As many of you know, in April, I was lucky enough to visit the set of AfterBuzz TV for the recording of the Dancing with the Stars after show. Many of you have been asking how this came about. This is my story...
Earlier this year I booked a two week holiday to America, visiting friends in Chicago and travelling onto Las Vegas to meet up with another fellow Aussie. Together we did our version of a 'shopping tour' of both Vegas and LA. Prior to leaving Australia, AfterBuzz TV and Kristyn Burtt teamed up with Mental Fitness, a mental health charity whose mission is to build mental fitness in all youth through arts-based awareness and prevention programs. The auction was advertised on Twitter, via Kristyn's twitter handle, @kristynBurtt and also on her blog. Prior to bidding I made sure with Kristyn that I was the one who could choose when the visit would take place as I knew that I would only have one set Tuesday that I could possibly visit the studio. Kristyn was very quick to respond to all of my inquiries about item up for auction, the charity and any queries that I had regarding the entire situation.
I was fortunate to win the auction, providing a donation to a charity that as a school teacher, I believe is an essential asset having seen the effects of mental health issues with children on a daily basis in Australia. I believe that 'the arts' provide an outlet for children to channel and express feelings and emotions.
After successfully winning the auction, Kristyn was quickly in touch with me, arranging the date for my visit and even asking who my ultimate guests would be and providing me with travel options to and from the studio. I cannot thank Kristyn enough for how easy she made the entire process prior to my visit.
During the week prior to my visit, Kristyn continually kept me in the loop about who was going to be in studio on the Tuesday, making sure that I had everything organized to travel to and from and reassuring me that when I arrive on set that I was indeed in the correct location.
After a successful two weeks of travelling around Chicago, Vegas and LA, my last 24 hours in America rolled around. It was a bittersweet day for me as I would be lucky enough to be visiting the set of AfterBuzz, meeting the incredible hosts and meeting a fellow Aussie in Henry Byalikov. Yet, it also signified the end of an incredible trip.
At around 11:30 a.m., I received several tweets from both Kristyn and Suri making sure I was ready for the visit and letting me know what traffic was like that day. Around 30 minutes later, Suri tweeted me again saying that if I am early not to worry as she was already at the studio, so if I wanted to leave even earlier and come and hang out at the studio and re-watch the episode with her it was more than okay. Suri organized for the other staff members in the studio to bring me to her upon my arrival. Knowing that I would be meeting up with Suri as soon as I got to the studio, I soon found myself ready to leave my hotel and braced myself mentally preparing to head out into Julz's dreaded LA traffic.
It is no wonder he is always late, the 101 is insane, especially for the girl who lives in a town with a population of 300 (and that's including the outlying properties/farms) I am pretty sure there were that many people sitting in the traffic! Luckily for me the trip from where I was staying to the studio didn't take as long as it often can, only taking 45 minutes and not the hour and a half I had allowed.
Upon arriving at the studio the first thing I noticed was how friendly everyone at AfterBuzz TV was. From memory the first words the staff said to me were, "Oh you must be Jane from Australia, you're here for the Dancing with the Stars show aren't you, welcome! I think Suri said she would be in the theatre room and she's waiting for you."
The next thing I know I am walking thought the studio and into the theatre room where Suri jumps out of her seat and yells "I can't believe you're finally here!", along with several other rapid fire questions about my trip to the studio and around America. To say that I felt extremely welcome would the understatement of the year! After sitting with Suri, thinking to myself is this really happening, while watching and talking about several of the dances, Kristyn arrived at the studio. At this stage I think several "I can't believe you are here" and "I can't believe I am sitting here with you both" escaped from our mouths. After several minutes of Dancing with the Stars-related chat, a familiar, homely accent could be heard coming into the theatre.
The next thing I knew the door busts open and in walks the one and only Henry Byalikov, a man whose dance career I have followed since he reached the Top 8 on So You Think You Can Dance Australia. I recommend you YouTube his routines, he was a different looking Henry back then! Henry quickly announces that he has literally just come from rehearsals and needs to change, all whilst ripping black tape from his clothes, covering any brands/labels. After a quick chat with Kristyn and Suri, I was introduced to Henry, the reaction that you can see on a person's face when they hear the familiarity your own accent always manages to surprise me and bring a smile to my face. Somehow, this familiar sound always manages to create an instant connection, a taste of home. After a quick conversation about my home town with Henry, Anna soon arrived, let me tell you if you think she is gorgeous on the TV, she is absolutely stunning in person!
Before I knew it we were entering the studio and settling down into our chairs, all while Henry was sharing on popcorn; conversing with Anna in what I can only assume was Russian; passing comments on any and every given topic; asking everyone, myself included, questions and making jokes. Before I knew it, it was suddenly go time! I honestly did not expect to be on camera at all during my visit let alone be asked questions by all of the panel talk about being put on the spot! If only Kristyn had warned me, especially in regards to the Abby Lee Miller question! My personal dislike for her stems purely from her teaching methodologies and pedagogy, as a teacher I create an environment where "failure" or "not achieving" something first time around is okay. Whereas long as you learn something from that experience you haven't failed per se. I create a learning space where children know that they are valued and their talent can be developed. There is a difference between discipline & high expectations of your students and abuse & and being a downright b*#€h.
It is amazing how fast time flies when you are in studio, when watching an episode the predictions seem to come around really quickly, but when you are actually in studio it is all over in the blink of an eye. One minute we were settling into studio discussing how we felt about the theme, Party Rock Anthems, and the next thing I knew we were "buzzing you later".
For me personally, the entire experience was worth every penny! I would recommend the process to every and any fan of both AfterBuzz TV and Dancing with the Stars. I was recently asked if I would have enjoyed the experience as much if there weren't any professional dancers on my episode and my answer to this was YES! My love of dance is not based upon any specific dancer, do I have people that I love to watch, of course, but I watch every dance because I love dance. At the end of the day I don't watch for the competition side of the show, I watch Dancing with the Stars to see moving art, to see stories being brought to life through movement and music. I watch weekly to see amazing costumes, theatrical makeup and DANCE!
For me the winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy isn't important, I couldn't care how many times anyone specifically has won the trophy because for me the true winner in is the public! For every season that exists the entire world is given the opportunity to access the arts at their best, something that was once only accessible to those in major cities and with the funds to attend such events. The American version of Dancing with the Stars would have to be hands down my favourite version of the show from anywhere in the world. The calibre of talent on the show is insane and I am not just talking about the professional dancers!
In short, if I were provided the opportunity to once again attend a recording of AfterBuzz TV's Dancing with the Stars show, I would be there in a heartbeat. The entire experience, for me, was the perfect way to conclude my holiday. As a result of this visit I have made some incredible friends in both Suri and Kristyn, I was given the opportunity to meet some amazing people including the incredibly gifted dancers that Henry and Anna are and I was lucky enough to meet the creators of AfterBuzz TV, Maria Menounos and Kevin Undergaro, all thanks to Kristyn.
I can't guarantee that if you were to win a set visit via auction like I did that you too would have the exact experience that I had when I visited the studio. For me, I personally had pre-existing relationships, with Kristyn, Suri, Julz and even Jake even if they were only via twitter! Kristyn and Suri I cannot thank you both enough for making my visit so amazing. You are both such amazing women who I am lucky enough to now call my friends. I hope to be able to return to America again soon, visit my beautiful friends at AfterBuzz and maybe, just maybe I will be lucky enough to attend a live taping of the show and see the amazing production that is Dancing with the Stars with my own two eyes, live in studio!
Until next time,