Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Karina Smirnoff
If Broadway hoofers think they've had to deal with a wide array of partners in their time, they should take a gander at Karina Smirnoff's resume.
Karina Smirnoff
Karina Smirnoff

The "Dancing With the Stars" regular has been paired off with actor Mario López, country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, five-division world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak. Try making that crowd look good on the floor. From July 25 to Aug. 16, however, she'll have it relatively easy. She and regular partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy will be make an appearance in the dance revue Burn the Floor, which is playing a limited run at the Longacre Theatre this summer. The producers also announced that for three weeks only — July 25-Aug. 16 — these dancers will be joined by special guest stars Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" fame. The Ukraine-born dance spoke to about achieving her dream of dancing on Broadway. This will mark your Broadway debut. How did you get involved in Burn the Floor?
Karina Smirnoff: Burn the Floor is a company that's been touring the world for about ten years. They've been very successful. Europe, Asia and the United States. I think they did a performance in Radio City Music Hall in 2002. I heard that Burn the Floor was coming to Broadway, right between seasons [of "Dancing With the Stars"]. One of our producers contacted me to see if I knew any couples who would be willing to participate in Burn the Floor. And the idea came up that, what if Max and I were to do Burn the Floor? Now, we're doing it. You've danced on many stages. Is Broadway different, or is it just another forum?
KS: Honestly, Broadway was a dream of mine as long as I remember. So when the opportunity presented itself, I thought it was a dream come true. But then, if we're going to present it where both Max and I are dancing together on Broadway, then we take it as a miracle. You don't get this kind of opportunity every day. What dances are you going to do in the show?
KS: The show is all about ballroom dancing being somewhat reinvented. There is a little swing, lindy hop, cha-cha, there's a beautiful adagio rumba that Max and I do. Very romantic. There are party dances — samba, salsa. It has something for everyone's taste. You said you're going to start a new season of "Dancing With the Stars" right after. Do you know who your partner is going to be yet?
KS: Unfortunately, the dancers are the very last people to find out. We hear about all the rumors that the Internet people write and suggest. But producers, when they film the very first scenes between a celebrity and a dancer, it's usually the very first time we know or see who our celebrity is. Most likely, you see the very genuine reaction or expression on our face, whether we are excited, or "Oh, shoot! What is he going to be like?" What is the hardest part for a professional dancer like you in getting an amateur up to speed as a dancer?
KS: A lot of people ask who is the best celebrity, and the best celebrity is the one who has natural rhythm. We all know whether we have it or not. It's like when you go out to a party or a club, and you hear the rhythm and you move to the rhythm. If a celebrity has natural rhythm, it's a huge plus. The other best quality is they have to be willing and physically able. If they're wanting to do the show, if the celebrity is really taking the opportunity with their arms open, it's the best time. The hardest celebrity is the person who signed up thinking it's going to be very easy and he's going to have lots of free time and have other work at the same time. Whenever a celebrity doesn't have the availability, it's the hardest thing in a competition. You end up practicing in the middle of the night. You're under-sleeping, overworking. But it beats any rollercoaster in the world. After this, would you like to appear on Broadway in a regular book musical?
KS: I was just saying that to my parents. The next best thing would be either to get a role in a movie or a lead in a Broadway musical like Chicago or anything that has a strong dance influence, and also a very sharp storyline that people know before they get to the musical. I'm hoping to make a really good impression in Burn the Floor. I did do an audition for Baby in Dirty Dancing. I'm not a Baby type person. I'm better being the other girl. Not the bitchy girl, but the girl who's a little more dramatic. Baby is very sweet and nice. I don't think that's me.

Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy Photo by Aubrey Reuben
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