by Lauren Vikander
From the land down under to Hollywood
Since winning ABC hit, Dancing With The Stars, in season 14, Australian native Peta Murgatroyd has gone from virtual unknown to worldwide sensation. Watched by tens of millions of viewers, who know her as the sexy blonde bombshell, Murgatroyd’s passion for dance, calm cool vibe, and teaching abilities are unquestionably what got she and former partner, Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers, to the top. Now less than a year later she’s wrapped up season 15 of Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) and is at the height of her profession.
Yet if you had asked her at age ten what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer would not have included Hollywood, ballroom dancing, or celebrity partners. By ten years old, Murgatroyd had been taking classical ballet for six years and was asked to audition for one of the most prestigious ballet schools in Australia called The Graduate College of Dance. She got in, however, accepting meant total commitment; she would have to drop out of her current academic school and start over at the Graduate College of Dance where she would take classes in between her ballet training. “My mom and I had to sit down and make this big decision about whether I wanted to go through with it,” said Murgatroyd. “She told me, if you really, really want to do this, we will do absolutely anything and everything to make you into the dancer that you want to be.” Murgatroyd made the decision that would shape the rest of her life. “I thought, I want to do it. I love doing this, and I know this is going to be my life from now on.”
Yet, at 15, Murgatroyd suffered from an ankle injury that prevented her from getting up on her point shoes. After numerous doctor visits she discovered that she had a piece of bone floating around in her ankle, and the only way for her to dance again was to have surgery.
After surgery, she went back to ballet training, but it took her another six months to get back up on point—yet it wasn’t the same, she wasn’t 100 percent, and her frustration and disappointment left her with a different feeling about ballet altogether. However, during those trying six months, she started taking salsa classes once a week at the town hall and discovered a new joy. “I fell in love with it,” said Murgatroyd. “I literally just said to my mom one day, I’m done with ballet. I can’t do it knowing I can’t give 100 percent anymore, so I’m going to switch over and do ballroom dancing.”
Ballroom dancing loved her too; within a year she was winning dance competitions, and at 17 she was asked to join Burn the Floor, a ballroom dancing show, which has sold over 4 million tickets in over 30 countries and 160 cities worldwide. Murgatroyd toured the world with the show for years and was able to fulfill a lifelong dream when Burn The Floor ended up in New York on Broadway and she was chosen to be the lead female dancer. Broadway brought a new level of fame and is where she and fellow cast member and former boyfriend were discovered by DWTS producers who wanted them for their TV show. Although Murgatroyd didn’t take their initial contract offer, she moved to LA with her boyfriend at the time, Damian Whitewood (who did take his contract), to take a break from dance and peruse acting. She did get some acting gigs, yet in the end, she missed dancing and contacted DWTS who offered her a contract for season 13. She’s been with the show ever since.
This season, she was partnered with ladies man Gilles Marini, best known for his role as Dante, Samantha’s luscious neighbor in the film Sex and The City, and his role in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. Despite the fact that they were paired by producers based on height, (Murgatroyd is the tallest female pro dancer on the show at 5’7) they made a superb couple, and developed a fantastic friendship. “He’s an amazing, caring person,” said Murgatroyd.
“He would ask me in detail about every single step and I really loved that. His determination to win the all-star season was incredible.” In fact, because of the mutual determination, they were able to take it to a whole new level by focusing on the emotion of each dance. Murgatroyd coached Marini on the steps and Marini coached Murgatroyd on how to “act” out the emotions necessary to make the audience truly feel the dance.
“Chemistry is a huge part of the partnership and a huge part of how long you stay in the show,” said Murgatroyd. “He’s married and I’m dating somebody so it’s all up to the acting skills. For the 1:30 while we’re dancing, we have to be completely into each other and make people believe we are together.”
Each week on the show, Murgatroyd and Marini approached their number with tenacity and the desire to conquer all aspects of each dance. Marini would come in an hour before the scheduled eight hour training to work on his steps and Murgatroyd always came up with innovated new moves. Each time they took the stage they transported the audience and judges into their special world. They made people believe they were in love, in a dream, professional Bollywood dancers, doing it gangnam style, etc. This put them in top position amongst the competition. Their abilities were truly apparent when the pair danced the rumba to Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” and caused judge Carrie Ann Inaba to literally fall out of her chair after saying, “Let the baby making begin!”
“I’m not a showy person in my day to day, but when you put me in front of a camera I just thrive,” said Murgatroyd. The same was clearly true for Marini who knew how to play up his strengths and dashing good looks to the cameras. But in week 8 (only a week before the semi finals), despite their high scores, the pair was unexpectedly eliminated due to a lack of fan votes. It was a disappointing blow for them; however, both agreed it was an incredible experience and had no regrets.
Today, Murgatroyd is back and forth between New York and Los Angeles with her boyfriend, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and is working on some big endeavors outside of DWTS including some new acting gigs and a dancewear line. She hopes to continue on DWTS next season as well, but won’t know if she will be asked back until a few days before rehearsals start. Keep your fingers crossed!
Gown by Mireille Dagher, 18K White Gold Diamond Flower Ring by Demarco, White and Pink Gold Bracelet with Diamonds and Crystal by Brumani
Photography by E LEON MYERS
Hair by Kyle Hennessy for 9022 Salon
Makeup by Pavy Artistry for Nars
Styling by Toni Ferrara
Assisted by Kasey Johnson & Lindsey Lisse
Blue Satin Peplum Gown by Impero Couture, 18K White Gold Vanilla Diamond Necklace by Le Vian, bracelet stylist’s own.
Red Dress by Mark Zunino, Heels by Giuseppe Zanotti Design.
Black Strapless High-to-Low Gown by Impero Couture, necklace stylist’s own, heels by Giuseppe Zanotti Design.
Cranberry velvet tuxedo by Anthony Franco, heels by Suecomma Bonnie.
Eggplant Two-Piece Suit by Coveri for PRB Studio Private Collection, 18K White Gold Tassel Necklace with Diamonds and Natural Pearls by Katerina Maxine, Fancy White Quartz Large 8 Stone Earring by Allia, triple strand of pearls vintage, stylist’s own.