Some things are just meant to be, according to Dancing With the Stars’ professional dancer Sharna Burgess, who was supposed to partner up with Brian Austin Green for season 29 of the ABC competition show but ended up dancing with Hallmark star Jesse Metcalfe instead when Green pulled out.
Now Burgess and Green are an item. They began dating about 11 months ago, and it never would have happened if she had partnered with Green on DWTS.
“It’s definitely better that Brian wasn’t my dance partner on Dancing With the Stars because I don’t ever get romantically involved with my partners,” Burgess told Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “For me, that is business; it’s work. It’s my passion. I want it to be perfect. And I think those that sometimes get personally connected in ways others than dance and friendships, it can overcomplicate matters. And so, I like to do a good job, and the dancing comes first.”
The two did eventually get introduced through a mutual business manager, who told Burgess, “‘There’s someone I think you need to meet.’ She had called me, and she said, ‘Listen, I get the same energy from both of you when I’m around you. I just keep feeling like you two need to meet. Whatever happens is up to you, but I feel like you should meet.’”
They met and the rest is history, as the saying goes, and now they are working together on the #Search4Smiles campaign for Scott and Amy Malin at Trueheart. But here’s where it gets even more woo woo: Amy also had planned to introduce Burgess and Green, both of whom had worked with Trueheart previously.
“Brian and I had talked about wanting to do something together to be a part of humanitarian work with each other,” Burgess said. “And by chance, Amy and Scott reached out to us about the #Search4Smiles campaign, saying that they were actually looking for a couple and were interested in seeing if Brian and I would like to be a part of that. It was a no-brainer for us.”
The #Search4Smiles campaign supports Smile Train which has been responsible for providing more cleft surgeries and essential cleft care for children around the world than all other global charities combined.
“As soon as we looked into Smile Train, what they do and how they do it, and as soon as you see the photos of those kids, when they’re smiling and they’ve just had their whole world change, you go, ‘You know what? I want to be a part of that.’ And so, we said yes. We loved this concept,” Burgess added.
What actually happens for the kids? Do you have a story that you can use as an example?
Not a single story. We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting these kids yet. I do hope that comes up in the future, but what Smile Train’s mission is, is to provide free cleft lip surgeries to kids around the world. When I looked into how debilitating a cleft lip can be, I had no idea. It gets in the way of getting proper nutrition and nourishment. It makes it really difficult for these kids to even drink water, let alone eat food. And so, you understand it really is a big deal. What Smile Train does is they go across the world and they not only perform these surgeries, but they also train local staff and volunteers. So, those kids can then have 365 days of care.
So, it’s not just a surgery given to them out of the kindness of someone’s heart and then move on and there’s no one to look after them. They now have medical attention that they can seek out throughout the year should they need it in regards to their cleft surgery.
And that’s a huge thing, because that’s not just fixing one person’s problem. That’s giving a town or a region, the ability to help countless others that walk in the door with a cleft lip. And so, it felt like a really beautiful way to create change.
The work that Smile Train’s done has been incredible. I believe it’s over 1.5 million kids worldwide that they have actually treated and changed their lives forever. So, they’re doing great work, but they are a non-profit and they need help to keep going and to keep doing the good work that they do.
You mentioned the physical aspect of it, helping with nutrition and those kinds of things, but I’m imagining there’s a big psychological element involved, too, so their appearance is altered, and other kids don’t make fun of them or tease them.
Yes, there is very much that. Also, the beautiful thing about kids is they’re almost blissfully unaware until their smile is changed and they realize, oh my gosh, how much better it is. Some of these kids are very, very young, but certainly, as they grow up and the world can be a very cruel place, Smile Train has helped them not have to face some of the terrible things that people can say and do, alienating someone for looking different.
It helps them feel more confident, I think, in walking forward and putting themselves into a room and speaking confidently. We’ve all experienced insecurities in some way, myself it was acne, others, it could be anything. These kids can have their lives changed forever.
And is there a website where people can donate?
Absolutely. So, they can go directly to Smile Train at their website and donate to them directly, or if they don’t have the funds to donate, which many people don’t after the pandemic, many aren’t able to part with even a few dollars, so if that is the case, what they can do to help with these donations is simply go to trueheart.com and use that search engine to search kittens, puppies, vitamins, whatever it is they need. Trueheart.com is a search engine like they would Google. So, make it the default, go on there, and just by using the internet, they are powering donations and helping add money to all these different causes, which is really freaking cool.
Dancing With the Stars has its 30th anniversary coming up this fall. What would you like to see in terms of a celebration?
Honestly, 30 seasons, how do you culminate that into a season? I would love to have an All-Stars season again, because selfishly, I would like James Hinchcliffe to come back so we can try and win this time. But I think that over the years there have been so many incredible and wonderful personalities that it would be great to see some of them again, to look at the last 30 seasons of Dancing With the Stars and how far it’s come.
I don’t know if that’s what the season will be. I think we are also incredibly excited to have a season 30. Dancing With the Stars tries to up the ante every time, make it more exciting. Knowing, Dancing With the Stars at the moment, there’s probably even more little surprises and changes there, not just for our audience, but also us as a cast. Our new creative team has been really changing it up and they’ve done some incredible stuff, especially last season, and last season was under the pressure of a pandemic. I can’t wait to see what they can do this year without that.
Do you have a favorite partner? You won season 27 with Bobby Bones, so would it be him or somebody else for different reasons?
It’s hard to choose one favorite in all honesty. I have a collection of men that I danced with that have ended up becoming family. What you remember at the end of the day, it’s not just the win, but the experience. You go through such a journey with each other. One of those journeys for me was absolutely Bobby because it was my first win. We truly bonded throughout the season and he became family to me, but it’s equally as beautiful as James Hinchcliffe, the race car driver, who felt like my long-lost brother. I swear we’ve known each other in a past life. I have a deep love for him and his wife, Becky. Also, Nick Carter was an incredibly memorable season getting to know the human and the man behind this guy that was on my bedroom wall as a kid. It was very surreal, but also really awesome to get to know the human and how cool he is.
And Noah Galloway. Noah Galloway absolutely changed my life and me as a dancer and choreographer. He was the double-amputee veteran and I had to redefine dance for myself. We became such a unit, too. I only caught up with him recently, Brian and I had lunch with him and his now-wife. He had stayed like a brother to me. So, it’s hard for me to choose just one. There is a collection of people that will be in my life forever because of our experiences that we shared.
Is there a dream partner that you haven’t danced with yet?
I used to always say Hugh Jackman, and I will still say Hugh Jackman. If you’re going to dream, dream big. I would love to see him on the show. I also think Channing Tatum would be great because the man can already dance.
But is it fair because he can dance?
Look, we have gymnasts and ice dancers and all of those that come on and they don’t necessarily win. Charlie White, an incredible dancer, incredible, gosh, so many years ago now, and we didn’t even make it to the final round. He was phenomenal. So, it is, and it isn’t fair. I guess it just depends on who you’re rooting for that season whether you feel it’s fair or not.
You were talking about the changes last season. Derek Hough got added as a judge. How do you think he did?
I think he did a phenomenal job. I loved having Derek on the panel. He was informative. He was entertaining and he, also, truly understands what we go through as pros. I get that because I judged Dancing with the Stars in Australia. I found that as soon as I sat behind that judges’ desk and there were these couples in front of me, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I knew what technique and what things they needed to work on. I could also empathize and understand why it was where it was.
I think sometimes that happens with the judging. They don’t quite understand or emphasize with what we’ve been through in the week to get it to that standard. And sometimes it really sucks when you get told it’s just awful. Whereas I think Derek had a kind way of being like, “It’s not quite to where it needs to be, but I see what you were going for.” I think his delivery on things is also really fresh. You need different personalities on that panel. And he was his own personality entirely. I think he complimented the others beautifully. Now, he’ll be there, and I believe we’re having Len Goodman back. I’ve heard that. That would be very exciting, a very exciting panel. I love the new school and the old school up against each other.
What does being on Dancing with the Stars mean to you? It must have had a big impact on your life.
Oh, my gosh. It changed the course of my life forever. When I was 18, I was a competitive ballroom dancer and I moved to London on my own because the dream was, I was going to be a world champion in a few years and then go back to Australia and own a dance studio and teach. That was the life that I had planned for myself. And, you know, the universe had a very different idea. I just kept moving in a direction, and these decisions kept coming and I was, “Okay, well, all right, let’s take that opportunity and let’s try this.” And then all of a sudden, I’m on Broadway [Burn the Floor] in 2009 and Dancing with the Stars approaches me to be on this TV show. It was a very exciting idea, but at the time I didn’t quite grasp how much that would change my life.
Living in Los Angeles, being on television, being a part of Hollywood, doing red carpets and having a fan base and the weight of that, I had absolutely no idea growing up as a dancer that this would be my life. I’m so incredibly grateful for it every day. Dancing with the Stars gave me everything that I have now. It helped me build what I have. It’s helped me build a beautiful life for myself here in Los Angeles, and also a platform where I can touch millions of people, not just with the dancing and the creating, but also just me as a person. That is just such a cool thing to know that you have influence and to use it in a good way. I think it’s so powerful and it’s very fulfilling.
A dancer’s life can be very short. So, what Dancing with the Stars has done for dancers is incredible.
It is and you are right. A dancer’s life can be very short and, also, it can be tough. You’re waiting for the next tour, or you’re teaching the next class, or you’re in the next competition trying to win. It is cutthroat like every sport, and it’s physically just so intense on your body. Ask any of the football players that have done Dancing with the Stars. They are absolutely deceased by the end of the day because of how hard we work and how much we train. And they’re in shock at the toll that it takes on your body. Dance is hard. So, again, I’m so beyond grateful that I have been able to live out all my dance dreams, all my choreography dreams, meet incredible people, and have been able to build something where I can continue past dance now and build it into other things. So, that’s incredibly exciting and rare for a dancer to get that.
For Dancing with the Stars, and this happened to you once, how hard is it to be the couple that’s eliminated first?
Elimination at any point sucks. Eliminated first is kind of wild where you’re like, “Wait, what do you mean?” Most of the time. Every now and then you’re like, “Yeah, fair.” You understand where you’re at. You can be realistic, but first is really tough because you feel like you barely get going. It barely gets your momentum starting to build and then all of a sudden, it’s over.
But by also being eliminated first, you haven’t had all those weeks of bonding and that journey with each other. Truly, every week is like spending another month with each other. It’s just so intense and really beautiful at the same time. So, I would say the hardest one is when you get eliminated right before the finale. The semifinal elimination going into the finale is the hardest because by this point, you are fully invested. You are a total unit, you have shared all the ups and downs, the triumphs, and the adversities. You are in this together, you are truly a team and all you want is to get into that finale. And then you don’t. You feel like you fell just short and that is actually the hardest elimination to take.
Dancing with the Stars season 30 will premiere on ABC this fall.