Our passion for ballroom dance impacts every area of our life here at The Modern Ballroom Dance Studio, so it’s no surprise that we watch Dancing with the Stars from time to time.

Watching a celebrity with little or no dance experience learn and grow on the dance floor is truly exciting. Through dedication, hard work and determination, celebrities from all different backgrounds develop some fancy footwork. Today, we would like to highlight a few of these dancers.

Shawn Johnson

In May 2009, this pint-sized Olympic gymnast joined the cast of DWTS. A former world champion as well as a gold medalist athlete, endurance and stamina came easily to Johnson. During the 2009 season, Johnson paired with seasoned instructor Mark Ballas and narrowly won against fellow competitor Gilles Marini. In 2012, she competed in the all-star version of the show with instructor Derek Hough and placed second behind Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani.

Emmitt Smith

For 15 seasons, Emmett gained fame as one of the leading running backs in the NFL during the 1990s and 2000s. Playing for both the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, Smith retired from the NFL in 2005. The next year, he paired with instructor Cheryl Burke to compete in DWTS, winning the title.

Following his run on DWTS, Smith signed on as a studio analyst for ESPN and he now works as a real estate developer. In 2015, Smith joined Burke again in the all-star version of DWTS but was voted off after nine weeks of competing.

J.R. Martinez

One of the most inspiring contestants of DWTS is former US army soldier, J.R. Martinez. Born to a single working mother from El Salvador, Martinez joined the army after graduating from high school. In 2003, while deployed in Iraq, Martinez was driving a Humvee when it hit a bomb and he was trapped inside the vehicle. His burns were so severe that he underwent 34 different cosmetic and skin graft surgeries.

Following his life-changing injuries, Martinez became a motivational speaker and even joined the cast of All My Children in 2008. With instructor Karina Smirnoff, Martinez won season 13 of DWTS. As an actor and motivational speaker, his career continues to build momentum and Martinez still advocates for burn victims.

Gilles Marini

Of all contestants on DWTS, Marini might just be the easiest on the eyes. Best known for his appearance in Sex and the City: The Movie as Samantha’s lover, this French-American actor joined the show’s cast in season eight and season 15. In season eight, he and partner Cheryl Burke narrowly lost to Shawn Johnson. Unfortunately, Marini and partner Peta Murgatroyd didn’t take home the prize in season 15, either.

Jennifer Grey

Although most of the stars on the show have no little or no dance experience, actress Jennifer Grey played the lead alongside Patrick Swayze in the 1989 film, Dirty Dancing. Over twenty years later, Grey proved she could still hoof it when she and instructor Derek Hough won the 2010 season of DWTS.

Prior to joining the DWTS cast in 2010, Grey had a physical examination performed to ensure that she was fit enough to compete. The doctor discovered that her spine was still compressed from a severe car accident in 1987 and Grey underwent surgery to stabilize her neck. Grey’s surgeon detected a tumor on her thyroid, which was cancerous and successfully removed. Due to the early detection of her tumor, Grey is now cancer-free.


In 2013, Disney actress Zendaya competed with instructor Valentine Chmerkovskiy on DWTS when she was just 16 years old. When the pair lost to Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough, Zendaya’s teenage fans were devastated. However, Zendaya herself took it all in stride and remains a successful singer and actress today.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to learn how to dance. When you take adult dance classes at the Modern Ballroom Dance Studio in Woodbridge, nobody will vote you off the dance floor. We provide a safe, encouraging atmosphere for you to learn choreography. No matter what your age, it’s never too late to learn how to dance! Whether you want to compete or you want to show off your sweet dance moves at your son’s wedding, sign up for our ballroom dance lessons today!