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Martina Reflects on Exit From 'DWTS'

Tennis champion: 'Dancing is great exercise and good for your body'

Dancing with the Stars with Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani

Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani dance the jive on DWTS. — Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC

AARP fitness expert Martina Navratilova may have been the first celebrity eliminated from this season’s Dancing With the Stars, but she walks away with a lifelong friend in her partner Tony Dovolani and, believe it or not, a desire to keep dancing.

See also: Dancing like a star; tips from Corky Ballas

In the last of our interviews around her DWTS experience, the tennis legend says she is a little disappointed that she didn’t last longer than two weeks on the show, but she sure won’t miss the hours she spent in makeup.

AARP: Was there a point during the dance where you thought, ‘Oh no. We’re in trouble.’

Martina: Yes, at the very beginning! I missed that first step into the high-stepping jiving. I was so surprised that I did that because I had rehearsed so well, but I’m not good enough to recover from such a mistake. If it had been a pro making that mistake you wouldn’t have even noticed. But with me it was obvious. That one second screwed up my whole dance.

Also the judges weren’t very forgiving. If I had gotten two more points from the judges I think I could have squeezed through because I had high popular votes, from what I understand. I don’t think the judges cut me much slack. They’re supposed to score you against yourself, not against the other dancers. Otherwise only the people who are good dancers to begin with will get through every time.

AARP: What doubts did you have between weeks 1 and 2? How did you manage those emotions?

Martina: I really wasn’t having doubts. The jive is a more athletic dance (than the Week 1 fox trot) and I thought I’d do really well with it. My concern was my injured toe, but it held up well.

All the other contestants were such good dancers with a lot of experience and I had none. So I was handicapped. Had I got through (Week 2) I think I could have caught up to some of the others due to my athleticism.

AARP: You’ve said many times you saw DWTS as a forum for facing fears and stepping outside your comfort zone. Some people might think, ‘That’s easy for a lifelong athlete to say.’ What’s your advice for folks who have been sedentary and are thinking of taking up dancing?

Martina: First, you can do it alone, with a partner or at a studio. And you can do it at your own pace. It’s great exercise and does such good things for your body — like a combination of yoga and aerobics. I was surprised how much dancing opens up the body and stretches the midsection, where we lose so much flexibility as we age. I can feel it just walking around, in my shoulders and my posture. I feel more supple and elongated. It will make anybody’s body more flexible.

AARP: Will you continue dancing?

Martina: Yes! It’s really fun. I had no idea. I was doing it for other reasons but I loved it. Now I look forward to going out dancing. My girlfriend is already taking lessons here in Paris. Tony and I will do something. I made a friend in him. He’s such a great guy and I think we’ll be in each other’s lives. We come from similar backgrounds. He’s from Kosovo and got out when he was 15, so, like me, he grew up under communist regime and became a world champion.  

AARP: What aspects of the DWTS experience are you happy to leave behind?

Martina: Sitting in the chair getting the makeup done. I like the end product but didn’t like sitting in the chair for three hours. For me it wasn’t the movement that was hard, it was the sitting still I hated. My butt got sore.  

AARP: Should we expect to see you dressed up like that again?

Martina: I’ll probably throw in some hair extensions here and there because my ponytail is about the size of a dime. I liked the dressing up, so I’ll probably do it a little more often.

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