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Martina On Her ‘DWTS’ Challenge: ‘Age Is Not A Limit’

AARP fitness expert confront fears before elimination

Editor’s note: Tennis legend Martina Navratilova’s run on Dancing With the Stars lasted two brief weeks but, as she emphasized to AARP.org in a series of exclusive print and video interviews, her participation in the show was largely about stepping out of her comfort zone, defying limits and confronting fears. She is expected to return to the show’s finale in May, along with all the eliminated dancers.

Martina Navratilova’s March 19 debut on Dancing With the Stars drew audible delight from the audience, due in no small part to her body-hugging sequined dress and Charlie’s Angels hairdo. The AARP fitness expert tells us she was comfortable with her transformed look during the DWTS premiere but battled nerves on the dance floor — which she predicted might be an issue in last week’s interview.

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Despite scoring low in week one, Martina sounds upbeat as she heads into this week’s competition, in which she and partner Tony Dovolani will dance the jive. The episode aired Monday, March 26, at 8 p.m. on ABC.   

AARP: With a couple days’ distance, how do you feel about your dance premiere?

Martina: Overall, I did well. It could have been better, but it could have been worse. So I’m very happy with it. It’s a tough group, and not exactly a level playing field, but I’m happy.

AARP: Your glamorous dress and hairdo blew a lot of people away. How did it feel to you?

Martina: I was fine with the look, but the dancing was terrifying! You wait for a long time and then suddenly you’re on and you feel like you have no time. Plus, it’s a long day: I was up at 6:30 a.m. and didn’t go on until 6:20 p.m., I think.

AARP: Of all the other performances, whose did you like best?

Martina: I didn’t see everyone because we were getting ready during some of the performances, but I really liked Roshon [Fegan]. I mean, he’s a hip-hop dancer, so he has a leg up on all of us, but I thought he danced really well.

AARP: How does your body feel this week?

Martina: My body feels terrific. I got my first foot massage [Tuesday] since I started dancing [for DWTS] and it felt great. The jive is a more physical dance than the fox-trot but so far I have no issues at all.

AARP: How many hours a day are you practicing? 

Martina: Given how physical the dance is, we’re splitting up practice into two sessions a day — one in the morning and one in the evening. Total per day is around three to four hours. So far, I don’t feel like I’m at risk of over-training at all. 

AARP: After your opening dance one judge said you needed to extend through the undersides of your arms, not just the tops. Did that make sense to you?

Martina: Yes, that totally made sense. I got tight during the performance and felt a little rushed. In tennis, you keep your arms close and take big steps. It’s the opposite in dancing — you extend through the arms and take smaller steps.

AARP: What adjustments have you and Tony made based on your opening performance?

Martina: I’m working on keeping my upper body as still as possible. I want to move, and move my head. But that’s not what you do with [the jive].

AARP: Have you found time to enjoy L.A. much at night?

Martina: I’ve gone out once since I’ve been here, and the food wasn’t that good. I was like, "I can cook better than this at home." So that’s what I’ve been doing. With the long days that’s all I can do now anyway. But I have some friends here, so I suspect I’ll be getting out.

AARP: Have you mingled with the other contestants?

Martina: We’re all like ships passing in the night. We see each other during filming and that’s it. There has not been much time to form alliances or get to know anyone well.

Also of interest: The healing powers of dance. »

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