Shut up.’ It’s new for me,” she said.

But the pro also has shown his softer side, tweeting out words of encouragement to Gilbert, who was slightly under the weather: “Rest up and get better. You had a tough but very good first week. Very proud of you!”

Gilbert is competing against another former child star: Jaleel White, who kids from the ’80s can’t forget as Steven Urkel in the hit TV series, “Family Matters.”  Now 35, White is a dad and his own mom insisted he join the season 14 cast.

“She was like, ‘Boy, they’re going to pay you to go learn how to dance? If you turn that down, don’t even bring your butt home for Thanksgiving,’” White recalled.

White is keeping an eye on NFL wide receiver Donald Driver, who is already in the competitive spirit. White tweeted last week that Driver threatened to throw marbles on the dance floor.

Driver is dancing with pro partner Peta Murgatroyd, a newbie, but he told “GMA” he’s confident.

“I feel good. A little nervous, but you know I tell people all the time we played for 70,000 [fans],” he said. For the millions watching at home, it’s much more nerve wracking he admits, “I think I’ll be OK.”

Tennis legend Martina Navaratilova may not be scared, but her dance partner Tony Dovolani is whipping her into dancing shape and incorporating tennis into her warm-up routine. Navaratilova tweeted that the Foxtrot is exercising her body and brain.

“Talk about concentration,” she tweeted on Feb. 29. “It’s definitely more challenging than Words with Friends.”

She also revealed her dancing shoes on Twitter and says she wore high heels while playing tennis on the “DWTS” set.

Actor Jack Wagner, opera star Katherine Jenkins, telenovela star William Levy , singer Gladys Knight, Disney Channel mainstay Roshon Fegan, singer Gavin DeGraw and “Extra” host Maria Memounos are also gearing up to hit the dance floor. Menounous tweeted that she can’t wait to Cha Cha.

The “Extra” host also told “Good Morning America” that dancing was not a big part of her childhood.

“I had crooked legs when I was little,” she said. “I had to wear leg braces and steel-reinforced shoes until junior high school, which was really embarrassing.”

The two-hour season premiere of “Dancing With the Stars” airs Monday, March 19 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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