Did You Catch This Local on the Latest Season of ‘Dancing With the Stars’?
By Meg Ryan
Olympic ice skater and Greenville resident Johnny Weir leaves the rink behind to trip the light fantastic in prime time on ABC’s ‘Dancing With the Stars.’
Johnny Weir is a born performer. So when COVID-19 closed the curtain on most live entertainment, the two-time Olympic figure skater and television commentator found a way to keep the show going: He traded his ice skates for dancing shoes.
Weir was one of 15 celebrities to join season 29 of Dancing with the Stars on ABC, which concluded on Nov. 23 and was ultimately won by Kaitlyn Bristowe of The Bachelorette and pro dance partner Artem Chigvintsev. Since Weir’s last Olympic Games a decade ago, he’s been asked to join the cast several times, but his busy schedule wouldn’t allow it until recently. And while he concedes he was in the worst physical shape of his life, he accepted the offer immediately.
Weir and his partner on the show, professional dancer Britt Stewart, made it to the semi-finals of the competition. They made waves since the outset, earning high scores with their rumba to Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” and the tango to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”
Weir says moving from the ice rink to the dance floor had been a learning curve, but the strong bond he and Stewart forged made the process easier. “I’ve been coached my whole life, so that isn’t new to me,” he says, “and I’m aware I’m stepping into a world that isn’t my own.”
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Weir is used to skating solo, and while he’s performed on the ice with a partner on occasion, he says learning to dance with someone has been challenging for him. “When it comes to dancing in the ballroom, I’m not comfortable being the lead. I’m not comfortable being the big, strong man. I’m not comfortable being the big, strong flower,” he says. And while the judges’ critiques can be tough, Weir says they’re meant to make him a better dancer week after week.
He and Stewart also get to offer input on more than just the dance steps in their performances. “I’ve never understood people who can go out onto the ice or onto the floor and not have had a part in every creative decision,” he says, noting his involvement in everything from song selection to costumes.
Weir aims to create a look that meets his personal style but also respects the traditions of ballroom dancing. “Nothing has been really vetoed besides wearing a [Lady Gaga–inspired] meat dress,” he jokes.
This season looked a little different with no audience, social distancing and daily COVID-19 testing. Contestants were only allowed to be around their dance partner unmasked. Weir emphasizes that the precautions are worth it to show viewers that getting back to normal is possible with proactive protocols. “To keep this show afloat, we have to do things the right way,” he says.
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Johnny’s Delaware Hangouts
After relocating from New York City, Johnny Weir is now a proud resident of Greenville. As a first-time homebuyer, he’s working on renovations that include a cozy cottage for his parents, who for years shuffled him to skating practice and helped him realize his ambitions. “It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember to take care of my parents,” he says. When he’s not at home, here’s where you might find him.
Favorite restaurant: When it’s a cheat day, Weir heads to Bardea Food + Drink (620 N. Market St., Wilmington;
426-2069; bardeawilmington.com) for gourmet pizza and pasta aplenty.
Favorite boutique: To find trendy clothing unlike any other in Delaware, Weir makes his way to Blythe (3828 B Kennett Pike, Powder Mill Square, Greenville; 274-2292; blythebabe.com).
Favorite facials: To get his face ready for events, Weir heads to Danyo & Gillespie Plastic Surgery (4001 Kennett Pike, Suite 234, Greenville; 888-0508; danyoplasticsurgery.com) to see aesthetician Deana Downey.
Favorite ice rink: You’ll find Weir still hitting the ice at Skating Club of Wilmington (1301 Carruthers Lane, Wilmington; 656-5005; skatewilm.com), where he regularly trained for the Olympics.